On Saturday, December 7th, supporters of the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) participated in a picket organized by the Canada Palestine Association (CPA) with the goal of deterring Best Buy customers from purchasing HP products as part of efforts to place economic pressure on Israel through Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). Also participating in the picket were our allies in organizations such as the Vancouver and UBC chapters of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) mass organizations like the East Indian Defence Committee (EIDC).
In the description of the Facebook event for the picket, the CPA outlined why HP is an exceptional target for BDS pressure:
“Hewlett Packard branded companies play a key role in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. They provide equipment and services to the Israeli military, prison system and government, including the ID card system that underpin Israel’s apartheid policies and its movement restrictions for Palestinians.
“Along with providing technology to the Israeli military that maintains Israel’s illegal occupation and the aggression and siege on Gaza, HP provides Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority with the exclusive Itanium servers for its Aviv System. This system enables the government to control and enforce its system of racial segregation and apartheid against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and is directly involved in Israel’s settler colonialism through its “Yesha database”, which compiles information on Israeli citizens in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. https://bdsmovement.net/boycott-hp
“There are over 5000 Palestinian political prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails, 460 of them held under administrative detention without charge or trial. Hewlett Packard Enterprise holds the current contract for maintenance of the Israel Prison Services data systems. https://investigate.afsc.org/company/hewlett-packard”
In addition to its support of Israeli apartheid, HP also has a broader history of embracing extreme reactionary politics, which is embodied by its former CEO, Carly Fiorina, who briefly served as Ted Cruz’s running mate in the 2016 US election. While there is of course no such thing as an ethical corporation, both because of the call for BDS and because of HP’s other egregious behavior, it is fair to view buying an HP product as tantamount to crossing a picket line.
Of course, some aspects of the way that the picket was organized could have been improved, and as such, deserve some criticism. By far the greatest weakness of the event was the location. The Best Buy location that was picketed was in the heart of downtown Vancouver, which is an extremely bourgeois area. This made distributing leaflets more difficult, as the majority of passers-by were either apathetic or shouting obscenity-laden Zionist rhetoric at the picketers. Had this taken place at a Best Buy in a more working-class neighborhood, it is likely that there would have been a greater degree of support. Nevertheless, the event was a minor success in that it brought together a wide variety of Vancouver’s activist groups on a principled basis of unity (in contrast to other events which have had little to no ideological unity) and that it raised awareness about BDS.
– A Supporter of MER-RSM Vancouver