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What the economic boycott of Israel can achieve

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A recent OpEd in +972 Magazine claims that an economic boycott of Israel is bound to fail, and goes on to discuss the reasons why that is. Comparing apartheid-era South Africa to present-day Israel (which should one day also be referred to as “apartheid-era Israel”) the author, Yonathan Mizrachi, explains that Western and industrialized countries in the 1990s (during the anti-South African apartheid boycott) made up 62% of the world economy, but that this percentage has now dwindled to 38.8%, and thus, “economically speaking, a boycott by Western states would be less effective today than in the past.”

The operative expression in Mizrachi’s analysis is “economically speaking.” And in that respect, many Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) organizers agree with him. Most of us are fully aware that we can boycott every single consumer product available in every single store in the United States, and that it would still not make a dent in Israel’s economy. If it did make a significant dent, the US would probably increase its aid package to Israel even more.

And still, BDS is so successful that Israel has termed it an existential threat, and is pouring time, energy, and money into countering it. In the past year alone, Israel has held an anti-BDS conference at the United Nations, another conference in Israel itself, and here in the US, the pro-Israel group StandWithUs has organized a conference in Los Angeles on “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel.”

One particular session at the conference was devoted to “the money trail,” and the president of the Israel-based watchdog organization “NGO Monitor” explained that the organizers of this particular panel are “trying to discover just who is funding the various groups behind the BDS movement.”

This is quite ironic, considering the volunteer nature of BDS organizing globally, and the fact that it does not take one single red penny to boycott a product. But more so, at registration rates ranging from $1000 for VIPs, to $150 for students, the StandWithUs conference itself could not possibly be affordable for most students without a “money trail” behind them, and investigative journalists have uncovered that Zionist organizations do pay Zionist students to troll BDS organizers, teachers, and students. On the other hand, no amount of sleuthing has uncovered any “funding of various BDS groups.”

Outside of Israel, politicians in various Western countries are introducing anti-BDS legislation, surely at the bidding of Zionist backers. France has gone so far as to detain a citizen for wearing a pro-BDS t-shirt. Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, while breaking with many of his predecessor’s foreign policy in significant ways (ending air strikes on Syria, lifting the sanctions on Iran), has maintained the ultra-conservative, Zionist former premier, Stephen Harper’s condemnation of BDS.

And in the US alone, at the time of this writing, 21 states have introduced anti-BDS legislation, in clear violation of a most-cherished US value: freedom of expression.

Clearly, BDS, with its call for an economic boycott of Israel, is a movement to be reckoned with. Nevertheless, its greatest impact is not and cannot be the economic strangulation of Israel.  Nor is this its only or primary goal.  Rather, BDS seeks to disrupt the narrative that presents Israel as victimized by the Palestinians, and empower every individual to act upon their outrage at Israel’s decades-long oppression of the Palestinian people.  And this, BDS is doing very well.

Every time we explain BDS to anyone, at workshops presented at progressive conferences, or during the discussions preceding a resolution to divest, we are explaining (obviously quite persuasively, considering our success), that Israel is an occupying power violating international law and the human rights of an occupied indigenous people.  In other words, while the economic, cultural, and academic boycott does seek the isolation of Israel, more than anything, it seeks to show that the emperor has no clothes. That Israel is not a democracy. That it is not the beacon of freedom it claims to be, in an otherwise benighted region. And indeed, it is quite indicative of its sad record that whenever Israel argues that it is “better than” some other country, Israel compares itself to the worst violators of human and civil rights, never to the league of countries it wants to be associated with. This exposure is what Zionists view as attempts to “delegitimize” and “demonize” Israel.

Ultimately, the goals of BDS are not even radical.  After all, the occupation is illegal, the separation wall is illegal, and Palestinian refugees do have the Right of Return—a legal right, not a “privilege” to be granted by a magnanimous occupier. Putting pressure on a country to abide by international law is not tantamount to calling for its destruction, no matter what Zionists say. Similarly, insisting that a country that prides itself on being a democracy should treat all its citizens equally, is merely asking that country for internal consistency. Yet the power of BDS has been proven again and again, as it has put Israel on the defensive, and has even led Israeli politicians and Israel-apologists to acknowledge that yes, it is an apartheid state (or edging towards apartheid), and yes, it is a country where, in the words of its then-Supreme Justice, Asher Grunis, “human rights are not a prescription for national suicide.”

The full title of Mizrachi’s OpEd is “Why an economic boycott of Israel cannot succeed: and why it might even hinder a political solution.” And we may need to look at the subtitle to understand the author’s perspective. Is Mizrachi yet another liberal Zionist who understands that criticism of Israel is “justified,” to use his own words, and who yet remains attached to the idea that cooperation, dialogue, joint initiatives, are the “political solution?” He speaks of two sides, each becoming more ensconced in its sense of victimhood, without appreciating that BDS is not about the two sides coming to an agreement, but about the rest of the world understanding the reality of the situation, and acting so that they are no longer enabling it.

All proposed “solutions” prior to BDS hinged on the idea that “both sides” were indeed victimized, without a mention of the fact that while Israel may have been founded with a combination of guilt and victimhood as a result of European anti-Semitism, Palestinians were not the culprit. In the Palestine/Israel equation, there is, very strictly, an oppressor and an oppressed, an occupier and an occupied, one nation, Israel, violating the human rights of the other, with no reciprocation. Just as there is no such thing as reverse racism, or reverse sexism, there is no reverse occupation. Israel is defending its ethno-religious supremacy, and its illegal occupation, Palestinians are resisting their dispossession and disenfranchisement.

Mizrachi claims that “Despite the anger and the justified criticism of Israel, the economic boycott is destined to fail.” Yet, clearly, the conversations started by BDS, as we explain the reasons for calling for an economic, cultural, and academic boycott, are the real threat to Zionism, and they are achieving their goal, even if they are not having an economic impact on Israel.

BDS will never bankrupt Israel, and that is not necessary for it to achieve its goals: showing that the emperor has no clothes, and empowering justice-minded people everywhere to disengage from a hyper-militarized, violent rogue state, until it stops violating international law and the human rights of an oppressed people.

Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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17 Responses

  1. DaBakr on July 26, 2016, 5:51 pm

    Had Israel not armed itself and prepared for attacks from neighboring Arab states(with who many Palestinians sided) they would have been destroyed militarily and as a nation shortly after Israel’s rebirth. If not then, then the 50s, or even 67. The occupier vs. Occupied had arisen from ,50 yrs of Palestinian rejectionism, tenacity, refusal to submit or whatever one wants to call it. After years of Israel’s neighbors(who had occupational control over Palestinians up until the 67 war) then after a decade of stalemate, Oslo was hatched and the prevailing narrative was starting to show cracks. But before long it was not just about exposing cracks I the imperfect Israeli project, the tactic had become attempting to change the entire narrative from the one that history recorded in depth add it unfolded to one that paints ever single Israeli action as sinister, conniving, murderous, evil and worse.
    . Is it a good tactic? Damn straight. But this is not a clear battle between good and bad. This is about an epic battle between two people who both want to have sovereignty over the same land. Until either side gives up extremely painful concessions,(giving up ror and giving back parts of olde city, simultaneously, not as preconditions) this war will smolder on with each side vying for the worlds attention to. Their version of the truth, their narrative. And much will depend on which side remains relevant. While it may be considered a definite never, I would predict the minute Palestinian excepted their much despised condition for exciting Israel as a Jewish state and giving up physical ror -the pressure on Israel would be too immense for them not to seal a deal. Even a five year verification deal. I just don’t see it happening.
    Palestinians have definitely taught their children to hate and despise Israeli soldiers(which is basically all Israelis) martyrdom is encouraged and celebrated and now the far right wing I here is becoming more tolerant of violence to achieve goals. *
    * And if I’m going to be asked to link to clips that show Palestinian indoctrination of children you can all simply watch memri videos. Henri, despite its Zionist agenda is sadly not making these fill films up, or altering them. They are out there all over the Muslim world.

    • DaBakr on July 26, 2016, 7:40 pm


      1-the new apple auto-correct is absurd and i’m to impatient to check all

      2-Henri Memri Matisse: as in -the founder of Memri. ;)

      3-not saying Palestinians are inherently anything that other humans are not. they feel they have been abused and provoked to where violence is legitimate in many of their eyes and martyrs are just what the culture does to embrace those it feels sacrifice. Its a tactic they embrace and I can’t see how it could be denied.

      4-I dod not go into every rotten thing Israeli and its IDF have committed against Palestinian during 50yr occupation, I know this ground is covered well buy contributors here. I am not implicitly denying Israeli wrongdoing by not elaborating.

      5. if it makes the funny man feel better he can assume I was on narcotics while writing all this. his choice will do. i like them all

    • Talkback on July 27, 2016, 10:00 am

      DaBakr: “Had Israel not armed itself and prepared for attacks from neighboring Arab states(with who many Palestinians sided) they would have been destroyed militarily and as a nation shortly after Israel’s rebirth.”

      Had Jews not armed itself and prepared for attacks against Palestine they coudn’t have destroyed it militarily , phisically and politically and establish their state by force of arms against the majority of its people, including their expulsion.

      DaBakr: “If not then, then the 50s, or even 67. ”

      56 and 67 srael attacked WITHOUT ANY military necessety as its leaders admitted and that they lied.

      DaBakr: “Palestinians have definitely taught their children to hate and despise Israeli soldiers.”

      Nope. It’s what these soldiers and the settlers they protect do to this children and their parents what creates hate. And it’s your hate that makes prevents you from admitting this and instead drop these racist and inciting hate comments.

      DaBakr: “This is about an epic battle between two people who both want to have sovereignty over the same land. ”

      This is true, but from the nation who lived there for generations only 10% were from one people and their rest came as foreign settlers and against the will of the other 90%. Do you call this to be just and moral?

      DaBakr: “Until either side gives up extremely painful concessions …”

      Would Jews agree to what they offer as solution to Palestinians? Would they agree to live on 22% of Palestine? And drop a “right to return” to the rest? Would they allow to be demilitarized and its borders, air and sea controlled?

      What Israel demands from Palestinians is basically to give up their fundamental rights and acknowledge Israel’s military conquest and their violations of humanitarian and international law. And you know that and call this peace and justice.

      • DaBakr on July 29, 2016, 12:41 am


        I don’t know Tk. I really don’t know and never claimed to know the solution to two people-equally tenacious who want the same thing and will settle for no less then the extreme red-lines of the others minimum requirements. If Israel wanted to try and end the conflict in the style that other more brutal and tyrannical nations have chosen we might have used mass slaughter on the level of say-H.Assad in 70s Syria, or Hussein of Jordan….all 15k to 20k dead within weeks respectively. We might have blown up the mosques on our sacred mount in 67 but the waqf rules over the mosques now.
        in the same light the palestinians-even in their supposed weakness(i don’t consider them a weak people at all) and supposed ‘humiliation’ (as a people-i think we understand humiliation and how humiliation can be amplified by cultural means to encompass suffering that is more perceived then actual… but thats another argument) -could have committed much more murder, mayhem sabotage and general destruction destruction then they have or may have wanted to commit.

        the reasons are as numerous emotional and strategic as the reasons israel could have but did not destroy mosques, plow cemeteries , conquer damascus, or commit mass killings (though i understand that mass to one person may mean 1000s killed while others think 100 is massive and some say 10-15 is still mass murder. you know you aren’t in kansas when your people have to wonder what ‘mass’ means to murder and how plunging a knife into a neck is any better or worse then shooting, clubbing or running a human over.

        So -whats the answer…no matter how one cuts it-the i/p conflict has simply not progressed past the level of slow burning intractable conflict. dozens of much higher intensity and various wars and conflicts have come and gone with some long forgotten. and -again-since nobody is forgetting the i/p conflict and nobody is changing their positions significantly (and you can cite statistics all you like as your simply preaching to your own constituency. any stats too difficult to refute are considered irritations-i imagine among both sides.

        so-i don’t know what a realistic answer is. you would prefer israel disappear into a single palestinian entity with equal rights for all. or-i think this is what you prefer. i can only state that if one studies the history of conflicts since ancient times until now-the point hasn’t been reached where either side is suffering desperation of the kind that drives people to make the kind of desperate decisions that have only to do with immediate survival. not desperate acts for martyrdom or nationalistic pride. not the desperate acts of crazy people. or acts committed in the name of bravery and pride. if the world was my puppet theater (oh right-im a zionist. it is) i could solve the problem to my liking in less then 5years and 10 until there is a true turning point.

        but that is fantasy. so i don’t know. i leave that fools game to off-the-rails ideologues on the far right and left. they always know the answers to snafu’s.

      • Talkback on July 31, 2016, 4:32 am

        DaBakr: “you would prefer israel disappear into a single palestinian entity with equal rights for all.”

        Nope. Palestine, too, can disappear in this single entity with equal rights for all including the human right to return.

        DaBakr: “i can only state that if one studies the history of conflicts since ancient times until now-the point hasn’t been reached where either side is suffering desperation of the kind that drives people to make the kind of desperate decisions that have only to do with immediate survival”

        You must really think that Jews in Palestine passively found themselves to be in a kind of “immediate survival” situation after 1947. Even two weeks before the declaration of statehood the Arab armies agreed not to intervene, if the Jewish Agency would agree to not declare a state (like demanded in Security Council resolution 46, 17. April 1948). But Jews were allready in a position where they could setup their state simply by war and expulsion. Have a guess what they chose.

      • echinococcus on July 31, 2016, 9:56 am

        De Baker:

        you would prefer israel disappear into a single palestinian entity with equal rights for all

        Commendable, and surprising coming from this person.
        As desirable as it sounds, it is, however, not according to strict justice.
        The Palestinian people pre-1897 are the only ones collectively owning the sovereignty over the entire territory.
        It is up to the Palestinians exclusively to define who, and if, among the illegitimate colonial invaders and their local offspring, has a right to citizenship, and under which conditions.

    • xanadou on July 27, 2016, 4:25 pm

      DaBakr: “Israel’s rebirth”.

      Israeli archeologists, Silberman and Finkelstein, in “The Bible Unearthed”,

      show that there never was a Kingdom of Israel, not at any time in Antiquity, not until 68 years ago. Nor could it have since the third oldest, eventually monotheistic, religion had not been cobbled until the middle of the first millenium BCE… in Judea. The religion is not called Israelism for a reason.

      • DaBakr on July 30, 2016, 12:03 am

        righto dude. never a kingdom. check. never any kings. check. no archeological evidence from within israel or from its surrounding dynasties like assyria, babylon, cyrus, etc. check. man, how did you get so smart? and “silberman and finklestein”? again, wow. they sound like jewish names so they must be legitimate voices and everybody should read their seminal tome on the non-existence of the kingdom of israel or any of its kings. i’m rushing out to Steimatsky later today to get my copy now. thanks good buddy.

      • David44 on August 2, 2016, 12:05 pm


        You’re wrong to dismiss the book out of hand in this way. Finkelstein isn’t just some guy with a Jewish name. He’s probably the leading contemporary Israeli archeologist of the Biblical period, and his arguments need to be taken seriously. The book is definitely worth reading – and yes, if that means rushing out to Steimatsky, you should rush out to Steimatsky. (Though you might find a copy more easily on Amazon.)

        On the other hand … you should not take Xanadou’s account of the book at face value. Finkelstein and Silberman do NOT deny that there was ever an ancient monarchy of any sort in Israel – I’ve no idea where Xanadou got that idea from. What they deny is the united monarchy of David and Solomon. But they certainly accept the existence of the separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah in what is now Israel/Palestine, and they are well aware of the evidence for those kingdoms from other cultures, including the Assyrian and Babylonian documents.

    • Mr.T on August 2, 2016, 6:23 pm

      “Palestinians have definitely taught their children to hate and despise Israeli soldiers”
      Sure, as Jewish children are taught to hate and despise Nazi soldiers.

  2. Marnie on July 27, 2016, 1:22 am

    Such an excellent article and it helps to blow up the propaganda that the goal of BDS is to ‘destroy’ israel. I love, just love how this nonviolent movement is getting stronger and stronger all the time. It’s much deeper than mere boycott of israeli products, it’s a boycott of the zionist narrative and reeducating the masses, who’ve been fed nothing but lies and have inserted their wants and demands into the budget of the united states. BDS has been a wake up call to the world. The fact it’s driving the zionists crazy is a bonus, though it didn’t take much of a push to accomplish since being crazy is a prerequisite. The zionists will be the destroyers of israel themselves; they’re well on the way now and the money they’re pouring into trying to combat BDS is going to break the bank.

  3. Ossinev on July 27, 2016, 10:27 am

    “This is about an epic battle between two people who both want to have sovereignty over the same land”

    “Two people” my a..e. There are the native indigenous people the Arab Palestinians and there are the hotch potch of Jewish cult colonists who with connivance of the International powers primarily out of guilt over the Holocaust were granted a “state” in Palestine to house their cult in 1948 and after having driven out the bulk of the native population have been busy ever since relentlessly stealing even more land and evicting even more of the them all the while brutalising,humiliating and slaughtering them for little more than amusement.

    I repeat “people” my a..e. Jews be they in the Levant,in the Bronx,in Florida,in the Outer Hebrides,in Kiev , in Greenaland wherever are followers of a specific religious cult just as Catholics,Hindus,Muslims,Seventh Day Adventists are followers of religious cults.

    Your use of the word “epic” is disgusting. You are simply too Zionised to realise that using this glib word reduces the gruesome reality of what is being done to the Palestinian people to the level of a second rate Holywood movie. It is not “epic” to witness a savage and brutal military machine murder thousands of defenceless children.

    No doubt you are looking forward to the next”epic” mowing of the lawn. Hell I wouldn`t be surprised if some enterprising Zionist sets up elevated viewing platforms along side the Gaza “border” and sells tickets. I expect you would be first in line.

    • DaBakr on July 30, 2016, 12:10 am


      if jews, as you say, are a hodgepodge then the palestinians are every bit as much as a hodgepodge then the jews. another stupid argument made by an israel-hater that is so ridiculous no serious person who wants peace would bother. now-if what you want is all out war, your barking up the right tree.

      btw-you do know that 95% of the people on earth are a “hodgepodge” of dna. but i guess you have a selective reading list.

      • Talkback on July 31, 2016, 4:36 am

        DaBakr: “f jews, as you say, are a hodgepodge then the palestinians are every bit as much as a hodgepodge then the jews.”

        Tell us DaBakr. How many Jews in 1948 had acquired Palestinian citizenship and therefore, too, had the right to determine the future in Palestine. By referendum, that is, not war and expulsion. Would you say more than 15% of all citizens? Not including illegal immigrants or foreign refugees?

      • echinococcus on July 31, 2016, 9:47 am


        Even there, you are way too generous. The inclusion of any Zionist immigrants following the declaration of hostile takeover intent by the 1897 Zionist Congress, and the subsequent declaration of hostile intent with the Balfour letter, by the very mandatory power, are enough to make all these people illegitimate.
        The plebiscite must include the Palestinian Jewish (religious or nominal) population , ie settled prior to 1897, or at the limit 1917. Some 5% of the total population.

  4. silamcuz on July 28, 2016, 10:55 pm

    You can always recover from financial bankruptcy, but you can never ever recover a good name and prestige after your shameful self is revealed to the world. Israel is on a one-way trip to the dustbins of history brought by none other than themselves. It will soon join America there.

    • DaBakr on July 30, 2016, 12:11 am


      and there is SO much evidence to support your brilliant opinion.

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