With the ongoing genocide, apartheid and ethnic cleansing being seen in Palestine, many have gotten increasingly involved in boycotts of companies who support the Israeli government and occuptaion.
However, this isn’t a new movement, and there is specific Palestinian-led guidance of what is best to boycott. Rather than trying to stick to long, complex lists circulating social media, here’s everything you need to know in one place.
What is the BDS movement?
BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions, and is described as Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS is an inclusive, anti-racist human rights movement that is opposed on principle to all forms of discrimination, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.
For 75 years, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights and has refused to comply with international law. Israel maintains a regime of of settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation over the Palestinian people, made possible by international support. Governments fail to hold Israel to account, while corporations and institutions across the world help Israel to oppress Palestinians.
The BDS movement was launched in 2005 by 170 Palestinian unions, refugee networks, women’s organisations, professional associations, popular resistance committees and other Palestinian civil society bodies, as a form of non-violent pressure on Israel.
Because those in power refused to act, they called for a global citizens’ response of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation. This looks like:
- BOYCOTTS: withdrawing support from Israel’s apartheid regime, complicit Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions, and from all Israeli and international companies engaged in violations of Palestinian human rights.
- DIVESTMENT: campaigns urging banks, local councils, churches, pension funds and universities to withdraw investments from the State of Israel and all Israeli and international companies that sustain Israeli apartheid.
- SANCTIONS: campaigns pressuring governments to fulfil their legal obligations to end Israeli apartheid, and not aid or assist its maintenance, by banning business with illegal Israeli settlements, ending military trade and free-trade agreements, as well as suspending Israel’s membership in international forums such as UN bodies and FIFA.
Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the Palestinian BDS call urges nonviolent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law by meeting three demands:
1. Ending its occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
International law recognises the West Bank including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights as occupied by Israel. As part of its military occupation, Israel steals land and forces Palestinians into ghettos, surrounded by checkpoints, settlements and watchtowers and an illegal apartheid Wall. Israel has imposed a medieval siege on Gaza, turning it into the largest open-air prison in the world. Israel also regularly carries out large-scale assaults on Gaza that are widely condemned as constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity.
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality
One-fifth of Israel’s citizens are Palestinians who remained inside the armistice lines after 1948. They are subjected to a system of racial discrimination enshrined in more than 50 laws that impact every aspect of their lives. The Israeli government continues to forcibly displace Palestinian communities in Israel from their land. Israeli leaders routinely and openly incite racial violence against them.
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194
Since its violent establishment in 1948 through the ethnic cleansing of more than half of the Indigenous people of Palestine, Israel has set out to control as much land and uproot as many Palestinians as it can. As a result of this systematic forced displacement, there are now more than 7.25 million Palestinian refugees. They are denied their right to return to their homes simply because they are not Jewish.
BDS is a vibrant global movement comprised of unions, academic associations, grassroots movements, churches and NGOs across the world, representing millions across every continent. Public figures include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Naomi Klein, Roger Waters, Angela Davis and Judith Butler. Progressive Jewish groups also play an important role in the movement, including Jewish Voice for Peace and Na’amod.
The growth and success of the BDS movement sends a clear message to Palestinians and to world governments that people around the world are increasingly unwilling to accept Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
Now that the call for a free Palestine and a ceasefire is growing around the world, the BDS movement has urged supporters to strengthen the targeted boycott and divestment campaigns to maximise impact.
In the wake of Israel’s genocide in Gaza, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian society that leads the global BDS movement, has stated they welcome activists, organisations and institutions worldwide that have expressed solidarity by escalating boycott and divestment campaigns. The spreading boycotts of complicit Israeli and multinational corporations are at their most effective when done strategically to end state, corporate and institutional complicity.
Many feel compelled to boycott any and all products and services of companies tied in any way to Israel. The proliferation of extensive “boycott lists” on social media is an example of this. The question is how to make boycotts effective and actually have an impact in holding corporations accountable for their complicity in the suffering of Palestinians?
The BDS movement uses the historically successful method of targeted boycotts inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the US Civil Rights movement, the Indian anti-colonial struggle, among others worldwide.
We must strategically focus on a relatively smaller number of carefully selected companies and products for maximum impact. Companies that play a clear and direct role in Israel’s crimes and where there is real potential for winning, as was the case with, among others, G4S, Veolia, Orange, Ben & Jerry’s and Pillsbury. Compelling such huge, complicit companies, through strategic and context-sensitive boycott and divestment campaigns, to end their complicity in Israeli apartheid and war crimes against Palestinians sends a very powerful message to hundreds of other complicit companies that “your time will come, so get out before it’s too late!”
Many of the prohibitively long lists going viral on social media do the exact opposite of this strategic and impactful approach. They include hundreds of companies, many without credible evidence of their connection to Israel’s regime of oppression against Palestinians, making them ineffective.
That being said, all peaceful popular efforts, including boycott and divestment, to hold all genuinely complicit corporations (and institutions) accountable for supporting Israel’s grave violations of Palestinian rights are justified and called for. It is perfectly legitimate, for instance, to boycott companies whose Israeli branch or franchise has supported Israel’s unfolding genocide in Gaza, some of which we mention below in the grassroots organic boycott targets section.
Also, a company or product may make perfect sense as a boycott target in one context or city but not another. This context-sensitivity is a key principle of our movement. Regardless, we all have limited human capacity, so we’d better use it in the most effective way to achieve meaningful, sustainable results that can truly contribute to Palestinian liberation. We therefore call on our supporters to strengthen our targeted campaigns and boycott the complicit companies named on our website to maximise our collective impact.
The following are the current top-priority boycott targets of the global BDS movement.
Siemens is the main contractor for the Euro-Asia Interconnector, an Israel-EU submarine electricity cable that is planned to connect Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory to Europe. Siemens-branded electrical appliances are sold globally.
Puma sponsors the Israel Football Association, which governs teams in Israel’s illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Carrefour is a genocide enabler. Carrefour-Israel has supported Israeli soldiers partaking in the unfolding genocide of Palestinians in Gaza with gifts of personal packages. In 2022, it entered a partnership with the Israeli company Electra Consumer Products and its subsidiary Yenot Bitan, both of which are involved in grave violations against the Palestinian people.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, AXA took targeted measures against it. Yet, as Israel, a 75-year-old regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid, wages a genocidal war on Gaza, AXA continues to invest in Israeli banks financing war crimes and the theft of Palestinian land and natural resources.
Hewlett Packard Inc (HP Inc)
HP Inc provides services to the offices of genocide leaders, Israeli PM Netanyahu and Financial Minister Smotrich.
SodaStream is actively complicit in Israel’s policy of displacing the indigenous Bedouin-Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Naqab (Negev) and has a long history of racial discrimination against Palestinian workers.
Ahava cosmetics has its production site, visitor center, and main store in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Israeli produce in your supermarkets
Fruits, vegetables, and wines misleadingly labeled as “Product of Israel” often include products of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land. Israeli companies do not distinguish between the two, and neither should consumers. Boycott produce from Israel in your supermarket and demand their removal from shelves.
Corporate/Institutional boycott targets:
Elbit Systems, apartheid Israel’s largest arms company, “field-tests” its weapons on Palestinians, including in Israel’s ongoing genocidal war on Palestinians in Gaza. On top of building killer drones, Elbit makes surveillance technology for Israel’s apartheid wall, checkpoints and Gaza fence, enabling apartheid. The US and EU use Elbit’s tech to militarize their borders, violating refugee and indigenous peoples’ rights.
Machinery from HD Hyundai, Vovlo, CAT, and JCB has been used by Israel in the ethnic cleansing and forced displacement of the Palestinian people through the destruction of Palestinian homes, farms, and businesses, as well as the construction of illegal settlements, a war crime under international law.
Google and Amazon
As the Israeli military bombed homes, clinics, and schools in Gaza and threatened to push Palestinian families from their homes in occupied Jerusalem May 2021, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud executives signed a $1.22 billion contract to provide cloud technology to the Israeli government and military. By supporting Israeli apartheid with vital technologies, Amazon and Google are directly implicated in its entire system of oppression, including its unfolding genocide in Gaza. Join the #NoTechForApartheid campaign. While the campaigns targeting these corporations have not called for boycotts, other forms of pressure have been adopted to force them to end their complicity.
Airbnb, Booking.com and Expedia all offer rentals in illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land. While the campaigns targeting these corporations have not called for boycotts, other forms of pressure have been adopted to force them to end their complicity.
The company markets and sells property in illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land, thus enabling Israel’s colonization of the occupied West Bank.
Barclays Bank (UK) holds more than £1 billion in shares and provides more than £3bn in loans and underwriting to nine companies whose weapons, components and military technology have been used in Israel’s armed violence against Palestinians.
Basque transport firm, CAF, builds and services the Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR), a tram line that serves Israel’s illegal settlements in Jerusalem. CAF benefits from Israel’s war crimes on stolen Palestinian land.
US fossil fuel multinational Chevron is the main international corporation extracting gas claimed by apartheid Israel in the East Mediterranean. Chevron generates billions in revenues, strengthening Israel’s war chest. Chevron fuels Israeli apartheid and the climate crisis.
Amnesty International has documented high-resolution CCTV cameras made by the Chinese company Hikvision installed in residential areas and mounted to Israeli military infrastructure for surveillance of Palestinians. Some of these models, according to Hikvision’s own marketing, can plug into external facial recognition software.
Amnesty International has identified cameras made by the Dutch company TKH Security used by Israel for surveillance of Palestinians. TKH provides Israeli police with surveillance technology that is used to entrench apartheid.
Grassroots organic boycott targets:
McDonald’s, Burger King, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, WIX, etc. are now being targeted by grassroots organic boycott campaigns, not initiated by the BDS movement, because these companies, or their branches or franchises in Israel, have openly supported Israel and/or provided generous in-kind donations to the Israeli military amid the current Israeli offensive against 2.3 million Palestinians in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip–described by leading international scholars of international law as an “unfolding genocide.”
Remember, all Israeli banks and virtually all Israeli companies are complicit to some degree in Israel’s system of occupation and apartheid, and hundreds of international corporations and banks are also deeply complicit. We focus our boycotts on a small number of companies and products for maximum impact.
Additional resources: To learn more about companies complicit in Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights visit Who Profits, Investigate, and the UN database of companies involved in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.