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The casual observer cannot avoid the impression that Israel has become the world’s whipping boy. Not a day goes by without more news about economic/academic/artistic/athletic boycotts, diverse “divestment” schemes, investment pullbacks, event cancellations, theatrical snubs, supermarket blacklists.
It looks orchestrated, although it isn’t. Despite appearances, Israel is nowhere near the status of apartheid South Africa, which was hit with multi-government, UN-imposed sanctions. But even non-governmental boycotts can hurt and gain inexorable momentum. Already anti-Israel bans indisputably stimulate a potent negative dynamic.
What to do about them?
WHILE WE cannot wish anything away, we can combat some homegrown boycott-collaboration, as well as counterparts within our sphere of influence.
Twenty-five MKs from seven different Knesset factions, among then 10 committee chairpersons and seven whips (including former House Speaker and current Kadima whip Dalia Itzik, who sets out her own position in an article on this page) have tabled a bill that would exact a price from assorted boycott-promoters. Defaming Israel and banishing it beyond the pale might come with a price tag, if the bill is adopted.
No longer would it be a frivolous luxury, for example, for an array of Israeli professors, authors, filmmakers and artistes to whip up anti-Israel sentiment abroad and directly incite to boycotts. At present, in fact, such activity is lucrative. It assures academics a hearty welcome on the most prestigious campuses, if they only vilify Israel vehemently enough. It helps sell books and movies, stage shows and mount exhibitions.
The new bill, however, would impose a choice on expedient Israelis who bite the hand that feeds them. The bill specifies that Israeli citizens would no longer be allowed “to instigate, promote or assist boycotts against the State of Israel or Israeli institutions,” such as universities and hospitals, without consequence. Violators would be legally liable to pay compensatory damages to victims of specific embargoes.
The bill also extends to foreign boycott-initiators insofar as they interact with Israel or Israelis. Thus it curtails the right of individuals involved in coordinating boycotts to enter the country for a full decade thereafter.
Foreign entities or anyone on their behalf promoting an anti-Israel boycott would be prohibited under the bill’s stipulations from using Israeli bank accounts, Israeli stocks or Israeli land for said purpose.
This could well also apply to those Israeli Arabs who launched their own boycott of products they charge originate from Judea and Samaria. This boycott is synchronized with the ban on “settlements” goods sponsored directly by the Palestinian Authority’s highest Ramallah echelons.
The PA Treasury foots the bill for the boycott’s strict enforcement. Prime Minister Salaam Fayad has personally tossed Israeli products into huge bonfires, to the approving cheers of onlookers. Violations of PA boycott ordinances could mean heavy fines and as many as five years in prison.
Official Israel’s complaints that such activity violates the terms of the original Oslo Accords, and that it hardly meshes with rhetoric about “confidence-building” measures during the current proximity talks, have fallen on deaf ears. To add a punch to Israeli indignation, the anti-boycott bill proposes deducting boycott losses from the overall sums Israel remits to the PA. These moneys would then be earmarked for compensating Israeli individuals and firms directly affected by the PA’s boycott.
The bill, argues Itzik, constitutes “self-defense. The PA knowingly
inflicts damage with its boycott. It needs to know that unless it
desists, it will damage itself as well.”
Such prohibitions or restrictions, especially in our context, are
indeed akin to sabotage, another form of fighting the Jewish state.
It is unthinkable that Israel would fail to minimally respond to PA
aggression, or to such provocations from abroad. Domestic hostility is
even more troubling.
EVEN COUNTRIES nowhere as beleaguered or as vulnerable as Israel show
no tolerance for such phenomena. Indeed, the anti-boycott bill copies
almost verbatim the US’s own legal strictures against Americans who
instigate anti-American boycotts or boycotts against America’s allies.
What is good for the US ought to be good for Israel.