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BDS-mania takes over Israel — for a week

Boycott is all anybody can seem to talk about this week in Israel. But neither side should rush to declare victory quite yet: Israel still refuses to see that the occupation is the problem, and boycotters have yet to make any real gains.

Palestine solidarity protesters supporting the BDS movement, 2010. (Photo by Stephanie Law/CC, cropped)

Palestine solidarity protesters supporting the BDS movement, 2010. (Photo by Stephanie Law/CC, cropped)

If you got your news exclusively from the Israeli media over the past two weeks it would be entirely reasonable to wonder if the sky is falling. It seems like there has been near-24-hour coverage of the attempt to boot Israel from FIFA, university presidents warning that the academic boycott is snowballing toward a point of no return, a boycott endorsement by the UK’s largest student union, and now, international telecom giant Orange announcing that it will pull its brand out of Israel.

We have seen similar moments in recent years — when Stephen Hawking announced he would stay away from Israel, for example — but there is something that feels more serious this time around. The country’s best-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, announced it was enlisting in the war against boycott (a rather cynical considering the Israeli news media is probably the only industry that actually profits from BDS via increased ratings). Israeli President Reuven Rivlin described BDS as a “strategic threat of the first degree,” saying that he is a soldier in the fight against it. And just weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed a senior government minister, Gilad Erdan, as the country’s anti-boycott csar.

So what is happening? You wouldn’t know it from the internal Israeli discourse but the writing has been on the wall and the font has been getting bigger and bolder over the past year. With the collapse of the U.S.-led peace process, Netanyahu’s repeated disavowal-turned-indefinite-shelving of a two-state outcome, and the election of Israel’s most right-wing government ever, the world — and Europe in particular — has simply run out of patience.

Related: If Netanyahu is re-elected, Israel has a Europe problem

The European Union in particular has been making regular warnings, spelling out the consequences for perpetuating the occupation. During the final throes of the latest peace process, EU officials in Brussels were telling Israeli diplomats and journalists alike that there would be “no more business as usual” should the peace process finally be allowed to die — if the occupation is not given an expiry date. Europe-based international companies have been receiving warnings from their home countries about doing business in or with Israeli settlements. (The European Union, like most of the world, considers settlements to be illegal under international law.)

News that Orange intends to pull its brand from the Israeli market demonstrates just how painful European disengagement from settlements could be for Israel. Europe’s strategy thus far has been to try and halt financial and business relationships with Israeli entities beyond the Green Line, all while maintaining close ties with Israel proper. The problem is that no such distinction exists in Israel anymore. Companies like Partner Communications, the Orange franchisee in Israel, do not think twice about operating in the settlements — it’s not even a question. Israel’s major banks do not hesitate to finance the construction of settlements and to give mortgages to settlers, despite international consensus on the illegality of the entire enterprise.

An Orange-branded cellular store in Tel Aviv, June 5, 2015. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

An Orange-branded cellular store in Tel Aviv, June 5, 2015. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

The Orange case also shows how seemingly uninvolved companies can be directly complicit in the displacement of Palestinians, the theft of their land, and supporting illegal settlers — all while making a healthy profit. As reported here on +972 earlier this year, for 12 years Orange franchisee Partner paid rent to Israeli squatters — who stole privately owned Palestinian land to build an illegal settlement — for the rights to operate cellular antennas. The Israeli military has also given Israeli cellular companies a monopoly on cellular data services, making operating in the West Bank all the more more profitable.

And yet, the excitement surrounding Orange, FIFA, and the warnings of Israeli university presidents is largely sensationalism. The FIFA challenge never had a very high chance of success, the university presidents were simply sounding an alarm, and Orange and the French government both rushed to clarify that they oppose the boycott of Israel and that they support Israel. The non-stop media coverage will soon subside.

But soon enough there will be another crisis, another sense of looming isolation and a new string of boycott successes. And once again, instead of acknowledging that the occupation is inviting disaster on Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu and others will continue to deflect blame onto anti-Semitism.

Responding to Yedioth’s anti-boycott campaign this week, Dr. Tomer Persico wrote:

It is a dynamic that is as predictable as it is depressing: a country suffering from negative international treatment entrenches itself in self-righteousness and sees any criticism as illegitimate.

That is not to say that there exists no anti-Semitism or unfair criticism of Israel. Both exist — but they always did. Today, the problem is only consolidating: the occupation, which is approaching its 50th year, does not allow Israel to present itself as having clean hands. Until we reach an agreement with the Palestinian people, criticism of Israel will be considered legitimate and deserved, along with the sanctions that will be placed on the country.

“The international community does not believe that Israel is serious about a two-state solution,” U.S. President Obama said this week in an interview on Israeli television. What Obama was warning of but didn’t actually spell out, is that boycotts and international pressure campaigns do not aim to punish Israel but rather to exert enough pressure so that it changes its calculus so that it gets serious — serious enough to end the occupation.

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    COMMENTS

    1. BigCat

      “The BDS movement is anti-Semitic terror of a new type.”

      – Yitzhak Herzog.

      According to Norman G. Finkelstein who is a virulent anti-Israel hater say that the BDS-movement against Israel is a “CULT”, a “GHETTO”, “dishonest”, “silly”, “disingenuous” and “a whole lot of leftist posturing”, whose goal is to destroy Israel. “They don’t want Israel. They think they are being very clever. They call their three-tier: we want the end of occupation, we want the right of return; we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever because they know the result of implementing all three is WHAT? What’s the result? YOU KNOW AND I KNOW – WHAT’S THE RESULT?! THERE IS NO ISRAEL. THERE IS NO ISRAEL – FULL STOP!” (anyone who wants the source of the quote should only ask and I will gladly provide it)

      Most of the World has started to understand that the BDS-movement is a coalition of anti-Semites, Muslim extremists, far-leftist Communists and Anarchists with an ideology that is based on racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism.

      The Civilized World has started outlawing BDS and making its members as the real thugs and criminals they are: http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/South-Carolina-becomes-first-US-state-to-take-action-against-anti-Israel-boycotts-405120

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

        Correction

        “According to Norman G. Finkelstein who is a virulent anti-Israel hater, the BDS-movement against Israel is a “CULT”, a “GHETTO”, “dishonest”, “silly”, “disingenuous” and “a whole lot of leftist posturing”, whose goal is to destroy Israel”…….was meant.

        “The Civilized World has started outlawing BDS and acknowledging its members as the real thugs and criminals they are”….. was meant.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Pedro X

      At its core BDS is anti-Semitic. BDS encourages and fosters acts of violence not only against Israeli Jews but against Jews for what Israel does. BDS seeks to hurt Jews indiscriminately and collectively for what the Israeli government has done or has not done. BDS speaks in the name of human rights to deny Jews and Israelis their human rights, including the continued right of self determination.

      BDS relies on lies. The leader of Palestinian BDS is Omar Barghouti. He denies that Jews are indigenous to Israel. He denies Jews are a people. He states that Jews have and had no right to self determination. He seeks to tear down the Israeli state and eliminate all of its institutions, customs and culture and replace it with his brand of a democratic state. He supports the right of armed resistance to overcome the Jewish state. He seeks to flood Israel with Arabs who have no culture of democracy. So his idea of a democratic state includes the forceful and violent subjugation of the Jewish people, the elimination of the institutions which run the country and the transfer of millions of non speaking Hebrew Arabs into Israel to help create a democratic state. Of course, this would not create anything but a state of anarchy.

      Roberta Seid wrote after attending a lecture of Omar Barghouti:

      “Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is on the road again with his anti-Israel show and its pack of bigotry and lies.”

      “although he piously insists his movement is nonviolent, he banged the drum for more bloodshed against Israeli Jews, for a fight to the finish that would undo the results of the 1948 war and be Zionism’s death knell. Nothing else would do.”

      “For Barghouti, compromises that bring peace are unacceptable. As he said, if peace did not include the right of an allegedly 8 million diaspora Palestinians and Palestinian refugees living across the Middle East and elsewhere to “return” to Israel (a euphemism since 1949 for destroying Israel by turning Jews into a minority), peace would merely signify the “end of resistance to injustice,” and “contentment” with a “slave situation.”

      “He justified terrorism against Israelis, defending the Palestinians’ right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance.”

      “Barghouti repeatedly denied that Jews are one of the indigenous peoples of the region. When an Israeli stood up and said he is a 10th-generation Israeli and indigenous, Barghouti scoffed. “You aren’t indigenous just because you say you are.”

      “He denied that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination. They are not a people”

      “He hurled blood libels. Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian children “for sport.”

      “I have often wondered what Jews or decent people could have done to push back against the anti-Semitic propaganda of 1930s Germany. I don’t know. But I do know that Omar Barghouti follows in that tradition of the “big lies,” the dehumanization of Israelis and incitement that would lead others to justify or excuse those who murder Israeli Jews. Historically, Jewish blood has been cheap too many times. It is critical that people
      of good will mobilize to protest and discredit the lies, educate the public, and re-educate the students who have been misled by the heady blend of bigotry, idealism and furious outrage that animates extremists like Barghouti.”

      And Barghouti is typical of the BDS movement.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Bruce Gould

      There is no price the ordinary Israeli feels for the occupation; the home demolitions, land and water theft, the “administrative detentions” (aka prison without trial), the total control over Palestinian travel and business and so on. BDS is the “price tag” for all of this – the only way, apparently, to get Israel’s attention. I wish there was a better way, but after a half century of brutal occupation there seems to be no other choice.

      Reply to Comment
      • CDWard

        He and the BDS movement absolutely have the moral authority to make such a judgement, because unlike Israel they have not been stealing, occupying and colonizing Palestinian land and oppressing, torturing and killing Palestinians for over 60 years.

        Reply to Comment
      • D du Plessis

        People have the moral authority and free will to make whatever decisions they choose. Supporting BDS simply means NOT supporting the present Israeli regime…and there is nothing you can do about that! (must be frustrating for you…:)

        Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      More and more there will be undeclared boycotts:

      Judy Maltz, Haaretz:
      —————-
      “Israeli academics report signs of undeclared boycott targeting them
      Fewer invitations, more articles rejected by leading journals, foot-dragging on recommendations – and university leaders fear it may get worse…. These signs include turning down invitations to attend conferences held in Israel, ignoring requests to write recommendation letters for Israeli scholars seeking promotions, and rejecting submissions from Israeli scholars in peer-reviewed journals…”
      —————–

      Anyone in the academic world who knows how things work knows how damaging this can be. But it’s not only academia of course. This “slowdown” has a ripple effect on the economy, and high-tech. And then there will be, entirely outside of academia, the businesses that make private, active or passive decisions, under the radar, not to invest and collaborate. Not for any declared reason. Who needs the flak? How many committee meetings have you been in where a decision is made and everyone knows an underlying consideration influencing things but nobody actually comes out and states it? It happens all the time.

      By the way, anyone who makes special pleading for how academic institutions in their snow white purity should be exempt from boycott because this is an attack on the free exchange of ideas is either naive or has perhaps not thought hard enough about three things. (1) the degree to which the scientific and high tech side of academia is in bed, passionately, with business interests; (2) the degree to which academic institutions have themselves become big business; and (3) the degree to which Israeli academic institutions support, advise, and provide ‘academic-washing’ for the occupation or just simply do nothing about it.

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

        Another rambling mumbo jumbo from Brian alias “Ben” alias “MuslimJew” alias “David T.” alias “Dekkers” alias etc. Go find a job, moron, and start taking care of yourself and paying your own bills with your own money, instead of depending on food-stamps provided by the United States Government with my tax dollars; then start concentrating on the problems of your own country which has more social problems than Israel and quit your clinical fixation on- and obsession with Jews and Israel none of which is in any way, shape or form any of your damn business, you psychotic moron!

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Hi Gustav/BigCat,

          Check out this United States-related development:

          President Barack Obama’s icy interview with Ilana Dayan on Channel 2’s “Fact” investigative TV program this week:

          http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.659331

          Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            Job, moron, Job! Go get a job and quit fixating on- and obsessing about Jewish Affairs that are now way no how any of your business. The level of your obsession with Jews is really a symptom of a larger issue: a form of mental illness seen in all anti-Semites. Go seek professional help, sick-o!

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Seeing that you invoked my name again, Benny dear, I will quote one of the response posts in your article…

            “Obama’s game-playing
            President Obama’s comments regarding Israel are both laughable and dangerous. Criticizing Israel for having negotiating positions while allowing the Palestinians to do the very same thing is hypocrisy of the highest order. At the same time, Obama must recognize the world of difference between the two entities; rather, he considers them equals. Seriously?? The Palis are an imaginary people trying to destroy Israel both on the ground and in the court of public opinion. They breed hatred of Israel and Jews in their schools, their public pronouncements, and through acts of terror worldwide. Equals…REALLY???!!! Mr. President, it’s time to tell it like it is. Israeli politics aside, the real issue is still the physical survival of that country in a neighborhood which is actively collapsing, and the security of world Jewry in the face of rising antisemitism Worldwide.”

            Put that in your pocket, Benny, a quote for your quote. A quote which sums up my sentiments exactly.

            Reply to Comment
    5. RudyM

      The occupation may have gotten you to this point, but the occupation is not the “real problem.” Imposing a Jewish state on/in Palestine, is the real problem. Of those who start to care about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict because of the occupation, some will come to understand that the real issue is 1948, not 1967.

      BDS hasn’t made a real impact yet? Just wait. The more your arrogant leaders tell the rest of the world what it can and cannot do, and the more “diaspora” Jewish leaders flex their power and try to stifle resistance, and the more phony Jewish anti-Zionist groups like JVP try to control the terms of the discussion, and which gentiles may talk with which gentiles, the bigger the explosion of rebellion against Zionist and Jewish power will come outside of Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

        Says the donkey-brain anti-Semite called “RudyM”. Hilarious…

        Reply to Comment
    6. RudyM

      I’m not interested in allaying fears. Some of us support BDS with more than just the occupation in mind. We will defeat you Zionist scum. Sorry if that sounds corny, but that’s how it is. There is no justification for some American Jew from Cherry Hill, NJ being able to move to Israel while millions of Palestinian refugees are kept out. Why is that such a difficult principle to understand? Your Zionist regime is not legitimate. There is a problem at the foundation of the state. Ending the occupation will not eliminate it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Congratulations, Yehuda Shaul.

        Congratulations, the extreme Israeli left.

        Congratulations + 972

        Congratulations the so called liberal left Jews like J-Street.

        You are emboldening our ancient enemies, Anti-Semites like RudyM.

        Listen to what he says. They won’t spare you either. Listen to his own words…

        “diaspora” Jewish leaders flex their power and try to stifle resistance, and the more phony Jewish anti-Zionist groups like JVP try to control the terms of the discussion, and which gentiles may talk with which gentiles, the bigger the explosion of rebellion against Zionist and Jewish power”

        Aren’t you happy that us right wingers are around and that we know how to deal with scum like RudyM? No of course you are not. You are too busy crawling up your own behinds to notice what your stupidity encourages.

        Reply to Comment
    7. un2here

      I am sure that you calling him “a frog” must have been what convinced him?

      Reply to Comment