After Scarlett Johannson’s straw-sucking plug for Sodastream created mass free publicity for the opposition to illegal settlements, Sodastream’s share price plunged. Share-buyers may invest in all sorts of tacky enterprises as long as no-one makes a fuss. Its reputation may be a company’s most precious asset which is tarnished by a fuss. Targetting the shareholders may be the BDS’s movement most effective tactic.
‘It’s like drugs, this anti-Semitism stuff. You start with something small, like avoiding herbs from Gush Etzion, and before you know it you’re foaming at the mouth and mainlining Mein Kampf’. Jewish Israeli Roy Isacowitz discovers, to his surprise, that he’s an antisemite – according to his Leader (PM Netanyahu) that is. According to aforesaid PM, support for BDS is antisemitic. ‘The only democracy in the Middle East’ + proper home for all Jews, classifies all critics as antisemites.
This is the second piece in two weeks to claim that the BDS has a hidden agenda – to destroy Israel through letting it be overrun by Arabs. (How this would come about is in the mind of the fantasists, such as BDS supporter John Spritzler). After all, if BDS achieved its primary aim – of getting Israel to abide by international law – it would surely strengthen Israel and improve its own now very tarnished reputation for decent governance.
Roger Cohen’s article (above) will not have caused too much discomfiture to the Israeli government. Despite his ‘liberal’ stance he argues himself into condemning BDS for supporting the Palestinian right of return. What might upset Netanyahu et al is this flood of letters in response to the article and the NY TImes’ decision to publish 15 of these, almost all of which support BDS as a tactic to secure recognition of Palestinian rights.
Seriously alarmed by the growing strength of the European BDS movement, Israeli politicians and their American supporters are pulling out every argument to ‘delegitimise’ the movement. Here Yosef Kuperwasser is on a tour to insist the movement is not only antisemitic and trying to delegitimise Israel but, by depending on popular ignorance about Israel’s occupation, is deliberately misleading the public.
Two sharply-worded articles from Haaretz in which the writers, neither of them supporters of BDS, point to the strength of the BDS appeal and the feebleness of the opponents, who claim to support a 2-state solution but do nothing to bring it about. That would mean joining the argument that Israel must respect the law that settlements are illegal.
The publlicity about Scarlett Johansson and the bubble-maker has been a gift to the BDS movement, confirming it is a progressive and popular movement, even though its aims remain unclear to many. Richard Silverstein applies the model of the stages of grief to how the Israeli state is and its supporters are trying to fend off and falsify its aim (which is, uncontroversially, to make Israel comply with international law).
Gradually, the shields the Israeli right have surrounded themselves with are falling. When Netanyahu says Kerry supports boycotts which are immoral – while calling for stronger boycotts against Iran, when Bennett says Kerry is a mouthpiece for antisemitism, when anti-boycott Avraham Burg says the violent occupation will be over when such non-violent action becomes the Palestinian strategy, then, at last, there is change.
If Scarlett Johansson were not young, blonde and beautiful – No 2 in a list of the 100 sexiest women stars – and very rich, and if she had not made a point of her concern for the poor and excluded she would not have become the symbol of, at best naive, endorsement of a company whose very existence is built on the expropriation of Palestinian land. But her very beauty has shown how ugly the settlements are in world opinion.
“Why should Israel, a nuclear power with a strong economy, feel so vulnerable to a nonviolent human rights movement?” asks Omar Barghouti, one of the best-known spokesmen for the BDS campaign. The movement has reached a tipping point; more and more diaspora Jews support it as do intellectuals and trade unions, firms and pension funds which observe basic ethical criteria. And the fact that the NY Times, with its large Jewish readership, should give Barghouti a prominent Op-Ed position, marks the status the movement has now achieved.
Khaled Diab questions the value of BDS as a tool for dismantling the machinery of Israeli colonialism, or of any state oppression. It can have the result in making the target more innovative he argues. He does not, however, make a clear distinction between sanctions imposed by states (eg US against Cuba and Iran) and popular movements which encourage the oppressed people and their supporters – see the subversive wall graffiti.
It seems unlikely that celebrity Scarlett Johansson has done herself any favours by choosing the lucrative Sodastream contract over her role as global ambassador for Oxfam, whose business is human rights and emergency relief (see the many mocking cartoons). Whatever Ms. Johansson actually thinks, she will be known as a person who exchanged the promotion of human needs and rights for the large income from an illegal firm for promoting a bubble.
Responding to Kerry’s pressure, Netanyahu says settlers could stay under Palestinian rule in the West Bank. Bennett says unthinkable – all settlers would be exterminated. Meanwhile, Netanyahu finally takes the threat of BDS seriously and plans a government discussion on it – but the row with Bennett has forced that meeting to be postponed. There’s trouble at the top – and more leeway for the security junta.
Divestment from companies operating in Israeli settlements is being seriously considered by a number of large pension companies following the decision by Dutch firms to withdraw their funds from Israeli companies with installations in the settlements. A new Labour government has ended the Netherlands ‘special friend’ status in Israel leading to a flurry of recrimination about superior NGO propaganda.
From small Palestinian beginnings, the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against any Israeli entity engaged in the illegal occupation has weathered the charges of antisemitism, picking on Israel unfairly and ‘delegitimisation’, as well as of supporting terrorists, aka Palestinians. It is becoming a common sense of our age that no country can hold another people in colonial subjugation. Larry Derfner on BDS in the mainstream.
Susan Abulhawa puts her finger on it: if the Palestinians accede to the seemingly absurd – and trivial – demand that they recognise Israel as ‘the Jewish state’ they thereby renounce their rightful claim to their historic homeland in Palestine, an act of treason. But – apart from Kerry’s drive for a framework agreement – what Palestinians have on their side is a growing popular movement to cement their rights, supported by civil BDS action.
Once absolute defenders of Israel dismissed the boycott campaign as an ineffectual and trivial campaign run by upstarts. That has changed. It is now taken seriously inside and outside Israel and vociferously attacked. The tone of hysteria which Steven Salaita notes here may be because BDS opponents never deal with the substantive reasons for boycott (Israel’s exceptional colonialism and dispossession of another people) and only in ungrounded abstracts or slurs. They find the impugning of the moral stature of Israel’s academic institutions unbearable.
Those who hate any criticism of Israel are becoming so anxious about the spread of support for BDS that some are arguing that to even talk about it is a blow against freedom. So in the name of freedom they would like to stop such discussion. This is the way that McCarthyism developed says Professor Corey Robin.
In contrast to the article below by Larry Derfner, here Ramzy Baroud and Barak Ravid both write upbeat articles about the impact the BDS campaign in Europe and the US is having – especially on companies which are fearful of losing their reputation. Israeli propagandists call this ‘delegitimisation’ and smear active campaigner Roger Waters as ‘an antisemite’ – usually signs of desperation.
The decision endorsed by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions was not wrong because of ‘double standards’ argues Peter Beinart. As others have said before, the focus of the West’s Left has long been on the wrong-doing of the agencies within the west’s capitalist network, because this is ours. Israel is part of it too. The problem he says lies in the implied denial of Israel’s right to decide its own immigration policy and thus preserve its nature as a state for Jews.