App created by Hungary-based Gazan computer science student

Promoted on TikTok, ‘No Thanks’ boycott app targets products tied to Israel

Google briefly banned the boycott app – downloaded by one million people since November – for ‘killing children’ reference in description

Reporter at The Times of Israel

The 'No Thanks' app to boycott Israel shows Nescafe is on the boycott list. (No Thanks)
The 'No Thanks' app to boycott Israel shows Nescafe is on the boycott list. (No Thanks)

A pro-Palestinian app created to help consumers boycott Israeli products has gained traction on TikTok amid calls in Hebrew-language media for Google to ban it.

The free app, called “No Thanks,” was launched by Palestinian graduate student Ahmed Bashbash last November. Downloaded by 100,000 users within a month, the app enables consumers to scan product barcodes to determine if the item has connections to Israel.

By the start of April, “No Thanks” reported one million people had downloaded the app. Millions of users had viewed tikTok influencer videos promoting “No Thanks,” contributing to the app’s growth of 900,000 downloads in four months.

”No Thanks is not a trend, it’s the new lifestyle,” said an X post on the app.

The app targets companies from McDonalds to Adidas. Some companies made the boycott list for condemning the Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7, in which 1,200 Israelis were murdered and 253 people kidnapped into Gaza.

“I trust that supporters of the ‘No Thanks’ app, which urges the boycott of Netflix and Apple, will soon be turning off their TVs and disposing of their iPhones,” said Cary Nelson, former president of the American Association of University Professors and an expert on the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions).

In an interview with The Times of Israel, Nelson remarked on the futility of boycott movements that target Israel in the United States.

“Meanwhile, [supporters of ‘No Thanks’] can triumphantly find a non-Israeli brand of hummus. The rest of us can buy ‘No Thanks’ brands,” said Nelson.

‘No Thanks’ app to help consumers boycott products tied to Israel. (Courtesy)

Soon after “No Thanks” launched, Google banned the app from its virtual store for advertising itself as a tool to “see if the product in your hand supports killing children in Palestine.”

“No Thanks” creators removed the reference to killing children from the app description, opting to refer to the boycott in more general terms. This change was enough for Google to greenlight the app’s return to its store in December.

Before the removal of the reference, several antisemitism watchdog groups said the accusation that Israel targets children was a modern form of the “blood libel.” That Middle Ages canard blamed Jews for allegedly draining the blood of Christian babies to make Passover matzoh.

“Quite a few social media users in Germany think of the National Socialist call of 1933 ‘Don’t buy from Jews’ when they hear such calls for a boycott. But such a comparison could also be seen as historically inaccurate and problematic in itself, as it runs the risk of trivializing National Socialism,” reported DW in Germany.

The media continues to criticize the app, and on April 25, the creators of “No Thanks” warned users on X about the Israeli news site “Walla,” in which an op-ed urged Israel supporters to petition Google to remove the app from its virtual store again.

“One of the biggest Zionists [sic] news websites posted about No Thanks app and they are telling everyone to report it so it can be deleted,” read the post on X.

Other companies targeted by “No Thanks” include Israeli startups and companies deemed connected to “the theft of Palestinian territory.”

Palestinians hold posters asking for the boycotting of Israeli products during a rally in the West Bank city of Hebron on October 28, 2023. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

Since launching, “No Thanks” has made claims on X that are demonstrably false. In December, for example, the app claimed that Starbucks lost $12 billion due to worldwide boycott efforts against Israel. The app’s X platform runs clips of activists vandalizing storefronts with Palestinian flag stickers.

‘Completely fake or useless’

A student of computer science based in Hungary, “No Thanks” creator Bashbash told reporters that two of his siblings lost their lives in Israeli actions — a brother murdered in recent Gaza “massacres” and a sister who died several years ago in Jerusalem due to delayed medical treatment.

“I made it on behalf of my brother and my sister who I lost because of this brutal occupation, and my goal is to try to prevent what happened to me to happen to another Palestinian,” Bashbash told DW.

‘No Thanks’ cartoon on the app’s X page. (Public domain)

The Times of Israel contacted Bashbash on Facebook to request an interview but did not receive a response.

In online forums about “No Thanks,” including Reddit, the jury is out regarding the app’s effectiveness.

“Completely fake or useless,” wrote one Reddit user in the Muslim Lounge. “Fails to identify products even blatantly zionist like Palwin or Sabra with code of zionist. Might even have infected and stopped other bds apps working.”

Other Reddit users praised the app for helping them take practical steps to decolonize the world.

‘No Thanks’ was briefly banned by the Google Store in December 2023, for this text. (Courtesy)

“And certainly that is by design, capitalism and colonization benefit from keeping us too busy to have free time, much less self-educate ourselves on the dismantlement of oppressive systems,” wrote one user.

For Eyal Cohen, an Israeli expert in software and app engineering, the problem with “No Thanks” is that “it makes it very easy to boycott without having to dig deep at all,” he told The Times of Israel.

Cohen compared the app to the campus protest encampments that started to appear at universities around the US in April. The similarity between those tent encampments and “No Thanks,” he said, was that they are both easy to join.

“A lot of people really want to be a part of something. It doesn’t matter if it’s justified, as long as they feel inspired by it,” said Cohen, who is based in the US and studied at Brandeis University.

“I have to give it to the pro-Palestine movement and even terrorism, as they inspire people,” said Cohen. “It really does persuade people, unfortunately, it’s not a logical thing,” he said.

“Hamas perpetrated October 7 in the first place to inspire and to stoke hatred to prevent a peaceful solution from coming about,” said Cohen.

‘The failed movement’

Attempts to boycott Israeli companies and products have a track record of failure. For years, the movement has sought to emulate the success of divestment efforts from South Africa during apartheid.

People rally on the campus of Northwestern University demanding the school divest from Israel, on April 25, 2024, in Evanston, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP)

Mark Yudof, chairman of the Academic Engagement Network, told CNN that boycotts against Israel are not effective for several reasons.

“The truth is it’s sometimes murky to figure out who is doing business in Israel and what the relationship is to the war,” Yudof, the former president of the University of California, told CNN.

Yudoff said not a single university has yet to divest from Israel, despite intense efforts by pro-Palestinian groups.

Some TikTok videos about “No Thanks” are made to debunk the app and the idea that boycotting Israel will bring Mideast peace.

A creator called “The Moderate Case” racked up views by exposing the faulty business premises of the BDS movement against Israel, specifically the “No Thanks” app’s raison d’etre.

Among other information, “The Moderate Case” shared earnings reports of companies included on the “No Thanks” boycott list. Nearly all the major companies on the list experienced growth since boycott efforts began last October, including Apple, Google, Starbucks and HP.


Keep it up guys! #fyp

♬ original sound – The Moderate Case

“The anti-Israel boycott movement has been an abject failure for decades, and introducing a flashy app won’t shift its downward trend,” said Jonah Cohen, communications director of the Committee for Accuracy in Mideast Reporting in America.

“The reason is simple: Israeli ingenuity continually attracts global interest and excitement, while the boycotters only ever offer boring negativity and resentment,” Cohen told The Times of Israel.

“All the techie bells and whistles in the world can’t hide the uninspiring idea at the heart of their failed movement,” said Cohen.

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