It does not have to bring the Israeli economy to its knees, or even close, to force an end to the occupation.
Now that it’s a very common, almost consensus view that Israel faces isolation and serious economic pain if it does not end the occupation, the skeptics are weighing in. They’re saying that the BDS movement, academic boycott and Europe’s anti-settlement policy toward Israeli businesses, even though they are intensifying, have hardly made a dent in this country’s material quality of life. (Here, here, here and here.) Deals are still being made, rock stars are still coming to perform, Israel’s economy is still outdoing most of those in the West. As for the future, such commentators, who are by no means all from the right, are saying that even if the number of boycotters grows, they will still amount to drops in the bucket, and Israel’s economic and political power will thwart any attempt to pressure the country’s leaders into changing course.
I think they miss the point. It’s true that the Israeli economy as a whole is hardly feeling the boycott (though a fast-growing number of companies are), and it’s unimaginable that the economic and political isolation of Israel will ever approach that of apartheid-era South Africa (for lots of reasons, including Israel’s exalted standing in the U.S.). But it doesn’t have to approach what happened in South Africa. The boycott doesn’t have to bring the Israeli economy to its knees, or anything close, for the Israeli body politic – the public, the opinion-makers and the decision-makers – to decide to end the occupation. All the boycott has to do is keep growing, drop by drop – yes, like Chinese water torture – for it to succeed. Because finally, the boycott is not an economic war against Israel, it’s a psychological war, and even the skeptics would agree that it’s already had a deep, damaging effect on this country’s will to continue fighting for the West Bank and Gaza.
The experience of the last nine months, starting with Stephen Hawking’s no-show in Jerusalem for the Presidential Conference – which brought the boycott movement into the mainstream,...Read More