Three recent divestment cases indicate that even when there are no flashy headlines, maybe especially so, boycott and divestment efforts can have a major impact where it hurts.
The largest supermarket chain in Luxembourg, Cactus, may be considering taking Israeli produce off its shelves unless suppliers can prove they do not come from occupied territory, Israeli news site Ynet reported this week.
If the chain follows through, this would be the latest in a number of related incidents that show European companies’ growing discomfort with contracts, holdings and investments in Israel. The discomfort appears rooted not in ideology or politics, but in dollars – and sense.
In June, the CEO of French telecom giant Orange stated that its brand-use contract with an Israeli mobile operator was becoming a costly political headache in France and overseas, and that he would be prefer to end the contract. His statement prompted a diplomatic incident: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the company, and France’s foreign minister responded with fast back-peddling.
In August, another massive French company, Veolia, sold the last of its holdings in Israel after several years of phased withdrawal, according to Israeli group “Who Profits.” Veolia had been involved in a range of projects in the region, from bus lines, water and waste management, and perhaps most prominently, the Jerusalem light rail. The company has been a target of boycott activists for years due to its involvement in West Bank projects including transportation services and ownership of a landfill. Critics also charge that the light rail underserves the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem, while contributing to the de facto annexation of the eastern, Palestinian part of the city.
BDS supporters consider Veolia’s move a major victory, while Veolia completely denies any political basis for its decision. In a written statement conveyed through a spokesperson, the company told +972 Magazine that it began a strategic divestment plan in 2011, with all subsidiaries divested by August 2015, but that “[i]n no case has this divestment, or its decision, been the result of a boycott campaign or the opposition of any group whatsoever.”
However, already in 2010 rumors surfaced that Veolia sought to exit the Jerusalem light rail operations due to boycott pressure and concern that it would lose contracts elsewhere. California-based group Global Exchange has documented projects Veolia lost in recent years, claiming links to political campaigns highlighting Veolia’s Israel-Palestine activities and directed at local clients....Read More