How to boycott Israel properly
Despite the noise and publicity generated by the BDS anti-Israel and antisemitic boycott campaign, it’s important to keep in mind that in fact the boycott movement has made little to no headway in isolating Israel or damaging its economy.
Following is a joint post by Brian Goldfarb and myself on BDS Fails.
Anne noted, in her posting headed “The future’s bright, the future’s not Orange in Israel”, about half-way down, the BDS vote at the NUS Executive meeting.
Denis MacEoin, a Senior Researcher at The Gatestone Institute (and at The Middle East Forum), a scholar of Islamic studies and Arabic with a PhD from Cambridge in Middle Eastern Studies, has published an article in The Gatestone Institute in which he goes to town on the Executive of the NUS.
Having started, more in sorrow than in anger, by noting that none of the supporters of Israel that he knows wish harm to the Palestinians; indeed, they wish whole-heartedly for a just and peaceful solution to the desires of both peoples for self rule. Then he lets rip at the UK students:
We believe sincerely that boycotting, sanctioning and divesting from Israel will not bring peace so long as the Palestinian leaderships in Gaza and the West Bank insist that they intend to destroy Israel and take control of its entire territory.
[The NUS Executive’s] latest resolution to boycott Israel is in defiance of historical, geographical, political and legal fact. Your motions are built on a pastiche of lies, misunderstandings, and distortions of reality. That worries me. It worries me because I expect today’s university students to be as earnest in their pursuit of truth and fact as I was trained to be when I was in their position. It is not your fault. You study the sciences or philosophy or literature or European history, and you do not have historical, political, or sociological training to equip you to comment or write motions on the situation in the Middle East.
(For entirely personal reasons, I love the references to the social sciences.)
If you think that this is harsh, it gets worse (or better, depending on your perspective), because he effectively accuses them of acting out of ignorance. They have no first-hand knowledge of the subject on which they pontificate. Thus, he says
If you cannot read Arabic or another Islamic language, if you have never studied Islamic history, doctrine, scripture or civilization, if you know little of the modern history of the Middle East from the collapse of the Ottoman empire until today, if you rely entirely on propaganda put out by pro-Palestinian activists, if you refuse to listen to or take on board the views of scholars and others from the Israeli point of view, you are in denial of all the best values of objective enquiry of the academy. I do not meddle in physics, medicine, Chinese affairs, or Latin American politics because I have no expert knowledge of any of them. Ignorance is not a substitute for informed understanding. (emphasis added)
You all know that an essay that uses sources from one side only will be failed. However forceful the argument, if it gives no space to the views of those with whom the writer disagrees, it will — and should be — rejected. No doubt, one-sidedness works well as a foundation for political success, not least in the use of propaganda. But it is an insult to the values of academic life.
Note what MacEoin is not telling the NUS Executive: he is not expecting them to tour the Middle East to learn for themselves (although the pro-BDS members would get a very interesting education should they visit Israel); he is telling them to listen to both sides of the argument from those who have expert knowledge. This is what they are supposed to be doing in their studies, after all. For example, I would love them to meet the female guide to the Knesset who took our group round the building: the young woman, wearing a very smart tailored trouser suit, highly educated, and a Muslim: a Muslim citizen of Israel.
All this comes in the first 6 paragraphs of his article, essay, rather. There are a further 11 paragraphs and I urge you to read them all. It’s powerful stuff.
Turning elsewhere, how’s this for an opening sentence:
Hamas has found new allies: the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Is this powerful enough and startling enough to stop one short? Why would Hamas need partners like these, when they already roam the streets of western cities chanting “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas”. If you don’t find that chilling, you should. Especially when you learn that the author is the very well informed Khaled Abu Toameh, who writes in The Gatestone Institute:
Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have expressed deep satisfaction with the work of the BDS activists around the world. Hamas is convinced that the anti-Israel campaign will ultimately pave the way for the elimination of Israel.
For Hamas, this is not just about boycotting or imposing sanctions against Israel. Rather, it is about delegitimizing and isolating Israel, and turning it into a rogue state that has no right to exist.
In other words, the useful idiots of the BDS will do Hamas’ work for it.
Of course, Toameh doesn’t leave it there; Having devoted another couple of paragraphs to this thesis, developing what he takes to be Hamas’ take on the BDS movement, he makes a highly pertinent point:
Now that most of the Arab countries — including Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — have turned their backs on Hamas, the Islamist movement considers the BDS movement its natural partner in the fight against Israel. The leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip are rubbing their hands with satisfaction as they follow the anti-Israel activities of BDS supporters on university campuses in the US, Canada, Australia and Britain.
Hamas views these BDS activities as an extension of the campaign to destroy Israel that the Islamist movement has been waging since its founding in 1988. While Hamas has been unable to send its representatives to speak to students and professors at the university campuses, BDS supporters seem to be doing the job on its behalf.
Of course, this has nothing to do with the fact that Hamas has just suffered a significant military defeat and is in no position to seriously confront the IDF any time soon, whatever the rhetoric of its leaders. Given that the Israeli economy has grown to be, according to far from impartial sources, the 8th largest in the world (which I find hard to believe, given the size of the country in population terms), this makes a successful confrontation even less likely. Hamas has to find comfort where it can, or else it would have to shut up shop (a consummation devoutly to be wished).
While Toameh goes on for a while developing this thesis, he is building up to a refutation, as anyone who regularly comes across his writing would expect. Thus, he ends his article as follows
Until now, the BDS movement has failed to offer the Palestinians anything good. It wants Palestinian workers to boycott Israeli companies, but has not been able to offer them an alternative source of income. If BDS supporters really care about Palestinians, why don’t they go to the Gaza Strip and try to promote the rights of women living under Hamas rule? Why don’t they come to the Palestinian territories and try to promote reforms, democracy and freedom of speech under the PA and Hamas?
At the end of the day, BDS seems to be more about hating Israel than helping the Palestinians. And BDS seems to be more about promoting Hamas’s agenda than advancing the cause of peace in this part of the world.
So, as usual, the likes of Hamas are just whistling in the wind.
Actually, it’s not just Hamas whistling in the wind. According to this Times of Israel article:
A Swedish supermarket chain has reversed a decision to boycott Israeli products following a counter-campaign by activists in the Scandinavian country.
In line with many of these boycott efforts (see the website Divest This) the vote was taken when:
only 22 of the organization’s 16,000 members were present, Swedish Radio reported.
And this was because
The stores imposed a boycott of settlement goods four years ago, but were urged by a pro-Palestinian petition to extend that embargo to all Israeli imports.
which went unnoticed until a local paper reported on the matter, when the backlash began.
Despite all their chest-beating, the BDS movement has suffered a further series of reverses. Thus, the New York State Assembly has passed a near unanimous Resolution condemning BDS, and this is expected to be followed by a Bill to outlaw anti-Israel boycotts in New York State. In turn, New York will thus join Illinois and South Carolina, among others, in this endeavour.
Two more pieces of anti-boycott news will further hearten us: In the article Israel and the World Bank sign a water tech deal is the news that:
Israel signed a deal this week with the World Bank to provide water-technology knowledge and expertise for use in the developing world. Under the deal, Israel has committed $500,000 to the World Bank Group’s Water Global Practice to enhance water knowledge in developing countries facing complex water security challenges.
The deal will also see Israeli water experts travel to countries to present technologies and techniques to prevent water waste and to reclaim resources. Delegations from abroad will also come to Israel to observe first-hand Israeli innovations in areas such as desalination, water filtration and sanitation, drip irrigation and more.
This is because
“Israel has had to manage water services while operating under extreme conditions of scarcity, and has done so very impressively,” said Jennifer Sara, director for water at the World Bank. “Its innovative practices are globally recognized — both from technological and institutional perspectives — and will undoubtedly carry lessons for many of the World Bank Group’s clients facing water-security challenges.”
So think on that, University of Johannesburg academics, who voted to leave a partnership with the Ben Gurion U. (and Jordan) on this very area of water technology.
Still on the international stage Israel signs an agreement with the UN Space organization:
Israel has signed a cooperation agreement with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to develop protocols and systems to use satellite technology for life-saving activities on Earth and beyond.Among the projects will be the use of satellites to take photos of areas where natural and other disasters take place, and the distribution of photos to rescue agencies for use in locating and identifying survivors. In the future, Israel may contribute to deep space missions.
The agreement … was, said Minister of Science, Technology and Space Danny Danon, “a small step into the UN agency, and a big step for Israel.”
Danon can’t resist a final swipe at the BDS supporters around the world (and who can blame him), when he is quoted, at the end of the article, saying:
“As international groups continue to boycott Israeli researchers and their work,” said the minister, “we will continue to enhance our work in all areas of science, proudly displaying Israel’s name throughout the world.”
Just as interesting, and just as likely to bring a bitter taste to the mouths of the supporters of BDS, including the Palestine Solidarity Committee, who appear incapable of distinguishing between attacking Israel and offering no tangible support to the Palestinians that might result in a viable two-state solution, is the news that Israel-UK trade is ushering in a golden era:
British Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Sajid Javid…self-described as a “proud British-born Muslim,”
said to a business conference that
the U.K. and Israel had entered a “golden era” for trade.
“The past few years have been a golden era for Anglo-Israeli business,”
Furthermore, if that wasn’t enough,
“Over the past 67 years, Israel has made business bloom in the barren desert,” said Javid. “What really excites me are the possibilities for the years that lie ahead.”
… told the audience of about 250 people that he has traveled to Israel extensively, “both for business and with family.”
“Over the years I’ve taken a great interest in [Israel’s] affairs. Because the values that have made Israel such a success are values that matter a great deal to me. I share Israel’s love for freedom and democracy. I admire its tenacious determination when the odds are stacked against it,” he said.
Not what BDS, PSC, etc, want to hear from Muslims, even if they are Conservative Cabinet Ministers.
Finally, in all this talk of how, at the very least, the BDS movement is failing to have a serious effect at the level that really matters – the national and supra-national – comes this final item: The University of Missouri has decided, as a result of extensive representations made to it, that it needed to
cancel […] a class on Zionism that was to be taught in the fall by biology professor and anti-Israel ideologue, George Smith.
This was because, as the representations noted,
Professor Smith was not academically qualified to teach a course on Zionism. A biologist, he has no expertise about the Middle East or any related field in the social sciences. However, he does have extremist political views against Zionism and the state of Israel. His op eds and statements are anti-Israel polemics which distort facts, deny counter evidence, eliminate context, garble history, demonize Israel, and cite writers known for their animosity to the very existence of a Jewish state.
In addition, a bad flaw in an academic supposedly committed to the advancement of knowledge, usually via research and dialogue as to the meaning of findings acquired through that research
Professor Smith also has demonstrated little tolerance for opposing views. When former Israeli soldiers spoke about their personal experiences at MU this past April as part of a StandWithUs speaking tour, Professor Smith heckled them and hurled false accusations about the IDF.
Thank you Brian for those important and heartening items on the failures of BDS, and especially for the good news about the cancellation of a course on Zionism to be given by an anti-Zionist. The mind boggles!
In addition to the above, here are some more BDS fails in recent weeks.
Former President Shimon Peres (center-left) at a panel with three Israeli Nobel Prize winners
Nobel winners flock to Israel: (via a comment of Brian’s):
… despite the growing strength of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement on college campuses, the Nobel winners, all of whom have prestigious positions at universities around the world – as well as hundreds of students, professors, and other guests – have accepted invitations to two events surrounding the Nobel laureates, Foreign Ministry officials said.
The World Science Conference Israel (WSCI) was originally set for August of last year, but with Israel otherwise engaged in Operation Protective Edge, sponsors – including Hebrew University, the Science Ministry and the Foreign Ministry – postponed the event. Now set for August 15-20, the event will see more than 20 Nobel laureates discuss their contributions to science and give Israeli students the opportunity to meet some of the top minds in physics, chemistry, medicine, and economics.
While in Israel, the Nobel laureates will also take in another conference, this one to be held in Tel Aviv. The Nobel Conference for Science & Technology will feature discussions with the prizewinners, as well as business and government officials, students, and others on the future of science and technology, their impact on society in the coming years, and other relevant topics. Among the sessions: The Revolution of Personalized Medicine, Innovation at Start-Ups, Brain-Tech Research, The Frontiers of Fundamental Physics.
Some other important visitors will also be arriving as, in a huge show of support, heads of 100 German companies come to Israel:
While many in Europe are calling for a boycott of Israel, a delegation of 100 German industry leaders is preparing for a trip to Israel to meet with top businesspeople in an extraordinary show of support for the Jewish state, marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Some of the companies to be represented in the group that arrives in 10 days’ time are SAP SE, BMW, Bosch, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Telekom, Merck & Co., Inc., Mercedes-Benz and Lufthansa.
Five years ago, Israel and Germany signed an agreement to fund joint projects in the fields of biotechnology, water and environmental technology, and security and defense technology. Now, efforts are being made to connect mid- and smaller-sized companies.
Still on the subject of trade, China and Israel are entering into Free Trade Association:
This March, Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced that China would kick off negotiations on a proposed FTA with Israel this year.
The ministry’s spokesman Shen Danyang said Israel is one of China’s major economic and trade partners in the Middle East and along the route of China-proposed “belt and road” initiative.
According to data by the Chinese customs, bilateral trade volumes stood at 10.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2014. That makes China Israel’s second largest trade partner and the largest in Asia.
Indian President Narendra Modi
And since we’re talking about the Far East, an Indian columnist writes that Israel is India’s most trusted ally in the Middle East:
“Israel is India’s most trusted ally in West Asia and one dare say among the three or four closest friends India has anywhere in the world,” wrote Ashok Malik, in light of a recent announcement by the Indian External Affairs Ministry that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would become the first Indian premier to visit the Jewish state.
“It is not merely a key defense equipment supplier, but is willing to make serious investments in manufacture of military hardware in India, a prospect that has the potential to revolutionise India’s economy,” he wrote.
Additionally, Israel has helped India develop its agrotechnology, from dairy production to drip irrigation and horticulture across several Indian states. India and Israel share the Indo-Israel Agricultural Cooperation Project, which entered into its third phase this year, and Israeli experts in a variety of fields continue to work across Indian states, such as water-saving techniques in mostly arid Rajasthan.
Some critics of Modi’s visit to Israel argue that it must occur within the larger context of an outreach to the Arab-Muslim Middle East as well, with stops in the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Jordan, among others.
But Malik suggested that the Israel trip be considered a “standalone,” saying it would be “clumsy and discourteous to link a Modi visit to Israel to one to Muslim/Arab countries as well.”
Connecting international relations with trade and security, 11 Israeli companies are to exhibit at the Paris air show:
With ISIS leading the trend, the Israeli defense companies are strutting on the catwalk with quite a bit of that insouciance reserved for experts in the field, presenting solutions for the threat of the weirdoes executing people in orange jumpsuits. One of these solutions, incidentally, is to launch suicide unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at them to blow them up.
Even if US policy on how to act against ISIS is tentative, timid, and unimaginative, It is clear that the world has already realized that the future battlefield will be far from the one portrayed in fantasy films with their robots, superheroes, and spaceships destroying the enemy with powerful lasers. That will probably happen sometime, but meanwhile the reality is tougher, requiring combat against armed, determined, hotheaded, and violent semi-military forces dug into densely populated urban areas and using civilians as human shields, a situation very reminiscent of what faces a certain small and constantly challenged Middle Eastern country.
11 Israeli companies will state exhibitions at the Paris Air Show this year, and it is clear that a considerable part of what they have developed precisely matches the needs of the future fighters against ISIS and the like: from Elbit Systems Ltd.’s (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT) breakthrough protection system for passenger airliners, executive jets, and military aircraft threatened by shoulder-held missiles that can be launched by an individual terrorist capable of causing a catastrophe to loitering munitions – a euphemism for a deadly weapon combining the navigational and maneuvering capabilities of an airplane with those of a missile capable of blowing up a defined target with exemplary accuracy, even if that target is in the middle of a residential neighborhood. In such cases, the Israeli developers guarantee keeping collateral damage to a minimum, in other words minimizing the chances of innocent people being killed.
What about the international boycott and provocations advocated by BDS, and its threat to leave Israeli goods unbought on the shelves? Don’t make us laugh. When a customer from one of the world’s countries needs a weapon whose capabilities have already been tested on the battlefield, it will prefer to buy it from those with the most experience.
In other words, economics and self-preservation trump all.
Sorry BDS. You lose.