BT criticised over Israeli settlements deal


10:20 am - January 19th 2011

by Newswire    


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Israeli activists have written to telecoms company BT about their complicity in breaches of international law and human rights abuses today.

The letter comes on the anniversary of BT partnering with an Israeli company that provides services to illegal settlements in Israel.

A campaign called ‘Disconnect Now‘ publishes the letter, which states:

Dear British Telecom,

We, Israeli citizens devoted to the promotion of a just peace and a true democracy in the Middle East, are deeply concerned about the potentially irreversible damage inflicted on Palestinians by the brutal Israeli occupation, and about the outrageous international support of such policies.

We are saddened and dismayed by your company’s complicity in severe breaches of international law and the violation of human rights through your relationship with Bezeq International, and call on you to end this relationship at once. While BT has repeatedly stated its commitment to ensuring that it is “not complicit in human rights abuses,” its partnership with Bezeq International proves differently. By partnering with Bezeq, BT is supporting the infrastructure which enables illegal Israeli settlements, built in violation of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, to exist. We maintain that such wilful blindness to Israeli crimes is not only immoral, but is also in contrast to BT’s fiduciary responsibility to its investors, as it may put the company’s high-regard in the international community at risk.

Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that a critical stance against the occupation, including explicit calls and actions taken by individuals and organizations to divest or sanction companies or institutions complicit in such atrocities, are not Anti-Semitic. On the contrary, only resistance of this kind, as part of the struggle for peace based on justice and equality, will enable a common future for Arabs and Jews in the region.

Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid, and following the footsteps of other non-violent struggles against discrimination and repression across the world, we call on you to live up to your professed ethical standards and cut all ties with Israel’s occupation.

Sincerely yours,
Boycott From Within- Israelis supporting the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions.

Update: An earlier headline stated the campaign called for a ‘boycott’ of BT, which is not the case. We have now amended the headline.

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Reader comments


what the f*ck? somebody is seriously calling for BT to be “boycotted” because BT works (i.e. wholesales international network connections to) with an Israeli telecoms company?

I’m going to boycott Heathrow because it allows flights from Israel to land. I’m going to boycott the pound sterling because it can be exchanged for shekel and I call on fellow global citizens of conscience to boycott the internet, which, shamefully, is connected to Isreal too.

Boycotting BT Retail for this is ineffective. Same company, but the rest of BT isn’t /allowed/ to take BTRetail’s concerns into account when it comes to the rest of their business. Yay for anti-competition legislation.

In the UK, the only people who can boycott any other part of BT are those with cable, who never call anyone who doesn’t have cable.

*However*, the Disconnect Now campaign seems to be based in Israel, dealing with *Israeli* phone lines. Where, presumably, the local branch of BT *can* be boycotted effectively.

More headlines mischief – I propose “Call to boycott BT in Israel over settlements deal” instead.

What Louis said.

Also, bit tricky to boycott BT when they own/control/manage (whatever) pretty much the entire phone network (the physical line-bits I mean).

As per other comments, utterly ludicrous and virtually impossible, unless of course it was changed to “boycott the internet and telephones”

…what the f*ck? somebody is seriously calling for BT to be “boycotted” because BT works (i.e. wholesales international network connections to) with an Israeli telecoms company?

I’m not sure that cultural boycotts are ever worthwhile but in limited defence of these activists, it’s not that Bezeq International are Israeli, it’s that they provide to the settlements.

Where is the boycott call for all the companies that deal with all of the distateful regimes in the world?

Actually, I think it’s a misleading post title. Neither the Disconnect Now campaign nor the Israeli activists are calling on people to boycott BT – rather the message is for BT to be consistent with their own internal guidelines regarding human rights, and cut ties with an Israeli company that provides services to illegal settlements.

In reality, to apply this standard fairly they’d have to boycott pretty much everything. China’s not great on human rights, but make rather a lot of electronics these days – probably including BT’s telephone exchanges and other equipment. Russia went and bombed Georgia, which is presumably a bigger breach of international law … and BT’s backup generators run on diesel: do they have to make sure none of that oil comes from Saudi, Iran, Iraq etc, all of which are worse in this respect?

Ludicrous – and if Israeli law is anything like the UK’s regarding phone line provision, it’s quite possible Bezeq themselves don’t even get a choice in the matter: if I want a BT line installed anywhere except Hull (which have their own local company, Kingston Communications, instead), it is actually illegal for BT to refuse except for very specific permitted reasons.

Even if Bezeq could legally pick and choose which customers to connect like these campaigners want, for one group of customers to try applying pressure on one company to pressure another company into refusing service to another group of customers the first group dislikes seems quite distasteful to me on principle. Maybe coalition supporters could try pushing for the Labour party website, or their HQ phone lines, to be disconnected? Try to stop Tesco delivering groceries to Gordon Brown’s house?

Why are these settlements “illegal”?
Under which law that applies to the West Bank?

@9 – I personally find the advisory judgement of the ICJ quite compelling. They have a summary at http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/addHit.php?summaryID=41&case=131&lang=en

BT are a privatised business. What they are doing is within the law and this partnership will make them more profitable (one of the things a business should do).

If customers feel that what they are doing is wrong, I’m sure they will change their provider – it is their right. However, the BT Group will still have many customers who don’t mind and the group has many other income streams. This campaign will have little or no effect.

I’m way ahead of this. I’ve been boycotting BT for years for crimes against customer service.

@ 11:
– This opinion by the ICJ relates to the security fence/wall, not to settlements.
– It is an “advisory opinion” which is not binding in any way and does not create law.
– The question of settlements is addressed only in the dissenting opinion of one of the judges.

@13. Exactly. Boycott BT because they’re rubbish. If you want something else boycott them because of phorm.

Or to put it another way – why on earth would anyone still be using BT?

Can’t really be arsed going into it in detail; the wall is there (illegally) to protect the people in the (illegal) settlements.

“The Court notes that the route of the wall as fixed by the Israeli Government includes within the “Closed Area” (i.e. the part of the West Bank lying between the Green Line and the wall) some 80 per cent of the settlers living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and has been traced in such a way as to include within that area the great majority of the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem). The information provided to the Court shows that, since 1977, Israel has conducted a policy and developed practices involving the establishment of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, contrary to the terms of Article 49, paragraph 6, of the Fourth Geneva Convention which provides: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The Security
Council has taken the view that such policy and practices “have no legal validity” and constitute a “flagrant violation” of the Convention. The Court concludes that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.

Whilst taking note of the assurance given by Israel that the construction of the wall does not amount to annexation and that the wall is of a temporary nature, the Court nevertheless considers that the construction of the wall and its associated régime create a “fait accompli” on the ground that could well become permanent, in which case, and notwithstanding the formal characterization of the wall by Israel, it would be tantamount to de facto annexation.’

If you want to pretend that the wall is temporary, or that Israel actually owns the land so it’s not annexation, or that the ICJ’s advisory judgement is worthless (why does it need to ‘create law’? It’s giving the opinon of fifteen distinguished experts on the application of existing international law to a particular situation), I don’t really mind.

“In reality, to apply this standard fairly…”

Oh, stop right there.

(a) Israel is uniquely evil (didn’t you know)

(b) China makes too much useful stuff

(c) er, that’s it.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. cowan88

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  3. Ferret Dave

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  4. Allan Siegel

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  5. David Wearing

    RT @libcon Call to boycott BT over Israeli settlements deal http://bit.ly/eQnS1t <<–(is the hashtag #DisconnectNow ?)

  6. Linda Jack

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  7. Matt

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  12. Socialist Doctor

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  15. conspiracy theo

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  16. devolute

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  18. PSN Edmonton

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