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Why should you boycott Israel?

By refusing to buy the goods listed on this site, you will avoid supporting the oppression of Palestinians and pressure the Israeli government into obeying international laws.

Why did this campaign start?

In 2005, over 171 Palestinian unions and other civic groups issued a unified call for help to the international community, a call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). It was a year after the separation wall had been ruled illegal by the UN, and Israel continued to violate this and countless other UN resolutions, Geneva conventions and other international laws without consequences or any sign of progress via diplomacy and political negotiations. Palestinian people were continuing to see their lands stolen by settlements, their economy throttled by a blockade, the daily humiliations of checkpoints, and severe limitations on the basics of human life and dignity, like water, electricity and education, all this under a brutal security regime permitting IDF soldiers and Israeli settlers to harass and kill Palestinians with near impunity.

Drawing inspiration from Nelson Mandela and the international boycott that led to the end of apartheid in South Africa, the Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI) formulated a strategy that could be shared around the world. The call for Boycott divestment and Sanctions was able to gain wide acceptance among Palestinians and gains ever-growing international support, including Jewish and Israeli groups, through its emphasis on non-violence and the core issues of Israel’s violations of international law and human rights.

Why does it work?

The economic pressure and the power of public opinion that is generated by a wide-scale international boycott is immense. F.W. de Klerk wrote that the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign against apartheid South Africa led to a 1.5% decline in national economic growth. This impact was not only from people avoiding South African goods but from a changed psychology that compelled companies, organizations and governments to avoid doing business with South Africa’s apartheid government.

As the BDS campaign, like the campaign against “blood diamonds”, makes enough people aware of Israel’s human rights abuses, governments and organizations are compelled to act.

Why does Israel get called apartheid?

Israeli policy regards Arab people as a demographic threat much as the Afrikaners regarded native Africans. Arabs in Israel suffer discrimination across all aspects of life. Over 50 laws clearly segregate Arab people as second citizens, including severely restricting where they can buy or rent property, their political rights, and access to fair judicial process. Israel operates separate education systems and allocates about $192 per year on each Arab student compared to $1,100 per Jewish student. The Legal Center for Arab and Minority Rights in Israel has an informative list of the Discriminatory Laws in Israel.

For Palestinians living in Gaza or the West Bank the discrimination is even more severe and life is far harder than for their Israeli neighbors living in well-subsidized settlements built on the illegally annexed villages and farmlands. These 4 million Palestinians do not have Israeli citizenship and so cannot vote in Israeli elections. They are subject to military justice which commonly detains Palestinians without evidence or charge for months or years, even if you are a child, and regular reports of torture.  Daily life is subject to countless humiliations. Cars are required to have special licence plates and are forbidden from driving on the well-maintained highways used by settlers only. Palestinians attempting a trip to the shop or hospital are commonly delayed for hours by about 99 permanent checkpoints and 100s more temporary ones, where the whim of soldiers has complete power. Over 50 Palestinian children have been born at checkpoints. Like in the South African pass system, Palestinians require a permit for any trip and these permits are often delayed or not awarded for no apparent reason. Hate crimes and malicious destruction of property by settlers is almost never investigated or punished. Palestinians in the Gaza and the West Bank are treated with disdain by the occupying force.

After John Kerry has said Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state.”  Archbishop Desmond Tutu is among many South African individuals and civic groups that have declared support for BDS

I go and I visit the Holy Land and I see things that are a mirror image of the sort of things that I experienced under the apartheid

Apartheid is clearly a contentious term that meets with strong objection from the powerful Israel-lobby, the network of organizations supporting Israel’s current policies. But understanding and communicating the apartheid structure in Israeli laws and policies helps people understand the injustice occurring in Israel and motivates them to do something about it.

Why not boycott other countries with objectionable behavior?

A boycott against a state is a strategy to achieve real political change, not just a personal commentary on something you object to. The oppressed Palestinian population has called for this boycott and its impact is already clear. There are not many other serious calls from populations to boycott the country they live in (China is one), and individuals must make the decision whether a boycott would be an effective strategy to change a particular injustice.

Join the conversation

  • Blake Alcott - 8 years ago

    You are doing a good service by providing the names of these companies. I hope you expand the list. I support boycott of all Israeli goods, boycott of goods of companies doing business in Israel (not just the West Bank), and divestment from all such companies and all Israelie companies.
    However, I have three objections.
    (1) You do not mention Palestinians in the diaspora (shatat), commonly called refugees and their descendants, with a single word. This is a grave oversight.
    (2) You do mention apartheid within ‘Israel’ against Palestinians, and hats off for this, although you should perhaps give the link to Adalah’s database of the over Israeli 50 apartheid laws: https://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/7771. But Palestinians within Israel and those in exile receive from you less attention than you give to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and in my opinion this is not only wrong in principle but less likely to succeed than a blanket boycott aimed at Israel as such, with no qualifications and complications involving ‘West Bank settlements’ and such.
    (3) Of the six companies/organisations you highlight in some detail, fully five of them are targeted because of their activities in the West Bank: Ahava, G4S, Sodastream, Ariel University and Jordan River dates; Sabra food products is the only company targeted because of its connection to Israel in general. Your ‘full list’ contains 110 companies/organisations (if Ariel U is included), and about 30 of them have asterisks by their names, indicating the ‘profit directly’ from activity in the illegal Jewish West Bank settlements. There is no point in distinguishing between these companies and the others.
    The cause of the plight of all three groups of Palestinians that we can divide according to where they live – exile, ‘Israel’ and WBG – is… Israel. Therefore nothing less than a full boycott of all things Israeli makes sense. The South African boycott was built on this model of full boycott of the guilty country, but you are making false distinctions between injustice to WBG Palestinians and the others, making things moreover more complicated. Israel is ‘occupying’ all of historic Palestine. Your emphasis on just the West Bank makes the other Palestinians less visible – for instance, your own website does not see the shatat Palestinians! Dividing Palestinians into the three goups is part of the divide-and-conquer strategy in the first place, and you should not play along with that one bit.
    I hope you continue your good work but expand your philosophy to one of a simple principle – Boycott Israel.
    Thank you.

  • admin - 8 years ago

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful response Blake Alcott. This “Why?” section is still being completed and your comments will help guide its development (the link to that excellent resource has been added above, cheers). And certainly the list of products and companies itself has only just begun.
    As the site’s name suggests, the mission of the site is to be a resource for BDS supporters and potential supporters seeking a list of companies to boycott. Making this list and keeping up with BDS successes and news is our immediate intention. We do not intend a comprehensive survey of the injustices Israel perpetrates towards Palestinians, as there are better resources out there for that big job.
    That said, statements on this page should make perfectly clear that BDS supports the Right of Return of Palestinians in the diaspora.
    Given the aims of BDS to pressure the Israeli government to change its unjust laws and practices, a blanket boycott and divestment of Israeli companies, including a cultural boycott and an academic boycott, will clearly have the greatest impact. The Israeli government will not feel the world’s anger as forcefully if there is selective boycott of settlement companies only. The site’s current emphasis on these settlement companies came about as these companies are the low-lying fruit – they are clear and obnoxious products of Israeli illegality and are helping create a consensus of people around the globe who want to boycott an Israel that produces them. The fact that 17 EU countries recently stated that business in settlements is bad business seems to suggest governments are adopting BDS tactics.
    We do not promote any particular one or two-state solution, that is for Palestinians and Israelis to decide when Palestinians are equal partners in the negotiations.
    We promote equality and justice for Palestinians wherever they are.

  • Blake Alcott - 8 years ago

    And thank you, Admin, for your reply to my comment, and for including the link to Adalah’s list of discriminatoryIsraeli laws. If you’ll pardon my persistence, I’d like to bring up the ‘refugees’ again, those 5 million + outside of historic Palestine who have the right to return and the right to ownership of their property in Israel. In most Palestine solidarity organisations they are an afterthought, yet the collapse of Zionism follows recognition of their rights just as day follows night.
    Perhaps obviously, I support the One Democratic State solution, which I think is the only solution consistent with BDS’s 3 demands (see the 2005 Call); were these demands fulfilled, boycott and divestment could be called off and, de facto, there would be one state with equal rights for all. (Or, absurdly, there could be Two Democratic States, which would merge.)
    For me all two-state solutions are just that: a solution with two states – and one of them is the ethnocratic apartheid Zionist state that denies Right of Return, known as Israel. On the basis of universal values, in my opinion, all such racist states should be opposed, and therefore by a process of elimination I can’t support any two-state solution.
    So, to wind this up: I disagree that outsiders (neither Palestinian nor Jewish Israeli) must stay on the fence on the one-state/two/state issue. As long as one Palestinian supports One Democratic State, I will support that Palestinian. You write of this issue that “that is for Palestinians and Israelis to decide.” But solidarity people don’t DECIDE anything. Nobody even has to listen to our arguments for ODS. Moreover there is no mechanism to find out what ‘the Palestinians’ want because nobody polls all of them. Supporting ODS is fully consistent with what you write, and it means simply the end of any ethnically-defined state in historic Palestine.
    This is why I hope BDS (I don’t know your relationship with BDS itself) re-orients its strategy towards a blanket boycott of all things Israeli. And again, thank you for your work in putting together a good long list.

  • Janice - 7 years ago

    The United Methodist Women had a mission study on Israel/Palestine several year ago. That is where I learned about http://www.annainthemiddleeast.com/ and noticed that news about Israel gets on the first page most often here, but news about Palestinians you will find most often on page 13, and it is always about rock throwing,

  • Roberto - 4 years ago

    Please note that Ratiopharm, a top German generics maker, was acquired by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, the biggest Israeli generics maker. Unfortunately, few people know that now, buying Ratiopharm medicines, they help the israely economy. Ratiopharm medicines are sold in all Italian and in most European pharmacies. I think that a strong boycott campaign against this brand is needed, also considering that customers can buy generics from the European competitors of Ratiopharm.

  • Carolyn Birden - 4 years ago

    Fairway, a chain of stores in the New York area where a lot of people shop, is advertising olive oil “from Galilee” (Sindyanna) and below is some research: the village for which the olive oil is named was “ethnically cleansed” in 2005!. I’m writing to the store protesting their promotion of this obviously stolen olive oil and would like some advice about how to protest this more widely.

    Recently there was a moving story about the destruction of olive groves, very recently, which I would also like to send to the owners of Fairway. This tells me that the practice of marketing products from occupied land is still used by Israel.

    About the destruction of olive groves and trees:

    About the ethnic cleansing of Sindyanna, the village where this brand of olive oil comes from:
    I have not researched other products in the flyer from Fairway, will write to the store and protest, but perhaps you know of other olive oils marketed by Israel but stolen from Palestine.
    Your website on which this is being written is not secure: http://bdslist.org/why/
    Please use an https: website so people can feel secure in writing to it.

    The ad for this oil uses the words: Fair Trade, but my search finds only some in-house organizations, which do not look like the Fair Trade certifying agencies I have seen, and I suspect they are created by interested parties.