Why does Ireland not boycott Israeli goods?

The inhumanity and injustice of Israeli actions against the Palestinian people is not in doubt.  Private Secretary to the Tánaiste Mary Connery wrote in a letter of July 2012 to a member of Clonakilty Amnesty Group that 'The Tánaiste has asked me to assure you that he is at all times deeply conscious of the many and varied injustices visited upon Palestinians".

Palestinian Settlers shot at by Israeli gunmen May 2012
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) gives the details.  "Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have noted that over 4,000 Palestinians, most of them unarmed civilians and including some 900 children, have been killed by Israeli forces in disproportionate attacks, targeted assassinations, and shelling and shooting into densely populated residential areas throughout the occupied Palestinian territories in the past 6 years. Israeli forces have destroyed thousands of Palestinian homes, vast areas of cultivated land and much crucial civilian infrastructure, including electricity power plants, roads, bridges and water, sewage and telephone networks".

Ireland's government is convinced though that while it "would support action at EU level to exclude produce originating in the settlements ...the Government does not advocate a policy of boycotts or trade sanctions against Israel itself "  with the argument that this "would only lessen the weight carried by our views, both in Israel where we seek to persuade, and among our European partners".


The argument for a Boycott

This "diplomatic" approach is not working - major injustices continue.  Just a few weeks ago film was released showing Palestinians being shot at by Israeli settlers in full view of troops.  A boycott of Israeli goods is a peaceful and effective alternative and the historical evidence is that it works.  As the IPSC writes of the South African boycott of the 1950's,  "it took years, if not decades, before it became a global movement and before churches, trade unions, and political parties became directly involved in the struggle. But once it was initiated, this movement helped lead eventually and inevitably to the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa".

The global campaign to boycott French company Veolia for its work in Israeli occupied territories "Lost Contracts and legal actions" is a modern example of an effective boycott that has resulted in lost contracts to the company in Ireland and, notably, the loss of a 4.5 billion dollar contract to run the subway in Sweden .

Israeli Companies to boycott
An Israeli Boycott is effective because the country relies strongly on exports, particularly to European markets. There is no better evidence of the importance of this than the extraordinary decision of the Israeli Government this week to make boycotts illegal.  As Amnesty International Ireland wrote on July 12th "The controversial law, passed on Monday night, makes it a civil offence to call for an economic, cultural, or academic boycott of people or institutions in Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) for political reasons. Anyone making such calls could face a lawsuit and other financial penalties".

A blatant attempt to stifle peaceful dissent

 The political motivation for this is clear. AII continues that "Sponsors of the bill have made it clear that one of the main aims of the law is to penalise those using boycott calls to campaign against Israel's illegal settlements in the OPT or highlight the ongoing violations of Palestinian rights caused by the settlements".  The law also allows the Minister of Finance to revoke the tax-exempt status of NGOs, which threatens the funding on which many Israeli human rights NGOs rely.

As Amnesty Ireland's Director Colm O' Gorman says "Despite claims to the contrary, this law is a blatant attempt to stifle peaceful dissent and campaigning by attacking the right to freedom of expression, which all governments must uphold."

Join a boycott of Israeli goods

Amnesty International does not actually support boycotts, and the Irish government continues to argue for EU level agreement before action can be taken.  While we wait for action at that level we can individually and effectively join the growing boycott of Israeli goods ourselves.  There is full information on the IPSC website about which goods to avoid and an up to date analysis of the Israel/Palestine issue. 

You can also sign a pledge to boycott with BDS here - the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign called for by 170-plus Palestinian civil society institutions.  The pledge commits people to "support the ...campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel ....and to ending its occupation and colonisation of all Palestinian lands, recognising the fundamental rights of the Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel to full equality; and respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194".


  1. The boycott was invented in Ireland - the first formulation of its principles came from none other than Charles Stewart Parnell. Dunnes Stores workers led the way, at great initial disadvantage to themselves, in boycotting South African produce in the 1980s. There is a call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, including a cultural boycott) from Palestinian civil society. To reject such a call is to reject the agency of the oppressed in favour of a purely notional "dialogue" with the oppressor, which contemptuously thumbs its nose at such dialogue.

  2. A boycott would be morally wrong - unless you boycott the Palestinians as well.
    While all the facts quoted here might be true, failing to examine them in context - and to assess the behavior of the other side - is an obscenity to morality.

  3. Your narrative above is full of half truths and inaccuracies, with no context whatsoever. Does Israel spend millions defending its citizens just fot the hell of it? Were there no suicide bombings?

    I am against expanding settlements and your boycott might be more understandable if the aim was to expedite a two state solution. But this is not the case as the BDS movement supports bringing in to Israel millions of Palestinians who claim to be refugeees (as stated above), therebye ending the existence of Israel as an independent Jewish State. Apparently the BDS movement believes that the Palestinian people deserve a state (although they have never had one before), and the Jewish people don't. At least be honest therefore and state that aim clearly.

    You'd do better aiming your boycott at Hamas (or at least mention them as relevant to the argument) and its Islamic fundementalism which prevents any chance of progress. They still consider destroying Israel more important than ending the occupation, so the situation constinues.Hamas and Israel both believe that any Israeli land withdrawal means more rockets on Israeli civilians (ie Gaza repeated). This is the only thing they agree on.