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Economic and political boycotts of Israel

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Title: Economic and political boycotts of Israel  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ken Loach, Foreign relations of Saudi Arabia, Foreign relations of Israel, Arundhati Roy, Disinvestment, Lev Leviev, Zehava Ben, Anti-boycott, Canadian Arab Federation, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Economic and political boycotts of Israel

Boycotts of Israel are economic and political cultural campaigns or actions that seek a selective or total cutting of ties with the State of Israel, Israelis or Israeli corporations.[1] Such campaigns are employed by those who oppose Israel's policies or actions over the course of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in order to not show support for Israel in general, or the Israeli economy or military in particular.

Arab boycotts of Zionist institutions and Jewish businesses began before Israel's founding as a state. An official boycott was adopted by the Arab League almost immediately after the formation of the state of Israel in 1948. Following the Oslo Peace Accords, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) states ended their participation in the boycott, and stated that total elimination of the boycott is a necessary step for peace and economic development in the region.[2] In present days, the Arab boycott is rarely applied, and has minimal effect on the Israeli economy.[2]

Similar boycotts have been proposed outside the Arab world and the Muslim world. These boycotts comprise economic measures such as divestment; a consumer boycotts of Israeli products or businesses that operate in Israel; a proposed academic boycott of Israeli universities and scholars; and a proposed boycott of Israeli cultural institutions or Israeli sport venues. Some advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign use the 1980s movement against South African apartheid as a model.[3]

According to a ruling by the French Supreme Court, publicly calling for a boycott of Israeli products constitutes discrimination and as such is illegal under French law.[4]

Arab League boycott of Israel

Main article: Arab League boycott of Israel

The Arab League boycott of Israel is an effort by Arab League member states to isolate Israel economically to prevent Arab states and discourage non-Arabs from providing support to Israel and adding to Israel's economic and military strength.[5]

While small-scale Arab boycotts of Zionist institutions began before Israel's founding as a modern state, an official organized boycott was only adopted by the Arab League after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Egypt (1979), the Palestinian Authority (1993), and Jordan (1994) signed peace treaties or agreements that ended their participation in the boycott of Israel. Mauritania, which never applied the boycott, established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999. Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia do not enforce the boycott.[2]

In 1994, following the Oslo Peace Accords, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) states, ended their participation in the Arab boycott against Israel.[6] The move prompted a surge of investment in Israel, and resulted in the initiation of joint cooperation projects between Israel and Arab countries.[6] In 1996, the GCC states recognized that total elimination of the boycott is a necessary step for peace and economic development in the region.[2]

While in its heyday, the Arab boycott had a moderate negative impact on Israel’'s economy and development, but’ also had significant negative effect on economic welfare in participating Arab countries, as the result of a deterioration in the foreign direct investment climate in the Arab world, and reduction in the volume of trade.[6] In present days, the boycott is sporadically applied and ambiguously enforced, and therefore, no longer has significant effect on the Israeli or Arab economies.[2]

Palestinian United Call For BDS Against Israel

Main article: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
In 2005, on the one year anniversary of the International Court of Justice's ruling on the legality of Israeli West Bank barrier, Palestinian NGOs and labor unions issued a call for boycott, divestment and sanctions targeted at Israel with the stated goals that:

These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

On the other hand, the PLO, its branches, Palestinian businesses and universities cooperate with Israel daily. 85% of Palestinian residents in the West Bank are interested in cooperation with Israel, according to a survey by Geocartography Knowledge.[7] According to the head of the Federation of Trade Unions of Palestine, Shaher Saad, in 2011 the number of Palestinians employed in Israeli settlements increased significantly to around 31,000 due to the high rate of unemployment and poverty and that about 70,000 worked in Israel proper.[8]

List of disinvestment campaigns and product boycotts

  • On 9 July 2005, 171 Palestinian non-governmental organizations put out a call for an international economic campaign against Israel which has come to be referred to as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) after the resolution's call "... for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights."[9] The three stated goals of the campaign are:
1. An end to Israel's "occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;"
2. Israeli recognition of the "fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;" and,
3. Israeli respect, protection, and promotion of "the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194."[9]
  • In December 2005, the Sør-Trøndelag regional council of Norway passed a motion calling for a comprehensive boycott of Israeli goods. The council acted as a result of lobbying by Norwegian activists, who had launched a national "Boycott Israel" campaign in June 2005.[10]
  • The Toronto assembly of the United Church of Canada (UCC) supports CUPE's boycott. In 2003, the Toronto assembly voted to boycott goods produced by Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.[15] The national umbrella UCC declined to support a boycott at the time. In August 2012 the General Council of the United Church of Canada approved a recommendation to boycott products in Israeli settlements located within occupied Palestinian territory.[16][17]
  • Britain's National Union of Journalists called for a boycott on 14 April 2007. By a vote of 66 to 54, the annual delegate's meeting of Britain's largest trade union for journalists called for "a boycott of Israeli goods similar to those boycotts in the struggles against apartheid South Africa led by trade unions, and [for] the [Trades Union Congress] to demand sanctions be imposed on Israel by the British government." [19]
  • At its biennial delegate conference held in May 2008, IMPACT (the Irish Municipal, Public and Civil Trade Union), Ireland's largest public sector and services trade union, passed two resolutions criticising Israeli suppression of the Palestinians and endorsing a boycott of Israeli goods and services. The motions also supported divestment from those corporations engaged in or profiting from the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.[20]
  • In November 2008 the United Kingdom initiated measures to label products produced in Israeli settlements:

The Foreign Office has confirmed that Britain's initiative against Israeli exports originating in the West Bank is merely the opening shot in a wider campaign it is waging against the settlements. [...] The FO [foreign office] reiterated its view that "the settlements are illegal... Practical steps ... include ensuring that goods from the settlements do not enter the UK without paying the proper duties and ensuring that goods are properly labelled."[21]

Sources near the talks say the United Kingdom is accusing some Israeli companies of fraud: Their labeling indicates that they manufacture in Israel, but their plants are in the territories.[22]

Based on experience, there are concerns in Israel that the discussion on exports from the territories will affect all Israeli exports to Europe. Roughly that happened four years ago, after Israel rejected European demands to specifically label products produced outside the pre-1967 war borders.[22]

Tzipi Livni protested: It appears to be the fruits of long efforts by a strong pro-Palestinian lobby that now spur the British into action. Nevertheless, the British insist that at British consumers want to know the source of the products that they purchase. [...] But the biggest fear in Israel is that the issue will spill beyond manufacturers in the territories, affecting all local exporters and all exports to the EU – as was the case the last time that the issue boiled to the surface.[22]

  • In February 2009 the Belgian government decided to stop exporting weapons to Israel that would bolster its military capabilities. Minister Patricia Ceysens said the decision followed a cabinet discussion concerning Israel's actions in Gaza. Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht added that "given the current circumstances, weapons cannot be shipped from Belgium to Israel."[23]
  • In Britain, Ahava's cosmetic products sparked controversy because they are manufactured in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem, located on the Dead Sea in the West Bank. The store chain Selfridges withdrew Ahava's products (among others) in December 2001 after a boycott campaign launched by pro-Palestinian groups,[24] but reinstated them a few weeks later. Critics argue that the products are labelled as having "Israeli origin" when, according to the European Union, goods originating in the West Bank or Gaza cannot be labelled as having Israeli origin because, "according to international public law, including the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, these territories cannot be considered to be part of the State of Israel", and are not included in the EU-Israel Association Agreement.[25] The boycott of Ahava has also been endorsed by the Code Pink organization, which argues that Ahava’s use of Palestinian natural resources from the Dead Sea is, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, a "patently illegal use by an occupying power of stolen resources for its own profit." Ahava's store in a fashionable street of London's West End closed in September 2011 after constant protests by pro-Palestinian activists. Owners of the surrounding stores complained to the landlord that the repeated protests were affecting their business. A pro-Israeli group also held fortnightly counter-demonstrations.[26]
  • The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) launched a boycott of Israeli goods in February 2009 as a response to the Gaza war, arguing that "a sustained international effort was needed to secure a durable settlement".[27]
  • In September 2009, Britain's Trade Union Congress (TUC) endorsed an initiative to boycott products originating from the Israeli-occupied territories, stating "[to] increase the pressure for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories and removal of the separation wall and illegal settlements, we will support a boycott (...) of those goods and agricultural products that originate in illegal settlements – through developing an effective, targeted consumer-led boycott campaign working closely with Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) – and campaign for disinvestment by companies associated with the occupation as well as engaged in building the separation wall." The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) as well as Britain's largest trade union, Unite, and the largest public sector union, Unison, called for a complete boycott of all Israeli products.[28] In October 2009, the University of Sussex Students' Union became the first in Britain to vote for a boycott of Israeli goods. Norman Finkelstein praised the move as "a victory, not for Palestinians but for truth and justice."[29]
  • In February 2009, dock workers in South Africa refused to unload an Israeli ship as "as part of a refusal to support oppression and exploitation". The Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU, compared Israel to "dictatorial and oppressive" states such as Zimbabwe and Swaziland. COSATU also drew parallels to events in 1963, when dock workers across the globe began to boycott vessels from South Africa to protest its apartheid regime. The Western Australian members of the Maritime Union of Australia supported the move and called for a boycott of all Israeli vessels.[30]
  • In November 2009, the Palestinian Authority began encouraging a boycott of supermarket chains in the West Bank that carried products from Israeli settlements. According to Palestinian authorities, consumers were not aware that some of the products on sale at these outlets were produced in Israeli settlements, and it was felt that boycotting settlement products would improve demand for Palestinian produce. The authorities invoked existing legislation under which trading in goods originating in the settlements was illegal in the Palestinian territories.[31] The Palestinian boycott of settlement goods was widened in 2010, and it was reported that some businesses in the settlement of Maale Adumim had closed as a consequence.[32] In August 2010 the mayor of the settlement Ariel said that the Palestinian boycott of settlement goods "was causing great damage to factories in the area".[33]
  • As a response to an Israeli raid of a ship to the Gaza Strip, Swedish port workers decided to refuse processing Israeli ships for a period of one week in June 2010.[34] Similar boycotts in response to the Israeli raid were launched by port workers in Norway[35] and California.[36]
  • In June 2010, the British Methodist Church decided to begin boycotting products originating in Israeli settlements, becoming the first major Christian denomination in Britain to officially adopt such a policy. The boycott, which was seen as placing the Methodists on a collision course with Britain's Jewish minority, encourages also lay Methodists to follow the church's lead and boycott any products made on Jewish settlements on the West Bank.[37]
  • In July 2010, the Olympia food co-op in the State of Washington in the United States decided to stop selling products from Israel in its two grocery stores. A board member of the co-op said concerning the boycott that "any product that is made (...) to improve the conditions of the Palestinians will be exempted."[38]
  • The World Council of Churches called for a boycott in 2010 of products originating in Israeli settlements.[39]
  • In February 2012, Vancouverite Shani Bar-Oz's soap products store was being boycotted for carrying Israeli products, and "venemous protests" were staged outside her store, which included the shouting of anti-semitic slogans. However, this resulted in "a huge wave of support and generated new business...with new orders pouring in as result of the story."[40][dubious ]
  • In March 2012, the Park Slope Food Co-op rejected a motion to boycott Israel, after months of heated debate. The final vote was 1,005-653. 1,600 members attended the meeting - larger than most meetings of the food co-op.[41]
  • In April 2012, the United Kingdom's Co-Operative Group said in a statement that it had decided to stop buying products from companies known to source from the settlements. The decision affects contracts valued at £350,000. The retailer had stopped selling goods originating from the settlements themselves in 2009. According to the group, it was still doing business with Israeli companies that are not connected with the settlements.[42][43]
  • In June 2013, major British trade union GMB decided to ban its members from visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories on delegations organized by the Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI). A spokesman for GMB said the union didn't want to be associated with an organization fighting a boycott of trade with illegal settlements in occupied territories.[44]
  • In July 2013, the European Union enacted a decision forbidding EU member states from cooperating with or transferring funds or giving scholarships and research grants to bodies in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. [45][46]
  • In July 2013, two of the largest supermarket chains in the Netherlands removed from their shelves all products manufactured in Israeli settlements. A third chain, which had already de-stocked settlement goods, sought confirmation that goods it sold as "Made in Israel" didn't originate in the settlements. Dutch retailers were considering whether settlement goods should be labeled as such, or banned altogether. [47]


  • 14 Belgian municipalities left the Franco-Belgian bank Dexia, which was financing Israeli settlements through its Israeli subsidiary.[48]
  • A Norwegian government pension fund sold its shares in Elbit Systems due to its role in building the West Bank barrier.[49]
  • The Norwegian government announced in August 2010 that based on advice from the Norwegian Council on Ethics, it had excluded two Israeli companies from a government pension fund. According to the government, the firms Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus were involved in developing settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, which is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention.[50] However, in 2013, after a review of Africa-Israel's activities, the Norwegian government announced that they could now re-invest in Africa-Israel and Danya Cebus as they were no longer involved in the construction of settlements.[51]
  • German rail company Deutsche Bahn decided in 2011 to withdraw from a project to build a rail link between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, following pressure from German lawmakers. The decision was taken because the rail link cuts through the West Bank.[52]
  • Caterpillar Inc. was removed from three "socially responsible" stock indices by the American investment firm MSCI. MSCI cited Israel's use of Caterpillar bulldozers in the Palestinian territories as a key reason for its decision. MSCI also cited employee safety concerns, environmental issues and a plant closing in Canada.[53]
  • In July 2004, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA) voted to initiate a process of selective divestment in businesses that it believes bear particular responsibility for the suffering of Palestinians, such as Caterpillar Inc.[54] Later, in July 2012, the church decided to reject divestment by a vote of 333 to 331. The assembly voted 369 to 290, with 8 abstentions, to "pursue 'positive investment' in the region" intended to "promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians".[55]
  • In December 2012 the New Zealand superannuation fund, which invests money on behalf of the New Zealand Government, excluded two companies for involvement in Israeli settlements and one company for involvement in the West Bank Barrier. A spokesperson cited UN findings of illegality concerning both the Barrier and settlements as central to the decision to exclude the companies.[56]

Academic boycotts

Main article: Academic boycotts of Israel

In 2006, two of Britain's lecturers' unions, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education and the Association of University Teachers, voted to support an academic boycott against Israel.[57] The AUT ban was overturned by members at an Emergency General Meeting a few weeks later, while the NATFHE boycott expired when a merger with AUT to form the University and College Union came into effect.[58] In May 2007, the UCU congress passed Motion 30, which called on the members to circulate information and consider a boycott request by Palestinian trade unions.

In 2009, Spanish organizers of an international solar power design competition excluded a team from the Israeli Ariel University Center. The stated reason was that the Ariel university is located in the West Bank, a Spanish official was quoted saying that "Spain acted in line with European Union policy of opposing Israel's occupation of Palestinian land".[59]

On that year, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology rejected the academic boycott of Israel, stating that being able to cooperate with Israeli academics, and hearing their views on the conflict, is critical for studying of the causes of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and how it can be resolved.[60]

In 2007, nearly 300 university presidents across the United States signed a join statement denouncing the boycott movement. Following Operation Cast Lead in 2010, a group of 15 American university professors launched a campaign calling for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. In 2010 the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) announced it had collected 500 endorsements from US academics for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. The endorsements were seen as a sign of changing US attitudes toward Israel in the wake of an Israeli raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla in the Mediterranean.[61]

In 2011 the University of Johannesburg decided to suspend ties with Israeli Ben-Gurion University, citing the University's support for the Israeli military. The decision was seen to affect projects in biotechnology and water purification.[62] However, two days later, Ihron Rensburg, vice chancellor and principal of the university issued a statement saying that "UJ is not part of an academic boycott of Israel...It has never been UJ's intention to sever all ties with BGU, although it may have been the intention of some UJ staff members."[63]

University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann said in January 2012 that the university "has clearly stated on numerous occasions that it does not support sanctions or boycotts against Israel." She said that the school was not a sponsor of a BDS conference taking place on campus in February 2012.[64]

In 2013 the Teachers Union of Ireland passed a motion calling for an academic boycott of Israel. Jim Roche, who presented the motion, said "I am very pleased that this motion was passed with such support by TUI members (...) there is no question that Israel is implementing apartheid policies against the Palestinians." [65]

In May 2013, in what was seen as a major development,[66] Stephen Hawking joined the academic boycott of Israel by reversing his decision to participate in the Jerusalem-based Israeli Presidential Conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres. Hawking approved a published statement from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine that described his decision as independent, "based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there."[67] Reactions to Hawking's boycott were mixed, some praised his boycott as a "peaceful protest" while others condemned his decision and accused him of anti-semitism.[68][69]

Artistic boycotts

  • Creative Community for Peace, founded in late 2011, is an organization made up of music executives, talent agents and entertainment lawyers that seeks to counter artist boycotts of Israel.[76]
  • In Ireland, support for boycotting Israel has been voiced since September 2006.[77] The Irish Times has published an open letter in January 2009[78] with 300 signatures, including deputies, senators, political leaders (including Gerry Adams and Tony Benn), union leaders, professors and artists. In August 2010, 150 Irish artists launched a cultural boycott of Israel, declaring that they would not perform or exhibit in Israel, "until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights". Organizers explained the boycott was motivated by what they saw as abuse of Palestinian human rights by Israel.[79] In November 2012, the list of Irish artists supporting BDS has reached 237.
  • The Yes Men[80] pulled out of a film festival in 2009 in Israel.
  • In 2010, American singer Devendra Banhart, and Irish singer Tommy Sands cancelled their shows in Israel as a response to Israeli policies.[81] That same year, Carlos Santana also cancelled a performance following pressure from groups critical of Israel. It was not clear whether it was for political reasons or due to scheduling problems.[82][83] Likewise, Elvis Costello called off planned gigs, citing what he called the "intimidation" and "humiliation" of Palestinians.[84][85] Jazz and spoken word artist Gil Scott-Heron canceled a planned performance in Tel Aviv in 2010, saying he "hated war".[86] Annie Lennox, states again that she will no longer perform in Israel.[87]
  • That same year, a hundred Norwegian artists endorse the BDS call.[99]
  • French singer Vanessa Paradis cancelled a performance planned for February 2011 in Tel Aviv. According to insider sources, she and her husband Johnny Depp acceded to calls to cancel the show made by Palestinian boycott campaigners, who threatened to boycott them too. Her agent maintained that the concert was cancelled strictly for professional reasons.[70] That same month, the classical singer Thomas Quasthoff cancelled the 6 shows he was supposed to give in Israel.[101]
  • American punk artist Jello Biafra, former singer for the Dead Kennedys, cancelled a July 2011 performance in Tel Aviv, citing discussions with pro-Palestinian and Israeli activists. He stated that this absolutely did not mean he or his band were endorsing or joining a boycott of Israel.[102]
  • In September 2011, Anglo-Egyptian singer Natacha Atlas cancelled her tour in Israel and stated, "I had an idea that performing in Israel would have been a unique opportunity to encourage and support my fans' opposition to the current government's actions and policies. I would have personally asked my Israeli fans face-to-face to fight this apartheid with peace in their hearts, but after much deliberation I now see that it would be more effective a statement to not go to Israel until this systemised apartheid is abolished once and for all. Therefore I publicly retract my well-intentioned decision to go and perform in Israel and so sincerely hope that this decision represents an effective statement against this regime.".[103]
  • British band Faithless and its leader David Randall confirm their commitment to BDS by publishing the video "Freedom For Palestine" with the collective "One World" that includes Maxi Jazz, Sudha and Andy Treacy (of Faithless), Jamie Catto (of One Giant Leap), Harry Collier (of Kubb), Phil Jones (of Specimen A), Mark Thomas, Lowkey, Michael Rosen, LSK, Andrea Britton, Attab Haddad, Joelle Barker, the Durban Gospel Choir (of South Africa) and members of the London Community Gospel Choir...
  • 150 Swiss artists signed an appeal for the cultural boycott of Israel.[110] A group of Indian artists cancelled their participation to an exhibition in Israel.[111]
  • The AMARC (international non-governmental organization serving the community radio movement, with almost 3 000 members and associates in 110 countries) joins the BDS campaign.[112]
  • In July 2011, American movie director Barbara Hammer refused a prize from the Foundation for Jewish Culture and the American Academy in Jerusalem, and refused to show her films in places receiving funding from the Israeli government.[113] In October, Irish movie director John Michael Mc Donagh also cancelled his participation to the Haifa film festival.[114]
  • Still in 2012, American basketball star, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, cancelled his scheduled trip to Israel. Tunisian fence champion Sara Besbes[115] and Iranian chess-master Ehsan Ghaem Maghami[116] boycotted their games to avoid facing Israeli opponents.
  • In November 2012, the American musician Stevie Wonder has bowed to intense pressure and cancelled his participation in a fundraising concert in support of the Israel Defense Forces. Wonder cited his role as a UN goodwill representative, and stated, "I am, and always have been, against war, any war, anywhere." [117][118][119]


In August 2001 a 50-strong delegation from the World Council of Churches produced a report calling for a boycott of goods produced by Jewish settlers. The report called on the executive of the WCC to "affirm the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance to injustice and foreign occupation."[120]

In February 2004 following a six-month inquiry a select committee presented a report to the British parliament calling for the suspension of the European Union's preferential trade agreement with Israel "until it (Israel) lifts the movement restrictions which it has placed on Palestinian trade." Between 2002 and 2004 the EU exported £30.1 billion worth of goods to Israel while the value of goods imported was £21.1 billion[121]

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called on the international community to treat Israel as it treated apartheid South Africa and supports the divestment campaign against Israel.[122]

Swedish archbishop K. G. Hammar, ambassador Carl Tham and a list of 71 others have supported a boycott of products from the occupied areas.[123][124][125]

A joint open letter by hundreds of UK academics was published in The Guardian 16 January 2009. The letter called on the British government and the British people to take all feasible steps to oblige Israel to stop its "military aggression and colonial occupation" of the Palestinian land and its "criminal use of force", suggesting to start with a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions.[126]

In 2008 British Member of Parliament Sir Gerald Kaufman claimed, "It is time for our government to make clear to the Israeli government that its conduct and policies are unacceptable and to impose a total arms ban on Israel.”[127]

Norman Finkelstein, writing in 2006, said he supports a "US academic boycott of Israel" [128] and an "economic boycott of Israel" Finkelstein has since said, in February 2012, that the BDS movement is a "hypocritical, dishonest cult" that tries to cleverly pose as human rights activists while in reality their goal is to destroy Israel.[129]

In an email dated December 15, 2012, Noam Chomsky defended the tactics as non anti-Semitic. Although Chomsky believes that any tactic, however legitimate, can be misused, he also remarked that they can also be used quite properly and effectively against state crimes, and in this case of BDS, they regularly have been.[130] In May 2013, Chomsky, along with other professors such as Professor Malcolm Levitt, advised Professor Stephen Hawking to boycott an Israeli conference.[131]

In November 2012 a group of 51 people, including Nobel peace laureates, prominent artists and activists published a letter calling for a military embargo on Israel. The letter accused several countries of providing assistance to Israel that facilitated Israel's 2012 military operation in the Gaza Strip. Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel were among the group signing the letter.[132]

The Anti-Defamation League, whose mission is to stop the defamation of Jews, has claimed that singling out Israel is "outrageous and biased"[133] as well as "deplorable and offensive."[134] and heads of several major U.S. Jewish organizations have referred to them as "lop-sided" and "unbalanced".[135]

Boycott calls have also been called "profoundly unjust" and relying on a "false" analogy with the previous apartheid regime of South Africa. One critical statement has alleged that the boycotters apply "different standards" to Israel than other countries, that the boycott is "counterproductive and retrograde" yet has no comparability to Nazi boycotts of Jewish shops in the 1930s.[136][137][138][139][140][141][142]

The Economist contends that the boycott is "flimsy" and ineffective, that "blaming Israel alone for the impasse in the occupied territories will continue to strike many outsiders as unfair," and points out that the Palestinian leadership does not support the boycott.[143]

In an op-ed published in the Jerusalem Post in November 2010, Gerald Steinberg and Jason Edelstein contend that while "the need to refute their [BDS organizations] allegations is clear, students and community groups must also adopt a proactive strategy to undermine the credibility and influence of these groups. This strategy will marginalize many of the BDS movement’s central actors, and expose the lie that BDS is a grassroots protest against Israeli policy. Exposing their abuses and funding sources, and forcing their campaign leaders and participants to respond to us will change the dynamic in this battle."[144] In an effort to combat BDS, in March 2011, NGO Monitor produced "the “BDS Sewer System” intended to provide detailed information about boycott campaigns against Israel.[145]

After the post-punk group PiL went to Tel Aviv to headline the Heineken Music Conference 2010 Festival in August 2010, British musician John Lydon responded to criticism by saying: "If Elvis-fucking-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he's suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won't understand how anyone can have a problem with how they're treated."[146]

Martin Raffel, who oversees the Israel Action Network, argued in March 2011 that Israel's supporters can respectfully debate artists who choose to boycott the West Bank town of Ariel, but that "not recognizing Israel as a Jewish democratic state is a completely different story."[147]

In October 2010, the Cape Town Opera (CTO) declined an appeal by Desmond Tutu to cancel a tour of Israel.[148] The CTO stated that the company was "reluctant to adopt the essentially political position of disengagement from cultural ties with Israel or with Palestine"[148] and that they had been in negotiations for four years and would respect the contract.[149]

Gene Simmons, lead singer of Kiss, said that artists who avoid Israel - such as Elvis Costello, the Pixies and Roger Waters - would be better served directing their anger at Arab dictators. "The countries they should be boycotting are the same countries that the populations are rebelling," he said.[150]

Other artists who have voiced opposition to the campaign include writers Umberto Eco[151] and film makers Joel and Ethan Coen.[152] Many musicians such as Elton John, Leonard Cohen, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Metallica, Editors, Placebo, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT, Justin Bieber, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Ziggy Marley, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Mark Ronson, Depeche Mode and Alicia Keys have chosen to perform in Israel in recent years.[151][153][154] Novelist Ian McEwan, upon being awarded the Jerusalem Prize, was urged to turn it down, but said that "If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed...It's not great if everyone stops talking."[151]

The Irish Dance production Riverdance performed in Israel in 2011, despite requests that it boycott Israel. The group stated that "Riverdance supports the policy of the Irish Government and indeed the policy of every other EU state that cultural interaction is preferable to isolation".[155]

Reverend Jim Barr, president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, while supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, disagreed with the protest action at Israeli-owned Max Brenner chocolate stores in Australia, saying, "that stuff just discredits the whole movement."[156]

In 2010, Noam Chomsky was interviewed regarding the boycott movement against Israel. He said that while he supported correctly targeted boycott calls, he called inaccurately targeted boycott calls hypocritical. According to Chomsky, boycotting Israeli settlements or arms sales made sense but calling for a boycott of anything Israeli, or demanding for the Right of Return, would be hypocritical and play into the hands of hardliners in the United States and Israel.

In October 2011, Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia said that he is against the "full-scale" BDS campaign, and in particular expressed his anger over the occasionally violent protests at the Max Brenner stores in Australia, saying, "BDS is a non-violent process and I don't think it's the right of anybody to use BDS as a violent action or to prevent people from buying from any place." [157]

In February 2012, Norman Finkelstein "launched a blistering attack" of the BDS movement during an interview, saying it was a "hypocritical, dishonest cult" that tries to cleverly pose as human rights activists while in reality their goal is to destroy Israel. In addition, he said: "I'm getting a little bit exasperated with what I think is a whole lot of nonsense. I'm not going to tolerate silliness, childishness and a lot of leftist posturing. I loathe the disingenuousness. We will never hear the solidarity movement [back a] two-state solution." Furthermore, Finkelstein stated that the BDS movement has had very few successes, and that just like a cult, the leaders pretend that they are hugely successful when in reality the general public rejects their extreme views. He does mention though that he supports the idea of a non-violent BDS movement.[129]

Madonna's The MDNA Tour began in May 2012 in Tel Aviv, Israel.[158] She said that the concert in Tel Aviv was a "peace concert," and offered about 600 tickets to the show to various Israeli and Palestinian groups, but this offer was rejected by Anarchists Against the Wall and the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity group. One activist said "no one is talking about dismantling the privileged regime or of ending the occupation. They talk of peace as a philosophical thing, without connecting to things happening on the ground and that concert is going in that direction." The offer was accepted by the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum.[159] Madonna's performance was criticised by a group called "Boycott from Within" as "a blatant attempt at whitewashing Israeli crimes" and Omar Barghouti said that "by performing in Israel, Madonna has consciously and shamefully lent her name to fig-leafing Israel's occupation and apartheid and showed her obliviousness to human rights" [160]

Ed Husain, writing in the New York Times, says that the boycott of Israel should end, since it is hurting the Palestinians more than helping them. Husain believes that the "voice of the Palestinian imams who want to see an end to the boycott needs to be amplified," as well as those "religious leaders" in Egypt and in Saudi Arabia who "advocate peace."[161]

Israeli government response

Main article: Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott

On 11 July 2011, the Israeli Knesset passed a law that makes the call for a boycott on Israel or Israeli settlements a civil wrong. 47 members of the Knesset voted in favour and 38 against.[162] The law primarily allows[163][164] targets of announced boycotts to persons and organisations that promote them, without having to first prove they were harmed by the boycott. The law also allows the Israeli government to deny contracts and withdraw financial support to those who promote boycotts. The law does not create any criminal offences or criminal sanctions.[165]

The law was heavily criticized in Israel by both left-wing and Arab political parties. Israeli leftist and human rights organizations also criticized the law, and launched a public campaign against it.[166] Prior to the law's approval, four Israeli human rights groups sent letters to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, demanding a halt in the approval process of the law. After the law was passed, the far-left Gush Shalom movement petitioned the Supreme Court, claiming that the law violated basic democratic principles. The Supreme Court has given the Israeli government 60 days to respond. Thirty-four law professors signed a petition against the law to be forwarded to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.[167][168]

During an address to the Knesset, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected criticism over his failure to attend the boycott law vote, and stressed that he had in fact approved the bill. He also criticized Kadima party members who initially supported the bill and later opposed its final version, accusing them of folding to pressure.[169]

Australian government response

Though Israeli chocolate company Max Brenner is targeted by some Australian Palestinian activists, the Australian Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said, “I don't think in 21st-century Australia there is a place for the attempted boycott of a Jewish business.”[170]

Senior figures in the Australian Labor Party linked action against the Australian Greens at a state conference, where the Greens were denied automatic preferences, to the Greens' previous support for the BDS movement. Former state treasurer and Australian Labor Party general secretary Eric Roozendaal and fellow Legislative Councillor Walt Secord, stated, "The Greens will carry forever the stain of their support for the BDS campaign and their attempts to delegitimise Israel and the Jewish community - and this is one of the reasons why we must stand strong against the Greens."[171]

In April 2013, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that the "campaign does not serve the cause of peace and diplomacy for agreement on a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine," and added that Australia has always had firm opposition to the BDS movement.[172] Representing the Coalition prior to the 2013 federal election, Liberal Party deputy leader Julie Bishop reaffirmed Gillard's stance by promising to cut off federal grants for individuals and institutions who support the BDS campaign. On 29 May 2013, Jewish Australian academics Andrew Benjamin, Michele Grossman and David Goodman condemned the Coalition's election promise as "an anti-democratic gesture par excellence".[173]

French supreme court verdict

On 22 May, the Cour de Cassation (highest French court) ruled that publicly calling for a boycott of Israeli products constitutes incitement and discrimination based on nationality. The verdict by the Cour de Cassation was the final verdict in a lengthy legal battle, which consisted of a seris of convictions, acquittals, and appeals.[4] French lawyer Michael Ghnassia wrote that the ban on publicly calling for a boycott of Israeli products does not violate freedom of speech because such boycotts affect all Israelis, and is therefore "based on a racial, religious or national criterion and rather than representing a simple opinion, is a discriminatory action.”[174]

United Kingdom

A UK court dismissed in 2013 claims that the University and College Union was institutionally anti-Semitic due to motions it had passed in favour of a boycott of Israel. The judgement, by an employment tribunal, was strongly critical of the claims, referring to them as “an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means” and displaying a “worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression”. [175]

See also

Israel portal


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