Multi-nationals say BDS not making a dent

GE manager says greater threat than boycott movement would be for Israel to lose competitive edge through excessive taxes, bureaucracy, or decline in educational excellence.

Boycott Israel sign (photo credit: REUTERS)
Boycott Israel sign
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Efforts to boycott, sanction and divest from Israel are not making a dent, according to leaders in several multinational firms active in Israel.
At a conference in Tel Aviv for the Bilateral Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) foundation, a fund that promotes US-Israel business ties, panelists from several multinationals were asked what the impact of both war and the boycott movement have been on their businesses.
“I’m not aware of any boycott concerns or issues, at least from GE’s perspective,” said Oded Meirav, manager of GE Global Research’s Israel Technology Center. A greater threat, he continued, would be for Israel to lose its competitive edge through excessive taxes, bureaucracy, or a decline in educational excellence.
Dan Shimmoff, McGraw- Hill Israel’s general manager, said the issue hasn’t come up seriously.
“I’m not aware of any concerns McGraw-Hill has toward that,” he said.
The large numbers of international companies working Israel also makes the movement’s success more precarious; it would be hard for people to cut Microsoft products and Intel chips out of their lives. The more multinationals come to Israel, he said, “the more difficult it is to even consider the possibility of a boycott.”
Philips Electronics (Israel) CEO Guido Pardo Roques agreed, arguing that the presence of companies such as Intel puts companies that might worry about it at ease.
Orna Berry, EMC vice president of corporate growth and innovation, noted that Israel’s ability to keep producing – despite rockets, war and boycott attempts – is the bottom line for most companies.
“When you’re looking at the dollar sense, you forget the geopolitical reality,” she said.
That said, war had its effects.
Not all business could be conducted online, and the falling rockets in the summer war with Gaza led some businesspeople to cancel or postpone their trips. Indeed, the war shaved some 0.6% off Israel’s economic growth, led tourism to drop by about a third, and pushed Israel’s economy into contraction in the third quarter of the year.
Speaking at the event, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro noted that business ties could have a positive. Increased regional economic cooperation, he said, serves political ends.
Last week, the BIRD energy foundation announced a $4 million investment in five new joint US-Israeli projects, focusing on fuel cells, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency.