Boycott – From my Ireland to Israel

Charles Boycott, the agent of a British landowner in Ireland, could never have imagined that he would play a role in a country called Israel 130 years after his name had become a worldwide symbol. Captain Boycott evicted Irish tenants, who defaulted on their rent because of desperate economic straits. The Irish reacted with a new weapon: no one would speak with him, work for him, and buy from him…

The word ‘boycott’ enters the English language during the Irish ‘Land War’ and is derived from the name of Captain Charles Boycott, the estate agent of an absentee landlord, the Earl Erne, on Achill Island in County Mayo, Ireland, who was subject to social ostracism organized by the Irish Land League in 1880.

In September that year protesting tenants demand from Boycott a substantial reduction in their rents. He not only refuses but also evicts them from the land.

Charles Stewart Parnell proposes that, rather than resorting to violence, everyone in the locality should refuse to deal with him. Despite the short-term economic hardship to those undertaking this action, Captain Boycott soon finds himself isolated—his workers stop work in the fields and stables, as well as the house. Local businessmen stop trading with him, and the local postman refuses to deliver mail.

The concerted action taken against him means that Boycott is unable to hire anyone to harvest the crops in his charge. Eventually 50 Orangemen from Cavan and Monaghan volunteer to harvest his crops. They are escorted to and from Claremorris by one thousand policemen and soldiers.

This protection ends up costing far more than the harvest is worth. After the harvest, the ‘boycott’ is successfully continued. Within weeks Boycott’s name is everywhere. It is used by ‘The Times’ in November 1880 as a term for organized isolation.

Since then ‘boycott’ has spread throughout the world. And now to Israel…

 

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