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Hijabi Hot Takes: Take boycotting seriously


A common sentiment surrounding the current political and social climate of the U.S. is that individuals cannot impact change. Many Americans may think there is nothing an individual can do that could change anybody’s mind about a war going on across the world. Not only is this wrong, but it is also a dangerous sentiment to have in a country that is supposedly all about individual freedom. 

If Americans live in a free country, why are social and political movements bulldozed by the pessimists who believe individuals hold no power over the governments and corporations around them?

The U.S. has historically played a part in several wars and foreign affairs that some Americans do not agree with. The Vietnam War was met with heavy criticism from Americans and some also did not agree with the war on Iraq. Though oppositions and protests at the time were less likely, many Americans currently look back on the U.S.’ war on Iraq in hindsight and condemn the administration that convinced Americans it was necessary. 

The point is that Americans should not turn a blind eye to the U.S.’ foreign affairs and spending. Americans should not need 20 years to look back at a war and recognize it may have been wrong. Americans need to take ownership of what the government is currently doing with their tax dollars and recognize that if they do not like it, they should be doing something about it.

There is a privilege in being misinformed and uneducated about foreign affairs. The wars the U.S. has played a part in fighting and/or funding are not just politics. The victims of those wars do not get to say “I don’t understand politics” or “I try to stay out of politics.” There are real, human lives at stake with every decision the U.S. makes.

Currently, the Israel-Hamas War is making headlines due to the U.S.’ involvement in funding and supporting the oppressors. Americans now more than ever need to tune in and seek education about the history of Israel and Palestine. There are lives at stake and Americans should not feel comfortable with letting politicians and corporations use their money to decide where they stand on this conflict. 

If one is looking to support the Palestinian movement, or any other movement in the U.S., there are many things that can be done on an individual level. Bothering representatives by calling their offices everyday, protesting outside of government buildings, reposting and amplifying the voices that are leading the movements you believe in and so much more. 

One individual strategy often left out or simply not done right is boycotting. Boycotting is defined as “engaging in a concerted refusal to have dealings with (a person, a store, an organization, etc.) usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions.” Boycotting has been an integral part of every social and political movement throughout history. 

When it is done correctly, boycotting hits an oppressive government/business/entity right where it hurts – their pockets. 

Arguably one of the most well-known boycotts in American history was the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, which was sparked by Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a public bus to a white passenger. As a result, black residents refused to ride city buses for 13 months, which sparked national attention and helped put the civil rights movement further into the spotlight. In 1956, segregation on public buses was outlawed by the Supreme Court.

Another well-known and successful boycott was the The United Farm Workers’ Delano Grape Strike. In 1965, Filipino farm workers organized a strike against grape growers in Delano, California in order to protest poor working conditions and unfair pay. The strike led to the collaboration of Latino and Filipino farm workers who worked together over the next decade to continue the strike and fight for farm worker rights, especially their right to unionize. The workers’ strike and call on consumers to boycott grape growers was a success by 1970, when many grape growers who saw a decrease in profits and negative press gave in and met worker demands.

Boycotting is a protesting tactic that is gaining more traction recently due to activists in Palestine, like Bisan Owda, urging the West to use their freedoms to both specifically boycott businesses that support the Palestinian genocide as well as lessen their spending to impact the economy and raise awareness for Palestine.

Owda, a Palestinian activist, journalist and filmmaker took to Instagram to document daily life living in Gaza, where she amassed 4.2 million followers. Bisan is using her Instagram account, @wizard_bisan1, to document the atrocities Palestinians are experiencing in Gaza at this time. Her content has been instrumental to the education of the West on this genocide.

Americans looking to do more as individuals against the genocide of Palestinians should closely follow guidelines set by the BDS movement. The BDS movement, which is Palestinian-led, stands for The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement which, “works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.” The BDS movement provides a comprehensive list of businesses that are complicit in Israel’s genocide of Palestinians. Anybody who stands with the Palestinian movement should be boycotting those businesses and spreading awareness of the boycotts. 

It is important to note that BDS has a specific list of businesses on their boycott list in order to create a targeted consumer boycott that yields the most impact. Consumers focusing on a small number of businesses and products to boycott produces more impactful pressure on other consumers to join in the boycott as well as the businesses to reflect on their complicity in the genocide. When one company’s profit losses make headlines, more people are bound to notice and join, rather than several companies with minimal losses here and there with no media attention. 

For example, McDonald’s, which is on BDS’ list of targeted boycotts, has reported taking a financial hit due to the boycotts. McDonald’s Malaysia is even suing the BDS movement for damages as they have allegedly lost over $1 million due to the boycott.

The BDS movement also names Puma on their targeted boycott list due to their sponsorship of the Israel Football Association. They have been on the boycott list since 2018. Recently, it was reported that due to the pressure of the BDS movement, Puma will not be renewing their contract with the IFA. Not only are the boycotts impacting profits and calling attention to complicit corporations, they are also pushing corporations to take action and give in to BDS demands.

Unsurprisingly, the US has a history of banning boycotts, specifically boycotts led by the BDS movement. Currently, 37 states have adopted executive orders, laws and/or resolutions that prohibit or discourage boycotts against Israel, including North Carolina. North Carolina’s anti-BDS legislation was signed into law on July 31, 2017 by Governor Roy Cooper. The law prohibits state agencies from contracting with companies that participate in BDS campaigns against Israel. Anti-BDS laws and legislation are making a comeback due to recent events, but more people are paying attention to them now and questioning why. There is a reason the government is trying so hard to minimize boycotting efforts by the BDS movement: it is working. 

In an extremely capitalist country, a person’s dollar matters more than ever. Every person has the power to pick and choose where to spend their dollar. Acting like a specific pair of shoes or a large fry is more important than taking a stand against genocide is inhumane and deeply concerning for the future of humanity. Take boycotting seriously; it is the least an American can do.


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About the Contributor
Nadine Jallal, Opinion Writer
Nadine Jallal (she/her) is a senior secondary english education major.
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    Gary SkolnikFeb 8, 2024 at 9:20 am

    BDS is an antisemitic movement that aims to silence any opinion favoring Israeli existence at all as a nation. Let’s not portray them as social justice. You can be critical of the Israeli government decisions on many topics, peace process amongst them. Many Israelis are critical of their government and calling for a change, but if you denounce Israel as a sovereign nation and completely ignore the atrocities committed by Palestinians against Jews you are just spreading antisemitic propaganda.