Boycott movement now too big for Israel to ignore

January 23, 2014
Sarah Benton
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Article by Larry Derfner, +972, with more details of and links to boycott actions in Notes and links.

Norwegian boycott demonstration, 2010

Boycott goes prime-time in Israel

The country’s number-one news show runs lengthy piece on the growing movement – and blames it not on anti-Semitism or Israel-bashing, but on settlements. 

By Larry Derfner, +972

January 19, 2014

On Saturday night the boycott of Israel gained an impressive new level of mainstream recognition in this country. Channel 2 News, easily the most watched, most influential news show here, ran a heavily-promoted, 16-minute piece on the boycott in its 8 p.m. prime-time program. The piece was remarkable not only for its length and prominence, but even more so because it did not demonize the boycott movement, it didn’t blame the boycott on anti-Semitism or Israel-bashing. Instead, top-drawer reporter Dana Weiss treated the boycott as an established, rapidly growing presence that sprang up because of Israel’s settlement policy and whose only remedy is that policy’s reversal.

In her narration, Weiss ridicules the settlers and the government’s head-in-the-sand reaction to the rising tide. The segment from the West Bank’s Barkan Industrial Park opens against a background of twangy guitar music like from a Western. “To the world it’s a black mark, a symbol of the occupation,” she reads. “But here they insist it’s actually a point of light in the area, an island of coexistence that continues to flourish despite efforts to erase it from the map.” A factory owner who moved his business to Barkan from the other side of the Green Line makes a fool of himself by saying, “If the state would only assist us by boycotting the Europeans and other countries causing us trouble …” The Barkan segment ends with the manager of Shamir Salads saying that between the European and Palestinian boycott, he’s losing about $115,000 to $143,000 a month in sales. “In my view,” he says, “it will spread from [the West Bank] to other places in Israel that have no connection to the territories.”

Demonstrators wearing suits covered in fake blood lie with posters in Basque reading “Up with Palestinians. Boycott Israel” and “No to war” during a pro-Palestinian demonstration at Plaza Moyua in Bilbao, Spain, in 2012.Vincent West/Reuters

Weiss likewise ridicules Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who runs the government’s “hasbara war,” as he puts it. Weiss: “Yes, in the Foreign Ministry they are for the time being sticking to the old conception: it’s all a question of hasbara. This week the campaign’s new weapon, developed with the contributions of world Jewry: (Pause) Another hasbara agency, this time with the original name ‘Face To Israel.’” She quotes the co-owner of Psagot Winery saying the boycott is “nothing to get excited about,” that people have been boycotting Jews for 2,000 years, and concluding, “If you ask me, in the last 2,000 years, our situation today is the best it’s ever been.” That final phrase, along with what Weiss describes as Elkin’s “conceptzia,” are the same infamous words that Israelis associate with the fatal complacency that preceded the surprise Yom Kippur War.

French protest; BDS supporters in France demonstrated against their government’s purchase of Israeli drones- an effective campaign against Israeli arms sales would really have an impact.

The Channel 2 piece features abortive telephone calls with boycott “victims” who didn’t want to be interviewed for fear of bad publicity. The most dramatic testimony comes from Daniel Reisner, an attorney with the blue-chip law firm Herzog Fox Neeman who advises such clients. He explains:


Most of the companies victimized by the boycott behave like rape victims. They don’t want to tell anybody. It’s as if they’ve contracted some sort of disease and they don’t want anyone to know.

Sticker produced by Stop the Wall

More and more companies are coming to us for advice – quietly, in the evening, where no one can hear them – and they say: ‘I’ve gotten into this or that situation; is there something you can do to help?’”

Without giving the names of his clients or the extent of their losses, Reisner says the boycott is causing Israeli businesses to lose foreign contracts and investors. “My fear is of a snowball effect,” he says. Prof. Shai Arkin, vice president for R&D at Hebrew University, says there are many cases of Israeli candidates for research fellowships at foreign universities being turned down because their resumes include service in the Israeli army.

Advice from a friend abroad comes from Matthew Gould, the British ambassador to Israel: “I love Israel. And I’m worried that in another five years Israel will wake up and find that it doesn’t have enough friends.”

Weiss asks the EU ambassador here, Lars Faaborg-Andersen: “If Israel would change its policy, all this would go away?” The ambassador replies: “Yes. It is about Israeli policies. If the settlement business continue[s] to expand, Israel will be facing increasing isolation.”

The piece presents Tzipi Livni as the country’s would-be savior. She says the current negotiations with the Palestinians (in which she represents Israel, along with Netanyahu confidant Isaac Molho) are holding back the boycott’s expansion, but that “if there is a crisis [in the talks], everything will break loose.” She says she is “shouting at people to wake up.”


Weiss: “What does this all mean? What is it going to be like here? South Africa?”

Livni: “Yes. I spoke with some of the Jews who are living in South Africa now. They say, ‘We thought we had time. We thought we could deal with this. We thought we didn’t need the world so much for everything. And it happens all at once.’”

Sixteen minutes of prime time on Israel’s all-popular TV news show on Saturday night, the end of the week in this country. Bracing stuff. A wrench thrown into the national denial machine – and by Channel 2. Definitely a sign of progress – and of life. Another reminder of why this country is worth fighting for – which, for many of us Israeli boycott-supporters, if not necessarily most of us, is what the boycott, strange as it may sound, is all about.

(Watch the segment here. The English-language segments, interviews with UK Ambassador Matthew Gould and EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen, can be seen at 08:11 and 14:05, respectively.)


Notes and links
Here are a few of the many links to reports and organisations concerned with boycott as an effective form of opposition to Israeli colonialism. You can find more through any effective search engine.

Campaign launched against French purchase of Israeli drones as senators demand deal be abandoned by Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, January 2011. He also reports a Finnish citizens’ initiative to stop the purchase of Israeli drones and news that the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT) came out in public support of an arms embargo against Israel and called for an end to “all military-related training and consultancies with the Israeli army, military companies and academic research institutions.

European Network Against Arms Trade, ENAAT
Britain’s Campaign Against Arms Trade, CAAT, has called for a two-way arms embargo on Israel and posted its FAQs on the issue.

J4BIG It’s Kosher to Boycott Israeli Goods

PACBI The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the most controversial and difficult of the boycott campaigns. On the one hand, like the opposition any arms trade with Israel, this is a boycott that, if practised, would really affect Israeli state policy, but, unlike the arms trade, it also threatens to cut contact with Israeli intellectuals whose opposition to their state’s colonial policy is of particular value.

Boycott Israel Network

Boycotting settlement produce Quakers in Britain

The Co-operative and the illegal Israeli settlements, the Co-op explains its April 25, 2012 decision that “we will no longer engage with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements. This decision has had an impact on four suppliers, and circa £350,000 of trade.”

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