Settlement Boycott Call Likely To Fall Flat

Trouble With Beinart's Plan: There's Not Much to Boycott

By Nathan Guttman

Published March 22, 2012, issue of March 30, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

By most standards, SodaStream is a great Israeli success story. The company’s product, a home carbonating device for soft drinks, is sold by all major retailers in the United States. The company’s stock is traded in Nasdaq. But if a call to boycott products from Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank gains traction, SodaStream, with its manufacturing center in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, could become a target of protest.

Peter Beinart
courtesy of peter beinart
Peter Beinart

Boycotting Israeli goods produced in exclusively Jewish West Bank settlements has been an integral part of the agenda of groups on the far left of the Israeli-Palestinian debate for years. But a March 18 op-ed in The New York Times by prominent liberal author Peter Beinart could push the idea into the mainstream, or at least fire up a debate about its merits.

Beinart, a former editor of The New Republic, is a longtime Israel supporter who passionately backs a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his op-ed, Beinart called on American Jews and others to distinguish between Israel within its internationally recognized pre-1967 borders — whose products he urged supporters of Israel to promote — and what he calls “nondemocratic Israel.” By this, Beinart meant the occupied territories on the other side of the Green Line that marks Israel’s pre-1967 boundary. Their continued retention, he fears, will mean the end of Israel as a democratic state with a Jewish majority.

Boycotting settlement products could send a symbolic message to Israelis, as Beinart suggests. But on a practical level, such a boycott would be hard to implement and its economic ramifications would be minimal. Israel and the United States do not keep records of settlement products sold in America, but based on existing trade data it is clear that the numbers are marginal.

In 2010, the United States bought $21 billion worth of goods from Israel. Diamonds, pharmaceuticals, electronics, machinery and medical products made up three-quarters of these imports. None of these industries has a significant manufacturing presence in the West Bank. For the most part, Jewish settlements in the West Bank are either bedroom communities for Israelis working within the 1967 borders or homes for service workers employed by the government and local authorities in the West Bank. Small industrial zones in East Jerusalem — which Beinart specifically exempts from his boycott call, though it lies beyond the Green Line — and around the major settlement blocs manufacture mostly for the local market and are not significant exporters.

Therefore, a settlements boycott, even if carried out in full, would hardly make a dent in the Israeli economy— or even in the settlements’ own economic condition.

To have an effective symbolic impact, supporters of Beinart’s proposal would have to focus on several high-profile goods identified with West Bank Jewish settlements. The product most commonly targeted by boycotters is a line of cosmetics made of Dead Sea minerals and marketed under the brand name Ahava. In 2009, the activist group Code Pink launched a campaign to boycott this company’s products, which are manufactured in Mitzpe Shalem, a kibbutz built in 1976 on lands that Israel gained in the 1967 Six Day War. Despite numerous demonstrations and calls to refrain from purchasing Ahava’s creams and bath salts, they are widely sold throughout the United States, with an annual sales drive in malls before the holiday season. The company, which is privately held, does not provide detailed information on its sales.

Additional settlement exports include foods and wines sold in small quantities in kosher grocery stores in the United States.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.