Who Profits from the BDS Campaign? Review of Coalition of Women for Peace
This report was updated on May 31, 2011 after the New Israel Fund (NIF) ended its financial relationship with CWP.
- Israeli NGO, the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP), describes itself as a “feminist organization against the occupation of Palestine and for a just peace.” It has ten constituent member organizations.
- Funded directly and indirectly by the governments of Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Germany; aid organizations such as Oxfam Novib, SIVMO, and Kvinna Till Kvinna; and private individuals. Support from New Israel Fund (NIF) ended in May 2011
- This funding is used by CWP to promote global campaigns to de-legitimize Israel under the Durban strategy, including “Israel Apartheid Week,” anti-Israeli rallies, the “Free Gaza Movement”; targeting Israel in the UN; lobbying the British Government on prosecution of “Israeli War Criminals” (lawfare); and hosting related events and lectures.
- CWP is a leader in the boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. With radical allies such as “Code Pink,” it advocates boycotting products from all of Israel, not restricted to the “occupied territories.” Campaigns include the UC Berkeley divestment effort (2010), the Norwegian Government’s Pension Fund which led to divestment from Elbit, and targeting of banks, security companies, civil infrastructure facilities, and private firms.
- CWP’s flagship BDS project “Who Profits?” is an online database initiated “in response to the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel,” and “a key asset to the global movement of economic activism and BDS.”
- Related activities: Events marking the anniversary of the Palestinian “Naqba” on Israel’s Independence Day, staging the antisemitic play “Seven Jewish Children – A Play for Gaza,” and supporting Israelis who refuse IDF service.
- Uses inflammatory rhetoric that erases the conflict framework: i.e., “ethnic segregation between Palestinians and Jews in the occupied West Bank.” CWP representatives participated at a divestment rally in Brussels where one leader drank fake blood out of a wine glass – an apparent reference to the libel of Jews drinking Christian blood as wine – to highlight Israel’s alleged brutality.
Founded in 2000, the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) is an Israeli NGO based in Tel-Aviv. It describes itself as a “feminist organization against the occupation of Palestine and for a just peace.” CWP has ten constituent members, including New Profile, Bat Shalom, Machsom Watch, and Women in Black, providing an additional platform by which these NGOs promote their politicized agendas.
CWP’s funding sources have included: the EU (e.g. €247,954 in 2005 to “promote support for peace by reframing ‘security’ as human security”); the governments of Switzerland, the Netherlands (via ICCO), Norway (via Norwegian Church Aid), and Germany (via the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung); foundations such as SIVMO, Oxfam Novib, and Kvinna Till Kvinna; and the New Israel Fund (NIF), which disbursed grants worth $389,497 to CWP between 2006 and 2009. Until May 16, 2011, NIF accepted tax-exempt donations in the U.S., UK, and Switzerland on behalf of the organization and on behalf of the “Who profits?” project (see below).
CWP operates four program frameworks:
- “Who profits?” – provides with information on Israeli firms in order to target them for BDS (see details below).
- “Stop the siege on Gaza” — political campaign creating international pressure on Israel to “immediately remove the siege of Gaza… recognize Hamas as the elected government in Gaza and negotiate the release of prisoners… investigate the war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza and prosecute those responsible.”
- “We will resist,” lobbying against Knesset bills labeled “anti-democratic,” including films, web articles, etc.
- FORA – “an organizing of Russian-speaking activists in CWP, promoting social and political change …FORA exposes Russian-speakers to feminist and critical perspectives regarding militarism and the occupation, human rights, and sexism and homophobia, and aims to create a radical change in the discourse of the Russian-speaking media in Israel and…involvement of Russian-speaking women in social and political activism.”
In addition to these programs, CWP’s ongoing activities include:
- Participation in Israel Apartheid Week (CWP organized an event in Jaffa “Life and Struggle in Apartheid” – March 2011), rallies abroad (including an event at which the rally leader drank fake blood out of a wine glass – which recalls the libel of Jews drinking Christian blood), and endorsement of the “Free Gaza Movement” (after the flotilla violence, a June 2010 statement stated that CWP “stands in solidarity with the people of Palestine and with heroic members of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.”).
- Anti-Israel propaganda in the UN and international forums: In December 2010, CWP sent a petition to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression falsely alleging “growing political persecution in Israel, and specific cases of violations of freedom of expression of human rights NGOs, peace activists, academics, and Arab Members of Knesset,” and urging him to “investigate these matters and communicate your concerns to the government of Israel and to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.”
- Support for lawfare campaigns. In December 2009, CWP sent a letter under the heading “Enable Prosecution of Israeli War Criminals” on behalf of 99 “feminist peace organizations” to the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary calling for arrest warrants against “Israeli officials responsible for war crimes against the Palestinian people.” CWP also claims to have sent a Hebrew translation of the UN Goldstone “Fact-finding” Report to Knesset Member Tzipi Livni, who had been targeted by anti-Israel activists in the UK, stating: “We are convinced that if you refer to the report you will understand why British citizens and organizations have turned to the courts with a request to issue a warrant for your arrest… We call on you to cooperate with any international investigation that may be opened against you and to counsel your colleagues in the Government and military to do the same.”
- Commemorations, performances and lectures. These include marking the anniversary of the Palestinian “Naqba” on Israel’s Independence Day; bringing the antisemitic play “Seven Jewish Children – A Play for Gaza” to Israel as part of its “10 days against the siege” campaign; supporting Israelis who refuse to serve in the army; and hosting a lecture by Tali Fahima, who was convicted for contact with a terrorist.
BDS is an integral part of CWP’s work, and the NGO is a leader in the global campaign. In November 2009, CWP endorsed the Palestinian call for BDS and declared that it sees itself “as part of this international movement.”
In addition to the “Who Profits?” project discussed below, CWP engages in a range of BDS activities. In 2010, for example, it endorsed a letter from the “Boycott from Within” group, calling on an Irish company to divest from the Israeli Mashav Initiating and Development corporation. It also marked “the second Global BDS Day of Action on March 30 2010, in solidarity with the Palestinian people” by calling on activists to target corporations such as Carmel Agrexco and Ahava cosmetics, and encouraging support for the UC Berkeley and UC San Diego divestment campaigns.
Another of CWP’s BDS campaigns targeted investments in Israeli corporations held by the Norwegian Governmental Pension Fund. Together with other Israeli groups, including ICAHD, Mossawa, Social TV, Machsom Watch (also a CWP member), Alternative Information Center and Zochrot, CWP wrote to the Fund, calling upon the Norwegian people to “join us in our efforts and to stop investing in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.” The letter accused a number of Israeli and international corporations of “provid[ing] specifically designed equipment for the surveillance and repression of Palestinian population through restrictions of movement and collective punishments.” (See below for a more detailed analysis of this campaign.)
In its BDS activities, CWP reflects the general boycott of Israel as defined by the Palestinian leaders of the global BDS movement. For example, in 2010, CWP campaigned for excluding Israel from membership in the OECD “precisely because it’s impossible to separate the occupation economy – an exploitative element which runs contrary to international law – from the normative economy of Israel.”
CWP’s stated justification is that “th[e] wider settlement industry includes most large Israeli retailers and service providers.” These companies provide “equal services inside the official borders of Israel and in the occupied territory,” but allegedly “not includ[ing] the Palestinian residents of the West Bank.” Therefore, according to CWP, theirs is a policy “not only… of systematic discrimination; it is a face of the ethnic segregation between Palestinians and Jews in the occupied West Bank.”
The true goals of the BDS movement include the invented “rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties” – meaning the erasure of Jewish sovereignty in Israel. As noted by “Boycott from Within,” an Israeli group whose members include key CWP officials, CWP’s participation in BDS serves as a cover for the true nature of the movement by helping “the international campaign respond to accusations of practicing ‘anti-Semitism’ or ‘the denial of Israel’s right to exist.’”
“Who Profits?” project
“Who Profits?” is an online database initiated by CWP “in response to the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel,” and “a key asset to the global movement of economic activism and BDS.” CWP claims that by “exposing companies and corporations that profit from the occupation,” “Who Profits?” aims to “promote a change in public opinions and corporate policies, leading to an end to the occupation.”
“Who Profits?” is intended as an activist tool; CWP advises visitors to the website to “find ideas for action… Demand that your university, church council, workers union or pension fund divest from Israeli and international companies that are involved in the occupation. The ‘Who Profits?’ research team can help in surveying investment portfolios to identify these companies.” For example, the failed BDS effort of the Marrickville, Australia city council “largely relied on www.whoprofits.org – an anti-Israel website.”
“Who Profits?” is headed by Dalit Baum, a former board member of radical Zochrot who lobbies internationally on behalf of the “Boycott from Within” group. Baum also testified as an “expert” to the notorious “Russell Tribunal on Palestine,” a mock trial putting Israel and its Western allies “on trial” and promoting “existing legal actions and campaigns in the context of BDS to be stepped up and widened within the EU and globally” against Israel. Following Baum’s testimony, “Seven corporations were named by the jury for being complicit in Israeli violations.” In 2011, Baum went to the US for a year “as an activist in residence with Global Exchange, directing a new program titled Economic Activism for Palestine, which aims to support existing divestment campaigns in the US as well as help new ones through education, training, networking and the development of dedicated tool.”
Under the “Who Profits” banner, CWP has initiated various international BDS campaigns, targeting Israeli and foreign banks, security companies, civil infrastructure facilities, and private companies.
In its reports, CWP’s strategy is twofold:
- Strengthening and intensifying existing international BDS campaigns of other fringe groups, primarily located in Europe. CWP provides a façade of “academic research” that masks the highly politicized goals. As shown below, many CWP publications are linked to existing boycott efforts against specific Israeli corporations or projects. CWP applies additional pressure on foreign governments and private companies, in tandem with the efforts of the other groups.
- Identifying opportunities and initiating new campaigns. CWP’s publications are often the opening salvo for radical groups to attack Israel-linked businesses that have not been targeted before. In some instances, CWP later re-joins the efforts by issuing new reports on the same topic and by lobbying foreign officials and governments.
As noted, CWP selects “the targets for economic activism…with care” in order to advance the goals “Durban strategy” – formulated at the virulent NGO Forum of the UN’s 2001 Durban Conference: the “complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state,” including “the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel.”
As such, the targets include Israeli and international banks, thereby aiming to harm Israel’s development and jeopardize the country’s future. Similarly, CWP’s other key focus, major civil infrastructure projects, such as the high-speed train that was designed with international corporations, is of great symbolic value: “This new train line, sometimes referred to as the A1 train, is one of the biggest infrastructure projects that the Israeli government has undertaken in the last decade.”
CWP also targets security companies, such as G4S and Elbit, since “the security industry is the fastest growing economic sector in Israel, and has considerable political influence.” Defensive measures, such as baggage scanners, are marked, thus ignoring or denying legitimate security concerns. In addition, promotion of boycotts against security companies is designed to counter Israeli self-defense measures against terror attacks and falsely frame them as “a tool of collective punishment, political repression and land annexation.”
The final target of CWP’s BDS campaigns is private companies with links to Israel, in particular firms have been economically successful: “SodaStream has shown substantial growth and expansion in recent years, reaching new international markets. Most significantly, as of November 8, 2010, the company has gone public and its shares are traded on NASDAQ.”
Examples of “Who Profits” campaigns
Until mid-2010, Israeli banks were targeted by several low-impact BDS campaigns. In June 2010, Electronic Intifada (EI) published an article by Terry Crawford-Browne entitled, “To end the occupation, cripple Israeli banks,” which signaled greater focus on those institutions. Crawford-Browne wrote that “If international civil society is serious about urgently ending Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, including ending the occupation, then suspension of SWIFT transactions to and from Israeli banks offers an instrument.”
Two months after the article, CWP joined this campaign by releasing “Financing the Israeli Occupation,” a report that echoed and amplified EI’s campaign: “It is evident that Israeli banks provide the financial basis for the construction of settlements, for the sustainability and maintenance of the settlements and for Israeli commercial activity in the occupied territory… all aspects of Israeli control over the occupied territory have a financial foundation and that none of these financial activities of individuals, organizations, governmental institutions and commercial companies could take place without the active support of banks.”
Following the publication of CWP’s report, proposals for divesting from Israeli banks were raised in various petitions, including as an argument for boycotting third party organizations associated in some way with Israeli banks. BDS activists also contacted European banks, urging them to sever their relations with the Israeli banking system. Ironically, CWP’s own bank account is at the Israeli Bank Discount.
International banks connected to Israel
“Who Profits?” initiated a campaign against the European bank Dexia in October 2008, alleging that the bank “finances illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.” Several groups joined the initial effort, including Intal and the Belgian Solidarity group, followed by an international campaign involving International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Omar Barghouti, Artists against the Wall, and USCABI. Due to the heavy pressure, the bank stopped new loans to Israeli settlements in June 2009.
“Who Profits?” renewed its campaign in April 2010, publishing another report accusing Dexia Israel of “providing these financial services, [to] sustain these settlements, which are illegal… If the bank provides services to Israeli settlements and not to their neighboring Palestinian local authorities, it in fact implements the structural discrimination created by the occupation.” It also highlighted the bank’s activities in Israel in the abovementioned October 2010 report about Israeli banks. In March 2011, the International Tridos Bank decided to exclude Dexia from the “Tridos sustainable investment universe,” “because of its ongoing financing of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
Israeli security company Elbit, among the main suppliers of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), was initially targeted for anti-Israel BDS by War on Want (WoW) at the beginning of 2009. WoW approached the Norwegian Government Pension Fund in an attempt to remove Elbit from its investment portfolio. In May 2009, representatives of the Fund’s ethics council visited the Palestinian Authority (PA) to observe the situation on the ground, accompanied by WoW activists.
In parallel to the Fund’s visit to the PA, “Who Profits?” amplified the Elbit campaign by publicizing a report alleging Fund investments with “corporations whose activities continuously support and maintain the Israeli occupation.” Elbit was described as “One of the main subcontractors for electronic detection systems in the separation fence and the seamline barrier for the Israeli Ministry of Defense. The company also develops and supplies UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to the Israeli army, which are used for military attacks, civilian surveillance and targeted assassinations in the West Bank and Gaza.” Elbit’s role in preventing attacks against Israeli civilians was ignored. In addition, CWP and other groups launched a petition, sent to the Fund’s management, urging it to divest from “all corporations that support and maintain the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory.” As a result, in September 2009, the Norwegian Fund divested from Elbit. According to Electronic Intifada, several other Scandinavian bodies also cut their connections with the company.
Another CWP campaign against security providers revolved around a March 2009 report dealing with the international corporation G4S. The “Who Profits” publication led to significant public pressure against the company and debate in Denmark. CWP cooperated with a Danish group, DanWatch, which falsely claimed that “G4S supplies technology to Israeli Prisons” in which “Palestinian political prisoners are subjected to abuse and torture,” and that G4S security personnel and scanning equipment are used in the settlements. In November 2010, another “Who Profits?” report attacked G4S, claiming: “Our research has identified four types of activities performed by G4S Israel, which participate in different facets of the Israeli occupation.” In the report, CWP referred to Israeli prisons holding terrorists as “incarceration facilities for Palestinian political prisoners.” Following the report, the City Council of Copenhagen threatened to cease its business with G4S due to its “operations in illegal Israeli settlements,” which led G4S to end a number of its activities in the West Bank.
Civil infrastructure facilities
In October 2010, “Who Profits?” published a report about the construction of the high-speed railway line between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, identifying international corporations involved in the project and the main planners, consultants and contractors for each section of the train line. The companies identified included Deutsche Bahn International, Moscow Metrostroy, and Pizzarotti. The report claimed the new line will be “unlawfully crossing into the occupied Palestinian territory in two areas, at a great cost to Palestinian communities.”
CWP then “spearheaded [a] campaign” in Germany, which subsequently included the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), lobbying the governments of Germany and Russia to “stop the involvement of their respective state-owned companies in Israel’s unlawful A1 rail project,” and to encourage “people of conscience to initiate or escalate effective boycotts and divestment campaigns against the companies involved in the project.” The Russian company responded, “Only the Israeli government can address the political issues surrounding the railway.” But, in May 2011, media outlets reported that the campaign was successful in Germany, and that Deutsche Bahn “has stopped advising Israel” on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv line following pressure from German government officials.
It is unclear, however, what role Deutsche Bahn actually played in the high-speed project. According to the company, “DBI had provided general consulting services for Israel Railways,” and Ynetnews reported that “Deutche Bahn has been in charge of electricity and communications control on the Tel Aviv–Jerusalem line.” But, according to an official from Israel Railways, the Germany company “offered a technical opinion in 2005 about a segment inside Israel amid a dispute between Israel Railways and environmental groups.”
In summary, the large budget provided by European governments, the NIF, and other sources enables the small group of radical political activists to promote the Durban strategy designed to completely “isolate Israel” from the international community. In sharp contrast to their label as a coalition of woman for peace, the BDS-related activities described above systematically erase the complexity of the Arab-Israel conflict, and fuel the incitement that propels the violence.