Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Great Israeli Boycott V.2.0

Recently I started getting emails from friends and people about the "The Great Israeli Boycott.” I thought to myself “it’s take two ya’all.” However, I think the sincere efforts of the activists were to re-ignite the first Israeli boycott by introducing a version 2.0. The following are some thoughts that arise from this new investment in a tried and true social movement tool.

On the outset, this is criticism based on “been there, done that”. No endorsement, rather ideas and a call for a larger Muslim activist discussion on the topic of the methodology of Boycotting Israel. Here is what you can expect.

1. Lessons- Ashes of Failure
  • Boycott 101
  • Apartheid South Africa
  • Arab Boycott of Israel

2. Lessons- Shimmer of Hope
3. Great Israeli Boycott v.2.0

Lessons of the Ashes of Failure

I remember six years ago I was part of the first ISRAELI BOYCOTT. I seem to be still part of that, though, I have to say in hindsight that first time we had it all wrong. As college students we rallied around a great idea, but I felt then as I do now, that we are not creatively approaching this issue of Israel and Americans/America's tacit support- BLIND- of all things Israel. Here is why we failed the first time with the boycott.

Boycott 101

The definition of a "boycott" is "the act of voluntarily abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with someone or some other organization as an expression of protest." As we Palestinian activist know, this definitely is our intent- as an expression of protest toward Israeli Occupation and violence (the recent Baby Butcher’s Raiding Parties of Gaza along with the past 60 years of occupation, violence, dehumanization, assassinations and demolitions along with a list of other things).

The BOYCOTT became a popular political western term- by definition- during the Irish Land war against an absentee land owners (someone who didn’t live in Ireland on his estate but rather in England, but collected taxes on everything and everyone there). This land lord had a crusty old guy looking over the property by name of Captain Boycott.

The Irish folk basically organized, rallying to socially ostracize Boycott, by stopping work, stopped paying taxes, even delivering mail to the crusty old man. The purpose of all this was a demand in reduction in rent. Unable to do anything, 1000 policemen escorted volunteers to come pick his harvest. At the end all of this was pointless since it cost him and the Earl more money. He left Ireland and his name to the idea of social isolation of someone/ something for political/economic benefit.

From Islamic history, the Seerah, of the profit we can trace the practice of the boycott against the Muslims.

According to tradition, the leaders of Makhzum and Abd Shams, two important clans of Quraysh, declared a public boycott against the clan of Banu Hashim, their commercial rival, in order to put pressure on the clan to withdraw its protection from Muhammad SAW. The boycott lasted for three years but eventually collapsed mainly because it was not achieving its purpose.

The reason it was not achieving its purpose was because many sympathetic tribe members were sneaking in goods to the Muslims. We know that the following year was known as the “year of Sorrow” because of the death of the Kadijah RA and Abu Talib the Prophet SAW uncle. That is our heritage.

In the British colonies of America (the future US) there was the “No Taxation without Representation” and the “Slave manufactured goods” boycott. Ghandi led a boycott of East India trading company goods, including the Salt Satyagraha, where after declaring independence on January 20, 1950 Gandi led a march against the “salt tax” that the British imposed on the Indians, walking 400 kilometers spreading the word of the non-violent boycott of British tax on salt- a staple for ALL communities in India. Coming to Ocean, Gandi began the process of making his own salt, thus avoiding the tax. The British responded by imprisoning 60,000 people.

Another famous boycott includes the Montgomery Bus boycott. You can read all about it here.

Then there was the complex action against Apartheid South Africa, and also the Arab Trade boycott of Israel- yes you didn’t know? I hope to discuss a bit more in depth in the next post. Your thoughts on the first Boycott...and any other actions that might have taken place against Israel.


Affad Shaikh said...

man...no comments...sigh.

Huda Shaka` said...

A forum for discussing the come back of the boycott is definately needed and I think people will start commenting once we get past the history and into recent experiences.

From my side, I think the one thing we're really missing is the poster-product for this campaign. One product which is irrefutbly tied to the oppresive actions of the Zionist state, which is consumed by the average person on a regular or semi-regular basis, and which has a viable substitute. CAT and Motorolla (targets of the US Campaign to End Israeli Occupation)fulfill two of the three criteria above, at best (http://endtheoccupation.org/article.php?list=type&type=203).

Another seperate issue is the academic boycott...that merits a post of its own.

Anonymous said...

Affad, I think I get it but I want to confirm ...

Do you think the [apartheid] Israeli boycott failed the first time because:

a. it lacked creativity?

b. it didn't take into account the audience?

c. we had weak links?

d. all of the above?

SA said...

A few thoughts/points that come to mind:

1- You feel we failed the first boycott because we did not tackle the issue creatively..is this correct?

2- In reference to the Irish and the crusty old man story: the Irish folk rallied against the crusty old guy...not the landlord. This tells me that it's important to find the direct connection..the direct link to whatever is causing the damage. If we boycott companies, are we removing/targeting the direct link?

3- The reason the boycott did not achieve its purpose in your Islamic history example can tell us a couple of things. 1- that either boycotts don't work or 2- they don't work unless everyone truly unites..and *everyone* really boycotts. It must be noted that the boycott did hurt the Muslims...

4- someone mentioned to me a good point (thanks Z :) that boycotts should be targeted..not 50 million companies..but rather tackle 1 at a time. Taking it step by step. I believe Huda suggests this in her comment post

Affad Shaikh said...

First, thank you for the insightful comments. i need them as i proceed. I would like to tell you that i am tempted to respond to some of the points raised and clarify things on my end.

however, i have to refrain in order to keep the discussion in hold for when I am able too respond. I want to build up to it.

Though, as i said your points are very insightful.

But briefly my response to some components. When I use "failed" i mean it not toward overall idea/strategy. I use it in terms of the purpose it was started for. The first time was an exercise in social mobilizing, in organizing, in learning. In that sense, and in the overall big picture of things, it was a necessary component and I would be stupid to not give it the due credit it deserves.

I will clarify the components to which I believed it "failed" in the very near future.

On the second point, I do agree it was directed at Muslims. There is a very important reason I included that in there, because one thing we as Muslims need to tackle is truly being able to differentiate between who/what our target it. I think we fall far to often in the trap of stereotyping and generalizing. The second, more significant part of mentioning the boycott against the Prophet SAW and Muslims of Mecca was to discuss why it failed, by using a very relevant example. Its hard to not think about how a "boycott" works when it was used against our very own beloved Prophet SAW. We know it failed because Allah would not allow it to succeed, but its how it was not successful that I wish to delve into and discuss.

Finally, yes the first boycott failed because we targeted 50 million companies. My original post on this was to discuss straight of the bat why it failed, but in reflection, again read above, it was a necessary step in the process. (Failure makes us stronger in all the places we are broken in.)