Is it fair to call those in the United States and Europe who advocate boycotting Israel over its “occupation” anti-Semitic? After all, isn’t it possible to be pro-Palestinian and pro-human rights without being anti-Semitic? And doesn’t Israel itself view economic sanctions as a legitimate tool when it comes to Iran?
The answer is that it depends. If there were a peace agreement on the table that included reasonable security arrangements and a willingness on the part of the Palestinians to give up on their “right of return” to homes in Yerushalayim, Jaffa, Haifa and so on, and Israel needed a little nudging to sign on the dotted line, then a boycott could be perceived as pro-Palestinian.
But when the Palestinians have refused to make even the slightest gesture towards genuine peace, then the boycott becomes a bullying stick aimed solely at forcing the government of Israel to accept a deal that is bad for its residents. When facts are purposely ignored in a zeal to hurt the people of Israel, then the boycott is decidedly anti-Semitic.
If the boycotters were truly concerned about human rights, we’d expect a little more balance in their criticism of the parties in the conflict.
Even if, for some inexplicable reason, they can’t bring themselves to criticize the Palestinian incitement campaign against Israel, why hasn’t there been a reaction to reports last week that Gaza’s Hamas rulers have blocked a U.N. refugee agency from introducing textbooks that promote human rights into local schools, on the grounds that they ignore Palestinian cultural mores and focus too heavily on “peaceful” means of conflict resolution?
We’d expect some eyebrows to be raised, maybe even a little righteous indignation, on the part of boycotters, who are fighting so valiantly for the right of Palestinians to create a just society that values human rights — the very ones that go against Palestinian “cultural mores.”
Moreover, if the boycotters truly cared about Palestinians, we’d expect them to be sympathetic to the thousands who are employed in Jewish-owned factories in Yehudah, Shomron and Yerushalayim, who enjoy conditions that make them the envy of their fellow villagers and who dread the thought of coming under the control of a corrupt, authoritarian, violent Palestinian regime.
We’d also expect to hear some outrage at how the Palestinian Authority, which can’t pay salaries or take care of the most basic needs of its residents, spent $100 million in international aid money in 2013 in payments to terrorists in Israeli prisons for killing Jews (as revealed recently in a report presented to the British parliament).
It doesn’t take in-depth research to discover the agenda of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is the driving force behind the boycott movement. Omar Barghouti, who helped found the group (and who, ironically, earned his Master’s Degree in philosophy at Tel Aviv University), says the group will drop its boycott demand if Israel meets three conditions, including agreeing to “the right of return for Palestinian refugees.”
In other words, Barghouti will end his campaign as soon as Jews will be an unwelcome minority in Israel.
This is the real goal of the boycotters: To force Israel to accept a “peace” agreement that jeopardizes its physical security — banning Israeli troops from Yehudah and Shomron and along the border with Jordan — and that allows for the country to be overrun with Palestinians.
The boycott has nothing to do with promoting the rights of Palestinians, as demonstrated above, but only with denying the rights of the Jews to live peacefully in Israel. As Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and others have pointed out, overtly anti-Semitic views are no longer acceptable in polite society. “Seventy years ago, you went after ‘Kill the Jews’ — here you say, ‘Kill the Jewish state,’” he said this week. “The politically correct way to be anti-Semitic is not to say, ‘I hate the Jews,’ but to say, ‘I hate Israel.’”
Finally, economic sanctions against a country that is developing nuclear weapons with an open intention of “wiping Israel off the map” is obviously legitimate (if, unfortunately, insufficient). Boycotting the state of Israel, turning law-abiding Jews in Yehudah and Shomron and elsewhere into international lepers, is unconscionable. There is a dispute over the land and how it can be divided in a way that protects the security and interests of both parties, and that dispute should be resolved in honest negotiations, without the boycott weapon being aimed at Israel’s head.
As far as how Israel can combat this phenomenon, one step is to battle the boycotters at home. As Yaakov Berg, the CEO and founder of the Psagot Winery, noted in our feature (page A6) this week, “Today everyone is attacking the countries that boycott us, but I want to say that the true boycott began from among us.”
He is referring to the “enlightened” liberals in Tel Aviv and Herzliya who refuse to carry a wine that has been made on the “other” side of the Green Line.
If Israel doesn’t want to be subjected to boycotts, it should start by not practicing them against fellow Jews.