Bennett tells 'Post': Boycotts haven’t hurt Israel

Still, the education minister said he cooperates with the Strategic Affairs Ministry’s efforts to fight boycotts.

April 24, 2016 07:08
2 minute read.
Palestinians walk past a sign calling for a boycott of Israel painted on a wall in Bethlehem

Palestinians walk past a sign calling for a boycott of Israel painted on a wall in Bethlehem. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)


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Talk of anti-Israel boycotts is overblown and Israel has not been hurt by them, Education Minister Naftali Bennett recently told The Jerusalem Post ahead of his address to the paper’s annual conference in New York on May 22.

“I can’t say we’ve been meaningfully hurt by BDS,” Bennett said, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. “Israel has been boycotted since its inception, and this is another round of that. I wouldn’t exaggerate its impact... We’re focused on building a very good education system and a revolution in math and science.”

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Still, the education minister said he cooperates with the Strategic Affairs Ministry’s efforts to fight boycotts, and proposed that Israel form an agency to fight BDS and lawfare.

“We should be bringing in the Sayeret Matkal [elite IDF unit] of lawyers and public opinion influencers, experts in PR and public diplomacy on a whole higher level than we’ve been doing today,” he said.

When it comes to academic boycotts, Bennett argued that the best response Israel can give to potential boycotters is to maintain its academic excellence and innovation.

“As long as the world depends on Israeli know-how, I’m not that worried about boycotts here and there,” Bennett said. “We need to continue inventing medical devices, navigation systems, cybersecurity methods and agricultural innovations, and as long as we continue to innovate and deliver value to the world, I’m not that worried.”

Bennett pointed to an agreement six Chinese universities recently signed with Israeli universities as an example of blue-and-white innovation traveling far.

That strategy, Bennett added, does not just apply to education.

“Israel has become a lighthouse nation in many aspects: innovation, tech, economics, but also in security aspects. We’re the leader in fighting terror while maintaining a free and democratic country. No country is more threatened than Israel. We face threats on four fronts – Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Nusra Front in Syria, ISIS in Syria and Hamas in Gaza, plus threats from within from Hamas and others – yet we’re proving to the world that a country can thrive amid considerable and profound threats,” he said.

Israel’s example is important at a time when the whole world is dealing with terrorism and working on continuing life as usual, he added.

“The bad news of the past half-year is ongoing terrorism, but the good news is that the people of Israel have been courageous and strong, and kept a stiff upper lip,” Bennett posited. “Civilians engaged terrorists instead of running away, and neutralized the terrorists.

Civilians have been at the forefront of dealing with threats while living a good life.

“We ought to be proud of the good country we have, and that is stronger than BDS,” he declared.

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