Boycott technology companies investing in Israel

by Zeeshan Hasan

In the past few days, horrific images of dozens of Palestinian infants and children killed by Israel's bombing of the densely populated areas of Gaza have been burned into the brains of Facebook users. Horror at such images is usually accompanied by a feeling of powerlessness; what can we in Bangladesh do about this? In fact, there is a course of action open to us. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel (www.bdsmovement.net) gives people everywhere in the world an opportunity to make their disapproval of Israeli policies of illegal occupation and violence felt with their wallets. The goal of boycotting Israel is to punish the Israeli government commercially for its actions, in much the same way such tactics were successfully applied to apartheid-era South Africa.

It may seem that boycotting of Israel is easily done by checking country of origin of goods, and avoiding anything labeled as an Israeli product. However, this procedure does not work in the case of information technology (IT) products. Although a particular IT product may be sold by a US or European brand, it is still possible for components of the hardware or software to have originated in Israel. Practically all US/European IT companies have invested in Israel, which established a huge IT industry long before Indian outsourcing became common. Looking at the 'success stories' highlighted on the Israeli government's 'Invest In Israel' website (www.InvestInIsrael.gov.il) and other Israeli news sources is thus illuminating.

Microsoft is the world's most ubiquitous software company. There are 600 Microsoft employees in Israel. Windows NT, which formed the base of all modern Microsoft operating systems from 2000 onwards, was developed in Israel. New features of Windows such as the Microsoft anti-virus tool were also developed in Israel.

After Microsoft, Apple is the most famous IT brand in the world. In 2012, Apple bought Israeli memory chip manufacturer Anobit for $400 million (http://www.wisemoneyisrael.com/2012/01/16/apple-buys-first-israeli-tech-company/). In 2013, Apple invested $350 million in PrimeSense, an Israeli gesture recognition company (http://www.globes.co.il/en/article-1000896203). In the same year, Apple also paid $40 million for Cue, an Israeli iPhone app company (http://www.timesofisrael.com/apple-pays-40-m-for-israeli-21-year-olds-app/). Thus it will be impossible to use Apple products like iPhones and iPads without using and supporting products made by these companies, which are now Apple subsidiaries. In just the last 2 years, Apple has thus supported Israel with $790 million of investment.

With regard to hardware, Intel has 8000 employees in Israel, and HP has 5700. They are significant in that they have both established manufacturing plants in Kiryat Gat, an Israeli town settled on the site of a Palestinian village which was depopulated of Arabs in 1948. HP and Intel could potentially send chips manufactured in their Israeli operations all over the world, so Intel or HP hardware assembled in any country could contain components manufactured at these Israeli plants.

In the area of business software, Israel also plays a prominent role. SAP is the world's biggest business software provider, and has 800 employees in Israel. Its main product for small and medium enterprises, SAP Business One, was originally developed by an Israeli company called Top Manage which SAP bought. Oracle, the world's biggest database company, has 400 employees in Israel. Oracle invested in several Israeli companies to the tune of $41 million in 2006, purchased a business intelligence company called HyperRoll in 2009 for an estimated $42 million, and continued to invest $85 million in 2010.

From the above, it is apparent that large US and European IT companies are so heavily invested in Israel that it is difficult to purchase anything from those big brands which does not benefit Israel indirectly. Asian hardware companies like Asus, Acer, Toshiba and Lenovo seem less likely to invest in Israel; presumably as they have operations in Asia which are cheaper. The simple way to avoid Intel chips is to purchase AMD hardware, which is comparable in price and performance.


The only way to avoid buying from software giants like Microsoft, Oracle and SAP is to switch to free and open source software. The free and open-source Linux operating system is very similar to MS Windows, and includes LibreOffice software which is a near perfect clone of MS Office. Kazi Farms' companies have migrated 650 PCs to Linux and LibreOffice. Since 2009 we have purchased only PCs and laptops made by Asian hardware brands and containing AMD chips. We also use an open-source ERP software running on an open-source database for all purchases, inventories, manufacturing, sales and accounts across multiple locations and companies, rather than buying similar software from SAP or Oracle. The use of free and open-source software across the company has the added benefit of saving Kazi Farms literally millions of dollars in software licensing fees.

Other companies and organizations can adopt similar IT purchasing guidelines to effectively boycott Israel, support Palestinian human rights and simultaneously achieve significant savings.

(A shorter version of this was printed at http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2014/jul/19/boycott-it-companies-which-invest-israel)

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