Policies to enact solidarity with Palestine: passing a resolution through your city council or union
Activists in cities and rank and file union members across the US are looking for ways to express solidarity with Palestine within their institutions, and enact policies to put solidarity into action. Below is a menu of options for resolutions you can choose from depending on your context – how organized your group is, how many allies you have in decision-making positions, how much broad support you have, and how much campaigning on Palestine has been done or resolutions/statements have been passed previously within this institution.
Calling for a permanent ceasefire and end to Israel’s siege and genocide against 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza is a first step your city council or union can take in expressing solidarity with Palestine. This kind of resolution can also serve as a power mapping exercise – who are your supporters? What kind of opposition might you be up against, locally and nationally? Is there broad support or at least a willingness to learn more about Palestine? Is this the first time the issue of Palestinian rights is being raised in this body?
Note: With the recent “pause” in fighting, it’s important to push for resolutions that call for a permanent ceasefire, lifting the siege, and addressing the root cause of the violence, even if vague. You should also choose a target for the text of these resolutions – whether it be calling on President Biden, your members of Congress, your union leadership, or another decision maker, to call for a permanent ceasefire and for cutting US military funding to Israel. Make sure you actually send the resolution to said target, and publicize it widely – the point of this kind of resolution is to build public pressure and demonstrate public support to inspire other bodies to pass similar motions. We want to create a wave of public pressure.
Apartheid Free Pledge:
If you are ready to move beyond calling for a ceasefire, lifting the siege, and cutting US military funding to Israel, you can push your city council or union to take the pledge to be apartheid free. The Apartheid Free Communities platform is part of a broader coalition effort convened by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and builds on years of organizing for Apartheid Free Zones by the BDS Movement across the globe, which has included major municipalities, trade unions, and retailers. The apartheid free pledge does not by itself focus on a specific company or commit to a specific policy, but is first and foremost a declaration that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people amounts to apartheid, which is a huge step toward building the anti-apartheid movement in the US. Secondly, the pledge is a commitment to further action. It is implied that other steps to enact this pledge will follow, and you can then decide based on your context what steps would be appropriate to pursue, whether that is focusing on ending contracts with a specific company, divesting funds, or ending specific relationships with the Israeli government and complicit actors.
For further information, examples, best practices, and resources on apartheid, please see:
Human rights procurement/investment policy:
If you would like your city council or union to divest from or end contracts with companies that profit from Israeli violence, and you know there are multiple companies on your list, the first step it to mobilize support for a policy that would prevent investments and procurement contracts with companies that are complicit in human rights violations anywhere. It is important to build an intersectional campaign around this and push for an end to investments/contracts that include human rights violations in general, not just in Palestine. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights can be helpful to you here. They explain in detail that “states’ international human rights law obligations require that they respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of individuals within their territory and/or jurisdiction. This includes the duty to protect against human rights abuse by third parties, including business enterprises.”
As a broad example, please see AFSC’s language for a human rights investment policy, which includes weapon companies, military contractors, fossil fuel companies, and other industries that mainstream socially responsible investors have been avoiding. Most importantly, it also includes an innovative human rights screen – a universal conduct-based screen that examines corporate involvement in state violence and human rights violations.
The City of New Orleans has passed a resolution (before it was then rescinded due to backlash) pledging to review investments and contracts according to the city’s values of inclusion and respecting human rights. (Article here)
The City of Portland has passed a resolution to divest from all corporate securities and added specific companies to their Do-Not-Buy list maintained by the Socially Responsible Investment Committee, including Caterpillar and Wells Fargo. (Article here)
After activists engaged in discussions with the city of Portland’s procurement office as they were developing a new questionnaire for procurement contracts, AFSC gave these recommendations to include specific human rights language in the procurement questionnaire and policy.
You can also push your city council or union to divest from specific companies or from the Israeli government itself. It is estimated that the US labor movement has billions of dollars invested in Israeli government bonds, and more than 80 state and municipal governments, including Minnesota, Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, Arizona, South Carolina, Maryland, and New York City, have invested at least $2 billion in Israel Bonds. Israel Bonds help finance the Israeli government’s budget, thereby aiding Israel’s ongoing colonization of Palestinian land and entrenching its apartheid policies and military occupation. State pension funds are also invested in companies that are complicit in Israeli violence as well as human rights violations globally.
This campaign might take a good bit of research, as it can be difficult to find out what your city or union is actually invested in. You can use the databases investigate.afsc.org and whoprofits.org for information on specific companies, and you may need to find allies on the inside of your institution to be able to assist you in finding current investment information. If not, try to use your freedom of information rights.
The United Church of Christ (US) voted to divest from HP in 2015.
United Educators of San Francisco, along with several other educators unions across the country, passed a resolution in support of BDS in 2021.
The Oregon AFL-CIO and Oregon Education Association passed resolutions calling on the Oregon State Treasury to divest from NSO, and to implement a human rights screen. (Article here)
Pledge or statement to pressure higher decision making bodies (your members of Congress, union president, etc.):
In all of these options, you can include demands of decision makers at higher levels – whether that be your members of Congress, your union president, etc. These demands can include:
Urging decision makers and leaders to call for a permanent ceasefire and lifting the siege
Pledging to withhold support from elected officials until they do X,Y,Z (call for a ceasefire, enact your divestment resolution, etc.)
Urging investigation into investments and contracts by a specific deadline
Calling for a military embargo (no more US weapons companies supplying weapons to Israel) and an end to US military funding to Israel
For further resources and information, visit:
Jewish Voice for Peace: Jewish Voice for Peace is the largest progressive Jewish anti-Zionist organization in the world. JVP is organizing a grassroots, multiracial, cross-class, intergenerational movement of U.S. Jews into solidarity with the Palestinian freedom struggle, guided by a vision of justice, equality, and dignity for all people. JVP has chapters all over the country, and has years of experience running BDS campaigns and campaigning in solidarity with Palestine.
IMEU: The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) provides journalists and the public with quick access to information about Palestine and the Palestinians, as well as expert sources, both in the United States and in the Middle East. The IMEU works with journalists to increase the public’s understanding about the socio-economic, political, and cultural aspects of Palestine, Palestinians, and Palestinian Americans. The IMEU can offer a variety of 101 level information for your campaign.
investigate.afsc.org: Investigate is a project of the Economic Activism Program of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Founded in 1917, AFSC is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. The Investigate project aims to expose corporate involvement in oppressive state violence structures and to promote standards for corporate social responsibility and respect for human rights. The database focuses on corporations involved in incarceration and immigrant detention, the Israeli occupation, and the border industries.
whoprofits.org: Who Profits Research Center is an independent research center dedicated to exposing the commercial involvement of Israeli and international corporations in the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Syrian land and population. Who Profits’ Corporate Database is freely available to the public and features the profiles of hundreds of companies commercially involved in the Israeli occupation economy.
Cities for Palestine: This is a toolkit put together by the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) on city level campaigning from 2020, so some information may be out of date, but it is a useful toolkit that gives basic how-tos and organizing guidance on city level campaigning.