The boycott calls came during the past weeks, as they are a popular way to express rejection of the policies of countries and giant companies that support Israel in its aggression against the Gaza Strip, at a time when the entry of relief aid and treatment through the crossings faces many obstacles.
At a time when millions of people from all over the world are demonstrating for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and to stop mass massacres against civilians, sectors of the Arab and Muslim peoples have found the boycott to be a long-acting weapon that may succeed in conveying the voices of protests to decision-makers.
Collective and organized boycotts and ostracism are defined as a tool of protest against practices deemed unjust. The American University of Kansas stated that the use of the word “boycott” first began in the late nineteenth century, when thousands of Irish tenants decided to express their anger and rejection of the unfair leasing policies pursued by the English land agent, and they refused to lease lands until their demands were met.
The boycott tool has been used throughout history by labor organizations as a tactic to obtain improved wages and working conditions from management and employers.
Civil rights groups and movements in the 1950s and 1960s also adopted boycotts as a social and political tool in the states against companies that practice racial discrimination against blacks, with the aim of putting pressure on them.
The county changes the laws
On a cold night in December 1955 in the city of Montgomery, located in the US state of Alabama, Rosa Parks, of African descent, did not expect that she would ignite a civil rights revolution that would change history.
After a long day of work, the seamstress Rosa boarded a bus to return to her home. According to American apartheid laws at the time, the first seats on the bus were reserved for white people only. Rosa sat in a seat in the middle of the bus, until the seats were filled, then the bus driver shouted at the black people to get up and stand at the back of the bus, so that the white people could sit first.
Everyone complied with the driver’s shout, except for Rosa, who refused to leave her seat. The driver only threatened her with arrest, and he kept his promise, as the young woman was arrested and fined 10 dollars.
Within a few days, news of Rosa’s incident spread to all of the city’s African-American churches, and calls for a boycott of city buses began on December 5, 1955. The planned protest received unexpected publicity in weekend newspapers and in radio and television reports.
Most African Americans joined the boycott, and even car owners took the initiative to help the elderly with transportation. Here the name of a young priest named Martin Luther Kingwho later became a human rights icon in America, a leader of the civil rights movement, and formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and African Americans announced to their partners in the homeland that their movement would be peaceful and organized.
Indeed, the transport company incurred financial losses as a result of a revenue deficit, which contributed to the spread of calls for a peaceful struggle to overturn the apartheid laws known as “Jim Crow.”
The most important goal was not only to incur financial losses for the transport company, but also to abolish apartheid laws. On June 5, 1956, the Federal District Court ruled that segregation on buses was unconstitutional, and in November 1956, the US Supreme Court struck down laws requiring separate seating on public buses. On December 20, 1956, King called for an end to the boycott, and the community agreed.
One of the most famous campaigns throughout history that bore fruit was the campaign organized by activists in South Africa to end the apartheid system, which began in Britain in 1959 and continued until the abolition of this system in 1994.
During those years, the movement called on the rulers and people to boycott South African products to pressure its government to stop its apartheid regime. The Europeans participated in pressuring shops to stop selling South African products, and the British students forced Barclays Bank to withdraw from the apartheid state, while the government imposed The Irish government imposed a complete ban on imports from South Africa, and most artists at the time refused to participate in any events that supported the apartheid regime.
The campaign spread widely and unexpectedly, and by the mid-eighties, the boycott campaign was participating in 25% of Britons, and it had such an impact that its end was the major negotiating point demanded by the government in exchange for the abolition of the apartheid system.
The global boycott of Israel movement
Coinciding with the outbreak The second Palestinian intifada In the year 2000, the culture of boycott spread to the Arab peoples, and popular calls were launched to boycott the products of major companies that finance and support Israel.
In 2005, representatives of Palestinian civil society issued a historic appeal addressed to the peoples of the world, asking them to support the boycott of Israel as it is a major form of peaceful popular resistance, and the most important form of global solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people for their rights.
The movement’s goals included stopping dealing with Israel, boycotting Israeli and international companies complicit in violating the rights of Palestinians, demanding an end to the occupation and all forms of apartheid against the Palestinians. It was also accompanied by campaigns to withdraw investments and put pressure on investors and contractors with Israeli and international companies involved in crimes.
Regarding the impact of the boycott, she said The global boycott of Israel (BDS) movement According to Al Jazeera Net, “Public pressure on local branches contributes to pushing (parent companies) to sever their relations with Israeli companies, especially those operating in the settlements, the work of which constitutes a war crime according to international law.”
The movement participated in the recent boycott calls, and directed activists to directly boycott companies that support the Israeli occupation and settlements, as it relies on the principle of targeted boycott, to focus on a specific number of the most complicit companies, multiply the impact, and avoid distraction.
BDS mentioned some examples of international companies responding to calls for a boycott, including the withdrawal of the huge French services and utilities company Veolia and the Orange telecommunications company from the Israeli market, and the latter stopping its dealings with the Israeli “Partner” in the wake of the popular campaign’s demand to boycott Israel. In Egypt, a boycott of the Egyptian company Mobinil, of which Orange owns 98% of its shares.
Professor of Economics at Oakland College, Dr. Mustafa Shaheen, explained to Al Jazeera Net that the positions of some companies regarding their support for Israel are clear, while the position of some other companies cannot be certain.
Boycott campaigns aim to spread negative propaganda against the entities being boycotted, and as a result of this negative propaganda, the company’s profits decrease and cause problems with public opinion.
The economic expert explained, “There are great fears of losses that will affect companies that support Israel or even Palestine. In my opinion, this is a very great gain, because the boycott has always been ineffective and does not bear fruit, but now the matter is changing, as fear has begun to creep into companies as a result of boycott calls. No.” Especially since most international companies have their branches in the Arab world.”
Shaheen stressed that “even after obtaining the franchise, the parent companies still have a share of their branches owned by other companies around the world, and take a percentage of their profits.”
A report by the American “Investopedia” website stated that franchisees of one of the largest international fast food restaurants pay an ongoing monthly fee to the owner company of 4% of sales.
Dr. Shaheen explained that it may take some time to know the impact of the current boycott campaigns and companies announcing losses.
But given the impact of previous campaigns, a study conducted by the University of Minnesota in 2008 stated that global companies were affected by the boycott campaigns that began in the wake of the second Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, which prompted them to take multiple actions, such as making donations and emphasizing the impact of these campaigns on the local economy. In an attempt to stop calls for boycotts, they tried to make some of their products more local.