My Word: Consuming passions and boycotts

If you really want to do something to help, organize a “buy-cott,” promoting those products.

By
July 16, 2011 23:11
The Jerusalem Post

Golan Heights Winery 311. (photo credit: Golan Heights Winery via Bloomberg)

I am considering boycotting boycotts. I might sit down with some cheese (despite the consumer lobbies); a glass of wine (from a winery in either the Golan Heights or Barkan area of Samaria, despite the demands and counter-demands of the country’s Left and Right); and possibly listen to some Wagner in the privacy of my own living room (although I’ll keep the volume down).

The calls for boycotts and counter-boycotts are getting so out of control that, frankly, I am fed up with all the attempts to tell me what I should do, buy, think and wear.

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I have my red lines: I won’t be caught dead in a fur coat and I still refuse to buy clothes at a certain children’s fashion chainstore because of its near-pornographic advertising material. I won’t mention the name – not just because I don’t want to be sued: It’s really none of my business whether you decide to buy there or not. You can even wear fur if you feel comfortable being decked in something that cost a living being its life and you a fortune. It’s your money and your conscience: You choose. You don’t need me, or the government, to tell you how to act.

The so-called “Boycott Law,” which passed its final reading in the Knesset on July 11, is just the latest in a string of unnecessary acts which do not bring credit to the country.

“The law says that if you harm me [with a boycott], I have the right to ask for damages, and if you boycott the State of Israel, don’t ask it for benefits,” the legislation’s sponsor, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), told a press conference.

Basically, the law enables individuals, institutions and businesses targeted by Israeli boycotters to sue for damages, not just from an actual boycott but even from the calls to boycott.

Courts could award compensation “as justified by the circumstances” and the finance minister can prevent businesses that boycott Israel from taking part in state tenders.



As a Jerusalem Post editorial noted last week, Elkin was correct to point out after the bill’s first reading in March that there is a certain “absurdity” in Israelis supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Israeli (and Jewish) proponents of BDS make me sick, at least their talk of lack of freedom makes me gag. In the name of human rights, the boycotters are willing to trample on the very principles they profess to cherish. Their attempts to undermine the only democratic country in the Middle East in the name of freedom are almost laughable – but these aren’t only tears of laughter.

This month’s “peace flotilla” activists, for example are so misguided that their greatest desire is to navigate to Gaza, that rocket-launching luminary of human rights where women are increasingly being forced to cover up under an Islamist regime, homosexuals live in hiding, Christians live in fear, and Jews are not allowed to live at all.

But legislation is not the way to handle boycott calls. In fact, it just gives Israel’s many enemies more ammunition.

The boycott movements thrive on publicity. That’s why the flotilla ran aground and the “flightilla” never really took off. Lacking footage of a clash with the “brutal” Israeli armed forces, they had nothing to show for their efforts. Instead of images of bloodied bodies of ostensibly peaceful protesters, all I received was an in-box full of press releases bemoaning atrocities like the elderly activist who was detained without access to his medications which were in his suitcase.

(Although I don’t trust the judgment of anyone who travels abroad without keeping their urgent medications in their hand luggage, let alone somebody who knows they are likely to be detained, in more sense than one, at some point in their journey.) I also learned of the pathetic plight of a husband and wife held in separate facilities (though I don’t like to think of what would have happened had Israeli police put a left-wing, foreign woman in a male detention center. The protesters were definitely denied a juicy headline there.) The point is that Israel’s delegitimizers are being given legitimization by default. Every heavy-handed attempt to suppress them gives them not only publicity, but “martyrs.” And martyrs for a cause are more dangerous than placard-bearing demonstrators whose influence dies the moment the cameras stop rolling.

The legitimacy of the Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem does not depend on the (undoubtedly well-intentioned) legislation of Elkin.

Nor is it strengthened by such laws.

The new law is not draconian, as its opponents suggest and some of its proponents probably want.

Businesses particularly affected by the boycott calls could, in all likelihood, have found ways of seeking compensation by creative use of existing legislation – and, of course, they could always turn their location into a marketing advantage. Numerically, I suspect, far fewer Israelis are willing to forgo pretzels, olive oils and perfumes just because they were made over the Green Line compared to those prepared to buy products “Made in Samaria” for their quality.

If you really want to do something to help, organize a “buy-cott,” promoting those products.

I would hazard a guess that most of the world doesn’t give a damn about the boycott (unless it affects their pockets).

The BDS movement is obviously not aimed at removing “settlements” but gradually getting rid of the State of Israel, slice by slice like some unkosher salami. Strangely, the existence of vibrant towns and communities is seen as a threat to peace, rather than a sign of what the Palestinians could achieve if they were to put their minds and funds to it, instead of investing their efforts in erasing Israel.

Such attempts at delegitimization leading to elimination cannot be fought by local laws but by massive counter efforts on the diplomatic and public diplomacy fronts.

A few months ago, for example, the University of Johannesburg said it was cutting its ties with Ben- Gurion University of the Negev (ironically considered locally, rightly or wrongly, as the country’s most left-wing academic institution) over what it referred to as the university’s support of the IDF (apparently it’s a sin). Last week, the South African institute nonetheless announced it had signed a new research agreement between scientists from UJ, BGU and the University of California, Los Angeles, and Belgium’s Ghent University, “to pursue research collaboration on nanotechnology enhanced water treatment membrane materials and processes.”

Academic boycotts are even more absurd than those by entertainers who cancel performances in Israel rather than come and promote their message of peace. Nobody died because a big-name band decided not to come to Tel Aviv; many, many lives have been saved because of Israeli technology and know-how.

In the age of Facebook and other social media, it is almost impossible to monitor calls for boycotts, let alone successfully prosecute against them.

So I’d say it’s your right to boycott the boycotters.

But please don’t sue me for pointing this out!

The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post. liat@jpost.com


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