A Movement to Boycott Israel, Part 2: Consumer Boycott

The second tier to the BDS campaign is the consumer / commercial boycott, whereby all Israeli companies, goods and services are dissuaded from being purchased. This is carried out on a number of levels: individual consumers who refuse to buy products made in Israel; a collective demand for Israeli products to be removed completely from store shelves; and the boycotting of Israeli or international companies that are based or have productions in the Palestinian territories. Consumer boycott campaigns are found worldwide and are one of the leading and most successful instruments used to damage the Israeli economy.

Similarly to the academic boycott and divestment campaigns on university campuses, BDS activists are publicly protesting the buying and selling of Israeli goods and products. They are targeting small, local grocery stores, as well as large multi-national corporations that do business with or inside of Israel. For example, BDS activists have carried out boisterous demonstrations in stores like Office Depot and Best Buy protesting the purchasing of Hewlett-Packard (HP) products because HP sells equipment to the Israeli army. Other groups have disrupted grocery stores by putting on large theatrical performances and claiming in front of all of the customers that Israel is an apartheid state and is partaking in war crimes, and by purchasing certain items consumers are aiding in war crimes.

Efforts of BDS stretch far beyond the local grocery store and have reached into the lawmaking quarters of the European Union. In November 2015, the EU has officially announced that it will be labeling all goods produced beyond the Green Line including Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights as a way to warn consumers not to buy. Sadly, not only will the Israeli economy and hundreds of companies that export their products to Europe be financially hurt, but also the thousands of Israeli and Palestinians workers will pay the heavy price. In 2015, there were 890 registered Israeli factories in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley and they employ 24,000 workers. Of these, 15,000 are residents in the regions governed by the Palestinian Authority, and the numbers continue to grow. Between 2011-2015, the number of factories in Judea and Samaria increased by 30% from 680 to 890. During that same time frame, the number of Palestinian employees has grown by 24%, from 12,300 in 2011 to 15,000 in 2015.

Company executives have shown much concern over this recent development. Some of them export up to 20 percent of their products to Europe. If they lose this 20 percent of revenue, it could sorely damage their company or even put them out of business. Already some companies have voiced their intentions to change their marketing strategy to focus their efforts more in the Asian market. Palestinian workers fear losing their jobs if the Israeli company they work for will be forced to downsize or layoff workers as a result of this new policy. Workers have also expressed opposition and frustration because they know that there are very limited opportunities to find the kind of salaries and good working conditions at companies in the region run by the Palestinian Authority. The results of this new labeling policy will work against the original intentions of the European Union and in the end make the lives of honest, hard-working Israelis and Palestinians much more difficult.

The BDS campaign has focused a great deal of its time and money trying to vilify Israel and damage its economy. Even though Israel’s economy continues to grow annually, some companies are being severely affected by these boycott campaigns. One of Israel’s major exports are flowers and the leading flower exporter, Agrexco, has been a primary target for the divestment movement over the past few years. Agrexco declared bankruptcy in 2011, in part due to the global boycott of its products. More than 20 organizations in Europe and 13 countries endorsed a boycott of Agrexco. This company was boycotted because the Israeli government owns part of it and also some of their farms are located in a settlement area near the Judean desert. There are countless other stories of how companies and chains have divested ample amounts of money away from the Israeli economy.

In 2015, a successful Israeli firm that manufactures homemade carbonated soda machines, SodaStream, became the focal point of the BDS campaign. One of SodaStream’s factories is located in a manufacturing zone of a settlement region. Pressure from BDS activists forced retailers from across Europe and North America to stop selling SodaStream, causing the company’s share prices to drop. As a result of these and other pressures, SodaStream was forced to shut down their plant in Mishor Adumim and more than 500 of their Palestinian workers were left without an income to provide for their families. SodaStream was a testimony of unity and peace where Israelis and Palestinians worked side by side together.

It is estimated that the international boycott of Israeli products has caused Israel’s economy financial losses of approximately 100 million shekels ($30 billion). This is no small feat and the momentum and lies are spreading across the globe. We believe that it is very important as believers in the God of Israel to stand for the truth in word and deed. In order to truly make a counter-movement, we must use our time and our resources to put our beliefs into action and inform others along the way about the destructive nature of the BDS campaign. We will not use the same tactics of persuasion and hostility, but we ask that those of you who believe in the building up of the State of Israel rather than tearing it down will work towards the fortification of the nation and all its inhabitants for a future where peace and unity can be found.

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