Boycotting Israel

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That is to say, we are called to boycott ALL Israeli products and companies supporting the Zionist entity, thereby placing international pressure on the illegal state to end its unjustified occupation of Palestine.

Despite the recently announced cease-fire, an act of genocide is in full swing and has been going on against the people of Palestine for over 60 years now. Feelings of rage, powerlessness and incapacity multiply as such prejudiced human suffering takes place before our very eyes. In our hundreds and thousands all over the world, we stage demonstrations, rallies, and voice our fury at the injustices being perpetrated ever so deliberately. And yet, as our hearts overwhelm with deep sorrow and distress, we fail to realize that so many of us have – and continue to – taken part in actually sustaining this humanitarian catastrophe and the entire Zionist regime.

As horrendous as it sounds, by purchasing products and services of Israeli companies and those that fund Israel, we are essentially legitimizing the racism and colonial oppression that is being perpetrated against the people of Palestine. We are overlooking the severe violations of human rights. In fact, with every such investment, we are subsidizing the atrocious acts of the Zionist regime along with the horrific measures it is imposing on the defenseless.

In a recent press release, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions National Committee “calls upon international civil society not just to protest and condemn in diverse forms Israel’s massacre in Gaza, but also to join and intensify the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel to end its impunity and to hold it accountable for its persistent violation of international law and Palestinian rights.”

That is to say, we are called to boycott ALL Israeli products and companies supporting the Zionist entity, thereby placing international pressure on the illegal state to end its unjustified occupation of Palestine. We must do so not only until the violence and slaughter comes to a halt, but until there exists a true democracy with equal rights for all, providing a remedy to the Palestinians who have been deprived of their independence and freedom – and this includes the millions of displaced Palestinian refugees who have the right to return to their homeland.

Having given clear rulings regarding the boycott, our Religious Authorities (Maraja Taqleed) are unanimous in their decree. Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani states in his book A Code of Practice for Muslims in the West:

“It is not permissible for a Muslim to buy products of the countries that are in a state of war with Islam and Muslims, for example, Israel.” (ruling #249)

“Question: Is it permissible to buy from shops that dedicate part of their profits to supporting Israel? Answer: We do not allow that.” (ruling #265)

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei also decreed in a recent statement, “The purchase of any item which helps strengthen Zionism is not permissible unless it reaches the point of necessity.”

As believers, we cannot undermine their verdicts and take it lightly. Ayatollah Khamenei has recently reiterated this, urging Muslims to refrain from any business transaction which could benefit the enemies of Islam: “The purchase, import, re-import, and promotion of any product whose profits will be given to Israeli occupiers directly or indirectly is forbidden [by Islamic decree] and Muslims are prohibited from doing so.”

Some may doubt the power of the boycott, deeming its ability to hurt Israel’s economy as laughable. They are encouraged to read the FAQ page on the Global BDS Movement website, which explains how the boycott has been effective, its influence worrying the Israeli government and pro-Zionists to such an extent that they have called for the introduction of a proposed law in the US Congress to ban divestment in Israel. The successful boycott of South Africa in the mid 1990s to condemn the racist apartheid is also proof of its effectiveness.

However, what is equally, if not more, important about the boycott is its symbolic value. It is a powerful, peaceful resistance strategy mobilizing people worldwide to be the voice of Palestine – the voice confronting injustice and oppression, battling for freedom and self-determination. Through the boycott, we make it known to our governments that their association (be it social, economic or political) with a state that does not respect international law and basic human rights is utterly unacceptable and will not be tolerated. This is a worldwide strategy embraced by many to condemn Israel’s crimes against humanity, with action and not just words.

The internet bookstore Amazon.com terminated its association with The Jerusalem Post after it was revealed that profits derived from the partnership were being donated to Israeli soldiers. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which has almost five million members in the US, took a step toward a partial boycott of Israeli goods at its 2007 Churchwide Assembly in Chicago. Britain’s main university teachers union of 40,000 has voted to boycott two Israeli universities for allegedly restricting academic freedom and teaching in illegal settlements. And recently, British telecommunications company FreedomCall terminated its co-operation with Israel’s MobileMax due to its offensive in Gaza – all doing their bit to foster an environment in which it is unacceptable to promote Israel and its illicit policies.

So rather than contributing to the deceptive image of Israel as a legal state, we should be doing everything in our power to employ practical approaches in order to provide real protection to the people of Palestine. It is not difficult to reach out to the society and create awareness about the consequences of enhancing Israel’s profits. But before taking such a stance we must act on it ourselves, whether this means giving up our Coca-Cola craze, our daily dose of Starbucks, or swear to never again set foot in a Marks & Spencer store.

A good website to identify which companies support or are owned by Israel is http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-brands.html.

For those of us who may find it difficult to part with favourite brands, we must ask the vital question of what is more important – the comfort and convenience gained by benefiting from Israeli products or human life?  

Farah Masood is studying mathematics and finance at the University of Melbourne. She is interested in periodically writing articles on religious, community, and political issues for Islamic Insights.

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