The economic victories of the Boycott Divestment Sanction (BDS)* movement against Israel over the past decade cannot even be counted on the fingers of one hand. There have not been any.
UK/Israel trade is at a record high, Turkey/Israel trade is booming, as is that between Israel/Indian. The Israelis are almost having to beat the Chinese off with a stick such is Beijing’s keenness to become more involved with one of the worlds key tech nations.
No foreign investment has left Israel; no corporation abroad has severed ties. The centers of learning around the world have not cut links, nor have they divested themselves of shares in Israeli companies.
Further, unless you are part of the 0.1% of the world, which is Jewish, Israeli, or a BDS member, you may never have heard of BDS. So, what’s the big deal?
The confusion over a statement of an Orange executive about wanting to cut ties, and the UK’s National Union of Student’s decision to support BDS, dominated news in Israel last week. At this week’s Herzliya Security Conference it was the focus of many speeches and earnest debate.
The reason is that, here, most people understand clearly what many well meaning, if naive, BDS supporters in the UK do not – that BDS is not about economics, and the economic well being of Palestinians, it is about the destruction of Israel.
Britain’s former Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks made the point well in Herzliya saying that BDS was about “Trying to make Israel friendless, so it will be defenceless”.
The movement is led by people who understand that failing to achieve a boycott is not failure. The intention is to chip away at the legitimacy of Israel, to exhaust the academics, intellectuals, and politicians who will defend the country and frighten the less robust among them. They also intend the coming generations of opinion formers and politicians to have been thoroughly indoctrinated by their dissembling arguments.
Occasionally the mask slips, Marghan Barghouti, a leading Palestinian BDS figure is on record as saying “If the occupation ends, would that end our call for BDS? No it wouldn’t”.
That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu bothered to react to the pinprick of the NUS decision last week. That was a mistake which will have had the students high fiving each other, but it showed how much the Israelis get the wider agenda to portray them as a people to be shunned.
The former director general of Strategic Affairs, Brig Gen (Rtd) Yossi Kuperwasser, told the W&Y “He did it to turn it into a major event in the press in Israel… but that hysteria is a reflection of a wider agenda to portray Israelis as a people unworthy of normal social discourse and trade.”
Ofer Shelachi, a member of the Knesset in the centrist Yesh Atid party, hardly a friend of the settlers, told the W&Y ‘You don’t have to be right wing to see that BDS is not just about occupation, it’s also about anti-semitism”.
Whether or not you agree with that, it is necessary to look at the BDS in two ways – as a failure insofar as the Israeli economy has doubled in size in the period BDS has been in operation, but at the same time, as a success when you see the effect of the propaganda campaign on a thousand university campuses, among thousands of people, many who will go on to become opinion formers. It is a decades long strategy.
*The BDS movement denies being anti-Semitic and says it “calls for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights.”
From an article originally published in the UK’s Jewish Chronicle