the possibilities of ethical consumption

by tobybee

This is an area of activism that’s highly discussed and debated by those of us on the anti-capitalist left. When combined with the politics of the bds movement, it’s even more fraught.

I’ve engaged with BDS in bits and pieces. I understand it to be a useful tactic, called for by palestinians, and one which everyone seems to be still learning how to best deploy. I know for sure that I don’t know for sure how it can always be best used. But I also know that I want to keep learning, and trying it out, and that I’d rather try and fail than not use it at all. the elements of BDS seem to be a good way of demonstrating solidarity with palestinians, with respecting and supporting resistance.

As part of my work with AJDS I’ve been involved in establishing a new campaign in which we’re encouraging people to stop buying products from israeli settlements. We’re framing it as a “don’t buy from the settlements campaign”, as we recognise that the language of ‘boycott’ can sometimes be alienating and distracting: that people can get bogged down in refusing to ‘boycott’, rather than recognising that part of what is being asked for is that you don’t spend your money on those products. Simply, that you consume ethically and get educated about the effects of the settlements, and the occupation more broadly.

This is what we have to say:

At this time of Pesach—the festival of freedom—we remember that we were slaves in Egypt.

What does it mean to remember this?

It means that we remember what it means to be imprisoned, to not be able to determine our fate.

It means that we remember what it means to be an oppressed and dominated people.

It means that remember that as we were slaves in Egypt, so too others are enslaved and oppressed in many countries around the world, and that we must fight alongside them for their freedom.

We remember that escape was possible, that slavery came to an end.

On this Pesach we ask you to join a long history of Jews who have fought for freedom, for both Jews and for others. To stand alongside others, Jews and non-Jews, who have made ethical choices about how to live their lives in order to make themselves better people, and to make the world a better place.

And so in this tradition of Pesach, as well as in the relatively new tradition of making decisions about what products we purchase based on a set of ethics (as we have done in the past with Nescafe, Shell, and products which are harmful to the environment), this year we commit to not buying products that are produced in settlements the West Bank.


Because settlements are seen as an obstruction to peace, many Jews around the world have committed themselves to not buying from settlements. They, and we, take this nonviolent action in the hope that international Jewish pressure—both economic and political—will come to bear on the Israeli Government. With this pressure, the Government will realise that settlements are no longer viable, that the settlements are an embarrassment and the settlement project must be rethought.

Not buying products from settlements will not work on its own, but it is one small step that we can take. When we add in the possibility of sharing knowledge about what the settlements mean and what they do, together with the capability to have these difficult conversations about what kind of Israel we want to create, we can work alongside Palestinians, Israelis, and people throughout the diasporas to create an exciting, liberating future.

So head over to the facebook page and the website, where you can find some detailed explanations as to why the settlements are harmful, information about what products to avoid, and maps that lay out where everything is.