Boycotts of Israel are economic and political campaigns that seek a selective or total cutting of ties with the State of Israel. Such campaigns constitute one tactic used by those who challenge the legitimacy of Israel's existence, or oppose Israeli territorial claims in the West Bank or Israel's policies or actions towards the Palestinians over the course of the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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 1948, but is not fully implemented in practice.

Similar boycotts have been proposed outside the Arab world and the Muslim world. These boycotts comprise economic measures such as divestment; a consumer boycott of Israeli products or businesses that operate in Israel; proposed academic boycott of Israeli universities and scholars; and a proposed boycott of Israeli cultural institutions or Israeli sport venues. Many advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu use the 1980s era movement against South African apartheid as a model.[1]

Under 1977 amendments to the Export Administration Act (EAA), it is illegal for US citizens to participate in boycotts imposed by foreign countries that are not sanctioned by the United States. Accordingly, the Arab League boycott of Israel is illegal for U.S. citizens.[2]

Arab League boycott of Israel

The Arab League boycott of Israel is a systematic effort by Arab League member states to isolate Israel economically in support of the Palestinians.

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. The implementation of the boycott has varied over time among member states.

Political boycotts

In October 2009, Turkey announced it had excluded the Israeli air force from planned joint military exercises titled "Anatolian Eagle", due to the Gaza War. The war games were due to have been based in the city of Konya, and were reportedly to have involved bombing runs in airspace near the Iranian, Syrian and Iraqi borders. The cancellation was reported to be a "major shock" to Israeli strategists[3].

Disinvestment campaigns and product boycotts

In July 2004, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA) voted to "initiate a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel." [4] On June 19, 2006, the Committee on Peacemaking and International Issues of the PCUSA adopted a compromise resolution that calls for the Church to invest only in "peaceful pursuits" in Israel and Palestine. The new resolution does not include the word "divestment." [5]

On July 9, 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." [6] 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."[6]

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. Sør-Trøndelag has a population of 270,000, including Trondheim, Norway's third-largest city. [7]

In May 2006, the Ontario section of the Canadian Union of Public Employees approved a resolution to "support the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until that state recognizes the Palestinian right to self-determination" and to protest the Israeli West Bank barrier. [8] [9] [10]

The Congress of South African Trade Unions published a letter expressing their support for the CUPE boycott of Israel. [11]

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.[12] The national umbrella UCC declined to support a boycott and instead encouraged pro-peace investment.[13].

The Church of England synod has voted for disinvestment from Israel, which was criticised by George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury as "inappropriate, offensive and highly damaging".[14]

Britain's National Union of Journalists called for a boycott on April 14, 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." [15]

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.[3]

In November 2008 happens a UK's initiative against Israeli exports originating in the West Bank :

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."[16]
Sources near the talks say London is accusing some Israeli companies of fraud: Their labeling indicates that they manufacture in Israel, but their plants are in the territories.[17]
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.[17]
Livni protests : 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.[17]

In February 2009 the Belgian government decided to stop exporting such weapons to Israel, that would bolster its military capacities. 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."[18]

It was reported in May 2009 that in some cases boycott protests have contributed to companies such as Veolia (involved in building a light railway linking East Jerusalem to Israeli settlements) being excluded from bidding for major investment projects in other countries.[19]

In Britain, The Ahava company's cosmetic products sparked controversy because they are manufactured in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The store chain Selfridge withdrew Ahava's products (among others) in December 2001 after a boycott campaign launched by pro-Palestinian groups[20], but reinstated them a few weeks later[21]. Critics argue that the products are labelled as of 'Israeli origin' whereas the European Union does not consider goods originated in the West Bank or Gaza as being of 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 does not include them in the Trade Agreement signed with Israel [22]. The boycott of Ahava has been endorsed also 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." The boycott further takes issue that Ahava's products are labeled as if they originated from "Israel".[23]

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"[24].

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.[25] In October 2009, the University of Sussex Students' Union became the first in Britain to vote for a boycott of Israeli goods. Anti-Zionist scholar Norman Finkelstein praised the move as "a victory, not for Palestinians but for truth and justice."[26]

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[27].

In November 2009 it was reported that the Palestinian Authority was encouraging a boycott of supermarket chains in the West Bank that carry Israeli products. According to Palestinian authorities, consumers were not aware that some of the products on sale at these outlets were produced in Israeli settlements. It was felt that boycotting settlement products would improve demand for Palestinian produce. The authorities are invoking existing legislation under which trading in goods originating in the settlemens is illegal in the Palestinian territories. [28]


  • 14 Belgian municipalities left the Franco-Belgian bank Dexia, which was financing Israeli settlements in the occupied territories through its Israeli subsidiary[29].
  • The French conglomerate Alstom was excluded from Sweden’s AP7 national pension fund portfolio in 2009, due to company's involvement in the occupation of the West Bank.[30].
  • A Norwegian government pension fund sold its shares in Elbit Systems due to its role in building the West Bank barrier[31].
  • Assa Abloy, a Swedish electromechanical security systems firm, has resolved to move one of its factories out of the West Bank[32].

Academic boycotts

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. [33] 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. [34] 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"[35].

Artistic boycotts

After a festival director pushed for a boycott of Israeli films at the San Diego Women Film Foundation and Festival, the Board of Directors announced on its website that "The San Diego Women Film Foundation and Festival would like to apologize to all in the community—we are embarrassed and horrified to learn such a position was taken without our knowledge or consent. It is the personal view of the Festival Director and not the view of the San Diego Women Film Foundation and we in no way support, sponsor or condone their statements. ... For the record, the San Diego Women Film Foundation and Festival is NOT boycotting Israeli films. We are hopeful that filmmakers from the Israeli community will continue to submit films."[36]


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.[37]

Archbishop K. G. Hammar, ambassador Carl Tham and a list of 71 others have supported a boycott of products from the occupied areas.[38][39][40]

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 [41].

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.” [42]


The Anti-Defamation League have claimed that singling out Israel is "outrageous and biased" [43] as well as "deplorable and offensive."[44] and heads of several major U.S. Jewish organizations have referred to them as "lop-sided" and "unbalanced". [45]

Some opponents of a boycott claim similarities with the Nazi boycotts of Jews of the 1930s and claim this is a form of anti-Semitism.[46]

Boycott calls have also been called "profoundly unjust" and relying on a "false" analogy with 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" and that the campaign is antisemitic and comparable to Nazi boycotts of Jewish shops in the 1930s. [47][48][49][50][51][52]

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.[53]

See also


  1. "Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights". Palestine BDS Campaign. 2005-07-09. 
  2. "Office of Antiboycott Compliance". U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security. 
  3. MIDEAST: Cold Turkey Could Change Political Balance (IPS, Oct 13, 2009)
    Turkey confirms it barred Israel from military exercise because of Gaza war (Guardian, Oct 12, 2009)
  4. Israel Divestiture Spurs Clash. Jewish Leaders Condemn Move by Presbyterian Church by Alan Cooperman (Washington Post; Page A08) September 29, 2004
  5. Church adopts compromise resolution on Israel by Nathan Guttman (The Jerusalem Post) June 19, 2006
  6. 6.0 6.1 Palestine BDS Campaign, accessed 22 May, 2007.
  7. Norway: Parliament shuns Israeli products, 22.12.2005
  8. CUPE Ontario delegates support campaign against Israeli "apartheid wall". Background on Resolution #50 (CUPE Ontario)
  9. CUPE in Ontario votes to boycott Israel (CBC News) May 27, 2006
  10. Labour pains over Israel by Jay Teitel (Maclean's Canada) June 13, 2006
  11. South African union joins boycott of Israel by Ronen Bodoni (YnetNews) June 08, 2006
  12. "United Churches in Toronto to endorse boycott of Israel", National Post, June 28, 2006
  13. "Canadian church group drops anti-Israel divestment program". Jerusalem Post. 27 September 2009. 
  14. Statement from Lord Carey, April 19th, 2006, hosted on the Anglicans for Israel website
  15. UK reporters union to boycott Israel, Apr. 14, 2007, Jerusalem Post
    NUJ votes to boycott Israeli goods, 13 April 2007, The Guardian
  16. Britain confirms its anti-settlement push, Jewish Chronicle, 13 nov. 2008
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Israel worried that U.K. pressure will harm exports to Europe, Haaretz, 19/11/2008
  18. Belgium to stop exporting 'arms that bolster the IDF' to Israel (Haaretz, Feb. 1, 2009)
  19. Counterpunch, 1 May 2009, "When Companies Begin to Lose Money, They Start to Listen": The Israel Boycott is Biting
  20. Selfridges bans sale of goods from occupied territories The Guardian, Dec. 22, 2001
  21. Harrods reinstates Israeli products in battle with ongoing shelf life israelinsider, 25 Jan. 2002
  22. Implementation of EC/Israel Trade Agreement - House of Commons, European Legislation, Thirty-First Report (1998)
  23. CodePink Launch Campaign to Boycott Ahava, 08/11/2009
  24. Trade unionists launch boycott of Israeli goods (Belfast Telegraph, 10 February 2009)
  25. British trade unions to boycott Israeli goods (Jerusalem Post)
  27. Dock workers to boycott Israeli ship (Mail&Guardian Online, Feb 03 2009)
  28. Boycott targets settlement products (Al Jazeera, Nov. 19, 2009)
  32. "Swedes relocate West Bank firm". Jerusalem Post. Oct 24, 2008.  "We're leaving because [the industrial park] is in the West Bank," [said] Ann Holmberg, spokeswoman for Assa Abloy
  33. Benjamin Joffe-Walt (2006-05-30). the Guardian.,,1785634,00.html Lecturers back boycott of Israeli academics. 
  34. British academic boycott expires after teaching unions merge by Tamara Traubmann (Haaretz) June 12, 2006
  36. Thomas Lifson (2007-09-06). "Feminist film festival 'horrified' by Israel boycott". The American Thinker. 
  37. Israel: Time to Divest. Desmond Tutu, New Internationalist magazine, January / February 2003
  38. DN: "Sluta att köpa israeliska varor"
  39. Palestine Chronicle: Swedish Public Figures Urge Israeli Boycott
  40. Episcopal News Service: Head of Swedish church's support for boycott of Israeli products stirs debate
  42. "UK’s Jewish MP calls it Nazi-like operation". Agence France-Presse. 16 january 2008. Retrieved 16 january 2008. 
  43. ADL August 12, 2005
  44. accessdate=2006-06-13 The Jerusalem Post
  45. Cooperman, Alan (2004-09-29). "Israel Divestiture Spurs Clash". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  46. For instance, see Richard Cohen, "Why Boycott Israel?", Washington Post, 24 April 2007, A21, accessed 16 May 2008.
  47. ADL Slams British Academic Boycott Policy, Anti-Defamation League, 26 May 2006, accessed 16 May 2008.
  48. Lecturers call for Israel boycott, British Broadcasting Corporation, 30 May 2006, accessed September 16 2006
  49. Tamara Traubmann and Benjamin Joffe-Walt Israeli university boycott: how a campaign backfired, The Guardian, June 20 2006, accessed September 17 2006
  50. The New York Sun, May 6, 2005. [1]
  51. Anthony Julius and Alan Dershowitz in The Times Online June 13, 2007[2]
  52. Times Higher Education, June 2, 2006
  53. "Boycotting Israel: New pariah on the block". The Economist. 2007-09-13. 

External links

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