In the case of McDonald’s recent decision to boycott the settlement of Ariel,
the hamburger is the message.
Clearly, other brands can well satisfy the
locals’ yen for greasy, calorie-laden fast food. Just as the Golden Arches were
not missed in this Samarian town so far, so they likely won’t be in
But that is hardly the point. The point is in the cumulative
layers of delegitimization that successive boycott ventures stack up. On its
own, each boycott’s damage is negligible, but the aggregate ingrains an
impression of odium connected with given places and people.
In this the
message, even if skewed, is detrimental.
Boycotts are intrinsically
harmful and counterproductive, even if they are really old news. The fuss over
McDonald’s was occasioned by the opening of a shopping mall in Ariel, from whose
food court the Big Mac will be demonstratively absent. But McDonald’s never
crossed the Green Line up to now and hence this is no reversal of
It needs to be stressed that Israel’s McDonald’s franchise is
private and is owned by Omri Padan, one of the founders of Peace Now and among
the most vociferous and politically active in this milieu. The meat patty is not
the only thing he made political. When he ran Kitan Textiles, he firmly vetoed
the very notion of opening a plant beyond the Green Line. His nixing a
McDonald’s Ariel branch, then, should come as no surprise to anyone in the
Homegrown boycotters unfortunately get great resonance overseas
where Israel has become the world’s whipping boy. Not a day goes by without more
reports about economic/academic/artistic/athletic boycotts, diverse “divestment”
schemes, investment pullbacks, event cancellations, theatrical snubs,
supermarket blacklists etc. All these gain inexorable momentum and indisputably
stimulate a potent negative dynamic that is hardly limited to
Sadly, it has become profitable for an
array of Israeli professors, authors, filmmakers and artistes, for example, to
whip up anti-Israel sentiment abroad and directly incite to boycotts. Such
activity is undeniably lucrative. It assures academics a hearty welcome on the
most prestigious campuses, if they only vilify Israel vehemently enough. It
sells books and movies, stage shows and mount exhibitions.
experienced its share of boycotts, considerably more than any other Israeli
locale in Judea and Samaria. This is likely because the city is a success
Ariel is slapped with assorted boycotts precisely because it looms
large in the settlements bloc blueprint and is slated to remain Israeli under
any deal. Its solid status within the consensus does not mitigate the antagonism
toward it but intensifies it.
In recent years major Israeli repertory
theaters have refused to stage productions in Ariel; the same theaters are
boycotted abroad as part of the visceral anti-Israel onslaught that inevitably
burgeoned from the “antisettlement” pretext.
Most memorable is the
staunch opposition to granting Ariel University full academic accreditation. It
was headlined by none other than Israel’s veteran universities, some smaller and
significantly more limited in scope than Ariel.
The fact that Ariel has a
student body of more than 14,000 did not quite matter. The premise seemed to be
that these students need not be considered or catered for, regardless of the
courses they take, research they perform or degrees they earn. Some are less
desirable than others, especially if the objectionable sorts attend class beyond
the Green Line.
This had much less to do with supposed principles than it
did with coveting government budgets and endowments that might be earmarked for
Ariel. But it was the façade that mattered and which made it appear that Ariel
University is regarded as intrinsically illegitimate even within
Boycotts that arise in Israel proper help defame Israel as a
whole – including Israeli boycott-accomplices – and banish us all beyond the
pale. But the greatest harm caused by Israelis who instigate, promote or assist
boycotts is that they critically diminish Ramallah’s incentive to compromise.