The use of boycotts as a strategy to bring about equal rights and an end to oppression has long been recognized as an effective and nonviolent method for bringing about change. In the United States, the black civil rights movement achieved national and international attention with the 1959 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott that helped end segregated seating on that city’s public transportation. In the 1960s, Hispanic and Filipino farmworkers called on consumers across the country to boycott grapes and lettuce until California growers recognized the right of farmworkers to organize into unions.
The time-honored use of boycotts to protest racism goes back much further in history. It includes, for example, the 1933 anti-Nazi boycott against products made in Germany to protest the rise of anti-Semitism there under the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler.
Why Boycott Israel?
More than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations have called on people around the world to boycott Israeli exports as a nonviolent method to pressure the Israeli government to end its military occupation, its apartheid laws, and its refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their land and homes. This effort is known as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and is modeled after a similar international human rights campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, a victory that was achieved in 1994 when black South Africans voted in national elections for the first time and the white minority government agreed to dismantle its system of apartheid.
Why Boycott All Israeli Products? Why Not Just Boycott Israeli Settlement Products?
Some people object to the idea of boycotting all products made in Israel. They argue that the boycott should target only those products such as Ahava cosmetic products and the SodaStream carbonation kits that are made in Israel’s illegal settlements. They fear that targeting all Israeli products would appear anti-Jewish.
This argument ignores the fact that Israel also practices apartheid within its internationally recognized borders with more than 50 laws that either explicitly or implicitly discriminate against non-Jews, who make up more than 20 percent of Israel’s population. It also overlooks the Israeli government's refusal to allow Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes and land. This official government policy has kept the rights of citizenship from millions of Palestinian refugees. Indigenous Palestinians are denied the right of return while Israel’s Law of Return guarantees citizenship to anyone claiming to be Jewish.
Israel’s entire economy benefits from the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Israel profits from using Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as a captive market for Israeli goods. Israeli banks help finance the settlements, and Israel's domination ensures that the Palestinian economy is crippled and underdeveloped. The Israeli government subsidizes the illegal settlements and continually approves their expansion.
Since the purpose of the boycott movement is to bring pressure on the Israeli government to end its discriminatory and oppressive policies, its impact is far more effective if it targets all Israeli products, not just those made in the West Bank.
Israeli products are targeted not because they are made by Jewish-owned businesses, but because they are part of a system of apartheid and injustice. Many Jewish organizations, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, endorse the BDS movement. They recognize that Judaism cannot be equated with Zionism, the narrow ethnonationalist ideology that proclaims the Israeli state is for Jews alone.
Why Does the Israeli Government Oppose the Boycott?
BDS has so frightened the Israeli government that it is spending millions of dollars annually in a propaganda campaign to discredit BDS, in part because it knows how effective this nonviolent strategy can be. BDS is grounded in the concepts of international law, international humanitarian law, and equal rights. It is directed at Israel’s apartheid policies and actions, not at Jews or any other ethnic group.
But Israel is doing more than simply spending money on propaganda. It has revealed the essentially antidemocratic character of its government by outlawing BDS efforts within Israel. It is also using its pro-Israel lobbies in the West to promote legislation that would penalize BDS campaigns in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. The pro-Israel Lobby in the United States is also attempting to influence a trade agreement with the European Union to prevent the EU from taking measures against Israel’s illegal settlement products. In doing so, the Israeli government is attempting to criminalize the basic democratic rights of free speech of Israelis, Palestinians, and the global Palestine solidarity movement.
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that boycotts are a form of free expression and therefore are entitled to the free speech protections of the First Amendment. The Israeli Supreme Court, however, recently upheld a 2011 law that subjects people who advocate for BDS to extremely large fines. The Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace condemned the ruling, saying “The anti-boycott bill is one of a host of racist and anti-democratic legislation aimed at silencing opposition and curtailing the rights of the Palestinian minority.” The coalition noted the racist underpinning of the Supreme Court’s ruling because it only singled out boycotts that advocate for Palestinian rights. Other types of boycotts remain legal.
The Israel Lobby in the United States is now attempting to bring the same type of racist and discriminatory legislation to this country to curtail free speech rights here, much as it did when it successfully censored SeaMac’s bus ads in Seattle.
Israel's Discriminatory Laws http://www.adalah.org/en/law/index
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. Steve Niva: "Self Study and Educating on Israel-Palestine
for Justice and Peace."
2. On-line Resources for further study from a peace and justice perspective:
3. Useful maps to accompany your readings:
4. Important books to consider for further study and education work
5. Organization links
from Steve Niva:
Self Study and Educating on Israel-Palestine for Justice and Peace
Framework and Resources for self-study and popular education for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine
A. Framework: Distance yourself from misleading and deceptive assumptions about the Israel/Palestine conflict such as:
**It is an ancient conflict: “they’ve been fighting for 3,000 years”
**It is a conflict between equal sides: “both sides are to blame—you should be ‘balanced’ between the two sides”
**There is no solution: it’s too complicated…
None of these assumptions are true and in fact their repetition actually prevents peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians. A starting point based in history and reality would include the following:
**Not ancient: This is a roughly 100 year old conflict that started when a small number of European Jews confronting endemic racism and injustice against Jews in Europe in the late 19th century decided to solve their injustice by building a Jewish state in the land of Palestine that unfortunately produced another injustice: the displacement and occupation of Palestinian land and people living on that land. This is a territorial and national conflict over land, not a conflict over religion.
**Not balanced: This is an extremely unbalanced conflict in Israel’s favor, where Israel not only possesses unrivaled military superiority and has inflicted the far greater loss of life and destruction on the other side, but has also imposed a military and civil occupation over every aspect of Palestinian lives and has stolen Palestinian land for Jewish settlement and colonization. While Palestinians have engaged in some reprehensible and immoral actions, to seek “balance” in a deeply unbalanced conflict is to support injustice.
**Not complicated: The solution to this conflict is simple and has been clearly stated for decades, but the U.S. and Israeli governments have refused to accept its terms: Israel must end its military occupation and colonization of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza and remove ALL OF ITS its soldiers, settlements and settlers from Palestinian land to the 1967 borders, in addition to complying with International Law and all outstanding UN resolutions on this conflict. The only thing that has made this complicated has been Israeli/American attempts to get Palestinians to accept far less than a just solution.
Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Primer
This very useful, clear and exceptionally well researched basic overview to the conflict was put together by one of the leading progressive magazines on peace and justice in the Middle East: Middle East Report magazine (merip.org). It was written by progressive Jewish-American and Arab-American scholars.
Inequality Report: The Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel
Published by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
An extensive examination that details some of the main legal, political and policy structures that institutionalize discrimination against the Palestinian minority in Israel, and entrench inequalities between Palestinian and Jewish citizens
Veritas Handbook: A Resource for Justice and Learning About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:
This document also provides a useful and accurate basic overview to the conflict and was put together by activists involved in current organizing and includes helpful maps and materials.
Phyllis Bennis, Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Primer and FAQ
This is a very current and helpful introductory document prepared by long-time progressive Jewish-American analyst Phyllis Bennis first addresses common misunderstandings in a Q&A FAQ format, then provides a basic overview that addresses similar issues to those above.
(By contrast, you might consider looking at this Primer on the conflict written from a perspective that tries not to appear “one-sided” to see where it differs from one of the resources included above. It has generally accurate information, but frames the information to appear “balanced.” http://www.annadwa.org/en/images/PDFs/israel_and_palestine_primer.pdf)
Best collection of maps showing Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands
Most important map that shows overall territorial transformation of Israel/Palestine and extent of Israeli territorial domination
New detailed United Nations map of fragmentation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlements and roads
Reverse image map of Palestinian territorial fragmentation by Israeli settlements and roads that shows how Palestinians now live in small enclosed island-like enclaves
Important map of current disposition of Israeli settlements
Map of current Israeli plan to settle and colonize Palestinian land
**Sandy Tolan, The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East
This is an excellent reading group book for addressing the history of the origins of the conflict in the creation of the state of Israel and the expulsion of Palestinians who became Palestinian refugees in 1948. It reads like a novel, but the history is excellent and draws from new Israeli and Palestinian historians. It is not an “advocacy” book but rather lets it story do the talking. You discuss.
**Saree Makdisi, Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation
This is simply the best current and up to date guide to the way in which Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land is organized and effects everyday Palestinian lives, documenting the massive human rights violated that result from the process. It is very readable and full of well documented human rights sources.
**Raja Shehadeh, Palestinian Walks: Forays Into a Vanishing Landscape
This is an unusual and lovely book in that it addresses the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land through documenting the “hikes” that a famous Palestinian human rights and non-violence advocate liked to take through his own land, only now he is blocked on all sides by Israeli settlements and roads.
**Rene’ Backmann, A Wall in Palestine
This is an excellent journalistic overview of the harmful aims and impact of Israel’s wall/barrier that surrounds and divides Palestinians in their own land under the false pretense it is built for Israel’s “security”. It is clearly written with personal stories of those effects and interviews with the Israeli generals and planners who built the wall.
**Jeff Halper, An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossesion, Redeeming Israel
An important book by a major figure in Israeli-Jewish organizing and work against Israel’s occupation. His organization is ICADH (Israeli committee against home demolitions) which is an extremely valuable source of information and work by Israeli Jews and allies on the ground in Israel/Palestine.
**Avraham Burg, The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise From Its Ashes
This controversial book (in Israel) is written by one of most establishment Jewish-Israeli-Zionist leaders who now believes that Israel and its supporters have to significantly change, above all else, by ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and lives, in order to be faithful to Judaism and not to the policies of the Israeli state. He strongly argues that the nightmare of the Holocaust not be used to prevent adopting a position based on justice for all.
**Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
This book is written by one of the most courageous of the new Israeli-Jewish historians who have challenged the founding myths of the country and its denial of the history of dispossessing Palestinians. This book provides an overview of the origins of the conflict in 1948 and beyond. He now teaches in England due to pressure and intimidation in Israel.
**Read all these books and then read Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel. It should take less a couple of minutes to note how his entire project is to present selective facts in the service of a propaganda exercise to absolve Israel of wrongs and portray Palestinians (he tends to slip into use of “arabs”) as unremittingly filled with anti-jewish hatred as the reason why they are critical of Israel.
There are many other books but these are a good start. You can contact me if you want to go in another direction or have a specific focus.
E. Resources for Current Information from Peace and Justice Perspective
Electronic Intifada website: http://electronicintifada.net/
Updates and articles on current events from Palestinian-American-progressive activist perspective
Stop the Wall website: http://www.stopthewall.org/
Current news of the non-violent struggles and campaign against Israel’s wall/barrier
Palestine Monitor website: http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/
Information about struggles and effects of occupation for Palestinians
Alternative Information Center: http://www.alternativenews.org/english/
Anti-occupation Israeli organization with long-standing record of work against Israeli occupation
Jewish Voice for Peace: http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/
Jewish-American activist organization with close ties to Israeli anti-occupation organizations, excellent information and material
B’Tselem website: http://www.btselem.org/English/
Updates and news from the leading mainstream Israeli-Jewish human rights organization
If Americans Knew: http://ifamericaknew.org/
Palestine Solidarity Committee - Seattle: http://www.palestineinformation.org/main.htm
PSC supports Palestinians in their struggle for the fundamental right of self-determination. PSC works for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. We support the provision of full human rights to all Palestinians living as minorities or refugees anywhere in the world and the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their homeland. We also support the right of the Palestinians themselves to determine the kind of state they will live in.