BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) is a movement founded by the Palestinians which aims to pressure Israel into changing its policy toward Judea and Samaria, as well as toward the Israeli Arabs and the Right of Return. BDS's modus operandi is to boycott companies and organizations that sympathise with Israel in various economical, academical and cultural ways. The movement is supported by various international organizations and political activists.
The term BDS is comprised of three modes of action: Boycotting in the ways described above, as well as preventing international companies from collaboration with Israel; Divestments, in which financial organizations are pressured to withdraw their investments in Israel; and Sanctions, in which foreign governments are encouraged to cease any aid or support of Israel. This includes attempts to leave Israel out of international forums.
As part of their financial attack, BDS organizations have called for a boycott of merchandise produced by factories situated in Judea and Samaria, a blacklist that occasionally extends to all of Israel. While this campaign is meant to disturb the Jewish factory owners, the harm caused extends to tens of thousands of Palestinian factory workers as well.
During the past few years, there have been several incidents in which factories in the aforementioned areas could not withstand the intense pressure of the organization, consequently choosing to relocate their factories to other parts of Israel. Although the Israeli workers could stay at their posts regardless of location, the Palestinian workers did not always receive permits to travel beyond the “green line”, where the factories had relocated. Thus, BDS actions directly resulted in Palestinian unemployment.
A well-known example of this occured in 2014 when Sodastream was ostracized by BDS, forcing the plant to leave Mishor Adumim and relocate to Lehavim in the Israeli Negev. After two years of weekly demonstrations, a store branch was forced to close. The relocation of the Sodastream factory seems like a BDS victory, but when one takes a closer look, one sees that this factory had originally provided work for some 600 Palestinians, jobs that afforded them honorable salaries and social rights far beyond what is accepted in the Palestinian Authority. As a result of the move, approximately 250 Palestinian workers were fired.
Sodastream is not the only example. About 30,000 Palestinians work in Israeli settlements. Half that number is employed by production plants such as Barkan, Mishor Adumim and Ma’ale Ephraim, and the rest by other industries, including farming, construction, sanitation and supermarket sales. In the Barkan production plant, which is currently suffering from BDS campaigns, approximately four thousand Palestinian workers hold positions, in over 170 factories.
In 2010, the PA began to boycott Israeli settlements and stated that it would cut all financial ties with Israel. In addition, all Palestinian workers were required to leave their jobs, or else get imprisoned and heavily fined. The Palestinian citizens were in outrage. “It’s like taking food out of people’s hands. Work is our highest priority. If he wants to stop me from working in the settlements, let him find me a different workplace,” said an anonymous Palestinian construction worker when interviewed by Walla News. Of note is the lack of workplaces and high unemployment rate in the PA. The minimum wage stands at 1450 shekel a month, in stark contrast to the Israeli minimum wage of 5300 shekel. At the Barkan production plant, the average wage is currently even higher, adding up to 6500 shekel a month. Both sides are invested in encouraging this kind of cooperation, Palestinians for the higher wages and better conditions, and Israelis for the quality, relatively cheap manpower.
Following the Palestinian protests, the P.A's at-the-time prime minister abolished the work prohibition law concerning the Israeli settlements. According to the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), today there are over 50,000 Palestinian workers crossing the border daily for employment purposes. COGAT is responsible for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in different areas. One such project is the development of Jericho's industrial area, which provides employment for thousands of Palestinians.
A report published by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics in 2017 describes the various Israeli industries that provide Palestinians with work. According to this report, 6% of the Palestinian laborers were employed in agriculture, 14% participated in excavation and production, 63% had construction jobs, and 10% were in the tourism business, while the remaining 5% earned wages in transportation, storage and other miscellaneous. Interestingly, the report comments that 13% of the Palestinian work force belonged to the Histadrut in Judea and Samaria, while the salaries provided by Israel made up about 40% of Palestinian income.
While the actions of BDS harm Jews and Palestinians alike and do not promote political change, it seems that the Israeli-Palestinian financial arrangement is improving both economies greatly. Today, the United States emphasizes its financial interests, with President Trump's “Deal of the Century” based on the slogan “Finances First”. As Sagi Brosh, president of the Industrial Union, put it, “It is important to remember that employing Palestinian workers in Israeli areas allows them to support themselves honorably, even during the Palestinian unemployment rates of 18.8%, as well as continuous declining of financial aid: from 4.5 billion shekel in 2013 to 1.7 billion shekel in 2017.” Brosh concluded with the words, “We must continue to support those who wish to work and contribute, those who prove by coming to work day after day, that coexistence is possible in the State of Israel.”