On a boycott tool

Consumption should be political – that’s why I used to subscribe to the boycotters’ magazine Ethical Consumer. But when it began to get too preoccupied with boycotting Israel, I began to find it less than credible and let my subscription slip.

For the same reason I approached this online Boycott Toolkit with trepidation. I came to it via a link to a Pajama’s Media article which gave the impression that it was a tool dedicated to boycotting Israel. It isn’t though.

I don’t want to interfere with ongoing moderate Israeli attempts to get mainland Israel to divest from those settlements which are not part of the peace plans (i.e. to be exchanged for Israeli land elsewhere) as a condition of bringing about a Palestinian state. This kind of targeted action makes sense to me in a way that an entire boycott of Israel, with all its attendant scapegoating and veiled hopes for erasure, never will. The settlement boycott has acceptance of a state of Israel built in – it espouses a two-state solution. Anti-Zionists don’t like it. For this reason it is important to distinguish between settlement boycott and all-Israel boycott. In the Boycott Toolkit today, there is no overall boycott all-Israel campaign (although it’s open for users to make one, and I think it’s probably just a matter of time).

It’s early days to see what kind of political vehicle the Boycott Toolkit becomes. Focus on Israel there is currently disproportionate, and that focus reflects its creator’s politics. However, there is also a campaign against the state of Arizona, sponsors of Glenn Beck On Fox News (for calling Obama a racist), the Californian financiers of Proposition 8 which bans gay marriage, and BP for the oil spill. But the Israel and Palestine related campaigns have the lion’s share of the energy. If it remained that way, and I were its creator Josh Levinger, I’d feel obliged to do something about that singling out.

A couple more thoughts. Currently there is no distinction between settlement that isn’t part of peace plans and settlement that is. To some extent this only mirrors Israel’s long-standing policy of undifferentiation. I’m not sure what to make of it – it’s open to people to start a separate campaign which does make a distinction. The second thought is that the presence of an entry supportive of Palestinian Products on this boycott site shows how the tool can be gamed.

Hat tip: Bob’s Jogo.

Bonus link: Hasan Abu-Libdeh, Palestinian Authority Minister of the National Economy writing in the Jerusalem Post, “The Palestinian campaign against settlement products represents a practical commitment to peace”

35 Responses to “On a boycott tool”

  1. jlev Says:


    Thank you for the even-handed coverage of my project. The Pajamas article and the comments that followed were quite vitriolic, and I am glad that you were able to see the site for yourself after finding it via that avenue. As you noted, the site is open to all to contribute, and I am currently working on increasing content and viewership for non-Israel/Palestine focused campaigns. I am wary of trivializing the site by starting too many campaigns without a clear focus or real world community support. I would welcome your suggestions on other areas of activism I should try to engage.

    – Josh Levinger
    Center for Future Civic Media
    MIT Media Lab

  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Well, for a website _not_ dedicated to a boycott of Israel, there appears to be a disproportionate number of Israeli companies and products, even if these are situated (or selling products made) in the OT. Further, I thought that a majority of the Golan Heights settlers had expressed a willingness to relocate back to Green Line Israel, if this was the price needing to be paid for peace.

    I am willing to be shown the error of my thinking (which may suffer from being dated – that’s what they _used_ to think), but not from anti-Zionists, please. I already know what you think, and I don’t need to carry on working on my ulcer. I’d prefer to hear from my friends, if it’s all the same to you.

  3. Harry Goldstein Says:

    I agree with Brian. Can we please not have pro-boycott articles on what is (I thought) an anti-boycott web site. Even if the boycott in question is restricted to companies with a presence across the Green Line, the arguments against a boycott still hold good. It still disproportionately targets Israel over all other countries and all other (perceived) injustices. It still seeks to simplify the issues by rewriting the history of the conflict and casting Israel as the aggressor. Plus, as we all know, it is a stalking horse for a more widespread boycott of Israel.

    As regards the status of the territories, they are disputed. The Palestinians rejected partition in 1948, and there is no peace treaty defining the border between Israel and a Palestinian state. Resolution 242, which is usually quoted in these matters, does not attempt to impose a solution.

    Mira, whether or not an area will be retained by Israel or not in a future treaty is irrelevant to its present status. To think otherwise would be to believe that law can be changed retrospectively. Bear in mind that from a Palestinian point of view the Western Wall is as much occupied territory as any settlement in Hebron. (Of course, to Hamas and other rejectionists the whole of Israel is occupied territory, but that’s another issue.)

    I am personally in favour of a Palestinian state on something close to the pre-1967 borders (with special arrangements for Jerusalem). But please can we not go along with our enemies’ narrative of where the obstacles to such an agreement actually lie.

  4. GideonSwort Says:

    Thanks for posting this Mira, I will make sure that every Israeli company mentioned in Boycott Toolkit’s website receives the link too. I will include the following link along with Boycott Toolkit’s web address;


    • fred Says:

      Gideonswort: i don’t think the US’ antiboycott law applies to these sorts of campaigns. see:

      “Boycotts instituted by individuals or groups that are not motivated by support for boycotts imposed by foreign governments do not fall within the purview of the antiboycott regulations. Thus, the April 2005 efforts by an established U.S. religious group urging Caterpillar Inc. shareholders to sell their interest in the company because Caterpillar sold products to the Israeli army for the use in the Palestinian territory were not violations of the EAR. This type of company-specific consumer boycott did not amount to prohibited activity under the antiboycott regulations because it did not involve a boycott by a foreign country.”

      • GideonSwort Says:


        Read the next two paragraphs.

        Bottom line – the info has been circulated to some of the companies and the Israeli FO. Pursuant to this a few heavyweight donors and contributors to MIT have also been made aware of this campaign.

        What happens next is up to these entities and the professional opinion of their individual legal council, should they choose to pursue this matter and not subject to theoretical interpretation on a discussion board.

        • fred Says:

          I agree our “theoretical interpretations” may not be that useful; however, there is the track record, they chose not to act against the Caterpillar campaign; do let us know if anything comes of your inquiries.

        • Richard Gold Says:

          Fred , you’re messages are being classed as spam and going straight to the spam section. Perhaps you could put a different email on your comments ?

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        What part of the following quote from that report states what you suggest, fred?

        “We have a fourth priority in Export Enforcement, which is antiboycott compliance. Our Office of Antiboycott Compliance (OAC) works to ensure that U.S. businesses comply with the antiboycott provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). We also bring enforcement actions to enforce those regulations, as appropriate.”

        I don’t think that anyone ever suggested that an _individual_ choosing not to buy goods from a given company or country ever fell foul of this Act. This doesn’t mean that one should _encourage_ individuals to operate an individual boycott, or encourage others to do so. And certainly not when the given causes apply only to one country, can, by definition, never apply to any other country, and are thus discriminatory and prejudicial, in the _legal_ sense.

        So, what point are you making, or do you think you’re maiing, fred

  5. Bella Center Says:

    All boycotts targeting Israel have as their mission the subtle or explicit delegitimization of the country’s right to exist. It would seem that this new ploy is simply trying to expand the potential for success where earlier BDS efforts have failed miserably.

  6. Gil Says:

    Earth shattering news: Elvis Costello, who last had a song woth listening to back in the 70s, has jumped on the boycott wagon by cancelling his forthcoming tour to Israel.There are rumours (readers’ comments in Yediot Acharonot) that his tickets were not selling as expected in Israel and that this was a face-saving measure for him. On his website Costello ends with the usual self important smugness that artists deploy: ‘With the hope for peace and understanding. Elvis Costello’. Yeahhh…right.

    Will Costello now cancel his tours of the US (killed cinnocent civillians in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantanamo etc.) or is the fear of Islamic intimidation not enough to overturn commercial considerations.

    Now, Paul McCartney who DID appear in Israel and refused to be intimidated: That’s a real artist. Or, perhaps, Macca is a more secure individual.

  7. Absolute Observer Says:

    So, Dan “JJfP” Judelson thinks it worth commenting on a post on Engage about a cancelled tour. It would appear that he can hardly contain himself that someone is boycotting Israel – surely it can’t get better than that for those demanding “justice”.

    Conversely, one notes his silence on those posts that indicate the aura of antisemitism around matters concerning Israel; JJfP’s acceptance of the myth of the Israel Lobby (and then posts something from the Electronic Intifada that questions its veracity; the list could continue ad infinitum.

    As with JJfP Juselson’s comments have as much legitimacy as the Lib Dems have integrity!

    • Dan Judelson Says:

      Au contraire, Absolute:

      It does sound like sour grapes to describe Elvis Costello as a “two hit wonder,” given his prolific and varied output. Ok, he was never a star in terms of the profile of singers like Beyonce, Tinchy Stryder or N-Dubz (not a single one of whom make an appearance in my collection of vinyl, tape, CD or MP3s) but claiming his musical constribution and standing is insignificant seems a shaky assertion at best.

      I should add that I think he should have continued with his concerts. I’m not a supporter of academic or cultural boycotts. Presumably Israeli citizens are as able to interpret his songs just as UK citizens are? “Oliver’s Army” and “Shipbuilding” are eloquent warnings against overblown militarism.

      In fact, his own statement says as much: “the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.”

      So speak – sing – to them.


      But there’s little point in making a claim – about unsold tickets, made on the JC blog too – that isn’t true. As for the Mearsheimer Walt story the EI post is a recent one. But JfJfP published the critiques of it at the time it came out (and still do: http://jfjfp.com/?page_id=472) and I’ve made the argument at public meetings on more than one occasion that the lobby theory does not stand up.

      • Gil Says:

        Hi Dan, I take your point about the concerts actually selling very well and not as I originally wrote – though I was faithfully quoting from the readers comments on the Hebrew edition of Ynet. I wrote my comment a couple of minutes after reading the story on Ynet and do not recall reading what is now on the edition of the story: that the concerts have actually sold very well.

        Also, I wonder if you were directing your comment about Costello being a ‘two hit wonder’ at me? Absolute Observer certainly didn’t write anything along these lines. However, I didn’t write that. I wrote that he last had a song worth listening to back in the 70s’. That’s my opinion which I stand by. You think otherwise? Good for you.

        • Dan Judelson Says:

          Gil, no, I was not directing the “two hit wonder” comment at you, nor at Absolute Observer. (And clearly stories are updated as time goes on; I’m not questioning your faithful reproduction of Ynet readers’ comments. but I am questioning the rumour itself.)

          There is a discussion of Costello’s decision on the Jewish Chronicle’s blog page:


          The first comment there makes a claim that the cancellation was due to poor ticket sales and that commenter called him a two hit wonder. My response here was a reposting of a comment I made on the JC blogs page earlier today. I gave the URL, but neglected to include quote marks to indicate that. I probably should have put the URL first too.

          As to Costello’s musical bona fides… I think ‘Shipbuilding’ worth listening to (c.1983, though of course sung then by Robert Wyatt, but pretty clearly, the Israeli ticket buyers think he is worth paying to see. I think Costello made the wrong decision but I think he should be criticised for that decision, not for what come across as spurious comments about his musical ability. Though if he’s not to your taste, he’s not to your taste.

  8. Lynne T Says:

    Not sure what to make of this, but Dylan was supposed to do a date in Israel in May but I see no further news of same on his website. On the other hand, I see he’s booked to appear in Turkey.

  9. Shachtman Says:

    Sorry but ever since JFJFP spoke at a fundraising dinner for the antisemitic MPAC i find it’s best to ignore them.


  10. Absolute Observer Says:

    Not sure where I said Costello was a “two hit wonder”, but maybe someone else did, so you attribute that view to me. How telling.

    As to your, “oooh, let’s hear both sides of an antisemitic libel”, your increasingly irrelevant organisation, was more than willing to put up more than one post explaining how particular events coudl be explained by the power of the Lobby.

    I also liked this one that you suggest one “shares and enjoys”

    “But Morgantini also suggests that pro-Israel groups are exploiting the history of Jewish suffering in Europe to dissuade its modern-day politicians from taking robust action against Israeli oppression in Palestine. “They are using the holocaust as blackmail,” she said. “It is time for us to stop this blackmail.

    Share and Enjoy”

    My book – Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide

    • Dan Judelson Says:

      I missed out the quotation marks Absolute – from the colon to the URL is the text of a comment I posted on the JC blog page and the “two hit wonder” remark was made by someone also suggesting that Elvis Costello cancelled his gigs due to poor ticket sales.

      The article with the Morgantini quote – nice edit – looks at the pro-Israel lobby in Europe. There’s a difference between saying the lobby – whether it is described as pro Israel or Jewish – determines foreign policy, even to the detriment of a state’s interest and saying that a pro-Israel lobby exists and makes recommendations regarding attitudes to Israel.

  11. Absolute Observer Says:


    The Israel lobby – who got Charles Freeman?
    “The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East.”

    Share and Enjoy

    Merely posting the rabid ravings of some “antizionists” without comment and claoming that you are having a “debate” is disengeuous in the least.

    Let’s be honest, JJfP have no discerment whatsoever. You attach yourself to anyone and anybody at the expense of politiical judgement because of your obessions with !srael (and not with the real life Palestinians who rarely figure in your posts, as than some nice decoration on the side of the page.).

  12. Absolute Observer Says:

    “I should add that I think he should have continued with his concerts. I’m not a supporter of academic or cultural boycotts.”

    Hence, this letter from BRICUP and link to their site along with this scathing preamoble,
    Israel: Blue, White – and Green !
    On Tuesday 9 February the Zionist Federation is laying on an ‘Israel Blue White and Green‘ event at which David Bellamy is making a guest appearance.
    It is billed as ‘A panel of experts flown in especially to speak on what advances Israel has made to helping the planet’.

    97 signatories, predominantly UK academics but also including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, Clare Short MP, two peers and three prominent Israeli academics have written to Bellamy urging him not to participate.

    Here is the letter:

    And, speaking of sharing a platform, Martin “tentacles” Linton and Jenny (Zionists control our party) Tonge; no problem there then,

    1. Protests as Lieberman visits London

    Openly racist Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited London this week on his European tour and was met with lively and angry protests. Despite the secretive details of his visit, we were able to find out that he had a meeting in the Foreign Office on the morning of 13 May, and at very short notice, over 200 people gathered, joined by MPs Richard Burden, Jeremy Corbyn, Martin Linton and Baroness Jenny Tonge, in a protest by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, British Muslim Initiative, Stop the War Coalition and the Palestinian Forum in Britain. Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East lent their active support

    Real class!

  13. Absolute Observer Says:

    Not a “nice edit” at all, it is the final paragraph in toto (just before “share and enjoy”.
    The article also contains the claim that the EUMC definition of antisemitism was pushed by “the Lobby” and the idea (contained in the definition) that claims that “Zionists control the media; that of the blood libel” are but “criticisms” of Israel. (Lobby? singular?)
    I have linked to the whole letter, people can read it themselves (hardly evidence of a “nice edit”)?

    Oh, and Dan, perhaps you could post for us your hard hitting reasons why JJfP refused to support Jenny Tonge recently, since I would hate to mislead people that having stuck with her through thick and thin, you did not disaccosate yourself (if that is not too strong a word) after her recent blood libel claim (but after he claim that Zionists control her party that one cannot say anything about israel without being called an antisemite). Truly pricipled, Dan, truly principled.

  14. Absolute Observer Says:

    Au contraire Dan,
    as JJfP’s posts noted above show, it is not I who have a problem distinguishing between a legitimate political activity and an antisemitic myth.
    But, distinguishing between fact and racist fiction is precisely the problem you have.

  15. Absolute Observer Says:

    So, in his latest response Da keeps his head in the sand to the way in which JJfP shares platforms with antisemites, supports and links to inveterate boycotters of Israel (and who believe that Israel should cease to exist), who link to the misrepresentation of Israel as “apartheid” but instead offers people his views on “Shipbuilding”.

    JJfP has long been an irrelevance (except to the odd carol singer or two (which was not sung in their name, or for those who need a “Jewish” fig leaf).

    They have failed over the years to establish any meaningful connection with the large percentage of Jews who are uncomfortable with the way Israel is moving, especially, but not only, under the Likud coalition (and in their frustration fall back on explanations that grant virtual omnipotence to Jewish communal bodies – that’s how much respect they have for people’s rational choice not to go with them with a bargepole!).

    That the defects of JJfP are not structural, but simply the result of the bad choices they make and the bad company they insist in keeping, is clearly evidenced by the increasing interest, in only a matter of weeks, of European and US organisations that clearly do not think that one needs to be fundamentally and irrevocably tainted by alliances with the forces of reaction so as to seek justice for both Palestine and Israel.

    Come to think about, by limiting themselves to discussing old songs, Dan may already realise just how irrelevant they are.

  16. Declan Says:

    “It has been necessary to dial out the falsehoods of propaganda, the double game and hysterical language of politics, the vanity and self-righteousness of public communiqués from cranks in order to eventually sift through my own conflicted thoughts.”

    Can anyone point me to the usual BRICUP/PACBI letter to which EC is evidently referring?

  17. Declan Says:


    His full statement with his concluding comment,
    “I cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this.

    With the hope for peace and understanding.”

    Not sure most of the boycott movement would support that sentiment.

  18. Lynne T Says:


    I’m not sure that that statement should be taken as coming from the BDS movement, but rather that Costello takes a simplistic view that Palestinians are suffering more than Israelis, so obviously the Israelis are entirely to blame and the Palestinians are entirely blameless.

    What would be interesting to know is whether Costello would consider performing in, say, China — a country with a abysmal human rights record domestically and abroad that is truly egregious.

  19. Joshua Says:

    “What would be interesting to know is whether Costello would consider performing in, say, China”

    Here’s his concert schedule going all the way back to 1969:


  20. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Okay, Joshua, just _tell_ us: has he ever performed in, say, China? Or other places with equally wonderful human rights records? Life’s too short for _all_ of us the tyrawl back through all those pages.

  21. The boycott campaign bears fruit in Israel’s new boycott prohibition law « Greens Engage Says:

    […] is no different, and has been defending the right to boycott settlement produce for a long […]

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