Boycotting Israel? There’s an App for That
A Jewish MIT graduate student involved with the International Solidarity Movement has developed software to help anti-Israel activists know what not to buy.
May 7, 2010 - 12:00 am
Josh Levinger, a member of the taxpayer-supported MIT Media Lab, originally began the “Boycott Toolkit” as his Ph.D. thesis. He later expanded his work to create “Virtual Gaza,” a way for anti-Israel activists to promote the idea that Hamas-run Gaza is suffering under an Israeli “siege.”
In June 2009, Levinger attended a computer conference in Amman, Jordan, with various Arab groups. Afterwards, he spent three weeks interviewing with assorted Israeli and Arab radical leftist groups, including Birthright Unplugged and the EU-funded B’tselem. These ISM-affiliated organizations invite Jewish students to tour the West Bank and Gaza, convincing them that Israel persecutes the Palestinian population and expropriates their land. The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is influenced by PLO and Hamas factions, and its leadership has admitted working with other terrorist groups as well, such as the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Islamic Jihad.
According to Levinger, he spent the entire month of July 2009 in the Holy Land “thinking about ways to expose/oppose the Occupation.” While there, he participated in a riot in the West Bank village of Ni’ilin.
Levinger wrote on the Virtual Gaza website:
Israel has been gradually tightening its stranglehold on the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, sealing its border and cutting off adequate food, fuel, and medical supplies, bringing the economy and infrastructure to the point of collapse.
Israel maintains (and provides evidence) that this viewpoint is propaganda and that the the opposite is true.
In October of 2009, Levinger attended the J Street conference in the United States. (J Street promotes itself as a pro-Israel alternative to AIPAC, but receives partial funding from Saudi Arabia and Iranian interests.) And this past April, Levinger lectured to students for the Palestine@MIT club during MIT’s Palestine Awareness Week, an event advertised on the United for Peace and Justice (UPJ) website. The UPJ is the renamed Communist Party, USA.
According to a press announcement:
[The Boycott Toolkit] is a resource where users can generate lists of specific products and companies targeted for boycotts. Right now, the site lists a raft of wines, food products, and cosmetics made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights. The site also lists the locations of stores that sell each product.
The official Arab League boycott that began in 1950 is illegal per U.S. law, though this is not enforced.
The Boycott Toolkit site also calls for a boycott of Arizona over that state’s new immigration law, and a boycott of companies that “advertise on air during Glenn Beck’s right wing Fox News talk show.”
Levinger says of his product:
[It is] a platform for consumers to share information on the politics embedded in the products that they then buy. Users can learn why specific products are targeted by a boycott, add their own research and share information with their friends.
[The Boycott Toolkit] provides tools to organize collective economic action, both negative and positive, to make a difference in their community.
The announcement of Levinger’s internet tool was greeted with much enthusiasm by groups like Al Awda — the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, which just held its 8th International Organizing Conference at the Anaheim, CA, Hilton last weekend. One of the guest speakers was a Palestinian previously jailed by Israel for terrorism activities. The group, which calls for Israel to be dismantled from the river to the sea, has been enthusiastically emailing its members and affiliates regarding Levinger’s application.