Bloomington, MN — As shoppers flowed into the Mall of America at 8:00 a.m. on Black Friday, anonymous groups dropped flyers and banners from rotunda balconies encouraging the boycott of large brands complicit with Israeli apartheid and the military occupation of Palestine.
“These companies profit from the subjugation, displacement, and death of the Palestinian people” read the flyers that fluttered down from above bearing the brand logos of Puma, Hewlett Packard, Ahava, and Sodastream — all listed targets of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Also on Friday morning, hundreds rallied in Salt Lake City, UT to disrupt Black Friday shopping and demand a permanent ceasefire.
Some of the flyers distributed at the Mall of America had red paint on them, symbolizing blood and deaths from current Israeli violence in Gaza. The government media office in Gaza reports over 15,000 deaths in Palestine since escalated violence began on October 7. On October 28, Craig Mokhiber, Director of the New York Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights resigned and called the Israeli assault a “text-book case of genocide.“
Security personnel at the mall quickly removed the banners, but flyers remained littered across the floor among seated shoppers watching sportscasters broadcast a live show.
The BDS movement, launched by Palestinians in 2005, seeks to put pressure on companies and governments around the world that support and profit from Israel’s violation of Palestinians’ rights. Inspired by international campaigns against the apartheid regime in South Africa, BDS calls on individuals and civil society organizations to engage in a three-pronged nonviolent strategy until Israel ends its occupation of Palestine, recognizes the rights of Palestinian citizens, and allows Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
Now, BDS has called for heightened pressure in order to push for a permanent ceasefire. A temporary four-day ceasefire went into effect between Israel and Hamas today.
As of August, 2023, over 30 states passed anti-BDS legislation, including Minnesota. In effect since July 2017, HF 400 originally prohibited the state legislature and state agencies from authorizing contracts for over $1,000 with any vendor that “engages in discrimination against Israel, or persons or entities doing business in Israel.” The law was later amended to raise the threshold to $50,000.
Amid free speech concerns, the ACLU criticized anti-BDS laws and the Minnesota Federation of Teachers (MFT) called for HF 400 to be repealed. A recent report by Rutgers University Law School Center for Security, Race, and Rights locates anti-BDS legislation within a broader trend of Israeli Exceptionalism in U.S. policy, in which the accusation of ‘antisemitism’ has been weaponized as a front for Islamophobia.
In an open letter first published by n+1 magazine this month, Jewish writers criticized the conflation of antisemitism with critiques of Israel.
“We reject antisemitism in all its forms, including when it masquerades as criticism of Zionism or Israel’s policies. We also recognize that, as journalist Peter Beinart wrote in 2019, ‘Anti-Zionism is not inherently antisemitic—and claiming it is uses Jewish suffering to erase Palestinian experience.’”
The letter, which has since been signed by hundreds, goes on to say: “We find this rhetorical tactic antithetical to Jewish values, which teach us to repair the world, question authority, and champion the oppressed over the oppressor.”
Alex Binder and Sean Summers of Unicorn Riot contributed to this reporting.
For more on pro-Palestine protests:
Pro-Palestinian Activists Take Over Amsterdam Central Station [Nov. 16, 2023]
Mass Protest in The Hague Calls Out Israeli War Crimes [Nov. 1, 2023]
Supporters of Palestinians Rally in Philadelphia [Oct. 28, 2023]
Pro-Palestine Protest Attacked in Minneapolis [Oct. 22, 2023]
For more coverage on Mall of America: