Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.


"Like Delano grapes, the prominence of Israeli dates has fortunately diminished through boycott efforts, but it is up to us consumers to continue to diminish it," the author writes. (Photo: just_a_cheeseburger/CC BY 2.0)

Oppression in the Form of Israeli Dates

It is imperative that we follow in the footsteps of the revolutionaries’ tea boycott, the historic Delano Grape Boycott, and boycott the Israeli date industry, too.

Sanaa Khalil

Oppression often comes in the most deceivingly innocuous forms; sometimes bite-sized and seemingly fruitful. The commodities they come in sugar-coat the not-so bite-sized exploitation they represent.

In the 1770’s, tyranny came in the form of British tea. In the 1960’s, exploited labor bore Delano grapes. Both goods were boycotted en masse — and reflexively, both bore witness to their respective boycotts contributing greatly to the dismantlement of their oppression.

Today, labor abuse, exploitation of natural resources, and theft of Palestinian land comes in the form of Israeli dates. It is imperative that we follow in the footsteps of the revolutionaries’ tea boycott, the historic Delano Grape Boycott, and boycott the Israeli date industry, too.

According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Israeli date industry exported 321,980 tonnes of dates to the US in 2017 alone, generating $181.2 million in export value. Israel thus becomes the second highest source of date exports to the US since 2015.

Such lucrative brands include Jordan River, Delilah, and King Solomon. Israeli date brands other than these can be identified by checking the label for three main producers: Hadiklaim, Carmel Agrexco, and Mehadrin.

As consumers, we cannot be financially complicit in the exploitation this industry represents. 60% of Israeli dates are grown on illegal settlements—Israel’s enclaves which are established on internationally recognized Palestinian territory. Although all fifteen judges on the International Court of Justice unanimously ruled the construction of these settlements to be illegal back in 2004, Israel continues to establish them relentlessly, often clearing Palestinian farmland for their creation and displacing many. Olive groves are torched; families are evicted; homes are demolished—in two weeks, Israel will displace 500 Jerusalemites for the construction of yet another settlement in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The precariousness of Israeli settlement expansion is thus evermore timely; although the Sheikh Jarrah settlement won’t see a date farm’s creation, the date industry’s profitability financially enables settlements like these to be built.

Yet whether a date farm is amongst the 60% or the remaining 40%, this industry is notorious for its exploitation of Palestinian labor. With a Palestinian economy crippled by the Israeli occupation, Palestinian workers are often have no choice but to work on Israeli date farms to support their families. Israel conveniently throws the gruelling labor of date farming on economically desperate Palestinian employees—all while providing no health benefits and measly pay. Employees are subject to scorching temperatures. They are often forced to climb to dangerous heights with risk of severe falls. Their wages are often below minimum wage and lower than their Israeli counterparts.

Like Delano grapes, the prominence of Israeli dates has fortunately diminished through boycott efforts, but it is up to us consumers to continue to diminish it. Since 2012, the grassroots-based education and advocacy organization American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) has led the national boycott effort against Israeli dates, in response to Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel. This nonviolent movement follows the traditions of various American boycotts, seeking to use financial pressure to counteract human rights abuses.

Locally, AMP-MN has located over 30 Halal small-businesses in the Twin Cities area that sell date alternatives, as well as co-op stores such as EastSide Food Co-op. From varieties such as Al-Baraka, to Ajwa, to Khodary, to the authentically Palestinian Ziyad Brothers, alternatives are vast and accessible.

This boycott has seen enormous success. Israeli date imports have dropped 2.5 million pounds for the market year 2019/2020 in comparison to 6.9 million pounds the year before. Furthermore, Israel has seen the largest decrease in date exports to the United States by any country since 2015.

Dates are widely revered for their benefits. Health experts highlight their miracle-working nutritional richness which fights disease. For Muslims observing the current month of Ramadan, a month characterized by tranquility and self-improvement, breaking fasts with dates is a religious tradition. But our date consumption undermines both health and personal peace if it comes from an industry that taxes Palestinian health, and upholds theft of their land and livelihood.

As Americans, boycotting this oppressive industry is a moral imperative. Boycott Israeli dates today.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Sanaa Khalil

Sanaa Khalil

Sanaa Khalil is a Palestinian-American writer and activist. She currently serves on the board of the American Muslims for Palestine Minnesota Chapter, a grassroots based advocacy organization that is dedicated to educating and advocating for Palestinian human rights.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'Morally Bankrupt' G7 Slammed for 'Caving' to Fossil Fuel Lobby on Climate

"People in poverty around the world will pay the highest price for this backtrack by some of the wealthiest countries," one activist warned of the group's new statement on gas investments.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Yeah, And?': Ocasio-Cortez Embraces GOP Freakout Over Helping Women Skirt Abortion Bans

"Republicans are mad because I am sharing this information," said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. "Too bad!"

Julia Conley ·

WATCH LIVE: Top Meadows Aide Cassidy Hutchinson Testifies at Surprise Jan. 6 Hearing

Hutchinson, who has spent more than 20 hours in deposition with the House panel, is expected to provide more damning evidence of the role that Meadows played in Trump's coup attempt.

Kenny Stancil ·

Oxfam Condemns G7 for Leaving 'Millions to Starve' as Global Hunger Surges

"Faced with the worst hunger crisis in a generation, the G7 have simply failed to take the action that is needed," said Max Lawson of Oxfam International.

Jake Johnson ·

'Horrific': 50 Migrants Found Dead in Abandoned Trailer Truck in Texas

"We need to end Title 42 and fix our broken immigration system so these unimaginable tragedies stop happening," said Rep. Chuy García. "People fleeing violence and poverty deserve a chance at a better life."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo