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!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • 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.