Why Boycott?

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.


The Anti-Nazi Boycott of 1933

BDS and South Africa

The Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

Who Profits?

Coalition of Women for Peace

Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on BDS

“Israel’s anti-boycott law will hit Palestinians hardest, rights group warns,” Electronic Intifada, April 16, 2015.

“EU must take stronger action to sanction Israel following high court decision banning boycott,” Mondoweiss, April 24, 2015.

Israel's Discriminatory Laws http://www.adalah.org/en/law/index



A particular falsehood about Palestinians has been repeated so many times that it can be stated in headlines even when the article below the headline contradicts it. The fact that many Israelis and apologists for Israel accept this repeated falsehood as truth might reveal more than they realize about Israel’s actual intentions for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

To take one recent example: Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) puts the fabrication in its simple form: “The PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, said the Palestinian state ‘will be free of all Jews.’” The AFDI exaggerates this claim on their recent King County Metro bus ads which read “The Palestinian Authority is calling for a Jew-free state.”

Mahmoud Abbas said no such thing, and the Palestinian Authority and the PLO have repeatedly said the opposite: they are calling for a secular democratic state where people of any ethnicity or religion can live as citizens. Even if some Palestinian or even a Palestinian official could be found who said what AFDI accuses, this would not represent Palestinian Authority policy, any more than Israeli government policy is represented by Israeli Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s statement, as quoted in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, that Palestinians should be drowned in the Dead Sea.

To support her fabricated claim, Geller cites an opinion editorial in the Jerusalem Post from 5/30/2011 which makes the same undocumented claim. But a news article in the Jerusalem Post from earlier that same day -- even while seeming to confirm the story in its headline — actually contradicts the story by recording what Mahmoud Abbas really said, and to whom, and why:

“Abbas’s remarks against the presence of Israelis in a future Palestinian state came in response to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s statements in Washington last week. [Netanyahu] declared that Israel would retain control over the Jordan Valley in any peace with the Palestinians. He also said that some settlements would stay in the West Bank.”

Netanyahu’s assertions — that Israel would not only maintain military control of large sections of a future Palestinian state, but that Israeli settlement blocs would remain inside that supposed Palestinian state — are extraordinary. Despite Israeli propaganda, Israeli settlements are not just harmless Jewish suburbs. Israeli settlements are colonial enclaves wherein Israeli Jews live with special rights, privileges and immunities that are denied to their Palestinian neighbors. Israeli settlers vote in Israeli elections, have access to Israeli civil courts, and use a vastly disproportionate amount of the water and other resources in the West Bank. Their settlements are constructed on land that has been confiscated or otherwise forcibly taken from Palestinians. By contrast, Palestinians in the West Bank live under Israeli military dictatorship, are ruled by an Israeli military governor, do not vote in Israeli elections, have no freedom of assembly or speech or movement under Israeli law, are tried in Israeli military courts, and are driven off their land and out of their homes to make room for these illegal Israeli settlements.

A system which applies one set of laws and privileges to Israeli Jews and another set of laws with inferior rights to Palestinians constitutes apartheid. Israel driving Palestinians off land to make room for Israeli Jews constitutes ethnic cleansing. It would be shocking for any Palestinian to agree that these practices should continue in a sovereign Palestinian state. Nevertheless, Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be insisting on exactly that: a so-called Palestinian state under continued Israeli military control, with continued special rights and privileges for Israeli Jewish citizens living inside it.

In response to Netanyahu’s demand, according to the Jerusalem Post article cited above, Mahmoud Abbas apparently said that he “opposed any Israeli civilian or military presence in a future Palestinian state”. No reference to Jews, but only to Israeli soldiers and Israeli settlers. Israeli propaganda typically tries to equate “Israeli” and “Jew”, even though many Jews around the world strongly object to this false identification, both on the grounds that Israel does not represent all Jews in the world, and because not all Israelis are Jews. In particular, an increasing number of Jews and even Israeli Jews object to being identified with the illegal Israeli settlement movement.

According to another Jerusalem Post article, Abbas repeated his statement in September 2011: “I am seeking a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with Jerusalem as its capital, empty of settlements.” The writer of the opinion article, Ephraim Karsh, blatantly distorts this into a Nazi statement, calling it a “vision of a Judenrein Palestine”. Similarly, Jonathan Tobin in Commentary quotes Abbas as saying that a future Palestinian state “will have no Jewish settlements”. Tobin distorts and falsifies Abbas’ statement into a “demand for an ethnically cleansed Palestine”. This distortion headlines the article, in sharp contradiction to Abbas’ statement.

Pamela Geller’s website also cites a USA Today article from September 2011 with the headline “PLO ambassador says Palestinian state should be free of Jews”, but even the USA Today article itself follows the headline with an immediate disclaimer: “Clarification: In the headline and story, Palestinian Ambassador Maen Areikat says he was referring to Israelis, not Jews . . .” Huffington Post clarified two days later: “In an interview with The Huffington Post, Areikat rejected USA Today's characterization of his remarks, saying that he would never want to ban Jews from a Palestinian state. ‘Under no circumstances was I saying that no Jews can be in Palestine.... I never said that, and I never meant to say such a thing. This is not a religious conflict, and we want to establish a secular state.’”

Two days later a Palestinian Authority official clarified further: "The future Palestinian state will be open to all its citizens, regardless of their religion.... We want a civil state, which in it live all the faiths, Muslim, Christian and Jews also if they agree, [and] accept to be Palestinian citizens."

This would seem to be a customary claim of normal sovereignty: anyone living in a future Palestinian state — including former Israeli Jewish settlers — would need to be subject to the laws of that state and would not have any special rights and privileges because of citizenship in some other state. But when someone suggests that a sovereign Palestinian state might not be under Israeli military control, or might not grant special rights and privileges to Israeli settlers, some Israeli officials and apologists not only feel Israel’s security is being threatened but also conflate “Israeli” with “Jew” and fabricate a story of racism and ethnic cleansing.

Most of these misquotes, distortions and fabrications were invented during the lead-up to the Palestinian Authority’s attempt to gain statehood status at the United Nations in September 2011. The fury with which Israel resisted the Palestinian Authority’s attempt to gain status at the United Nations demonstrated Israel’s lack of commitment to any kind of Palestinian statehood. In that context, normal claims of sovereignty for a possible Palestinian state were wildly twisted into fabricated stories. It is difficult to know whether these distortions were cynical attempts to distract attention from Israel’s ongoing apartheid, war crimes and ethnic cleansing, or if some Israelis Jews have become so accustomed to living with special rights and privileges that they have an actual fear of a system where everyone lives with equal rights.




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.

B. On-line Resources for further study from a peace and justice perspective:

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
February 2011
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)

C. Useful Maps to accompany your readings:

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


D. Important Books to consider for further study and education work:

**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

Organization Links:

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.




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