Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz looks through nigh.
(photo credit: Finance Ministry)
Sweden’s largest pension fund has decided to boycott the Israeli electronics company Elbit Systems. No longer will Forsta AP-Fonden allow any investments in Elbit, due to “ethical considerations.”
The direct blow to Elbit is hardly critical. Forsta wasn’t among the Israeli trailblazing firm’s heaviest financial backers.
What should disconcert us, however, is the reason proffered by Forsta. It homed in on Elbit’s role in developing and operating security barrier surveillance devices. Forsta thereby follows in the footsteps of Norway’s state pension fund last September.
To make matters worse, Elbit isn’t the sole target of assorted anti-Israeli boycotts. These have mushroomed into a favorite ploy throughout Europe, ranging from supermarket chains to proposed prohibitions on arms exports. The tactic has further made inroads into North America where it parades as “divestment.”
The common denominators for all the above are Israel’s purported moral transgressions. Ascribing malevolence to Israel has become nearly axiomatic in Europe and is barely contested in the arena of public opinion.
In this context the Elbit case is instructive. Forsta’s “Ethical Council” has determined that Elbit is complicit with “violations of fundamental conventions and norms” arising from its security involvement. The council cites anti-barrier pronouncements by the Swedish government, the EU and the International Court of Justice – all forums in which Israel is unlikely to receive an impartial hearing, let alone a modicum of sympathy.
Israel ought to be able to expect fellow democracies to understand that it was vicious terrorist onslaughts which impelled it to erect the barrier. It resorted to the measure to save the lives of Israelis civilians, exposed to the relentless bombing campaign of the second intifada. We owe nobody an apology for looking after our safety.
The most horrific tragedy that underscored the fence’s indispensability was the Seder night atrocity at Netanya’s Park Hotel in 2002. Tellingly, European pension funds and supermarket chains weren’t sufficiently outraged by that bloodletting to withdraw any investments from terror-sponsoring states.
THE BARRIER – along with ceaseless vigilance by Israel’s security forces – has helped prevent many more ghastly massacres. We must, therefore, wonder whether preserving Israeli lives is at all considered a legitimate aim by Europeans.
When we weigh Forsta’s move we must sadly conclude that it fails Natan Sharansky’s three-D test: Censure of Israel cannot be judged as objective if it is rooted in Israel’s demonization, delegitimization and its subjection to double standards.
The gross misrepresentation of large-scale Israeli anti-terror offensives as “disproportionate” slaughter must qualify as demonization. The canard about Jenin massacres during 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield – which, like the barrier, was directly instigated by the Park Hotel carnage – constitutes a cogent example.
The barrier, meanwhile, was as defensive a response as could be. When even the right to passive protection is denied Israel, it must be counted as delegitimization of any mode of Israeli self-defense. Israel is apparently expected to do nothing to safeguard its citizens.
And now, demanding that Israelis and Israeli firms maintain total
distance from their own self-defense – as is essentially being required
of Elbit – represents the arbitrary, unwarranted imposition of a double
standard. No such requirement is raised regarding any other country,
including rogue regimes that openly threaten their neighbors, as well
as states that justifiably battle terrorism but with considerably less
circumspection and self-criticism than Israel.
HAVING FAILED the three-D test, the Swedish boycott cannot be accepted
as any kind of justifiable response to Israeli actions. It amounts to
an assertion that our very struggle for survival is sinful. Those in
the international community who decry our insistent self-preservation
are guilty of hypocrisy and worse.
We know the time will come when the Swedes, Norwegians, British and
others will apologize for their bias, for their lost moral compass,
just as the UN ultimately apologized for its infamous 1975
Zionism-is-racism resolution. Until then, Israel will persevere,
protecting itself while upholding its moral principles. Shame on those
who presume to judge it, and seek to harm it, on the basis of skewed
information, distorted vision and malevolent misrepresentation.