Boycott of Israeli goods grows across Türkiye amid attacks on Gaza

Boycott of Israeli goods grows across Türkiye amid attacks on Gaza

Amid protests targeting Israel for its massacres in Palestine, Turks are increasingly turning to boycotts, with several public institutions joining the ban on the sale of goods of Israeli origin

Public agencies, municipalities and universities in dozens of provinces across Türkiye announced last week and this week a boycott of goods of Israeli origin, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Daily Sabah.

Companies run by municipalities, universities and facilities run by local branches of the government issued statements saying they would not sell the goods in the canteens and other venues.

Over the past few weeks, several media outlets have been publishing a list of goods produced by companies openly supporting Israel in its atrocities against Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Several nongovernmental organizations have been calling for a boycott since the latest round of the Palestine-Israel conflict broke out in October. Social media users fervently advocate boycotts with lists of products, including everything from Coca-Cola to products of multinational conglomerate Unilever.

The Turkish public has been vocal in its protest of Israel as the Gazan population has been suffering under a blockade and constant bombardment. Protests escalated after Israel started targeting hospitals. Thousands have poured into the streets in October, staging rallies outside Israeli diplomatic missions in Türkiye.

The boycott call gained momentum in the past two weeks. At a meeting with representatives of nongovernmental organizations in October, professor Ali Erbaş, head of the Presidency of Religious Affairs (DIB), called for “a decisive, constant boycott” of companies “supporting Zionism.” At the same meeting, Bilal Erdoğan, chairperson of the board of trustees of Ilim Yayma Vakfı (the Foundation for the Expansion of Knowledge), called upon fellow organizations to join the boycott.

“We represent an important market (for Israeli products). Türkiye has sufficient local brands and does not solely rely on brands supporting Israel. We have to exert efforts to make the boycott widespread,” he said.

Osman Nuri Kabaktepe, head of the Istanbul branch of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), has urged all institutions, civilian or public, to declare a boycott against Israeli products “until the establishment of a fully independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” in a social media post on Sunday. AK Party-run municipalities announced boycotts in their public facilities successively over the past week.

In October, the youth branch of the AK Party simultaneously launched a 30-minute sit-in strike at branches of the coffee chain Starbucks across Türkiye for a campaign entitled “Say Stop.” The party members donning scarves with colors of the Palestinian flag quietly sat at Starbucks stores in protest of what they called the American coffee chain’s support for Israel.

The boycott of Israeli products and products of Western companies endorsing Israel swept the Middle Eastern countries after the attacks on Gaza. Across the region, Arabs angered by the Israeli attacks have turned against brands associated with Israel’s allies, notably the United States. The boycott has been accompanied by calls for Arab states to cut ties with Israel, while pro-Palestinian rallies have taken place weekly in major capitals. Led by tech-savvy youth, the boycott campaign includes browser extensions, dedicated websites and smartphone apps that identify proscribed products. One Google Chrome extension, PalestinePact, blurs items advertised online if they are included in the list.

More traditional methods are also in use. Beside a four-lane highway in Kuwait City, giant billboards show images of blood-stained children in bandages. “Did you kill a Palestinian today?” the grim slogan asks, jabbing at consumers who are still using the targeted goods.

McDonald’s has found itself a prime target. Last month, the U.S. fast food chain’s Israel franchise announced it had given thousands of free meals to the Israeli army, sparking uproar in the region. McDonald’s Kuwait, a separate entity, responded by pledging more than $160,000 to relief efforts in Gaza and said it “stands with Palestine” in a statement on social media. McDonald’s Qatar also pledged $275,000 to relief efforts in Gaza and stressed in a statement last month that it was separate from the Israeli branches.

Türkiye champions the Palestinian cause for independence and advocates a two-state solution to the conflict. After the Israeli attacks, it has been more critical of Israel and plans to take the Israeli leaders to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who led a solidarity rally with Palestinians in October, announced an informal freeze in relations with Israel, scrapping plans to visit Israel. Later, Türkiye recalled its ambassador to Israel, just as Israel did, by withdrawing its diplomats, citing security reasons.

Israel and Türkiye had only just agreed to reappoint ambassadors last year. They were also resuming discussions on a U.S.-backed natural gas pipeline project that could have formed the basis for much closer and more lasting cooperation in the coming years.

Türkiye exerts efforts for mediation in the conflict but opposes the international community’s biased approach, siding with Israel solely while ignoring the tragedy of Palestinians in the Gaza enclave besieged by Tel Aviv. Before the latest conflict erupted, Türkiye was taking strides to restore ties frayed by Israel’s stance against Palestinians, particularly on Gaza and illegal settlements.