Frequently Asked Questions about the Divest from War Pledge
This pledge talks of Israel initiating a preemptive attack on Iran. How do you define preemptive? The idea behind this pledge is that every person will make their own decision. Should there be military confrontation between Israel and Iran, each person signing this pledge will need to make a decision, based on their own interpretation of events that led up to the conflict, if it was initiated by Israel, and if it was in self-defense or preemptive. In summary, this pledge counts on the informed judgment and common sense of individual signers.
How long would I be pledging to continue my boycott and divestment actions? Since the decision to engage in boycott and divestment is an individual one, the decision to end the boycott and divestment will also be an individual one. Each person signing the pledge will need to decide if Israel has modified its behavior such that it merits a reconsideration of the boycott pledge.
Why a boycott and divestment campaign? One reason the Israeli government can freely threaten another country with military attack in violation of international law is that it enjoys a level of impunity not shared by any other state in the region. This is thanks to the unconditional support of western governments, especially that of the United States. Many believe that the United States will never hold Israel accountable, no matter how outrageous its actions. This is a dangerous situation that can lead to irresponsible behavior.
On the other hand, the government of Israel and its supporters have identified grassroots campaigns for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a threat to their impunity. While most of these campaigns are tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the same tactics can be used to help avert a regional war in the Middle East.
When political and military leaders engage in war planning, they calculate the potential cost of a military confrontation against its potential benefits. The goal of this pledge campaign is to nonviolently increase the economic cost to Israel of a preemptive attack on Iran, in order to reduce the possibility of an actual attack.
Isn't a boycott of an entire country a form of collective punishment? Surely, there are Israelis opposed to their government's actions who will be hurt by a boycott? It is true that a general boycott of an entire country could be seen as an extreme measure, especially by those who have sympathies towards that country, even if they don't support that country's current behavior.
However, the risk of a regional conflagration is so high, and the damage to all parties – including all Israelis – will be so extensive, that serious measures, with real impact are called for. Given that this boycott will only come into effect in the event of a military confrontation in the region, the economic harm done by the boycott will be much less than the damage caused by the confrontation itself, not to mention the possible loss of life on all sides. So if this boycott pledge helps to avert a war in the Middle East, it would be of economic help to all residents of the region, including Israelis.
Who should sign this pledge? We encourage anyone in the world who wants to help avert a new war in the Middle East to sign this pledge. Practically speaking, the most effective pledges will come from citizens of countries that have extensive economic ties to Israel and whose governments provide Israel with the most political support. These would be United States, Canada, Europe, most of Latin America, and parts of Asia.
Aren't you singling out Israel? After all, there is a lot of violence in this world. As Canadian author Naomi Klein has pointed out, boycotts are a tool, not a dogma or philosophy, and they should be used whenever they can be effective.
In the year 2012, only one country is openly advocating a military attack on another country. That country (Israel) happens to be one that, by the admission of its own supporters, considers a boycott and divestment campaign to be an effective tool deployed against it. Therefore, it only makes sense to use that tool if it can help avert a war.
If others believe that other governments (Iran, China, the United States, etc.) are more worthy of a boycott campaign, and if they believe that such a boycott campaign could actually result in a change in behavior on the part of those governments, they should start their own boycott and divestment campaigns. In other words, this campaign claims no monopoly on boycott and divestment as a tool.
Besides looking for a "made in Israel" label on a product, how else can I put my pledge into action, should that become necessary? There are many things you can do. Other organizations have been researching this topic, mostly motivated by a different issue – human rights for Palestinians. These sites include lists of companies that support the Israeli military. While not all are Israeli companies or openly support the government of Israel, they should be included in any boycott pledge. You can also ask organizations that you are a member of to take a stand on this issue. For example, many unions have pension funds with investments in Israeli government bonds.
How can I help spread the word about this pledge, so that it will hopefully never be necessary? The best way to spread the word about this campaign is to notify people in your community and social circle. Also, include this pledge in letters to the editor and calls to call-in shows. Finally, you can post replies to online articles, blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook pages, etc. with a link to the pledge campaign web site.