Boycott, divestment, sanctions: Hamtramck becomes first U.S. city to endorse BDS movement
Dr. Nidal Jboor, co-founder of Doctors Against Genocide, speaks in favor of the BDS resolution before the Hamtramck City Council Tuesday night. The Michigan city is now the first U.S. municipality to endorse the movement. | Daniel Hopkins / People's World

HAMTRAMCK, Mich.—In a landmark decision Tuesday night, Hamtramck became the first U.S. city to fully endorse the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

City Council unanimously passed Resolution 2024-51, marking another significant step for a city already known for its commitment to advocating for Palestinian rights and justice on an international scale.

The BDS movement, a Palestinian-led initiative that began in 2005, aims to exert pressure on Israel to comply with international law, recognize the rights of the Palestinian people, and end its occupation of Palestinian territory.

Modeled on efforts like the international anti-apartheid campaign against the white supremacist rulers of South Africa in the 1980s, BDS urges governments and public institutions to boycott Israeli-made goods, divest from Israeli state bonds and corporations, and impose sanctions on its political leaders.

The resolution, spearheaded by the Michigan Peace Council, mandates that the City of Hamtramck to make its best effort to refrain from purchasing goods and services from companies targeted by BDS and avoid investments in entities supporting Israeli apartheid. It also encourages residents to participate in the boycott and supports student activism on college campuses.

“This is such an important step. Ever since October 7, cities have been passing ceasefire resolutions, which are very important symbolic actions. But this is a stepping stone from calling for a ceasefire,” Matthew Clark, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, who spoke in support of the resolution at Tuesday night’s meeting, said. “This is actually heeding the call of the BDS Movement that aims to boycott and divest from companies involved in Israeli atrocities.”

Clark said that there is “untapped potential for cities to make this jump to support BDS and actually work within their procurement powers to impose boycotts themselves.” He said JVP hopes the BDS effort “catches on as a way to continue the struggle for Palestinian freedom.”

The resolution outlines the harsh realities faced by Palestinians, including the ongoing genocide, the criminal blockade of Gaza, systemic discrimination, and the denial of their right to return to homes from which they were uprooted. These conditions have prompted widespread international condemnation and a call for action.

“Hamtramck has been in the vanguard of opposing injustice and wars around the world by being one of the first cities to vote for a ceasefire in Gaza, the first city to pass the Move the Money Resolution, the first city to name a major street after Palestine,” Bill Meyer, chair of the Michigan Peace Council, said at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“Now it’s the first to pass a resolution that will lead the way for others to join in forcing Israel to stop its brutal settler-colonial apartheid project in Palestine, which is against all international law.”

The resolution also addresses disinformation distributed concerning the BDS movement, firmly rejecting any accusations that supporting Palestinian rights equates to anti-Semitism. It points out that many prominent supporters of BDS are Jewish and that opposition to the Israeli government’s fascist policies is not anti-Semitic.

Passing with overwhelming support, the resolution marks a significant victory for human rights advocates within and beyond Hamtramck, activists said. The city now joins a growing list of municipalities and institutions worldwide that have taken a stand against Israeli apartheid, advocating for peace and justice for the Palestinian people.

“When there’s injustice, we cannot stay neutral. We have to always support the oppressed people, the occupied people, people who are fighting for freedom. They deserve peace, justice, and a dignified life. That’s why we’re not hesitant about passing anything to support the Palestinian people,” Hamtramck Mayor Amer Ghalib told People’s World after the vote.

This is not the first time Hamtramck has taken a bold stance on international issues. As mentioned, in February the City Council unanimously passed Resolution 2024-22, making Hamtramck one of the first cities in the United States to adopt a “Move the Money” resolution. This resolution calls on Congress and the president to shift significant funds from the military budget toward funding essential social services.

Additionally, in October 2023, the city council called for a ceasefire in Gaza, demonstrating local lawmakers’ ongoing commitment to peace and justice. The council has also renamed one of its main streets Palestine Avenue, further solidifying community support for the Palestinian cause.

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Daniel Hopkins
Daniel Hopkins

Daniel Hopkins is an independent multimedia journalist based in Detroit.