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Boycotts of Israel

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Boycotts of Israel are a political tactic of avoiding economic, political and cultural ties with the State of Israel, with individual Israelis or with Israeli-based companies or organizations.[1] Boycott campaigns are used by those who oppose Israel's existence, or oppose Israel's policies or actions over the course of the Arab–Israeli conflict, in order to object to Israeli policies in general, or its economy or military in particular.

Boycotts of Jewish-owned businesses in Mandatory Palestine

Boycotts of Jewish-owned businesses in Mandatory Palestine were organised by Arab leaders starting in 1922 in an attempt to damage the Jewish population of Palestine economically, especially during periods of communal strife between Jews and Arabs.[2] The original boycott forswore with any Jewish-owned business operating in Mandatory Palestine. Palestinian Arabs "who were found to have broken the boycott ... were physically attacked by their brethren and their merchandise damaged" when Palestinian Arabs rioted in Jerusalem in 1929.[3] Another, stricter boycott was imposed on Jewish businesses in following the riots that called on all of the Arabs in the region to abide by its terms. The Arab Executive Committee of the Syrian-Palestinian Congress called for a boycott of Jewish businesses in 1933 and in 1934, the Arab Labor Federation conducted a boycott as well as an organized picketing of Jewish businesses. In 1936, the Palestinian Arab leadership called on another boycott and threatened those who did not respect the boycott with violence, however, this boycott was unsuccessful as Jewish lawyers, physicians, and hospitals were too heavily integrated into Palestinian society.[2]

The most severe boycott was the Arab general strike called by the Arab Higher Committee, headed by Haj Amin al-Husayni in 1936, beginning the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine.

Arab League boycott of Israel

The Arab League organised a boycott of pre-establishment Israel in December 1945, shortly after its formation, before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948,[4] and continued and intensified it afterwards. The Arab League boycott is an effort by its 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]

As part of the Arab boycott, for example, existing road and rail links with neighboring Arab countries were severed, all direct air flights were not permitted, overflights over Arab airspace by Israeli aircraft and of third country airlines that fly into Israel was refused, and even airlines that flew to Israel were refused entry to Arab countries. Originally, the Arab boycott had a moderate negative impact on Israel's economy and development. Inevitably the economies of participating Arab nations also suffered as the result of a deterioration in the foreign direct investment climate in the Arab world, and reduction in the volume of trade. Whether or not the Arab nations in question were aware of the potential risks to their own economies is still unknown. There is still debate as to whether they, in unison, viewed the economic sanctions as a necessary sacrifice to slow the development of the newly declared Israeli state, on land previously belonging to and under the control of Arab nations.[6][unreliable source]

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.[7]

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] and stated that total elimination of the boycott is a necessary step for peace and economic development in the region.[7] In present days, the Arab boycott is rarely applied. The move prompted a surge of investment in Israel, and resulted in the initiation of joint cooperation projects between Israel and Arab countries.[6][unreliable source]

Today, most Arab states, Syria being the exception, no longer attempt to enforce the secondary or tertiary boycotts. Syria, Lebanon, and Iran (though not an Arab state) are the only states which actively enforce the primary boycott. The Arab League's Central Boycott Office has become obsolete. With the vast majority of Arab states benefiting from trade with Israel, any "boycott" has become symbolic in nature, limited to bureaucratic slights such as diplomatic ostracism and passport restrictions.

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation boycott

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) urges its members to join in the Arab League boycott of Israel.[8][9] Ten members of OIC (in addition to those that are also members of the Arab League) have joined the diplomatic boycott: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Chad, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mali, Niger, and Pakistan. The call was renewed on 22 May 2018, when the OIC recommended to its 57 members a selective ban on some Israeli goods because of the events in Gaza and the opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem.[10]

Diplomatic boycott by Arab League and others

Member states of the United Nations were formed into Regional Groups in 1961 to act as voting blocs and negotiation forums.[11] On a purely geographic basis, Israel should be a member of the Asia-Pacific Group but Arab and Muslim nations have blocked Israel from joining. Israel was blocked from the regional group system for 39 years, which besides other consequences prevented it from participating on any UN body. In 2000, to by-pass the ban, Israel was admitted as a temporary member of Western European and Others Group, subject to annual renewal, but only in WEOG's headquarters in the US, which enabled it to put forward candidates for election to various UN General Assembly bodies. In 2004, Israel's membership of the WEOG became permanent,[12] but only in WEOG's headquarters in New York, while remaining an observer at the other UN offices.[13] Only in December 2013 was Israel granted full membership of the WEOG in Geneva, entitling Israel to participate in Geneva-based U.N. bodies, such as the UN Human Rights Council.[14]

31 UN member states do not recognise Israel, 18 of which are members of the Arab League: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The exceptions are Egypt and Jordan, both of which have entered into a peace treaty with Israel, Mauritania and Palestine.

Other countries which do not recognise Israel are Bhutan, Cuba and North Korea.[15]

When Egypt entered into a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, its membership of the Arab League was suspended until 1989. In 2002, the Arab League offered recognition of Israel by Arab countries as part of the resolution of the Palestine–Israel conflict in the Arab Peace Initiative.

Passport bans and travel restrictions

  Countries that reject passports from Israel
  Countries that reject passports from Israel and any other passport which contain Israeli stamps or visas

The passports of some Arab and OIC countries are not valid for travel to Israel, including Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.

Sixteen Arab and OIC countries do not accept Israeli passports.[16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26] These are Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Eight of these also do not accept passports of other countries whose holder has an Israeli visa endorsed in it.[19][23]

The bans may also apply to state-owned enterprises, such as airlines.[27]

Sports bans in Arab countries

In October 2017, when an Israeli won gold in an international judo championship in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, officials refused to fly the Israeli flag and play the Israeli national anthem, instead playing the official music of the International Judo Federation (IJF) and flying the IJF's logo, while the gold winner, Tal Flicker, sang the "Hatikvah", Israel's national anthem. The UAE also banned Israeli athletes from wearing their country's symbols on uniforms,[28] having to wear IJF uniforms. Other contestants received similar treatment. In December 2017, seven Israelis were denied visas by Saudi Arabia to compete in an international chess tournament.[29] On 24 May 2018, a team of international jurists, including Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, announced a plan to petition the international Court of Arbitration for Sport against the exclusion of Israel's flag and anthem at sporting events in Arab countries.[30] In July 2018, the International Judo Federation cancelled two grand slam judo events in Tunis and Abu Dhabi because Israeli flags were not allowed to be raised.[31] Also in July 2018, the World Chess Federation said it will ban Tunisia from hosting the international chess competition in 2019 if it does not grant a visa to Israeli |title=Tunisia Could Lose Chance to Host World Chess Meet after Banning Israelis |newspaper=The Jerusalem Post |url=https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Tunisia-could-lose-chance-to-host-World-Chess-meet-after-banning-Israelis-563689}}</ref>

In addition, sporting teams from various Arab states continue to boycott Israeli athletes at international matches.[32] When they are drawn against an Israeli team, some teams choose instead to forfeit the match.[33][34]

Arms embargoes

Just before the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967, France – then Israel's main arms supplier, especially of aircraft – imposed an arms embargo on Israel, including on spare parts for its aircraft.

In 2014, during the Gaza war, Spain froze arms and military technology exports to Israel. The embargo also applied to dual-use materiel.[35][36][37][38] Also at the same time, British government ministers said no new arms export licenses would be granted for sales to Israel until a formal peace is agreed. In case hostilities are to flare up, exports under existing licenses would reportedly be discontinued.[39]

On 23 March 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Council called on the international community to halt arms sales to Israel.[40] Amnesty International has repeatedly called for an arms embargo on Israel, most recently on 29 April 2018 following clashes between the IDF and protesters at the Gaza Strip security fence as part of the "Great March of Return" protests.[41][42]

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign

In 2005 over 170 Palestinian NGOs and labor unions organised the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, which is ongoing. The goal of the BDS campaign continues to be to put economic, cultural and other types of pressure on Israel until it withdraws from the occupied territories, removes the separation barrier in the West Bank, ensures full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and grants the right of return of Palestinian refugees.[43]

Boycotts have been put in place or proposed around the world, including economic measures such as divestment; consumer boycotts of Israeli products or businesses that operate in Israel; and academic boycotts of Israeli universities. Some advocates of the BDS campaign use the 1980s movement against South African apartheid as a model, because they view Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and its Arab minority as similar to the system of apartheid in South Africa.[44]


Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer used by the Israel Defense Forces, often used demolishing Palestinian houses and properties.
Caterpillar Inc. was removed from three "socially responsible" stock indices by the American investment firm MSCI.
  • 14 Belgian municipalities left the Franco-Belgian bank Dexia, which was financing Israeli settlements through its Israeli subsidiary.[45][46]
  • A Norwegian government pension fund sold its shares in Elbit Systems due to its role in building the West Bank barrier.[47]
  • 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.[48] 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.[49] The ban was re-instated in 2014 after Norway's Council of Ethics received information Danya Cebus was in fact involved with the settlements.[50]
  • 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.[51]
  • 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.[52]
  • 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.[53] In 2012 the church decided to reject divestment.[54] In 2014 the Presbyterians decided, by a vote of 310 to 303, to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions, which the church said supply Israel with equipment used in the occupation of Palestinian territory.[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]
  • In January 2014 the Dutch pension fund PGGM dumped its holdings in five Israeli banks allegedly involved in financing illegal settlements.[50]
  • In January 2014 Danish Danske Bank said Israeli Bank Hapoalim was acting against the rules of international humanitarian law by engaging in settlement construction, and that consequently Danske could not invest in it. Danske had already decided to pull its investments from Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus, for the same reason.[57]
  • In 2015, fizzy drink dispenser maker Sodastream ceased using its factory in the occupied West Bank following pressure by campaigners. Sodastream said the closure was not affected by the boycott campaign, but boycott campaigners described the move as a clear win for their movement.[58]

Academic and cultural boycotts

A campaign for an academic boycott of Israel was launched in April 2004 by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals in Ramallah, in the West Bank, that formed the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. The campaign calls for BDS activities against Israel to put international pressure on Israel, in this case against Israeli academic institutions, all of which are said by PACBI to be implicated in the perpetuation of Israeli occupation, in order to achieve BDS goals.[59][60] Since then, proposals for academic boycotts of particular Israeli universities and academics have been made by academics and organisations in Palestine,[61] the United States,[62] the United Kingdom,[63] and other countries. The goal of the proposed academic boycotts is to isolate Israel in order to force a change in Israel's policies towards the Palestinians, which proponents argue are discriminatory and oppressive, including oppressing the academic freedom of Palestinians.[64]

In 2006, two of Britain's lecturers' unions, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education and the Association of University Teachers (AUT), voted to support an academic boycott against Israel.[65] 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.[66] 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, "Spain acted in line with European Union policy of opposing Israel's occupation of Palestinian land."[67]

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.[68]

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.[69][70]

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.[71] 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."[72]

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.[73]

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."[74]

In May 2013, in what was seen as a major development,[75] 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".[76] 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.[77][78]

On 4 December 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA) endorsed a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in a resolution that stated "there is no effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation, and Israeli institutions of higher learning are a party to Israeli state policies that violate human rights and negatively impact the working conditions of Palestinian scholars and students."[79] The election attracted the largest number of voters in the association history with 66.05% for, 30.5% against and 3.43% abstaining.[80] Over 92 universities rejected the boycott and some of them withdrew their membership in the ASA in protest of the boycott decision.[81]

In October 2014, 500 Middle East studies scholars and librarians issued a call for an academic boycott of Israel. According to the signatories, "world governments and mainstream media do not hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. We, however, as a community of scholars engaged with the Middle East, have a moral responsibility to do so."[82]

In October 2014, 500 anthropologists endorsed an academic boycott of Israeli institutions seen as complicit in violations of Palestinians' rights. The signatories of the statement said, "as a community of scholars who study problems of power, oppression, and cultural hegemony, we have a moral responsibility to speak out and demand accountability from Israel and our own governments."[83]

In January 2016, 168 Italian academics and researchers published a call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Israel's Institute of Technology, Technion, was singled out as a boycott target. "The Institute carries out research in a wide range of technologies and weapons used to oppress and attack Palestinians", said the call.[84]

List of 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.[89]
  • In Ireland, support for boycotting Israel has been voiced since September 2006.[90] The Irish Times has published an open letter in January 2009[91] 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.[92]
  • The Yes Men[93] 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.[94] 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.[95][96] Likewise, Elvis Costello called off planned gigs, citing what he called the "intimidation" and "humiliation" of Palestinians.[97][98] Jazz and spoken word artist Gil Scott-Heron canceled a planned performance in Tel Aviv in 2010, saying he "hated war".[99] Annie Lennox states again that she will no longer perform in Israel.[100]
  • That same year, British bands The Klaxons, Gorillaz Sound System,[101] Leftfield,[102] Faithless,[103] Tindersticks[104] and Massive Attack,[105] as well as the American band Pixies,[106] cancelled performances in Israel in apparent response to the Gaza flotilla raid.
  • Writers Henning Mankell[107] (who was on board the Freedom Flotilla), Iain Banks[108] and Alice Walker[109] publish statements in the press in support of the cultural boycott of the State of Israel.
  • In February 2010, 500 artists from the city of Montreal, including Lhasa de Sela, Gilles Vigneault, Richard Desjardins, members of Bran Van 3000 and Silver Mt. Zion, joined the cultural boycott of Israel, saying that Palestinians "face an entrenched system of racial discrimination and segregation, resembling the defeated apartheid system in South Africa".[110]
  • That same year, a hundred Norwegian artists endorse the BDS call.[111]
  • In Israel, actors refuse to play in the 1967 occupied territories. They are quickly supported by 150 Israeli intellectuals and artists, including Niv Gordon, Gideon Levy, Shlomo Sand, Zeev Sternhell, David Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua, and Amos Oz.[112]
  • 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.[113] That same month, the classical singer Thomas Quasthoff cancelled the six shows he was supposed to give in Israel.[114]
  • 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."[115]
  • In 2011, several other artists cancelled their concerts in Israel. South African band Ladysmith Black Mambazo,[116] English singer Marc Almond, American jazz band Tuba Skinny, American piano player Jason Moran and Puerto Rican piano player Eddie Palmieri (these last three cancelled their participation in the Red Sea Jazz Festival),[117] South African rapper Ewok,[118] English band The Yardbirds, Greek Martha Frintzila and Turc Hosam Hayek (these last two cancelled their participation to the Jerusalem oud festival),[119] Malian singer Oumou Sangaré, American singer Joe Lynn Turner, and young English dubstep musician Joker[120]
  • 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.
  • Spanish singer Paco Ibanez states in a French newspaper that he will now boycott the Hebrew language, which he can speak, for political reasons.[121]
  • 150 Swiss artists signed an appeal for the cultural boycott of Israel.[122] A group of Indian artists cancelled their participation to an exhibition in Israel.[123]
  • 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.[124]
  • In 2012, Tunisian fence champion Sara Besbes[125] and Iranian chess-master Ehsan Ghaem Maghami[126] boycotted their games to avoid facing Israeli opponents.
  • In November 2012, the American musician Stevie Wonder 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."[127][128][129]
  • In September 2013, the punk-band Oi Polloi, of Scotland, cancelled their appearance in the Norwegian cultural establishment Kapittel, protesting the appearance of the Israeli ambassador to Norway. In a Twitter message, the band announced that "We are not playing together with professional apologetics of war crimes, torture, illegal occupation, ethnic cleansing and racism."[130]
  • In January 2014, Norwegian musician Pål Moddi Knutsen cancelled his concert in Tel Aviv after appeals by Palestinian human rights activists.[131]
  • In May 2014, Grace Lee Boggs, Danny Glover and 10 others called for a cultural boycott of Israel, saying they "formally stand with the people of Palestine".[132]
  • In February 2015, a group of seven hundred artists said they would boycott Israel until its "colonial oppression of Palestinians" comes to an end. The group drew a parallel between their decision and the refusal of artists to perform in Apartheid-era South Africa, saying they would not play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences in Israeli cities. The group included Brian Eno, Alexei Sayle, Richard Ashcroft, Riz Ahmed, Miriam Margolyes and Ken Loach.[133][134]
  • In 2018, singer Lorde cancelled a planned performance in Tel Aviv, following messages from a pro-Palestinian campaign. [135] In response, Shurat HaDin sued the two activists who encouraged Lorde to cancel the concert, claiming damages on behalf of three Israeli teenage fans of the singer who had bought tickets to the show. It is believed to be the first lawsuit brought under a 2011 Israeli law that permits anybody who claims economic harm from a boycott against Israel or the occupied territories to sue.[136]


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".[137]

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[138] The European Union has expressed opposition to boycotting Israel, while maintaining that it is legal for Europeans to boycott Israel.[139]

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.[140]

Swedish archbishop K. G. Hammar, ambassador Carl Tham and a list of 71 others have supported a boycott of products from the occupied areas.[141][142][143]

A joint open letter by 322 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.[144]

In 2008, former Beatles singer Paul McCartney decided to perform in Israel for the country's 60th anniversary despite a death threat from militant Islamic activist Omar Bakri Muhammad, who said, "If he values his life Mr McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him."[145] Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, described the threat as "deplorable".[145] McCartney said "I do what I think and I have many friends who support Israel."[145]

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."[146]

Norman Finkelstein, writing in 2006, said he supports a "US academic boycott of Israel".[147] and an "economic boycott of Israel":

1) Do Israeli human rights violations warrant an economic boycott? and 2) Can such a boycott make a meaningful contribution toward ending these violations? I would argue that both these questions should be answered in the affirmative.

— Norman Finkelstein, "Economic boycott of Israel?", www.normanfinkelstein.com[148]

In February 2012, 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.[149] 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.[149]

In an e-mail dated 15 December 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.[150] In May 2013, Chomsky, along with other professors such as Malcolm Levitt, advised Stephen Hawking to boycott an Israeli conference.[75]

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.[151]

The Anti-Defamation League, whose mission is to stop the defamation of Jews, has claimed that singling out Israel is "outrageous and biased" as well as "deplorable and offensive",[152] and heads of several major U.S. Jewish organizations have referred to them as "lop-sided" and "unbalanced".[153]

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.[154][155][156][157][158][159][160]

According to a ruling by the French appellate court of Colmar, publicly calling for a boycott of Israeli products constitutes discrimination and as such is illegal under French law. Yet the Court of Cassation, the highest criminal court of appeal in France, has separately confirmed the legality of calling for a boycott or Israeli goods.[161][162]

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.[163]

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."[164] 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.[165]

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."[166]

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 "not recognizing Israel as a Jewish democratic state is a completely different story".[167]

In October 2010, the Cape Town Opera (CTO) declined an appeal by Desmond Tutu to cancel a tour of Israel.[168] The CTO stated that the company was "reluctant to adopt the essentially political position of disengagement from cultural ties with Israel or with Palestine,[168] and that they had been in negotiations for four years and would respect the contract.[169]

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.[170]

Other artists who have voiced opposition to the campaign include writers Umberto Eco[171] and film makers Joel and Ethan Coen.[172] Many musicians such as Elton John, Leonard Cohen, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Metallica, Editors, Placebo, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT, Justin Bieber, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Ziggy Marley,[173] Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mark Ronson, Depeche Mode, Gilberto Gil, Daniela Mercury, Rolling Stones,[174][175] Alicia Keys,[171][176] Tom Jones,[177] Eric Burdon,[178] and Bon Jovi[179] have chosen to perform in Israel in recent years. 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."[171]

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."[180]

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".[181]

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.[182] In July 2014, Noam Chomsky warns that the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign could end up harming the Palestinian cause since the demand for a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees has failed to muster significant international support. He also said "if we boycott Tel Aviv University because Israel violates human rights at home, then why not boycott Harvard because of far greater violations by the United States?"[183]

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."[184]

Madonna's The MDNA Tour began in May 2012 in Tel Aviv, Israel.[185] 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.[186] 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."[187]

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".[188]

In January 2014, Scarlett Johansson started to promote SodaStream, an Israeli company operating in Ma'ale Adumim, a West Bank settlement, which sparked criticism from Oxfam. In response, Johansson severed ties with Oxfam after eight years, saying she supports trade and "social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine" and she has "a fundamental difference of opinion with Oxfam in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement". SodaStream plant employs both Palestinians and Israelis and the company says it is a model of peaceful cooperation.[189]

In February 2014, Israeli Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub said in a CNN interview that proponents of a boycott on Israeli goods are making a "mistake" and sending a "problematic" message to Palestinian negotiators: "If they genuinely want to advance peace, what they're really doing is they're sending a double message ... They're sending a message to the Palestinian that [they] don't need to be sitting at the negotiating table."[190]

In October 2015, J.K. Rowling was one of the 150 people from the British arts world who signed a letter against the call for a boycott of Israel that was made in February. The signatories of the letter said "cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory, and will not further peace. Open dialogue and interaction promote greater understanding and mutual acceptance, and it is through such understanding and acceptance that movement can be made towards a resolution of the conflict." Some of the signatories were closely aligned with Israel, for example via the Conservative Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Israel.[191][192][193]

United States government response

In the United States, the Export Administration Act discourages, and in some circumstances, prohibits U.S. companies and individuals from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel. The Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is responsible for penalties are imposed for each "knowing" violation with fines of up to $50,000 or five times the value of the exports involved, whichever is greater, and imprisonment of up to five years.

During the mid-1970s the United States adopted two laws that seek to counteract the participation of U.S. citizens in other nation's economic boycotts or embargoes. These "antiboycott" laws are the 1977 amendments to the Export Administration Act (EAA) and the Ribicoff Amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976 (TRA). While these laws share a common purpose, there are distinctions in their administration.

The antiboycott laws were adopted to encourage, and in specified cases, require U.S. firms to refuse to participate in foreign boycotts that the United States does not sanction. They have the effect of preventing U.S. firms from being used to implement foreign policies of other nations which run counter to U.S. policy.

The Arab League boycott of Israel is the principal foreign economic boycott that U.S. companies must be concerned with today. The antiboycott laws, however, apply to all boycotts imposed by foreign countries that are unsanctioned by the United States.

The antiboycott provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) apply to the activities of U.S. persons in the interstate or foreign commerce of the United States. The term "U.S. person" includes all individuals, corporations and unincorporated associations resident in the United States, including the permanent domestic affiliates of foreign concerns. U.S. persons also include U.S. citizens abroad (except when they reside abroad and are employed by non-U.S. persons) and the controlled in fact affiliates of domestic concerns. The test for "controlled in fact" is the ability to establish the general policies or to control the day-to-day operations of the foreign affiliate.[194]

The scope of the EAR, as defined by Section 8 of the EAA, is limited to actions taken with intent to comply with, further, or support an unsanctioned foreign boycott.

What do the laws prohibit?

Conduct that may be penalized under the TRA and/or prohibited under the EAR includes:[195]

  • Agreements to refuse or actual refusal to do business with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies
  • Agreements to discriminate or actual discrimination against other persons based on race, religion, sex, national origin or nationality.
  • Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about business relationships with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.
  • Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about the race, religion, sex, or national origin of another person.

Implementing letters of credit containing prohibited boycott terms or conditions.

The TRA does not "prohibit" conduct, but denies tax benefits ("penalizes") for certain types of boycott-related agreements.

What must be reported?

The EAR requires U.S. persons to report quarterly requests they have received to take certain actions to comply with, further, or support an unsanctioned foreign boycott.[194]

The TRA requires taxpayers to report "operations" in, with, or related to a boycotting country or its nationals and requests received to participate in or cooperate with an international boycott. The Treasury Department publishes a quarterly list of "boycotting countries".


The Export Administration Act (EAA) specifies penalties for violations of the Antiboycott Regulations as well as export control violations. These can include:


The penalties imposed for each "knowing" violation can be a fine of up to $50,000, or five times the value of the exports involved, whichever is greater, and imprisonment of up to five years. During periods when the EAR are continued in effect by an Executive Order, issued pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the criminal penalties for each "willful" violation can be a fine of up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to ten years.[194]


For each violation of the EAR, any or all of the following may be imposed:

  • General denial of export privileges;
  • The imposition of fines of up to $11,000 per violation; and/or
  • Exclusion from practice.

Boycott agreements under the TRA involve the denial of all or part of the foreign tax benefits discussed above.

When the EAA is in lapse, penalties for violation of the Antiboycott Regulations are governed by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). The IEEPA Enhancement Act provides for penalties of up to the greater of $250,000 per violation, or twice the value of the transaction for administrative violations of Antiboycott Regulations, and up to $1 million and 20 years imprisonment per violation for criminal anti-boycott violations.[194]

Israeli government response

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.[196] The law primarily allows[197][198] 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.[199]

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.[200] 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.[needs update] Thirty-four law professors signed a petition against the law to be forwarded to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.[201][202]

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.[203]


Though Israeli chocolate company Max Brenner is targeted by some Australian Palestinian activists, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs 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."[204]

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 New South Wales 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."[205]

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.[206] 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".[207]

French supreme court verdict

On 22 May 2012, the Cour de Cassation (one of the French final appeals courts) 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 series of convictions, acquittals, and appeals.[161] 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".[208]

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".[209]

In 2017 a UK Administrative Court ruled the British government had acted unlawfully in implementing regulations that sought to limit divestment campaigns against Israeli companies.[210]

See also


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