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Boycott Israel: BDS 101

posted on: May 26, 2021

Photo: Middle East Monitor

By: Omar Mansour/Arab America Contributing Writer

A lot of people ask how they can maintain consistent support for Palestinian liberation. Boycotting is an action that any individual can undertake. It is no surprise, then, that boycott is the first action verb in BDS – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. However, a boycott doesn’t mean giving up your iPhone or the chip inside your computer. These unreasonable portrayals and long lists are designed in part to stifle the call to boycott and make it seem unreasonable and unsustainable for daily life. Focusing on a few products can have a tremendous impact.

It is for exactly this reason that the BDS movement focuses on what they call a “targeted boycott”. A targeted boycott focuses on a small number of companies/products for maximum impact. This article will look at the companies/products selected by the BDS Movement – Pillsbury, Sodastream, Puma, Sabra, HP, Ahava, AXA, and all Israeli produce in your local supermarket.

After the powerful global display of unity and solidarity with Palestinians this month, we must not allow ourselves return to the status quo. This is a powerful intervention that we can easily undertake.

Economic Boycott

Israel is only able to maintain its regime of occupation, colonization, and apartheid over the Palestinian people because of international complicity. Corporations play a key role in this. This is the simple logic behind the economic boycott.

1. AXA

AXA’s investment of nearly $7M in three top Israeli banks that finance Israel’s illegal settlements makes it complicit in grave violations of international law. Israeli banks help create, sustain, and grow illegal Israeli settlements considered war crimes under international law.

2. Hewlett-Packard (HP)

HP provides Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority with the exclusive Itanium servers for its Aviv System. This system enables the government to control and enforce its system of racial segregation and apartheid against Palestinian citizens of Israel and is directly involved in Israel’s settler colonialism through its “Yesha database,” which compiles information on Israeli citizens in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

HP has also come under fire for its involvement in biometric technology at Israeli checkpoints and for Israeli identification cards.


Ahava is an Israeli cosmetics company that is subject to boycott due to its extracting Dead Sea mud from the West Bank, exploiting Palestinian natural resources in violation of international law.

4. Puma

As one of the world’s top athletic apparel makers and the only international sponsor of the Israel Football Association, Puma’s sponsorship brings international legitimacy to the IFA’s actions. The IFA, as documented by Human Rights Watch, includes football clubs based in illegal Israeli settlements. The IFA has refused to take measures to end its complicity, despite being repeatedly condemned by UN Advisors and civil society and human rights groups.

5. Soda Stream

The global boycott campaign forced SodaStream to move the company’s plant in the Israeli settlement of Mishor Adumim out of the occupied West Bank, and the company has moved its new plant to the Naqab (Negev) desert, inside the 1948 borders. However, in reality this facilitates a plan of Bedouin displacement.

6. Sabra Hummus

The Sabra Company is owned by two independent, global food companies – PepsiCo, based in the US, and Strauss Group, Israeli based. The Strauss Group boasts of its support of the Israeli military, particularly two brigades notorious for human rights abuses: Golani and Givati.

7. Pillsbury

Since 2002, General Mills has manufactured Pillsbury products at a factory in the Atarot Industrial Zone, an illegal settlement that Israel annexed during 1967. It is not just Palestinians calling for a boycott of Pillsburry – although, that should be reason enough. Five members of the Pillsbury family have joined the boycott campaign. They’re calling on people to refrain from buying Pillsbury products until its parent company stops doing business on occupied land. (Image by Miranda Kharsa)

8. Israeli Products

Israeli Fruits, vegetables and wines from are often wrongly labeled as “Produce in Israel.” Boycott all produce from Israel in your supermarket and demand they are removed from shelves. A barcode starting with 729 usually indicates a product of Israel. But this is not always reliable. The best way to tell if a product is made in Israel is to look for a “Product of Israel” label, or to ask the retailer if they can guarantee a product isn’t from Israel.

The BDS movement calls for a boycott of all the products of all Israeli (and international) companies that are involved in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. Virtually all Israeli companies are complicit to some degree in Israel’s system of occupation and apartheid. Some of our biggest economic boycott and divestment campaigns are against companies that operate in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This is simply because campaigns targeting these companies are, at this stage, more capable of winning widespread support and succeeding. But other large campaigns, especially in the academic and cultural sphere, have gone well beyond settlements to address other serious Israeli human rights violations.

Cultural Boycott

Israel overtly uses culture as a form of propaganda to whitewash or justify its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism, and apartheid over the Palestinian people. Just as in South Africa, Palestinian writers, artists, and cultural centers urge international cultural workers and organizations, including unions and associations, to boycott and/or work towards the cancellation of events, activities, agreements, or projects involving Israel, its lobby groups, and/or its cultural institutions. International venues, festivals, and artists are asked to reject funding and any form of sponsorship from the Israeli government, as well as not to play in any part of historic Palestine.

Academic Boycott

Israeli universities are major, willing, and persistent accomplices in Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism, and apartheid. They are involved in developing weapon systems and military doctrines, justifying the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land, rationalizing gradual ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians, providing moral justification for extra-judicial killings, and systematically discriminating against “non-Jewish” students. Palestinian civil society has called for an academic boycott of complicit Israeli academic institutions.

These companies and products are a handful of the dozens more that are complicit in Israeli colonization and apartheid. For a larger list, see the United Nations report. You can also check out the Buycott phone application, allowing you to scan any item before purchasing to check if it is subject to boycott.

For more information on BDS, check out the official BDS website.

Check out Arab America’s blog here!