Divestment calls for the withdrawal of stocks and funds from corporations complicit in the violation of international law and Palestinian rights and ensures that investment portfolios and public funds are not used to finance or purchase products and services from such companies. These campaigns can take advantage of voluntary and mandatory corporate responsibility mechanisms.
There are a variety of funds in which individuals and constituents hold considerable stake and influence such as churches, unions, universities, local authorities and pension funds, and these are the potential sites of strong BDS campaigns. Activists can also pressure public and private sector institutions not to invest in or have dealings with these companies. These efforts raise awareness about the reality of Israel’s policies and encourage companies to use their economic influence to pressure Israel to end its systematic oppression of the Palestinian people.
Individuals can withdraw their personal investments in Israeli companies. However, divestment is similar to sanctions in that it largely relies upon securing certain actions by others (in this instance, share-holders, companies or public authorities withdrawing their investments or contracts) as the majority of BDS campaigners are not in a position to divest significant capital.
Campaigners use tactics such as letter-writing campaigns, lobbying campaigns, media exposure and shareholder activism, whereby individuals buy a small amount of shares in a given company in order to be able to raise the issue of their investments supporting Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and international law from within the official decision making processes.
During the divestment campaign against South African apartheid, a downward spiral whereby investing in South Africa became too risky a prospect. Divestment as a solidarity strategy can hurt a regime or company economically. More importantly, it forces its target to reflect on why it is being targeted. In this respect divestment advocacy work, even if unsuccessful financially, can bring about changes to the overall climate in which the offender is viewed and raises the profile of the BDS campaign considerably.