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