Economic Boycotts Debated as Part of Debate Series
I’lam hosted a debate on 13th August in a hotel in Nazareth in which the topic of economic boycotts was debated. The winners were decided by a public vote and although the pro-boycott team won, the difference in the number of votes was not significant.
In presenting their argument, the pro-boycott team defined the boycott, its objectives and its importance in helping to put pressure on the government to change policies that lead to poverty amongst Arabs. The team stated that the average Arab family spends 12,000 NIS per month and as there are roughly 310,000 Arab families in Israel, this adds up to a consumption of 4 billion NIS monthly or roughly 50 billion NIS annually. The team also stated that the government recognizes that they cannot increase Israeli GDP (currently 30,000 USD per capita) without further development of the Arab economy. The team stressed that this boycott is not a boycott of Israel but rather a boycott of large Israeli companies, especially those who support the occupation, and that it is not a reactionary measure but rather a political project; they did not call for civil disobedience but believed that putting pressure on large companies would influence the government to change their policies and work to achieve equality and support the local Arab economy, as this tactic has worked before in other states. The team also spoke about the legal aspect to the boycott, explaining the difference between the political and global boycott and the boycott advocated by right-wing activists and the Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermann.
The opposition spoke about the social and economic causes that would prevent the possibility of the boycott having a successful outcome: they stated there were four reasons such as the political situation, the technological developments and creation of the global economy, the efficacy of the boycott and the state of the economy. In reply to the pro-boycott team, the opposition mentioned several projects that disputed their arguments such as the integration of Arabs in government schemes and major state companies, the growing number of Arab economic experts, the development of projects to bridge the economic gap between Arabs and Jews at the request of the OECD, the development of trade cooperation between Arab and Jewish local authorities, partnerships in Arab-Jewish businesses and the establishment of community associations for the integration of workers in the Israeli labour market. The team also stated that the development of the local Arab economy must come from merging with the Israeli economy and not as a result of boycott. They also stated that the government must work to improve Arab pensions which only amount to 60% of the average Israeli pension.
It should be noted that the debate stressed the importance of debating this subject, especially in light of the suffering of those living in the Gaza Strip due to unjust aggression which resulted in thousands of fatalities, causing a demand for this boycott in order to show solidarity with those in Gaza.