Sanctions: Don't blame the EU

In its recent decision to impose sanctions on Israeli activity across the pre-1967 lines, EU bureaucracy is merely acting as a pawn, albeit neither unwitting nor unwilling, for malicious domestic forces within Israel.

Woman signs Peace Now petition against settlements 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Woman signs Peace Now petition against settlements 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
 It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer. I consequently have decided to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists. – Neve Gordon, “Boycott Israel,” Los Angeles Times, August 20, 2009
It’s difficult and painful, almost impossibly so, for an Israeli to call for such a boycott…The change won’t come from within. Change will only come from the outside. The call for an economic boycott has become a patriotic requirement.
– Gideon Levy, “The Israeli patriot’s final refuge: boycott,” Haaretz, July 16, 2013The European Union’s decision to boycott the settlements struck the Israeli government like a bolt of lightning on a clear blue day; it’s a shame that there are some on the Israeli Left who longed for this day and blessed the EU decision. – Dan Margalit, “A yellow star for settlers,” Israel Hayom, July 17, 2013
Last week the EU dropped an allegedly unexpected bombshell, when it announced, with exquisitely poor timing and impeccably poor taste (on the fast of Tisha Be’av, one of the most solemn days in the Jewish calendar, commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem), that it was suspending any involvement in economic, social or academic ventures with Israeli institutions situated across the pre-1967 lines. The new punitive resolution, which reportedly could cost Israel billions of dollars, is to go into effect in 2014.
Righteous indignation
Unsurprisingly, the odious EU initiative provoked a spate of protests from Israeli officialdom and numerous right-of-center commentators. They aptly berated the Europeans for their egregious double standards, condemned their blatant anti-Israel bias, and denounced the discriminatory boycott as a reflection of the longstanding and loathsome European tradition of Judeophobia, indeed of Judeocide
However, as compelling and cogent this censure might be, to a large degree, it misses the point – or at least misses identifying an even more insidious factor which, to a large measure, underlies the EU decision.
This is the array of domestic elements in Israel that are pleased as punch at the EU decision. For as vindictive as it may be, they see in it the vindication of their political views, and proof positive of the position they have been advocating over the years, despite its repeated rejection at the polls.
This group includes a diverse collection of ideo-political persuasions – from hardline radical post-(read “anti-”) Zionists, to allegedly pro-Zionist left-of-center activists – who, despite the mountain of accumulating evidence as to its disastrous infeasibility, still doggedly (read “obsessively”) cling to their cherished delusion of a two-state-solution. There is, however, one common denominator shared by all: A pathological – almost visceral – aversion to the Jewish communities across the pre- 1967 line in Judea-Samaria, and their residents, usually pejoratively referred to as “settlements” and “settlers,” respectively.
"My prediction" revisited
Almost two months ago I wrote a column titled “My prediction: Please help prove it wrong.”
In it I cautioned: “It is important to note the metamorphosis that has taken place in the rationale of the two-state doctrine...[W]ithdrawal from the territories across the 1967 Green Line is now no longer presented... as a measure designed to attain a peace accord with the Palestinians...Today, territorial retreat is being promoted as a stand-alone moral imperative which must be aspired to, no matter what the peace negotiations with the Palestinians achieve. Or don’t.”
Given this ideo-political backdrop, I warned that the specter of economic sanctions would soon be brandished against the “settlers” and “settlements” in Judea- Samaria: “As the growing specter of international...sanctions looms ever-larger and more menacing, public concern will be harnessed to fan the flames of resentment toward the designated cause of these potential punitive measures – the continued Jewish presence across the 1967 Green Line. Although radical post/anti-Zionist elements will continue their [overt] support for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, [others] will not publicly call for such steps against Israel. Privately, however, they may well let it be known that they feel that tangible threats thereof might have a valuable role to play.
“They will write articles and give interviews in the mainstream media, warning that such penalties are imminent, thereby signaling to foreign governments that such action is, in their eyes, understandable, even, regrettably, appropriate. As such threats become more credibly conveyed and are seen to be more tangibly imminent, they will be brandished domestically... and increasingly portrayed as an unwarranted and avoidable punishment brought down on the general public by a handful of recalcitrant, radical ideologues.
“Then, a well-orchestrated campaign to discredit the residents of the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria will begin. They will be portrayed as the source of economic burden and physical danger to the rest of the population living within the pre-1967 frontiers...”
Before our very eyes
Appallingly, this is precisely the reality that is beginning to materialize before our very eyes, far more rapidly than even I imagined.
Just hours before the announcement of the EU decision, Haaretz’s Gideon Levy exhorted the Europeans to penalize all Israelis for the sins of the “settlers,” proclaiming: “A European boycott would not stop at products made in West Bank settlements.
 "There’s no reason it should. The distinction between products from the occupation and Israeli products is an artificial creation. All of Israel is immersed in the settlement enterprise, so all of Israel must take responsibility for it and pay the price for it.”
 With undisguised relish, Levy urges: “Economic boycott was proven effective in South Africa. And it can happen here too. Israel’s economy will not withstand a boycott.”
It would be a grave error to dismiss the views expressed by Levy as marginal or unrepresentative of large swathes of Israel’s left-of-center so-called “intelligentsia.”
For the Haaretz columnist is hardly a figure who is marginalized or shunned by mainstream society.
Quite the opposite, he is a welcome and frequent guest on radio and television programs, given roles in widely viewed docu-dramas and feted by many for his alleged “journalistic courage.”Perverse masochistic discourse
Of course, given the perverse masochistic tenor of the public discourse in Israel, where self-flagellation is not only the order of the day, but a badge of moral merit, it takes very little courage to express the views that Levy expounds. It entails no penalty, either professional or personal. If anything quite the reverse.
The collegial embrace extended him by much of the establishment is reflected in the unwritten subtext that defines both the fundamental credo and the acceptable code of conduct of large segments of the allegedly “intellectual” mainstream.
So while Levy might be a little more acrimonious than most, the views he expresses are hardly dichotomously dissimilar to many of those of his more reticent and less flamboyant colleagues.
Thus, the seasoned and sober Moshe Arens described “the reaction of much of the Israeli media” as “amazing,” characterizing it as “the usual Israeli spin doctors on the Left, weaving a tale to convince the Israeli public that Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights and much of Jerusalem had to be abandoned.”
Not all those who approve of the EU decision can applaud it openly, because of the official positions they hold. They are therefore compelled to publicly feign shocked disapproval, while surreptitiously rubbing their hands with glee.
Allow me to cite boycott-enthusiast Gideon Levy – and leave you to draw your own conclusions: “When Justice Minister Tzipi Livni warns about it [the boycott] spreading and calls as a result for the diplomatic deadlock to be broken, she provides proof of the need for a boycott. She and others are therefore joining the boycott, divestment and sanction movement. Welcome to the club.”
Apologetics abound
In the Israeli media, apologetics for the EU resolution abounded. Thus, with clearly discernible relief, David Newman, dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ben-Gurion University (no real surprise there), crowed: “This time no amount of back-room lobbying and pressure was able to delay the decision any longer. The EU and many of its member countries were simply fed up with the continued lack of progress on the peace front, and with what they see as the blatant promotion of policies aimed at strengthening the occupation."
Others expressed not only sympathetic understanding of the EU measures, but varying degrees of commendation.
Haaretz’s Amira Hass, arguably the only person who can match Gideon Levy for unrestrained vitriol and venom in her criticism of Israel and her profound opprobrium for any manifestation of Israeli strength, cooed that the European decision “allowed [Mahmoud] Abbas to consent to renewed negotiations [and] tell his skeptical, cynical public that the decision was made from a position of Palestinian strength – not weakness – as the EU measure shook Israel from its complacency.”
In a disturbingly similar tone, Brig-Gen. (res.) Shomo Brom surmised approvingly that “one of the factors that influenced the Israeli side [to renew the negotiations] was the exclusion of the occupied territories from agreements with the EU. In contradiction to the spokespeople of the Israeli government, it is plausible to assume the European measure acted to aid the negotiations and not undermine them. The government of Israel was terrified at the possibility of the extension of the delegitimization of Israel as a result of its rejectionist image” (translated from the Hebrew).
It should be mentioned that Brom is a senior research associate in the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), which is in the forefront of promoting a manifestly imbecilic proposal for unilateral withdrawal from virtually all of Judea- Samaria, regardless of the outcome of any negotiations – underscoring my previous observation that such withdrawal is no longer considered a measure to attain peace, but as a stand-alone moral imperative in and of itself.A darker shade of black
The EU decision was manna from heaven for the anti-settler elements in Israel
But it was not sheer luck that brought them this windfall. It was the culmination of years of effort, in which numerous Israelis clamored relentlessly for the imposition of sanctions on their own country, something that curiously never induced them to eschew pocketing generous salaries-cum-benefits paid them from the coffers of the odious state they urge others to boycott.
They have been consistently unsuccessful in having their anti-settlement rather than pro-peace–views endorsed at the polls by the Israeli electorate.
Harnessing punitive coercive action from foreign sovereignties to compel the elected government to bend to their will is the only avenue left open to them.
Consequently, they have spent great effort in choreographing the discourse and preparing (read “inciting”) public opinion so that the stage would be set for the kind of measures taken last week.
Without such like-minded exhortations, it is unlikely the decision of bureaucrats in Brussels, who had scant support from senior political echelons, would have materialized.
In this sense, the EU is merely acting as a kind of pawn – albeit neither unwitting nor unwilling – for malicious domestic forces within Israel.
Accordingly, while I have no argument with those who point to the virulent anti- Israel animus that pervades much of Europe and agree with Isi Leibler that “this EU policy is utterly perverse,” that perversity pales into insignificance when compared to the malevolence of many Israelis toward their compatriots across the pre-1967 lines.
They are a far greater danger to the country than the bureaucrats in Brussels.
Unless they are stopped, Israel will find itself in a truly perilous position. Then there will be little left to do, other than apportion historical guilt – and, as in the past, attend the needless funerals for which they will be responsible.
Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (