BDS is working and hurting

December 28, 2013
Sarah Benton

The article by Ramzy Baroud is followed by one by Barak Ravid.

Roger Waters, still playing (though not, since 1985, with Pink Floyd) and still campaigning for Palestinian rights – and now accused of antisemitism. Photo by Jason Kempin, Getty Images

Why Israel Fears Roger Waters
By Ramzy Baroud, Counterpunch
December 18, 2013

The intellectual dishonesty of Israel’s supporters is appalling. But in some odd way, it is also understandable. How else could they respond to the massively growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign?

When a non-violent campaign – empowered by thousands of committed civil society activists from South Africa to Sweden and most countries in between – leads a moral campaign to isolate and hold into account an Apartheid country like Israel, all that the supporters of the latter can do is spread lies and misinformation. There can be no other strategy, unless of course, Israel’s friends get their own moment of moral awakening, and join the BDS flood that has already broken many barriers and liberated many minds from the grip of Israeli hasbara.

According to their logic, and that of the likes of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, writing in the New York Observer on Dec 12, legendary musician and human rights champion Roger Waters is an ‘anti-Semite’. In fact, according to the writer, he is an ‘anti-Semite’ of the worst type. “I’ve read some heavy-duty attacks on Israel and Jews in my time, but they pale beside the anti-Semitic diatribe recently offered by Roger Waters, co-founder and former front man of the legendary British rock band Pink Floyd.”

Of course, Waters is as far away from racism as Boteach is far away from truly representing the Jewish people or Judaism. But what has earned Waters such a title, which is often bestowed without much hesitation at anyone who dares to challenge Israel’s criminal policies, military occupation and insistence on violating over 70 United Nations resolutions, is that Waters is a strong critic of Israel. In a recent interview with, Waters stated the obvious, describing Israel as a ‘racist Apartheid regime’, decrying its ‘ethnic cleaning’ of Palestinians, and yes, refusing to perform in a country that he saw as an equivalent to the “Vichy government in occupied France.”
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TV rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

Rabbi Shmuley Gets Boost From Adelsons, Wall Street Journal, August 2012
Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, among the top donors to the Republican machine this election, is also now the top giver – along with his wife – to the New Jersey congressional race of the reality-TV rabbi, Shmuley Boteach.

Mr. Adelson, who runs the Las Vegas Sands international gaming empire, and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, who runs the Adelson drug clinic, have each given $250,000, or $500,000 total, to a new independent super PAC called the Patriot Prosperity PAC, according to people close to the Adelsons and the PAC.

Patriot Prosperity is supporting Mr. Boteach, who is running as a Republican, against eight-term Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. in a newly redrawn district in northern New Jersey.

Rabbi Shmuley, as his website calls him, is well-known in the New York-New Jersey area as the author of the book “Kosher Sex;” the host of the TV show “Shalom in the Home;” and a spiritual adviser to the late pop star Michael Jackson. Newsweek has named him one of the 50 most influential rabbis in the U.S.

“I treasure the Adelsons’ support. They are among the most generous and sophisticated political donors in the country,” said Mr. Boteach in a statement through his spokesman. The Adelsons previously have given directly to Mr. Boteach’s campaign. The $500,000 donation to the new super PAC “is a game-changer, and I suspect there will be many more like it,” said Mr. Boteach.

Mr. Boteach and Mr. Adelson, who are friends, are both acquaintances with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to people who know Mr. Boteach and Mr. Adelson. On New Jersey primary day in June, Mr. Boteach was in Israel for his sister in law’s wedding – where he had a private meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, according to an article Mr. Boteach wrote for Huffington Post.

continued from above insert
Boteach is particularly daring to go after Waters, a person adored by millions, and not only because of his legendary music, but also of his well-known courageous and moral stances. But once again, the panic felt in pro-Israeli circles is understandable. What Israeli officials describe as the de-legitimization of Israel is reaching a point where it is about to reach a critical mass. It is what Palestinian Gaza-based BDS activist Dr. Haidar Eid referred to in a recent interview as Palestine’s South Africa moment.

In an article in the Israeli daily Haaretz published on Dec 12, [see below] Barak Ravid introduced his piece with a dramatic but truthful statement: “Western activists and diplomats are gunning for Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian territories, and if peace talks fail, the rain of boycotts and sanctions could turn into a flood.” Entitled “Swell of boycotts driving Israel into international isolation,” Ravid’s article establishes a concrete argument of why the boycott movement is growing in a way unprecedented in the history of Israel.

I am writing these words from Spain, the last stop on a European speaking tour that has taken me to four European countries: France, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium. The purpose of my tour was to promote the recently published French edition of my last two books, the second being: My Father Was a Freedom Fighter, Gaza’s Untold Story (Resistant en Palestine, une histoire vrai de Gaza). But at the heart of all my talks was the promotion of what I call ‘redefining our relationship to the struggle in Palestine,’ based first and foremost on ‘moral divestment’ from Israel. Only then, can we change our role from spectators and sympathizers to active participants as human rights defenders. The main address of such activities can be summed up in the initials: BDS.

What I learned throughout my tour, well attended and also covered in French media, was even to surprise me. The BDS debate is at such an advanced stage and it has indeed surpassed my expectations. In my last European tour of 2010, many of us were attempting to push the boundaries of the debate facing much resistance, even from groups and movements that were viewed as progressive. The situation has now changed in such an obvious away that on occasions I was compelled by the audience to discuss the most effective BDS strategies, as opposed to defending the very virtue of the tactic.

And within the two weeks of my travels, there was a flood of news of western governments, companies and academic institutions either joining the boycott or deliberating the possibility of doing so. The Romanian government, for example, is refusing to allow its labourers to work in illegal Jewish settlements. A few years ago, this kind of news was simply unheard of.

But what changed? In some respects, nothing, and that is the crux of the argument. The Israeli occupation is more entrenched than ever; the illegal settlements are increasing and expanding; and the so-called peace process remains a charade maintained mostly for political self-serving reasons – a cover for the colonial policies of Israel, and a condition for continued US-western financial and political backing of the Palestinian Authority – and so on. But other factors are changing as well. BDS activists have found a common strategy and are formulating a unifying narrative that is finally liberating the Palestinian discourse from the ills of factionalism, empty slogans and limiting ideology. The new platform is both decisive in its morality and objectives, yet flexible in its ability to encompass limitless groups, religions and nationalities.

Indeed, there is no room for racism or hate speech in BDS platforms. What is equally as important is that there can also be no space for gatekeepers who are too sensitive about Israel’s racially-motivated sensibilities, or those ever-willing to manipulate history in such a clever way as to prevent a pro-active strategy in being advanced. The ship has sailed through all of this, and the boycott is vastly becoming the new and permanent address of the international solidarity with the collective resistance and struggle of the Palestinian people.

Of course, when Roger Waters took the stances that he did, he knew well of the likes of Boteach who would immediately denounce him as ‘anti-Semite.’ The fact is, however, the number of ‘Roger Waters’ out there is quickly growing, and the power of their moral argument is widely spreading. Israeli smear tactics are not only ineffective but also self-defeating.

Ramzy Baroud is editor of

Swell of boycotts driving Israel into international isolation

Western activists and diplomats are gunning for Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian territories, and if peace talks fail, the rain of boycotts and sanctions could turn into a flood.

By Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz
December 12, 2013

A senior European diplomat met with an Israeli counterpart a few weeks ago and one of the topics they discussed was the continued European Union sanctions against the settlements. They raised in their conversation the possible scenario that Israeli produce from the West Bank would be marked as such in European supermarkets. The conversation points to one of the gravest threats Israel will face in the coming year, namely its growing international isolation.

“The marking of produce from the [Palestinian] territories is on hold at this stage,” the European diplomat said to his Israeli interlocutor. “However, should the negotiations with the Palestinians run aground you should expect a deluge of sanctions.” The Israeli official was taken aback by the sharp words. “Aren’t the circumstances of a breakdown in negotiations relevant,” he asked. The European replied laconically, “the way things look now, you will be the losers in the blame game.”

There are five months left in the time frame set for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Against a backdrop of limping talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is preparing to present the two sides with a “framework agreement” in an attempt to achieve a breakthrough in the impasse and to force leaders to reach decisions.

Kerry has warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of a drive to delegitimize Israel and of a “boycott campaign on steroids” that will unfold if talks fail. These dire warnings by the Secretary of State and the European diplomat are already starting to play out. There is not yet a deluge of boycotts and sanctions by Western states, but flow is certainly increasing. The main target of this campaign are the settlements and any entity associated with them.

An increasing number of supermarket chains are not waiting for directives from above and are already labeling produce that originate in settlement farms. There is an increasing campaign to boycott any Israeli products from the West Bank, such as dates from the Jordan Valley, or equipment and bottles made by SodaStream, which has a factory in the settlement of Mishor Adumim. There is a concerted effort ahead of Christmas to bring about a consumer boycott of SodaStream in Britain, Italy, Canada, the United States and Australia. A few weeks ago, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, an Israeli cosmetics company, ceased operations in South Africa following a similar campaign.

Route 443 through the West Bank built by the Israelis on expropriated Palestinian land ‘for Palestinian use’ but for years for exclusive Israeli use. See B’Tselem report Route 443 – West Bank road for Israelis only. Veolia has now announced it will no longer run buses along this road.

It is not only Israeli companies that have been targeted. International firms that operate beyond the Green Line have also come under fire by boycott campaigns. The French giant Veolia Transport is facing heavy pressure due to its presence in East Jerusalem and other West Bank locations. Veolia’s subsidiary in Israel just announced it would stop operating buses on Route 443, a highway that connects the West Bank to Jerusalem. Another example is the British security services company G4S, which has lost contracts in South Africa due to its contracts in West Bank settlements. There are also campaigns at Kings College and Sheffield University in Britain calling for withdrawal of investments in Israel.

Last week, there were more examples of such efforts. The British government published recommendations against investing in, transferring money to or purchasing real estate in the settlements. The report warned of “potential reputational implications” of such business dealings. The largest water company in the Netherlands announced that after “consultations” with the Hague’s Foreign Ministry it was cutting ties with Israel’s water supplier Mekorot, due [to the] utility’s activities in the Palestinian territories. Even Romania, not known to be tough on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, demanded Romanian workers sent to Israel would not be employed in the settlements.

The Foreign Ministry is helpless in face of these developments. With Prime Minister Netanyahu announcing construction of 5,000 more units in the settlements and Housing Minister Uri Ariel launching a tsunami with new tenders for 24,000 units in the Palestinian territories, it is hard to convince anyone that Israel is invested to reaching a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

All that Israeli diplomats can do is lodge objections with foreign governments. They have told the Foreign Office in London that warnings to businessmen hurt the peace process. They protested to the Dutch ambassador in Tel Aviv about “the atmosphere created by the Dutch Foreign Ministry, which only encourages a boycott of Israel.” They delivered an ultimatum to the Romanian government over its demand about workers coming to Israel – and Romania seems for now to have reconsidered its position.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials admit that these are band-aid measures at best, or at worst, attempts to revive the dead. The waves of construction that follow each phase of Palestinian prisoner release may placate the Judea and Samaria Council and the Habayit Hayehudi party, but they infuriate the international community and drive it to consider further sanctions against the settlements. The Foreign Ministry says the new guidelines of the European Union prohibiting the funding of activities or organizations in settlements are a new strategic landmark in the European Union’s attitude toward the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The guidelines prohibit the granting of any funds, scholarships or prizes to any agencies in these settlements, as well as prohibiting loaning money to any Israeli agency which has any ties to the settlements.

While these EU sanctions garnered widespread media coverage, other sanctions went almost unnoticed. It did not escape the attention of the Foreign Ministry, however, when in June, the European Union issued new directives on quality control certification for agricultural produce. A senior Foreign Ministry official said the European Union would no longer accept a stamp of approval by Israel’s Plant Inspection and Protection Services for produce from the West Bank. The policy began applying to any organic produce since July. Not an outright prohibition on importing produce from the settlements, these moves will nevertheless make it very difficult for Israeli farmers in the West Bank to market their produce in Europe, causing growers financial trouble.

Relations between the Foreign Ministry and the European Union’s foreign affairs council are faring very poorly. Suspicion and animosity mar contacts between Israeli official and Brussels. The feeling in Jerusalem is that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s staff in Brussels, East Jerusalem and even Tel Aviv are constantly pushing for more pressure and sanctions on Israel over the settlement issue, infecting many individual European diplomats with their enthusiasm. A senior Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem says there is a “Brusselization” process which is taking over foreign ministries in European capitals.

The wave of boycotts is spilling over from Europe to North America. Last week, the American Studies Association passed an unprecedented resolution calling to boycott Israeli universities. Later this month, lecturers in the association will vote on whether to ratify the resolution.

A few weeks earlier, the annual convention of the American Public Health Association was held. This association represents thirty thousand doctors, nurses and nursing aides. A resolution declaring that Israel is harming the health of Palestinians failed to pass only due to months of lobbying efforts by Jewish organizations. Boycott initiatives are also popping up in liberal churches in North America. The United Church of Canada, the largest Christian denomination in the country, has started a campaign to boycott products made in the settlements and by companies that operate beyond the Green Line.

New research published by the Molad Center for Renewal of Democracy addresses Israel’s standing in the world. It determined that Israel is particularly vulnerable to sanctions and boycotts by Western countries due to the animosity of neighboring countries, and because 40% of Israel’s Gross National Product is based on exports, primarily to Europe. The research also pointed to a less known phenomenon of concealed boycotts. The findings show that Israeli businessmen, artists and academics are confronting increasing refusal of international agencies and potential partners to collaborate with them, due to the political baggage that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict brings with it. It’s hard to assess how much damage this does to the Israel’s economy.

The study says that despite the difficulties facing Israel since its founding, it succeeded in forging alliances with the United States and Europe. These relationships have deteriorated in recent years and are in now jeopardy. The researchers examined cultural and scientific ties as well as economic and political relations, and found that most of the tension with Western countries stems from the occupation. The study determined that this trend would only get worse with time unless there was a change to Israeli policy. “The continued occupation and the insistence of the government to continue with the settlement enterprise are directly responsible for the erosion of Israel’s international standing. As long as the settlements continue, the risk of Israel becoming more isolated will grow.” The researchers don’t believe that Western governments and publics wish to boycott Israel or to put its right to exist in doubt. As evidence, they point out that the boycotts have only targetted the occupied territories and settlements.

“The international consensus clearly differentiates between the legitimacy of Israel and that of the settlements. Just as the commonality in values and strategy strengthens Israel’s ties with the West, the divide over the occupation weakens them.” The researchers claim that it’s not too late to reverse this trend and to block the threat of isolation facing Israel, but that the window of opportunity is not without limits. “Israel is enjoying a period of grace in which its traditional allies support it and the countries around it are locked in internal struggles. Nearly any plan that goes beyond futile negotiations and that calls for an end to the occupation will help Israel. Such a step will draw a clear line between opposition to the existence of Israel and to its occupation of the West Bank.”

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