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Consensus wisdom: The boycott of Israel is working

The only way to stop its spread is to end the occupation, say a growing number of prominent voices (none of whom, by the way, support the boycott).  

From reading my digital mail, I see that a lot of people who say they oppose the occupation also oppose the boycott against Israel, and not only on moral grounds, but for practical reasons as well. It won’t work, they say, it won’t convince anyone, it’ll have a boomerang effect by making Israel even more intransigent. I’ve made my arguments against the moral objections to the boycott (here, here and here), but now I want to yield the floor to much more prominent speakers – all of whom oppose the occupation and, explicitly or presumably, the boycott too – who have been warning lately that the world is gradually turning its back on Israel, and the only way it can avoid eventual isolation is by freeing the Palestinians. In other words, they’re saying the boycott is having an impact, and it’s growing. The catalyst for this gathering concern was Stephen Hawking’s decision in early May to boycott last week’s Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.

The New York Times‘ Thomas Friedman, probably the best-known foreign affairs columnist in the world, wrote on June 4 that the BDS movement “is creating a powerful surge of international opinion, particularly in Europe and on college campuses, that Israel is a pariah state because of its West Bank occupation.” The No. 1 reason why Israel must end the occupation, Friedman wrote, was “to reverse the trend of international delegitimization closing in on Israel.”

On Friday, Yedioth Ahronoth’s Nahum Barnea, the most influential print journalist in this country, wrote that the Magen David Adom ambulance service, the national branch of the Red Cross, is under pressure from the U.S., British, French, Dutch and Norwegian branches to stay out of the West Bank, where it handles the Jewish settlements. (And this was before an MDA spokesman tweeted a particularly ugly anti-Arab joke.) They want MDA to give the whole territory to Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances, which handle the Palestinian areas. Ze’ev Elkin, the far-right deputy foreign minister, says he won’t comply and doesn’t care if the Red Cross kicks MDA out of its ranks. Barnea writes:

Elkin is living in la-la-land. … He chooses not to see the growing movement to boycott Israel in academia, the cancellation by Stephen Hawking of his appearance at the Presidential Conference because of pressure from boycotters of Israel, the factories that are pulling out of the West Bank because they’re unable to export from there.

Last week Itamar Rabinovich, former president of Tel Aviv University and ambassador to the U.S. under Rabin, reportedly told the President’s Conference the same sort of things he told the Forward last month:

Rabinovich … called the academic boycott movement “an incremental process” that has been “gathering volume.” He noted that Hawking’s withdrawal and the attention it drew should be seen as “jumping to a new level” in the attempts to isolate Israeli academic work. …

Rabinovich characterized Hawking’s decision as only a boost to the BDS movement, not a game changer. The impact of anti-Israeli sentiments in the academic world is already noticeable, he said, and could increase in the future. In humanities and social studies, he said, “if you want to get invited to an important conference or to spend a sabbatical in a leading university, you better be politically correct on issues relating to Israel, or else you won’t have a chance.”

In the scientific field, Rabinovich said, such pressure is not yet noticed but could emerge in coming years, making it more difficult for Israeli scientists to receive research grants or to find colleagues who will work together on projects supported by binational funds.

Also last week, Haaretz reported on a group of top Israeli business people, led by high-tech patriarch Yossi Vardi, who warned Netanyahu face-to-face that the status quo with the Palestinians had caused a global cooling toward this country economically.

“We come from the field, and we’re feeling the pressure,” one said. “If we don’t make progress toward a two-state solution, there will be negative developments for the Israeli economy. We’re already noticing initial signs of this. The future of the Israeli economy will be in danger.”

One businessman who attended the meeting told Haaretz that the lack of progress toward a two-state solution could send Israel down a slippery slope toward a binational state that would be either not Jewish or not democratic.

“The world will not accept this,” he said. “Foreign investments will not come to such a state. No one will buy goods from such a state.”

Now in today’s Haaretz, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Aluf Benn – a center-leftist whose politics should not be confused with those of Gideon Levy or Amira Hass – wrote that the fear of isolation is one reason why Netanyahu has been running his mouth so much about his commitment to the two-state solution.

Netanyahu is worried about the growing international boycott against Israel. Most Israelis still do not feel it, but the prime minister is under pressure. He hears warnings in the business community about the damage the diplomatic impasse is causing, and says that calls for boycotts are the contemporary form of classical anti-Semitism. If he thought it was harmless noise, he would ignore or minimize the problem. But Netanyahu apparently fears being remembered as the leader during whose time Israel was distanced from the family of nations.

This is a very telling point for those who say the boycott is ineffective: If it is, why are Israel’s leaders and their supporters screaming bloody murder about it? Do they seem so exercised by any other challenge to the status quo? Behind closed doors they’re laughing at Kerry’s peace mission; they’re not laughing at Stephen Hawking or BDS, are they?

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  • COMMENTS

    1. XYZ

      If you are right that “the boycott is working”, then what incentive do the Palestinians have to reach an agreement on the “occupation” (i.e. what you mean is the 1967 occupation). Since the Paletinians want an end to the 1948 occupaton (which you seem to have a blind spot regarding), all they need to do is keep up the pressure. An important FATAH leader a couple of days ago said the struggle will go on until Yafo and Akko and the rest of pre-67 Israel is also returned to Arab rule.
      If the business leaders saying it is a vital interest of Israel to get out of the West Bank, do you think Abbas and the HAMAS people are going to say “see, we had better reach a peace agreement with Israel so we can help save Israel”?

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        Except that the people making the Israeli leaders nervous aren’t so interested in ending the 1948 Occupation. No one is suggesting that MDA stop providing services in Haifa. So if the Palestinians go for the whole enchilada, they will find that they don’t have much support.

        Reply to Comment
        • Couldn’t have said it better, Haifawi.

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        • XYZ

          Arafat had a multi-stage plan….first “liberate” the West Bank and the “67″ territories, weaken Israel, then go for the rest. That is what the high ranking FATAH official said a couple of days ago. Please show me ONE Palestinian leader who accepts two states for two PEOPLES (Abbas and all the others omit the word PEOPLES) and who is willing to give up the right of return for the Palestinian refugeees. Since BDS is supported by those who oppose the very existene of Israel, those who support it only because of the “1967 occupation” are wittingly or wittingly supporting the eradication of Israel.

          Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            I mean, I personally find the notion of “peoples” based on an arbitrary determination of whose vagina you squirted out of horribly antiquated. I am far more connected (both economically and socially) to my Christian butcher in Haifa (great pork!) than to a Hasid in Jerusalem.
            But lucky for you, the people who DO have influence over the health of our economy and international relations (i.e. not the Palestinians) DO talk about “peoples.” Consistently, even!

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >I mean, I personally find the notion of “peoples” based on an arbitrary determination of whose vagina you squirted out of horribly antiquated.

            You, personally, is of no concern/interest whatsoever.

            Sufficient is that Palestinian Arabs are paying considerable attention to others’ (and their own women’s) vaginas’ squirts (incoming and outgoing).

            Reply to Comment
          • Carl

            Are you like this at home too?

            Reply to Comment
          • Anne

            That’s right pull out the old chestnut that Israel will be eradicated only idiots really believe that this would happen.
            The other old chestnut that one is anti Semitic if one asks for human rights to be given to the Palestinians doesn’t wash any more either. Jews around the world are shamed by the behaviour of Israel and it’s time you acknowledge this before it is too late.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >That’s right pull out the old chestnut that Israel will be eradicated only idiots really believe that this would happen.

            Basically, you just had called few tens (hundreds?) of millions of Arabs “idiots”

            Would you please repeat the same statement on your visit to Gaza strip?

            Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            I freely call anyone who thinks that they can ethnically cleanse Jews from here idiots, whether it is in Sakhnin, Jenin, or Amman.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            If I’m getting you right, you are claiming that you can come to any person in mentioned or other Arab towns, ask him whether he believes that Jews could (and should) be cleansed from Palestine and if the answer is affirmative you would call that person an idiot.

            Hmmm. Something tells me that you are not telling the truth.

            Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            Nope. Actual truth. For a number of reasons: I’m respectful (i.e. that’s a stupid idea, not ‘you’re stupid’). I’m their guest (so they have to treat me with hospitality). AND (most importantly) I respect their struggle. They know that I am supportive of their rights, and am not an ultra-Semite. I’m not trying to keep them oppressed or take their stuff. We just disagree on how to accomplish their liberation.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Mwahaha.

            First you claim that you freely call anyone an idiot, than you admit that you merely point out that their idea isn’t particularly smart because Jews have some rights too…

            Still, I’d pretty much love it if Anna would come to Gaza and say that they all are idiots. Definitely would make my day.

            Reply to Comment
          • Antizionist

            Well, since Israel is a state which is based on ethnic cleansing and the huge influx of ppl calling themselves jews (but having genetically probably less in common with historical Israel then the Palestinians have!) it is clear that the question of righteous ownership of this land is still very vital.

            Btw: I am not against Israel, but I think it should be limited within the borders of 1948, disarmed and brought under international control AND (!) protection. So should the occupied territories, and those willing to return (jews and other ethnic groups) should have the opportunity to return and be paid for.

            I think this is the best, most just and (in the long term) most economic solution to this problem which treathens the position and legitimacy of the western world.

            Reply to Comment
          • David44

            XYZ said: “Please show me ONE Palestinian leader who accepts two states for two PEOPLES (Abbas and all the others omit the word PEOPLES)”.

            Here is what Abbas said at his speech in the UN last September (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19750042):

            “Ultimately the two PEOPLES must live and coexist EACH IN THEIR RESPECTIVE STATE in the Holy Land”.

            Do you not bother to check things before sounding off about them?

            Reply to Comment
      • JustinXYZ

        As an American it disgusts me to the extent at which my people are misled by our MSM and government as a whole, they are complicit. Thankfully the times are a changing and we now have ways of getting truthful information. The problem is that the American public has been misled on these issues for decades but I truly believe that people will start to wake up and not just believe what the government tells us. Israelis most certainly deserve existence but what about the Palestinians existence? Hey Netanyahu, if it is truly security that you seek, you nor your people will never have true security until you end your occupation and illegal activities towards a people that you clearly don’t value as much as your own. Until you understand that you are creating all of this hate towards you on your own(and with Americas help) Arabs have absolutely no reason to accept you as legitimate and I am one American who sees past all of your rhetoric and positioning, you’d better hope that the masses don’t suddenly see the truth. End apartheid now and you’ll have security. Not the other way around. It will never work

        Reply to Comment
    2. Yaron

      What I, in reference to XYZ, may suggest is that the Pals get their own fair share of bds in order to put an end to their crazy demands and their hate-policy towards Israel in particular and Jews in general. As much as Israel occupies the WB, the Pals still keep Israel hostage with threads of terrorism and intifadah. What pressure on them will remain if Israel withdraws? Of course the bds-movement is not interested in boycotting the Pals, which uncovers their agenda as not being in favor of peace, but only against Israel. There is another word for that.

      Reply to Comment
      • Carl

        Is that other word “conspiracy theory”? Oh, that’s two words. Well, I’m out of arguments entirely then: as a BDS type, I yield.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Yaron

      No, it is ‘anti-semitism.’ I leave it up to you if that is one or two words.

      Reply to Comment
      • Carl

        Yeah, yeah I knew that one. Am I a self-hater then? Can’t remember, but I could really do with knowing before Tuesday.

        Thanks in advance.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Aaron Gross

      “End the 1967 occupation or you will become a pariah state.” That would be a very effective threat if Israelis were just occupying the territories for the fun of it. Then they would say, OK, fun’s over, we better stop now or we’ll have to pay a heavy price.

      But Israelis believe that ending the 1967 occupation will lead directly to war and bloodshed, and as a result of that continued war, to the continued enmity of much of the world. So from the perspective of a large majority of Israelis, “end the occupation or become a pariah” is not a convincing motivation.

      Maybe Israelis are right and maybe they’re just deluded, but I’m talking about perceptions, not the accuracy of those perceptions. A boycott will not end the 1967 occupation as directly as Larry thinks it will. It can only work more indirectly, by first bringing some kind of catastrophic change to Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • Aaron, I know that this is your own view, but I’m less sure that the government shares your belief. They have plenty of other incentives for maintaining the occupation.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Mohammad Reza Naqdi

      Reversing the 1967 occupation wont cut it any more. 1948 must be reversed as well. When Tom Friedman noted that every vote in the US Congress was bought and sold by Israel, he was the first mainstream columnist to note that the only solution is the replacement of israel with Palestine. As Yossi of 972 mag once stated, Palestine was stolen. Thus it must be returned

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Thank you for reminding that “the occupation” had started in 1948. Some leftists might have had forgotten.

        Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        Sure. I’m a one-stater. “Return” is people living in Ramallah voting in the same elections as me and having the same passport. If you propose kicking people out well I’ll fight you just as hard as I fight the apartheid brigade. Odrub odrub!

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Did you ask people in Ramallah and Gaza, whether their wishes are the same as yours?

          Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            Actually, yes. (Although the Gaza meeting was via Skype). The vast majority of people I’ve met in Palestine (from hipster Ramallawis to Yatta Bedouins to Balata refugees) have been either two-staters or secular single-staters (with religious protections). I fight ALL ethnic cleansing and denial of rights.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            You either haven’t met enough people, or trying to bullshit me intentionally.

            Most Arabs I ever talked to are rather certain that Jews shall and will be removed from Palestine back to their European countries.

            You fight all denial of rights?
            And what specifically had you done in regard of honour killings?

            Hmmm… lemme guess… Nothing?

            Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            Actually wrong again. I’m quite involved in Bustan and empowering women of the Bedouin community. Not to mention that in 2012 there were no honor killings in the Central District.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Your involvement inside Israel is A) of rather little worth and B) is irrelevant to this discussion.

            Do you have an idea how many women were murdered in WB and Gaza?

            Reply to Comment
          • Trespasser, take away the snotty insults, and you’re not saying much.

            Reply to Comment
    6. rsgengland

      When Hawking’s decided to boycott Israel, although I was not pleased, I celebrated.
      The BDS movement is a very dangerous phenomenon that was either ignored or dismissed by the pro Israel world.
      Since Hawking’s, this danger has now been recognized, and the necessary fightback can begin.
      It is just another battlefield that Israel has to face, but this time those outside Israel will have to play a far larger part.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Susan

      The Boycott movement has not succeeded in bringing an end to the occupation one day sooner. It only makes its supporters feel smug and self-righteous.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Good evening, Susan.

        Could you please define “occupation”?

        Reply to Comment
        • David T.

          If you can define “Jewish democracy” and what it means to the people it keeps expelled and denationalized…

          Reply to Comment
    8. rose

      Trespasser@
      The legal definition of the term “occupation” is applied to a territory in which a foreign military force is able to exercise complete or partial military control, as well as civil-administrative control over infrastructures and the daily life of local residents. This helps to clarify the reason why no state or international organization recognizes as “legal” the settlements in the occupied territories, East Jerusalem included (see resolution n. 476, UNSC, Jun. 30, 1980).

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        I was asking what does “occupation” means from the BDS point of view.

        Reply to Comment
    9. [...] But columnist Larry Derfner believes things might be changing. At +972 magazine, he has collected evidence showing that pressure is mounting on Israel. He points in part to Thomas Friedman’s June 4th column, in which he wrote that the BDS movement “is creating a powerful surge of international opinion, particularly in Europe and on college campuses, that Israel is a pariah state because of its West Bank occupation.” [...]

      Reply to Comment
    10. [...] But columnist Larry Derfner believes things might be changing. At +972 magazine, he has collected evidence showing that pressure is mounting on Israel. He points in part to Thomas Friedman’s June 4th column, in which he wrote that the BDS movement “is creating a powerful surge of international opinion, particularly in Europe and on college campuses, that Israel is a pariah state because of its West Bank occupation.” [...]

      Reply to Comment
    11. XYZ

      Would those of you who believe in the 2-state solution and that ending the “1967 occupation” will somehow bring peace please explain to me why, if the Palestinians believe the country was stolen from them and they view Israel’s existence as being illegitimate, should they make peace? IF they believe they are rigth, why should they not contine the struggle for as long as it takes? Why should they make peace in order to make you happy?

      Reply to Comment
      • Joe

        And therein is the problem. You are so paralysed by fear of what-might-happen when you consider doing the right thing that it is actually easier to continue doing/supporting the denegration, occupation and dehumanisation of a whole group of people rather than negotiate a settlement which is fair to everyone.

        And the tragedy is that you don’t even see how that is rotting away the core of the society you claim to want.

        Reply to Comment
      • sh

        “IF they believe they are rigth, why should they not contine the struggle for as long as it takes? Why should they make peace in order to make you happy?”

        To make *themselves* happy, XYZ.

        There are millions of Palestinians today forced to live in ways that you would consider sheer hell. Their children are abused by our security forces, their houses are demolished, to get anywhere in their own towns and villages they have to surmount impossible administrative hurdles, they can’t farm their own land because much of it happens to be enclosed in illegal settlements, and that’s just the tip of a mega-iceberg. They live in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. But many of them also live in atrocious conditions in the countries around us. Do you really think all those people prefer that to a life with education for their kids, jobs and independence?

        No need to answer that.

        Reply to Comment
    12. Piotr Berman

      A question to XYZ, The Trespasser, and/or Rsgenland: suppose that International Red Cross will be serious: either Magen David Adom and Palestinian Red Crescent serve the sick regardless of their nationality etc., or MDA stops service in the occupied territories, or gets kicked out of the international organization. What is preferred: stopping the segregation or withdrawal from International Red Cross?

      Reply to Comment
    13. XYZ

      MDA was kept out of the Red Cross for many years. If they get expelled, they will continue doing what they are doing and nothing will change. I imagine some documents at RC headquarters will be altered, dropping them from the list of members. So what?

      Reply to Comment
    14. Moti

      I’m sure the arm dealers of the world are very impressed with BDS movement and will stop buying weapons made in Israel. If the brilliant minds of BDS believe those “boycott” tactics can have any influence they obviously have no clue about Israel’s economy, economics in general and history. I hope you possess better evidence to the effectiveness of BDS’ tactics than the hysterical rantings of Israel’s leaders.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Lon W.

      Is the U.S. occupying California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Arizona? It is after all territory added to the U.S. as a result of war… just as the West Bank (which is formerly Jordanian territory).

      Reply to Comment
    16. These jitters are nothing new. It became obvious that people were starting to worry at least two years ago, on 1 February 2011, when there was a meeting in the Knesset to discuss how to counteract the artistic and cultural boycott, called by the Education and Culture Committee. I remember reading about that and thinking, “Not long now.”

      Yesterday news came out that several regional conferences of the United Methodists (New England, Minnesota, Pacific Northwest and Upper New York) voted to divest from companies that profiteer from the occupation, bringing the total of American regional conferences that have divested to nine. Last year there was a motion for the United Methodist Conference to divest from the companies as a whole, which was narrowly defeated. At the time I took heart from the narrowness of that defeat. Now the regional conferences are doing it of their own volition. It seems that hardly a week goes by without the news of something like this, sometimes major (like Hawking) and sometimes comparatively small (McDonald’s not wanting to go to Ariel). It feels as though we’re riding a wave. Lately I’ve been recalling what I said back in 2005, when I was discussing the BDS call with a friend. “I don’t think it will ever work, but joining in is the ethical thing. We’ll at least be principled if we can’t be practical.” Eating my words has rarely tasted so good.

      Reply to Comment
    17. [...] Israel into action. It would appear that assessment was in error. Israeli columnist Larry Derfner assembled a list of prominent pundits and analysts who are seeing a major and growing impact of that movement. None [...]

      Reply to Comment
    18. Marco

      @Lon:
      Definitely not. But residents from these areas (AZ, TX, NM) where treated since day one as co-nationals, not some sort of sub-human specie. Bottom line is, you keep the land, you keep the people, but you can’t take only one.

      Reply to Comment
    19. John D

      I support BDS and I am delighted for the people of Salfeet that McDonalds has refused to take out premises in Ariel. Hopefully, as in former apartheid South Africa, the Revisionist Zionist clique who control Israel will learn that they cannot go on indefinitely denying Palestinians human rights.
      They should either quit the entire West Bank – and take all their thug “settlers” with them – or accept – as in the case of South Africa – the adoption of a single secular state with guaranteed human rights – and a right of return for all people anywhere in the world – to historic Palestine.
      As far as compensating the 1948ers is concerned, that is the sole responsibility of the British, because it was their failure to protect the Palestinians at the time of the Nakba that led to the refugee crisis which has dogged the Middle East ever since.
      I have visited Israel and the West Bank over the last two years and my impressions have been that the Palestinians are not asking for exceptional treatment. They just want to lead ordinary lives, just like everyone else. Also, they have been living in the area for hundreds of thousands of years, and in that time they have seen one empire after another come and go over millennia. This current Judaic empire is just another one in the long catalogue of empires they have seen come and go.
      As ever, ordinary people are not the problem; it is the leaders – on all sides – who are the problem, not the ordinary people.

      Reply to Comment
    20. [...] The New York Times‘ foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman wrote on June 4 that the BDS movement “is creating a powerful surge of international opinion, particularly in Europe and on college campuses, that Israel is a pariah state because of its West Bank occupation”. The No. 1 reason why Israel must end the occupation, Friedman wrote, was “to reverse the trend of international delegitimization closing in on Israel”. The same week the Israeli journal Haaretz reported that a group of top Israeli business people warned Prime Minister Netanyahu that the status quo with the Palesti­nians had cause a global cooling toward this country economically [read more]. [...]

      Reply to Comment
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