Does boycotting Israel work?

Yesterday, I received a message from a religious, down to earth, Muslimah, who contested our ability to boycott Israel. She cited the notion that Israel controls a vast empire of companies and products; making it impossible to make sure our money does not reach Israel in some way.

To further this argument, she cited relatively influecial people holding opinions that said it is not possible to live in the West without money going to Israel, therefore rendering a boycott not feasible. As you can imagine, this was an interesting discussion which got me thinking about the practicalities of boycotting Israel.

In a world of consumerism gone mad, is it true that Israel controls so much of the market that our money reaching them is unavoidable? For me, this question was one worth addressing.

Firstly, boycotting falls nothing short of purifying our soul before the creator. It is an act carried out in order to curb the subjugation and misery of those oppressed by the evil powers that be, and in our current world, how many greater evil powers are there than the illegal state of Israel? It is necessary that we reach the realisation that our money, however little it may be, is a powerful tool and when given to oppressors, it can be used for evil. In the case of Israel, have no doubt about it; your money kills people – lots of people.

Although, it is hard to tell how much control Israel actually has over the marketplace, and identifying fact from fiction is a difficult and time consuming task; I do think that it is besides the point in regards to the importance of a boycott campaign.  Israel’s strength (or lack of) holds no bearings on the need to do our utmost to avoid giving our money to killers.

Ayatollah Sistani's verdict is that it is not permissible to purchase products that support Israel.
Ayatollah Sistani’s verdict is that it is not permissible to purchase products that support Israel.

It is necessary to remind myself and others of the rulings of our scholars on this issue so that we may take heed of the issue of boycotting Israel in a more serious manner.

According to Ayatollah Sistani:

“It is not permissible for a Muslim to buy products of the countries that are in a state of war with Islam and Muslims, for example Israel.” [Code of Practice for Muslims in the West]

According to Ayatollah Khamenei:

“The purchase of any item which helps strengthen Zionism is not permissible unless it reaches the point of necessity.”


Some attention needs to be given to the fatwa of Ayatollah Khamenei on the boycott issue, especially in the phrase ‘unless it reaches the point of necessity’. This outlines an acknowledgement that there are occasions when money spent will unavoidably strengthen Zionism, such as in the cases of paying taxes to the British government or buying products that are necessary and support Israel. It is an important aspect in so far as we do our utmost to boycott and concede to give that money in times of necessity only. Often, I find that people have a defeatist attitude and spend their money recklessly under the pretext that a boycott is too difficult to undertake. This lazy and irresponsible attitude must be overcome through education and empowerment. We must not become slaves of a system that wishes to channel our finances towards the subjugation of others.

On the contrary, in more recent times, there has been a huge rise in people becoming more conscious of their spending habits with an attention to avoid giving their money to unjust establishments. This can be particularly noted from Westerners who are fiercely boycotting Israeli products. For those pessimists and defeatists who believe that boycotting doesn’t work, I would strongly urge them to look into the London BDS, an organization that is undertaking an outstanding lobbying and boycotting campaign against Israeli produce.

I would also recommend looking into the many Western universities and lecturers who are calling for the boycott of academic ties with Israeli universities.

Another interesting achievement is the recent boycott of Israeli produce from the occupied territories by UK food retailer Co-Operative.

Brothers and sisters, I say this with the respect and humility to all who are reading this piece; if you are not interested in politics and have no desire to be full fledged activists for justice, the least you can do is not spend your money on the misery of others. We live in a modern age where the choices of what we buy are ample and diverse. In most cases, those who buy products that support Israel, do not do so in support of Israel, but because of their lack of knowledge or recklessness. To this we must say, enough is enough.

The time for Israel will soon be at an end. The question we have to ask is; what part did we play in ending the greatest apartheid of the modern age?


Written in May 2012.

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  1. How about boycotting KSA and do a mass boycott of the Hajj or Umra at least? The money that we spend there goes directly or indirectly to arming the fanatics and crazies of IS and other extremist Wahabi/Salafist groups who have openly proclaimed that they want to destroy the shrines in Karbala and Najaf and have been killing and beheading Shi’ites. I do not support what the Israeli government has done in Gaza but compared to IS they seem humane!

  2. Rezvan, you cannot compare the actions and beliefs of IS and the Zionists. They are evils of a different kind, but what they have in common is death of innocents, especially Muslims. Yes, matters of destroying the haram of our Imam’s is of the utmost importance, but matters that concern any corner of the ummah are equally important. We should boycott all of them, thank you for raising this point, but the Palestinian struggle has been going for 50+years. Numbers are not what is important, nor the humanity of it (which the Zionists aren’t), but the fact that they are doing this. People can destroy masjid’s and Islamic centres, but that does not prevent us from worshipping Allah (swt) and seeking closeness to our Ahlulbayt. It is our duty to boycott, so let’s try our best. Supporting the murder or oppression of mumineen is wrong, in whatever context.

  3. I’m rellay into it, thanks for this great stuff!

  4. Guess the Saudis won’t be able to eat those delicious Danish hams aymonre! And, no more Carlsberg or Tuborg!!! (There’s nothing quite like a Ham & Swiss sandwich accompanied by a chilled Danish beer– especially after a long hot day looking for oil in the Saudi desert).On a more serious note: I intend to look over that list, and make a shopping list of things I will personally buy to support free speech– and email a message to people I know.

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