In the aftermath of the Gaza massacre in January 2009, the management of H&M decided to open seven stores in Israel. Despite worldwide protests and Israel’s massive violations of international humanitarian law, H&M opened four stores in 2010, in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and Kfar Saba. The fifth and sixth stores in Israel are scheduled for opening on 24 March 2011 in Petah Tikva and 31 March 2011 in Netanya.
The boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid has clearly informed H&M that investments in Israel are as unethical as investments in apartheid South Africa were. South Africa’s apartheid had three pillars: (1) greater rights for a privileged racial group, (2) segregation of the racial groups into different geographical areas, and (3) bureaucratical and military oppression of liberation movements. Israel today upholds such a system that oppresses Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied territories.
Palestinian citizens of Israel face severe discrimination in all spheres of society. While Palestinians constitute nearly 20% of the population of Israel, they are only allowed to reside on 3% of the land, in segregated and economically neglected villages and neighbourhoods. 4% of the state budget is allocated to Palestinian citizens and half of all Palestinian families in Israel live below the poverty line. 70 000 Palestinians with Israeli citizenship reside in 50 villages that the Israeli state has never recognised and are thus withheld basic necessities such as water, electricity, sewerage etc. Racial affiliation is recorded in the passports of all Israeli citizens.
The call to H&M is made by 58 organisations around the world and protests have been held in tens of countries. These organisations argue that by investing in Israel, while the oppressed Palestinian people are calling for worldwide BDS, H&M makes a political statement that Israeli apartheid is not an unethical business context. In fact it makes the continued occupation and apartheid profitable for Israel and makes H&M’s ethical policy seem like window-dressing. It gives a green light to, for example, the recent complete flattening of the village Al-Araqib in the south of Israel and ethnic cleansing of all its 300 Palestinian residents. In Lod, about 20 kilometers from H&M’s new store, 74 Palestinians have been made homeless after the demolition of their houses. In the West Bank, the villages of Farasiya and Khirbet Tana have been completely demolished.
We urge H&M to follow the lead of Japanese clothes retailer Muji by not opening stores in Israel until the apartheid system is dismantled. And we call on people of conscience around the world to protest against H&M’s fifth and sixth stores in an apartheid state. We do so especially considering the upcoming Land Day and BDS Day of Action on the 30th of March.