Volume 52
Issue 1
Fall '20

Human Rights, Normative Pressure and Corporate Social Responsibility in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Written By: Ofer Sitbon


In recent years, and in light of the faltering Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, there are growing pressures for a boycott of the State of Israel and of its settlements in the West Bank. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, initiated in 2005, is the most vocal voice in this context. This Article focuses on the economic aspects of the boycott and argues that the common understanding of it as a “classic anti-Semitism in modern garb” (in the words of Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu) is partial and therefore lacking. It is true that anti-Israeli and even anti-Semitic biases underlie some aspects of the calls for an economic boycott of Israel and its settlements. However, this Article argues that the emergence of a global discourse of corporate responsibility since the 1990s, which serves as a normative and practical platform for diverse forms of political-consumerist activism, “normative pressure” and “shaming” plays an inherent part in the boycott’s development and, therefore, needs to be examined closely in order to better assess its roots and aims. The article demonstrates that although the economic boycott practices tend to be perceived in Israel as a unique phenomenon, the practices and modes of economic activism used by the various players in the Israeli-Palestinian arena are not different from other cases of shaming, pressuring, and economically sanctioning business corporations for direct or indirect infringement of human rights, practices which have become increasingly prevalent in recent decades.

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