JCB (J.C Bamford Excavators), a UK-based manufacturer of construction equipment, has become a target of BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns due to its sale of equipment to the State of Israel.  These campaigns, primarily from British NGOs, intensified in 2019, following the November 2018 publicity surrounding Khan al-Ahmar, and in 2020 after JCB was included on the discriminatory UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) “blacklist” of companies operating in Israel, published in February 2020.

(For more information on the UN BDS Blacklist, see NGO Monitor’s Key Issue.)

In contrast to the claims of the pro-BDS NGOs, the incidents allegedly involving JCB products concern structures built without proper permits in Area C of the West Bank. Israel, per its obligations under the Oslo Accords to administer this territory, is not committing a violation by enforcing building and zoning codes – in particular in military zones and sensitive strategic locales. Israeli courts provide due process review of all such cases and have heard dozens, if not hundreds, of cases on these issues. In many of these cases, the Court has delayed or cancelled demolitions, or awarded other relief.

In addition, the links between JCB and these demolitions, and claims of corporate liability, are highly attenuated. Pro-BDS groups do not know who owns the equipment (IDF? contractors? rental company?) or when or how they obtained it (purchase from local distributor or a secondary market). JCB owns a large share of the Israeli market, and its heavy machinery has a plethora of non-controversial applications, including by the IDF.

Nevertheless, through a myopic look at JCB’s involvement in the region, activists call for a total boycott of Israel and divestment from JCB. Their objective is to demonize and isolate Israel and do so by selecting convenient, visible, and accessible local targets.

Early BDS Campaigns

BDS Campaigns in 2018-2019

  • In September 2018, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) included JCB in its activism against the planned demolition of illegally-built structures in Khan al-Ahmar (“#KhanAlAhmar: BDS is Our Most Powerful Tool For Accountability and Justice”); the demolitions never took place. The UK-based group Corporate Occupation published a statement specifically targeting JCB (“Stand In Solidarity With Khan Al Ahmar: Take Action Against JCB”).
  • In March 2019, “in response” to the BNC call, BDS activists from “International Solidarity Movement, Birmingham Palestine Action, Manchester Palestine Action, and Boycott Israel Network” blocked traffic outside one of JCB’s headquarters.
  • In July 2019, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) released a statement headlined “No Impunity for Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem – Boycott Israel Now.” BNC demanded that “churches, trade unions and pension funds [] divest from and/or exclude from procurements all corporate criminals involved in Israel’s human rights violations, including home demolitions and ethnic cleansing” – listing JCB and other heavy equipment manufacturers.
  • In November 2019, Corporate Watch published an article on “British university partnerships with JCB” and three other “companies complicit in Israel’s systematic demolition of Palestinian homes.” The article was “written in support of the Palestinian movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli militarism, colonialism and apartheid… [and to] serve as information for action for students taking part in the #ApartheidOffCampus day of action in the UK on November 27th.”
  • In December 2019, Lawyers for Palestinian Rights (LPHR) filed a complaint against JCB with the UK National Contact Point for the OECD, alleging that JCB was contributing to human rights abuses through its business relationships in Israel. The LPHR complaint relies heavily on claims from NGOs, including B’Tselem and Al-Haq.

BDS Campaigns Post-Blacklist

  • In February 2020, Amnesty International UK issued a press release calling on JCB to “stop profiting from crimes against the Palestinian people.” Amnesty also released a joint press statement together with LPHR, Christian Aid, War on Want, and Quakers in Britain, welcoming the publication of the UN blacklist and calling on JCB to “immediately end” their involvement in any “settlement-related activity.”
  • In February 2020, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) urged supporters to demand that JCB “cease to be involved in violations of international law, by ensuring that in future (sic) your equipment is not sold either directly to Israel or indirectly to other companies involved in illegal activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” Additionally, ICAHD encouraged British citizens to lobby their MPs, arguing that JCB is “complicit in potential war crimes, and the British government is complicit by not acting positively to discourage the involvement of British companies, and for example by allowing products from the illegal settlements to be sold in the UK.”
  • In September 2020, BDS leader Palestine Solidarity Campaign launched a campaign demanding that the UK-based charity National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children stop accepting donations from JCB over the company’s ties to Israel.