The enormous power of sporting boycotts must be used against Israel’s industrial-scale killing of Palestinians


Older readers will know about the international solidarity campaign against apartheid South Africa which came to a head in the 1970s and 1980s.

The campaign was led by the liberation movements, the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress, which asked for international boycotts of white South Africa in all areas: diplomatic, trade, economic, cultural, sporting, academic etc It was seen as the best way to support the liberation struggle from outside South Africa.

The idea was to build intense pressure on South Africa’s white regime to make it impossible for them to continue their racist policies.

India was one of the first countries outside Africa to act in support of international sanctions as Indian South Africans faced discrimination under apartheid policies which divided the country into four groups based on race – Whites, Blacks, Coloureds and Asians (mainly Indians) – and legalised discrimination against people depending on their racial classification.

The campaign gathered steam slowly at first but eventually came to dominate South Africa’s dealings with the rest of the world. Predictably, western countries were much slower to act against South Africa’s apartheid policies.

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White South Africans knew the world was complaining about their policies but this was just a vague, irritating noise in the background. The sports boycott changed that.

Sport is often central to a country’s national pride because of its powerful ties to national identity and cultural distinctiveness. It was therefore the sports boycott of South Africa which brought the greatest pressure from outside the country to end apartheid. It was sport which became a weathervane in the anti-apartheid struggle.

Sport touches everyone.

When Papwa Sewgolum was forced to stand in the rain outside the whites-only clubhouse to receive the winner’s trophy after the 1965 Natal Open golf tournament, millions of people around the world saw the ugly reality of life under apartheid.

Similarly when Nelson Mandela, in his prison cell on Robben Island where he had been for 16 years, heard the 1981 rugby game between Waikato and the Springboks had been called off because anti-apartheid protestors had invaded the pitch, he said the prisoners were jubilant. They grabbed the bars of their cell doors and rattled them around the prison. Mandela said it was like the sun had come out.

The positive power of sport, and sports boycotts, has been demonstrated time and again in international sport.

Like apartheid South Africa, Israel uses its participation in international sport as a tool for normalizing its systematic discrimination against Palestinians. In response Palestinians are making the same calls for boycotts as black South African’s did, urging us to isolate Israel and hold it accountable for breaches of international law and crimes against humanity.

The indiscriminate killing being conducted in Gaza, described by many as the first live-streamed genocide, is just the latest example of industrial-scale slaughter of Palestinians by Israel’s leaders. In January this year Israel killed the Palestinian Olympic football coach, Hani Al Masdar, and destroyed the office of the Palestinian Olympic Committee in Gaza.

Sport cannot be separated from other aspects of life under apartheid. As the non-racial South African Council on Sport (SACOS) used to say “you cannot have normal sport in an abnormal society”. This is just as true today in Israel as it was for South Africa.

So just as the progressive world supported the call for a sporting boycott to isolate apartheid South Africa, we must respond to Palestinian calls for Israel to be suspended from international sports organisations and international sporting events until it ends its grave violations of international law – particularly its apartheid rule and the crime of genocide it is perpetrating in Gaza.

The campaign for Israel to be suspended from next month’s 2024 Paris Olympics is gathering momentum. Israel must be suspended in the same way Russia and Belarus have been because of their involvement in the invasion of Ukraine.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus cannot complete under their countries’ flags which are banned from the games. They can compete only as “Individual Neutral Athletes”. Any Russian or Belarusian athletes who “actively support the war” cannot compete and any of their athletes “who are contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies cannot compete” Similarly, “support personnel who are contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies cannot be entered (in the Olympics)”

So far the International Olympic Committee Executive Board has tried to avoid the issue and a glance at its makeup is not encouraging.

The board is hardly a model of democratic representation. The board chair is from Germany with three of the four deputy chairs also European. In fact ten of the 15 board positions are held by Europeans despite Europeans making up just 9.32% of the world’s population! The only person from Africa on the Board is a European from Zimbabwe and the only person from Asia is based in Singapore.

Will this board hold Israel to account as it is holding Russia and Belarus to account? Or will the board provide protection for Apartheid Israel on behalf of western interests and resist calls for Israel’s suspension?

Politics and sport have always been mixed and always will be.

Western countries must end Israel’s impunity for anything it does. We must hold Israel accountable for its words and actions as we do for other countries.

For the New Zealand government this means it must move from hypocrisy to demanding accountability for Israel.

And the Israeli flag must not fly in Paris.

John Minto

National Chair

Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa


  1. Boycots wont happen because people dont give a fuck .If they did the war would have been over a week after it started .Sadly the world is being taken over by the extreme right who care about nobody but them selves .All down hill from here 2050 will be the turning point when the chickens will be coming home too roost .

  2. The boat has sailed on this one. Israel, I mean the West, or is it both of them, yeah its both of em, have won this race.

  3. I don’t know that sporting boycotts would be so effective in the Gaza case. It is a mistake to fully equate Zionism with apartheid. The apartheid regime in South Africa wanted to exploit black labour in perpetuity. Israel wants to eliminate Arabs from Israel and the occupied territories. South African whites were peculiarly susceptible to sporting boycotts. Israelis are not. By the time that sporting boycotts were applied to South Africa the western states had already decided that the apartheid regime had to go. Today, they are still committed to maintaining Zionist supremacy in Palestine at any cost.
    Therefore sporting boycotts are unlikely to have the desired effect against Israel.
    The unpalatable truth is that the Gaza conflict will only be resolved by the use of violence, entailing great human suffering before it ends. Ultimately, by the logic of history, Israel and the west will be confounded, although it may be that the power of the west has to collapse before Israel itself confronts a final military defeat. As people living under the rule of the collective west, our main focus should be on bringing down the colonialist regime rather than making ineffectual protests against the State of Israel.

  4. 100% a sports ban.
    Why bourgeois democracy is a dictatorship of the rich

    We’re told we live in a democracy, but whether we vote for Starmer or Sunak, we’re going to get pretty much the same thing. What’s democratic about that?

    We’re told we have rights like freedom of speech and a free press, but the government is banning protests and the newspapers are all owned by billionaires. What’s the point of these “rights” if they don’t actually mean anything?

    The fact is that the world is run by and for the rich. They decide everything and the rest of us don’t get a say. That isn’t democracy, that’s a dictatorship.

    In this episode of Marxist Voice, Ben Gliniecki proves that what we live in today isn’t a real democracy. Instead, he will give a vision of what a real, socialist, democracy would look like, along with how communists can best fight for it.

  5. I’m skeptical that there will be much impact. The only ‘sport’ zionists enjoy is raping children. But yes, they should be driven out of all human fields.

    • MK Can you resist making everything worse by presenting vile happenings in a seemingly triumphant way. Like this is what they do the b…ds. You doing so makes you become similar. But if determined to refer to it you put up source material that we can check for facts and numbers of occurrence. It is very bad of someone to just lightly chuck into the discussion such ghastly reports. Bringing them out like that and unsourced is sensationalising and insulting to the victims and just led to trivialising them matteras seen in the above comments.

      • i agree with Minto and.agree with you We can have oipnions but comments like MKs must be backed up with evidence. Otherwise things are just trumpian incoherence.

  6. All fair minded people, a vast majority, know that Israel is fighting a just war against a terrorist enemy (designated as such by our gov’t) that has sworn to repeat the atrocities of 7/10 again and again and must be eradicated. BDS is a total failure. Even while fighting a war Israel has made billions in startup earnings.

    • Israel’s war on agriculture

      More evidence of Israel’s intention to commit genocide in Gaza.

      When you want to kill millions of people starvation is the way to go
      Afterall guns and bombs can only achieve so much, and they are expensive.

      Much easier and cost effective is to with hold food and destroy farms.

      How Israel destroyed Gaza’s ability to feed itself

      nine months into Israel’s war on Gaza, abundant harvests have given way to devastation ….

      Israeli bulldozers and heavy machinery have systematically razed fields, reducing them to dirt…..

      Before and after satellite images show vehicle tracks over the once-fertile regions of Beit Lahiya…..

      South of Gaza City is Zeitoun, a neighbourhood named after the Arabic word for olive. Before and after satellite images show southern Zeitoun where nearly every last bit of greenery has been wiped out…..

      Deir el-Balah
      Its very name meaning “House of Dates”, the central governorate of Deir el-Balah is one of Gaza’s largest agricultural producers, known for its oranges, olives and – of course – dates.
      The date harvest typically begins in late September and continues through the end of October.
      The satellite images below show the widespread destruction of farms, roads and homes in eastern Maghazi in the centre of Deir el-Balah…..

      Khan Younis
      Khan Younis in the south used to produce the bulk of Gaza’s citrus, including oranges and grapefruits.
      With its fertile soil and long hours of Mediterranean sunshine, it has the ideal climate as well as lots of space, being Gaza’s largest governorate – about 30 percent of the Strip’s 365sq km (141 sq miles).
      The satellite images below show how Israeli forces have decimated Khan Younis’s orchards and farmlands….

      Before and after satellite imagery shows how Israeli forces have flattened vital fields in eastern Rafah….

    • “A just war against a terrorist enemy”. How about spending more time targeting the actual terrorists then. I guess when you continue to steal land and decimate civilians there’s no hurry, is there.

    • lol, cry more zionist. Every human being knows the heroes of Palestine committed no ‘atrocities’ in their heroic breakout from the concentration camp you beasts tried to keep them in.

  7. I do not believe the person in the street in Israel is as mad as the South Africans were about sport especially in the cricket and rugby arena.
    A boycott would not achieve much except a self righteous glow .

    • It’s true that they don’t have normal moral and other human feelings, as one could say of even the most extreme Afrikaaner racist. But it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be cut off from all fields of human endeavour, in revenge for their crimes against all humanity.

  8. John thinks sport has (insert massive assumption here) eeenoooourmoouusss!!!!! power these days. It hasn’t anymore. Survival, jobs, interest rates, food prices, mortgage pressures, education standards and making the country productive…and mayyyybe this weekend’s ABs game….that’s what people care about. Nobody cares for an olympic sporting boycott. So what. It’s not like we’d be raking in mountains of medals anyway. Not this time. Sorry, you’ve missed the mark.

    • You seem negative Jon… It’s not helping NZ/AO come up with something lively to push against the downside of everything. New zeal for good is what we need obviously as otherwise we will sink under the present unfeeling, callous behaviours or be washed into the sea which seems our present path.

      • Yes understand GW. But I am sick of this constant palestine palestine palestine bleating! I can assure you that I am not the only one. We have enough problems here that need to be sorted, like digging our way out of the 3rd world hole we are in thanks to the same screamers who nay-say every initiative that might earn us more money. We are being washed into the sea of poverty. I wish the palestine screamers like Swarbrick would go over there and fight for their favourite cause of the day, and maybe even do live reports from the coal face. But hey, it’s too dangerous.

        • Cry more. Back in reality, we human beings realize that most problems have a common cause, and removing the zionist entity will improve the entire world.

  9. how many tanks have sport boycots stopped,
    that’s right none
    just another chance for nz vainglorious virtue signalling

    • Oh dear cynicism set in concrete. Personal rant – must keep believing that the Holocaust memorials represent sorrow and higher understanding re human traits and desolation at the reveal of the depths of controlled. disciplined barbarity we can sink to after centuries of supposed civilisation. Repeat constantly. Oh dear again; there is a problem – tl:dr. (Notice re word formation – read and dear are same turned. Perhaps quiet read and think bring change?)

      • moscow boycott 1980 re-afganistan greywarbler

        we just talk our own egos up they achive nothing, nil, nichts, nowt, rein, nichivo

        by definition rogue regimes don’t give a flying one what we do or think

  10. 9 months on I still want to declare war on the successors to the Nazi Holocaust. But I’ve learnt the survivors of that have a free pass to commit genocide themselves. Who knew? My whole moral position post WW ll had that out? Well, fuck me for being so ignorant.

    • Moral positions are subservient to power politics in which those with power turn a blind eye. The trick is to turn everyone else’s eyes onto the blind eye.
      1981 is instructive in this respect, we were filmed protesting, getting beaten up but standing our ground. It was on TV worldwide, it made the news in South Africa. It gave people like Mandela hope. We didn’t win but we contributed to turning the heat up on apartheid.

      For that protesting against the state of Israel is morally necessary.

      • Thanks, that’s the way to go. Central to Minto’s way. Perhaps we don’t have that room to spend any more for ‘the other’. Hence the relatively feeble response to Gaza. Good wishes.

  11. Hey, here’s a new olympic sporting category that’ll end the shit going on there. Only needs one team to play…Hamas. It’s called Free the Hostages.

  12. Hey John, which of these two religious minorities have more rights?

    1) Israeli Muslims in Israel
    2) Non-Muslim citizens in Islamic countries

    • I spent three months as a non-Muslim in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where I enjoyed all the rights of any Iranian citizen and more rights than I had back home in New Zealand.

  13. Why aren’t Ukranians who support the terrorist killings (of their own countrymen) in the Donbass also banned from public life? Or any nation supporting Israel to murder thousands of children and civilians under the guise of self defence, New Zealand among them?

  14. I spent three months as a non-Muslim in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where I enjoyed all the rights of any Iranian citizen and more rights than I had back home in New Zealand.

  15. On Monday, Independent media outlet +972 Magazine released a report detailing interviews the outlet did with Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, which describe a policy that allowed soldiers to virtually fire at will and required soldiers to burn the homes of Palestinians that they occupied.
    The interviewees also alleged that the bodies of Palestinian civilians were allowed to rot in the street and were only hidden by the IDF before international organizations traveled through the area.
    One soldier testified that soldiers often would fire indiscriminately to blow off steam during the operation. “They report it as ‘normal fire,’ which is a codename for ‘I’m bored, so I shoot.”
    Another soldier said there was “total freedom of action,” for the IDF in Gaza. “If there is [even] a feeling of threat, there is no need to explain – you just shoot,” the soldier described. “It is permissible to shoot at their center mass, not into the air. It’s permissible to shoot everyone, a young girl, an old woman.”
    That same soldier claimed that “every man between the ages of 16 and 50 is suspected of being a terrorist.”


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