What is BDS and why does it matter?

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was launched in summer 2005 by a coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations in order to bring international pressure against Israel to end its persistent violations of Palestinian human and national rights.

Modelled on the successful campaign to isolate apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, it has gone on to become a key means by which those internationally who stand in solidarity with the Palestine liberation struggle can weaken Israeli colonialism and Israel’s system of apartheid.

Motions of support for the BDS movement have been passed by an increasing number of trade unions, local authorities, political parties and student unions across the world, including in Scotland and Britain.

Boycott, divestment and sanctions

The Palestinian BDS National Committee explains the three components of BDS as follows:

  • Boycotts “involve withdrawing support for Israel and Israeli and international companies that are involved in the violation of Palestinian human rights, as well as complicit Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions”.
  • Divestment campaigns “urge banks, local councils, churches, pension funds and universities to withdraw investments from all Israeli companies and from international companies involved in violating Palestinian rights”.
  • Sanctions campaigns “pressure governments to fulfil their legal obligation to hold Israel to account including by ending military trade, free-trade agreements and expelling Israel from international forums such as the UN and FIFA”.

One of the most prominent elements of the BDS movement in Britain is the call for a consumer boycott, extending to all goods which come from Israel (not just those from illegal settlements in the West Bank — though it’s largely because of pressure from the BDS movement that UK supermarkets such as the Co-op have stopped stocking settlement goods). Specific companies which profit from apartheid are often singled out by BDS activists in their respective countries; Hewlett Packard, G4S and SodaStream are currently among major targets in the UK.

However, the consumer boycott is only one small part of the wider BDS movement, which also seeks to “pressure institutions, unions and companies to boycott or divest and to isolate Israel academically, culturally, economically and militarily”.

In the UK, many local authorities have been disinvested their pension and investments funds from Israeli companies and international companies which profit from apartheid. Scottish activists have also taken part in action targeted at Israeli state-sponsored shows at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and at major arms manufacturers like Raytheon and Thales UK, which operate plants in Scotland and provide Israel with cutting-edge military technology.

BDS grows despite repression

The threat of the BDS movement to the Israeli regime is demonstrated by the lengths to which the Israeli government and its international allies have gone to undermine and defeat it.

In December 2017, the Israeli government allocated $72 million (£54.4 million) to its most expensive anti-BDS campaign to date. Earlier that year, former Israeli government advisor Gidi Grinstein told a conference in the United States that Israel and its allies had “probably invested 20 times … more resources in dealing with this problem compared to what we invested in 2010”.

In 2018, Israel imposed a blanket travel ban on international charities and human rights groups which endorsed the BDS call, and continued its criminalisation of Palestinian BDS activists.

Closer to home, the Tory-led UK government announced a series of measures in 2016 and 2017 to stop local authorities throwing their weight behind the BDS movement, as has been done by the likes of West Dunbartonshire Council and others south of the border.

In February 2017, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid — now Britain’s Home Secretary — promised to “clampdown on these inappropriate and needless boycotts once and for all”. Only a humiliating court defeat inflicted by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) in England and Wales forced the UK government to reverse track on those particular measures.

In spite of this, opinion polling conducted by YouGov on behalf of the PSC in summer 2017 found that 43 per cent of British voters still believe the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions is “reasonable”, compared to just 13 per cent who don’t.

To the credit of activists who have steadily built support for the BDS movement over more than a decade, a majority (51 per cent) of Labour voters and a significant proportion (40 per cent) of Conservative voters said BDS was “reasonable”, despite Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (himself a patron of PSC) distancing himself from the BDS movement and Tory leader Theresa May insisting that her party “will have no truck with those who subscribe to it”.

BDS in Scotland

The BDS movement has won support from a broad layer of Scottish civil society, not least because of the work by organisations like the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), which plays a central role in building support in Scotland for the BDS movement.

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) gave its backing to the BDS movement in 2009 and confirmed, in 2017, that its links with the Zionist Israeli trade union federation Histadrut had effectively been broken as a consequence. The STUC clearly stated it “is certainly not looking to build bridges with an organisation that supports the occupation of another land”.

Student unions and student associations at University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, University of Dundee and Abertay University have all added their support in previous years, as has the National Union of Students (NUS) at a national level.

However, BDS activists have also been forced to contend with an increasingly well-organised pro-Israel lobby in Scotland which has attempted to make inroads into Scotland’s major political parties. The Confederation of Friends of Israel in Scotland (COFIS), which works directly with the Israeli state to undermine the BDS movement, has attempted to join anti-racist marches to provide a progressive cover to its support for Israeli state-enforced racism.

These factors, as well as the escalation of Israeli violence against Palestinians following the election of Donald Trump as US president, make continued and unqualified support for the BDS movement a critical component of any meaningful solidarity with Palestine and its people.


Photos: Craig Maclean

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Solidarity Protests with TGI Friday’s Strikers… on Friday!

by Richie Venton, SSP trade union organiser

Here’s a tip: pay a minimum £10-an-hour to all your staff from your profits – not by dipping into the tips left by generous customers!

That’s the message the SSP will be sending the bosses of TGI Friday’s, this Friday, as we stage street protests in support of striking staff.

“Thank God It’s Friday!”

Past generations of workers were wont to utter this as they looked forward to family and recreation time at the weekend. The mad capitalist hunt for ever-greater profits, with its 24/7 frenzy, has put paid to such guaranteed leisure time, with weekend working increasingly common. With no premium payments by way of compensation. Especially in the retail, food and hospitality sectors.

But for those seeking food, drink and leisure, one of the venues created in New York in 1965, then spread to Britain in 1986, is the American chain, TGI Friday’s.

This Friday 18th May sees the first of a series of Friday strikes by Friday’s staff!

Workers in their Milton Keynes and Covent Garden, London branches are striking first, with plans by others to join them over subsequent weeks. These workers are members of Unite the union. They voted to strike by 100%! They have had enough of being ripped off, in a serialised attack on their pay.

The last straw that provoked this strike action was the unilateral decision by the owners to grab 40% of serving staff’s card tips from customers, to give a paltry increase in the hourly wages of kitchen staff – because the spiralling decline of wages for kitchen staff has led to a crisis level of staff turnover.

This measure was announced, with no pretence of consultation, with two days’ notice! It will mean front-of-house staff losing up to £65 a week – £250 a month.

It comes on top of previous pay atrocities by the same employers.

They’ve been exposed for exploiting workers through unpaid trial shifts… of up to 6 hours!

They were named, shamed and obliged to pay back £59,348 to 2,302 workers, after being caught reneging on the paltry legal minimum wage, by making staff buy black shoes as part of the uniform.

Now the giant chain – which has 81 branches in the UK alone – has ‘tipped’ staff over the edge, driving them to strike action by this latest wage theft.

In an open letter by the TGI strikers to the firm’s chief executive, they bitterly condemn their treatment:

“We have worked for you for five, ten, fifteen or even twenty years. We stayed. We were loyal. Made careers out of waitressing and bartending, a rare phenomenon within the UK restaurant industry, which tends to have high staff turnover rates.

We trained hard to be the best in the business, we certified and re-certified, even when you made us download the ‘TGI Fridays Academy’ app and complete our training at home, off the clock and unpaid.

When you took time and a half away from us on bank holidays, and then away from us over Christmas Eve and New Year, we didn’t kick up much of a fuss.

When stores began to lose shift meals, meaning we now work 12 hour shifts and have to pay to eat food that we know costs the company a fraction of the price we’re forced to pay, we started to question what was happening to our beloved Fridays. 

Then in January it hit us.  Every time the government’s national living wage increased TGI Fridays would try to claw that money back by stripping away our perks and benefits.

When early in the new year and with just two days’ notice you told us that you were taking 40% of waiting staffs’ card tips and giving them to the kitchen, we’d had enough.

You gave us just two days’ notice to figure out how we were going to pay our mortgages, buy our weekly groceries or carry on paying for our children’s extracurricular activities.”

TGI owners are classically robbing Peter to pay Paul a very small wage rise. They can’t hold onto chefs and kitchen staff because for years they’ve failed to raise their pay to match price rises. And as the strikers’ open letter makes clear:

“This isn’t about minimum wage servers not wanting to share. It’s about a company whose shareholders have gotten so greedy that they no longer want to pay their hardworking staff anything above the bare minimum.”

Exactly! An outfit with sales of £211million in 2016 have stooped to these thieving methods against loyal staff.

Meantime, chief executive, Karen Forrester, took a ‘modest’ salary of £260,000 in 2016 – ‘modest’ by her own standards that is; I’m sure she could always fall back on a few quid from the £456,665 salary she awarded herself in 2015!

Show your solidarity with the TGI Friday’s strikers; and stop at an SSP street protest at your nearest branch. Register your anger at food and drinks bosses devouring workers’ wages (and tips) for even higher mountains of profit and perks for the CEOs.

Photos: Paul Donnelly

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Israeli snipers slaughter over 100 demonstrators

The world has watched in horror at the criminal actions of the Israeli army in killing hundreds and injuring thousands more as they protested the illegal occupation of their land and the blockade that aims at strangling the life from the 1.8 million residents of Gaza.

In the six weeks of protests, planned to culminate on Nakba day, marking the expulsion of thousands of Palestinians to found Israel, over 100 demonstrators have been killed by IDF snipers and hundreds wounded. They are protesting for their right to return to their home land. They are being slaughtered for doing that.

The Scottish Socialist Party unreservedly condemns the action of the Israeli government and the provocative decision of the US Government to move it’s embassy to Jerusalem in a move that is designed to give the green light to Netanyahu’s right wing government to continue its programme of illegal settlement building and brutal repression in Palestine.

We will continue to support Palestinians in their struggle for self determination and will be joining with others in nationwide protests against the actions of the Israeli government and the continuing blockade of Gaza.

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May Day eBook: Lenin by James Maxton

The Scottish Socialist Party is proud to publish a newly restored and reconstructed edition of James Maxton’s seminal biography of Vladimir Lenin for free download – complete with clarified language, extensive footnotes and key historical details.

Our national secretary, Connor Beaton, spearheaded the project and provides the foreword – which briefly outlines the history and importance of accessible, readable biographies of key socialist historical figures.

This download is available in three formats – PDF (for printing and reading on computer screens), Mobi for side-loading on Kindle readers, and ePub for iPad and other compatible devices.


On the key date of the socialist calendar – International Workers Day – enjoy, discuss, and use it as you wish. These downloads are free from all forms of digital restrictions management – you are free to read, copy, share and redistribute as you see fit.

If you liked this, consider donating to the SSP today!

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Starbucks: An Extra Shot of Profiteering!

by Richie Venton

Our SSP street stall and street meeting outside Starbucks in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall St today gained a really warm reception from shoppers.

As we blasted out the message – over the din of the howling wind! – about multinationals like Starbucks and KFC robbing workers of their rightful wages by calling them apprentices, people stopped to sign for £10 now.

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SSP EC statement on Catalonia

The Scottish Socialist Party offers its solidarity to those Catalans resisting the undemocratic and repressive response of the Spanish government to their democratic demand to determine their future relationship with the Spanish state.

We condemn the brutal police response to those protesting the continued victimisation of elected politicians for carrying out their mandate in organising the independence referendum last year. Such brutality, cloaked in the language of legality, is part of a long and dishonourable tradition of the Spanish state violently suppressing movements for change.

Having failed to defeat Catalan pro-independence parties at the ballot box in December, Rajoy’s government, whose party secured only 4% in those elections, have now moved to use their domestic courts and the judiciaries of other European countries to imprison prominent leaders of the independence movement. Currently eight sacked Ministers languish in jail and others are now facing court action across Europe as Spain demands their return. Facing trumped up charges of ‘Rebellion and Misuse of Public Funds’ they could face up to thirty years in jail.

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Thirty Pence is not Enough!

by Calum Martin

People who have spent a little time in Edinburgh will know the SSP Living Wage campaigns regularly on Princes Street. Sunday the 1st of April saw the Lothians branch pull off something a little different. On Easter Sunday, the Minimum Wage for those over 25 rose by about 30p, up to £7.83. If you are 25 or over you are legally guaranteed that in the workplace. If your employer is paying you less, they are breaking the law.

Rising Cost Of Living

Yet there are glaring omissions in this news. Not only are people under 25 missing from the increase, but there is still at least £2.17 per hour also missing. The Consumer Price Index, the average cost of a standard basket of groceries, rose by 2.7% in 2017, with evidence that the rate of increase is still mounting. Between 2016 and 2017, the average total cost of household energy bills rose by 13%, with wide predictions of an even higher rise for 2017 into 2018. The average rent on a two bedroom property has risen by 19.9% across Scotland between 2016 and 2017, with no signs those trends are abating. We’ve all seen this happening, we feel it as less and less money is left after basic necessities. We all know that 30p is not enough.

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Redistributive Taxation – making the most of Devolution

by Calum Martin, SSP National Co-Chair

The Scottish Parliament was supposed to provide the ways and means to bring forward a new Scotland. Ours is a wealthy, productive nation, but it becomes more unequal daily. Workers create that wealth, yet it is skewed by a system rigged for the rich.

Inflation bites deep into workers wages, but every city in Scotland boasts more millionaires than ever before and corporate profits soar. Devolution can help us halt these problems – and with a bit of vision, put it in reverse. We have the wealth, the talents and ability to build ourselves a society and an economy which works well for all of us, not just a precious wealthy few.

Successive Labour and SNP governments have fallen far short of using Scotland’s devolved powers to do so. Independence will win back more levers to greatly improve our economy – that is for certain. Yet Holyrood is not powerless – we can start, piece by piece to transform it into that better Scotland.

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