Are they are aren''t they threatening Israel?
The US Secretary of State and the EU Representative in Israel both said, within days of one another, that the failure of the Israel-Palestine peace talks will increase the economic pressure on Israel.
Israeli officials responded to both with counter threats that such language has no place in discussions between allies.
The implication: stop threatening if you want the talks to continue.
That brought immediate responses that the Israelis did not understand the Secretary or the Representative. Both opposed boycotts and other sanctions on Israel, but they were talking about what activists and companies in the private sector would do for their own economic and political reasons.
Claims of misunderstanding are conventional diplomatic restatement. In these cases, it does not hold up in the presence of government funded organizations actively leading the calls to boycott. Moreover, a simple reading of what the Secretary and Representative said, in context, seems a pretty clear either do what I want or there will be consequences.
Israeli business executives and the Minister of Finance have expressed their own fears of what an extension of the boycotts can do to the Israeli economy. Cynics heard them taking advantage of boycott activity to express once again their views that Netanyahu should offer more to the Palestinians.
Kerry and EU officials--supposedly schooled in the history of international relations, or with aides having such education--ought to be more aware of the complications associated with economic warfare, and work harder to prevent it.
The story of the last major economic confrontation involving important western countries was the tariff war of the 1920s. Extremist defenses of each national economy via high tariffs brought retaliation, and is said to have made a significant contribution to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Israelis should not delude themselves into thinking that they wield the tools of a great economic power. However, we are not without opportunities to defend ourselves.
Dare the goyim--or Jews who identify with them--to think they can best the Jews of Israel at economic warfare? No surprise that Tom Friedman has signed on to Kerry, the EU, and the threat of boycotts. His solution is also no surprise. It''s something he has been tooting for years: freeze settlement activity.
We''ve been dealing with enemies and adversaries for 3,000 years. We''ve survived Shakespeare, Sabbtai Zevi, and a host of others. Kerry and Friendman may be next.
The Palestinians who created BDS (boycott, disvestment, sanctions) even before they have been able to create a peoplehood that is not chronically on the verge of civil war, are not likely to succeed where others have tried and failed.
The Arab boycott, dating from 1948 and reaching a peak in 1973, not only failed to bring Israel to its knees, but the country emerged with more prosperity spread throughout its population than any Muslim country. The multitude of players in the international economy allowed Israel to avoid energy shortages as well as any country, and did not keep Israel from finding energy companies willing to deal with it. Israel has not been invited to join OPEC, but it is on the verge of being an energy exporter.
The Arab boycott sought to cut off not only energy to Israel, but all opportunities for international commerce. It led Israeli companies to disguise their connection with Israel, and do business with some of the very governments that were trumpeting their boycott activities.
We can expect a flood of disinformation and political posturing in the current campaign. This week''s news featured the proclamation of a Danish bank that it would stop doing business with Bank Hapoalim on account of Bank Hapoalim''s branches in "settlements." The response from Bank Hapoalim was that the Danish bank had no business with it that would require being stopped.
Public relations campaigns are slippery things. The firms offering their services may claim great weight, but their impacts may be lost in the noise coming from many sources.
The Israeli government, companies, and individuals are not without the capacity to engage in our own propaganda blitz, with the help of overseas Jews who feel themselves one step away from being pressed. The BDS campaign is a product of Palestinian efforts to delegitimize Israel, which resembles what came along with Kristalnacht, i.e., signs forbidding Jews from entering Jewish stores, and the outlawing of Jewish lawyers and physicians..
Israeli media headlined the Kerry and EU Representative statements with language like, Hitting Jews where it hurts, in their pocketbook. That sounds like the onset of a campaign linking BDS to the stain of anti-Semitism.
I have done my own jeering against Jews who claim a God-given right to the whole of the Promised Land. However, one must recognize that the notion of a Covenant promising a land and other benefits is as central to Judaism as the virgin birth and resurrection to Christianity, or what the Muslims believe about Mohammed.
Blatant demands that Israel stop settlement activity resembles what used to be called Gentlemen''s Agreements or Real Estate Covenants, forbidding sale or rental of housing to Jews in desirable neighborhoods.
Does a concern for political correctness only protect the sensitivities of Christians and Muslims, but not Jews?
It is no easy task to separate Israel''s settlement activity from the right of Jews to live where they want. Also involved is Palestinian rejections of Israeli efforts from 1967 onward to reach mutual agreements that would limit settlement activity to land that Israel would be recognized as calling its own.
Would the humanitarians of the world make clear in their support of liberal migration policies that all should be able to live where they want, except Jews?
What Kerry and the EU Representative have tried to say in their clarifications is that the real threat of boycotts comes not from governments, but from consumers and companies not wanting to do business with Israelis. However, the threat of consumer boycotts is a minor annoyance. If the consumers'' cooperative of Olympia Washington and like minded worthies feel proud for denying their shopping carts to Israeli products, they should recognize that the blow to Israel''s economy is more symbolic than real. The foreign trade in humus, noodles, and snack food is not at the forefront of what Israel earns in foreign exchange. The principal market for those products is Israeli consumers, who have not yet signed on to a boycott of Israel.
The export of flowers, fruits, and vegetables is more important to Israel''s economy, but concerns may learn to blur their Israeli origins. Buyers of diamonds and those concerned with defense and high-tech medicine and communications are closer to what is important for the Israeli economy, and are less vulnerable to the public campaigns against settlements.
Boycotts against products made over the 1967 borders appear to threaten Palestinians more than Israeli Jews.
The entrepreneurs who operate those factories may cut back on their personnel, and put their money elsewhere.
The people who lose their livelihood will, for the most part, be Palestinian workers.
The Protocols exaggerate. Jews neither control the world''s economy nor aspire to do so.
However, we do have friends and allies.
Pension funds, banks, and insurance companies in Europe and North America can be vulnerable to pressure in favor as well as opposed to Israel. There is some weight to the argument that Israel has been gentle with the Palestinians (compared to how the Palestinians and other Arabs treat one another), despite a great deal of incitement and violence against civilians. If some investors weasel out of anti-boycotting pressure by claiming that they are not investing in Israeli companies for "economic" reasons, others may be led by political connections to increase their investments in Israeli companies.
The recent incident focused on SodaStream shows that Israel is not without friends who can get media attention, as well among the Palestinians who work in settlement enterprises. According to the lead paragraph of a Ha''aretz item on the brouhaha surrounding a Superbowl commercial:
“I can bring a million people who want to work here,” boasted Ahmed Nasser, taking a break from his job as a SodaStream assembly line worker."
One can respond in numerous ways to the question as to whether Israel will be blamed for what is shaping up to the failure of the current peace talks, and thereby suffer heightened boycott activities.
The most likely bottom line is that those inclined to blame Israel will do so, while those suspicious of Palestinian activities will find enough incidents of violence, and enough threats of violence by Palestinian and other Islamic rejectionists to justify the claim that Palestinians once against did not miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.