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UK Ambassador to Israeli TV: BDS “Not Yet Tsunami”

Israeli TV Channel 2 news aired a lengthy segment on the economic costs of BDS to Israel’s corporate bottom line.  It is, as far as I know, the first full, dispassionate coverage of the subject in the Israeli media.  The report, aired on the weekend news program, traveled to the West Bank industrial park, Barkan, located next to the Ariel settlement:

In Barkan, they’ve been suffering from the European boycott for years.  The world considers Barkan a black mark symbolizing Israeli Occupation [“conquest”].

There it interviewed business owners. They claimed that in the past few years since BDS began to play a major economic impact on their business operations, sales were down for some by 40%.  Another says he began losing $100,000 a month in sales.  Others claimed that they no longer had any European market for their products and had instead transferred their business to eastern Europe, where awareness of BDS was less prominent.  One warned those within the Green Line that soon find the boycott would impact businesses whether they were in the Territories or Israel itself.  One business owner new to the park suggested that Israel should initiate a counter-boycott to harm those nations who had banded together against Israel.

The Israeli businessmen attempted to argue that the world should instead see Barkan as an “island of co-existence” because it offers jobs to West Bank Palestinians.  They neglect the fact that the very reason some of them have moved their operations from Israel to the West Bank is because of the lower wages they can offer their Palestinian workers and lower operating costs of  locating in the Territories rather than within the Green Line.  Further, the reason Palestinians are desperate for these jobs is that the Occupation stifles economic development within the West Bank.  One such worker even says on camera: if there were such [Palestinian] jobs he would take them.  But there aren’t.

UK’s ambassador, Matthew Gould made what sounded like a plaintive plea to Israel’s leaders to sit up and take notice:

I love Israel, but worry that in another five years Israel will wake up and find that it doesn’t have enough friends in the world. Israel is losing support in Britain. I look at the British parliament, the media.  There is a change.  It’s not [yet] a tsunami. It’s happening slowly.  It’s happening over time and if you don’t stop it before it’s too late, then it’s very hard to repair.

Gould also warned that Israel came very close (“days away”), regarding negotiations over the EU Horizons 2020 project, to having contacts severed between “British-European and Israeli science:”

“That would’ve been a tragedy.”

An Israeli scientist whom Gould visits tells the interviewer that without EU funding, he would not be able to develop and take his bio-technology research to the “next level.”

The report also features Israeli lawyer, Daniel Resnick, a partner in Yaakov Neeman’s firm, who acts as a fixer for Israeli firms harmed by the boycott. He makes an unfortunate and offensive comparison between businesses harmed by BDS and a rape victim, saying both are afraid of the stigma attached to their suffering.  Neither wants to make their shame public, or so he claims.  Though the interviewer doesn’t note this (and should have) it’s in Resnick’s interest to exaggerate the extent of the problem, so that he may drum up new business and clients. Nevertheless, even if we discount some of his claims as overstated, his remarks indicate a real economic toll that BDS is taking on the bottom line.

This is precisely the goal the movement set in mind when it first launched. It intended not only to foster a moral message about ending the Occupation and offering a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it wanted to hurt Israeli interests in the pocketbook. And it has and will continue doing so as BDS gathers steam and Israeli rejectionism continues.

Israelis have had decades to build up psychological and moral barriers to insulate themselves from consideration of the injustices of Occupation.  They continue electing nationalist-rejectionist governments who can’t or won’t negotiate in good faith with their Palestinian or even American interlocutors (as we’ve seen lately in the Kerry-hosted talks).  But once the boycott impacts the comfortable middle-class lifestyle of which Israelis are justifiably proud, then they will have no choice but to consider the consequences.  If standard of living goes down, then many more will sit up and take notice.

canada bds cartoon

Srulik stands underneath maple tree with single leaf, “Canada,” remaining on otherwise leafless tree named “support for Israel.” (cartoon: Shlomo Cohen)

Those who’ve followed the history of BDS and arguments used to discount or discredit it, will remember those Israel advocates who used to dismiss the threat from BDS as overstated. They said that it was little more than a theatrical display intended for effect rather than impact. Now they’re changing their tune. As a result, the rhetoric of BDS opponents has ramped up.

The reporter closes the news segment expressing the hope that Israelis will wake up from their slumber regarding BDS “before it’s too late.”

In his Zionist ‘pilgrimage’ to the Holy Land, Canadian Premier Stephen Harper, who dragged along 200 of Israel’s strongest Canadian supporters in his entourage, addressed the Knesset by calling BDS both “sickening” and “anti-Semitic.” Being a pro-Israel propagandist rather than a dispassionate analyst, Harper offered no proof for either claim. But those terms do indicate how desperate the other side has become in trying to define the opposition using classic scare tactics.

Despite Harper’s harsh labels devoted to BDS, he didn’t seem to have the same reaction to three members of his invited entourage (two rabbis, one pastor) who have expressed stridently anti-gay and Islamophobic views publicly.  The Canadian leader brought a vertitable paoply of Canadian intolerance to meet an equally intolerant Israel.  It’s a match made in heaven…or the other place.

On a related subject, I loved the histrionics of Harper’s claim that Canada would stand with Israel “through fire and water.”  Somehow, it doesn’t come across with quite the stirring cadence Harper intended.  Instead, it sounded a bit limp, as if it was trying too hard and fell flat as a result.  But of course Israel’s ultra-nationalist Knesset, increasingly besieged around the world, ate it up and gave him a standing ovation.  I understand the next “statesman” scheduled for a Knesset address will be the prime minister of Nauru, with the leader of Palau following shortly thereafter.  They may actually have to brave at least “water” in order to get to Israel as global climate change threatens to sink their islands under the ocean.  It promises to be a great, and deeply meaningful Zionist show.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Oui January 21, 2014, 2:56 PM

    Three Hopeful Middle East News Headlines Today

    UN agency: Iran stops high end uranium enrichment
    The IAEA report to member states said: “The Agency confirms that, as of 20 January 2014, Iran … has ceased enriching uranium above 5% U-235 at the two cascades at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) and four cascades at the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) previously used for this purpose.”

    Op-Ed: Jewish Democrats’ surrender on Iran
    Ten committee chairmen in the Democratic-led Senate have pushed back against the new legislation. Sadly, but predictably, among committee chairs opposed to advancing the bill now are four leading Jewish senators who supposedly claim to be pro-Israel. They are Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee; Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Environment Committee; and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chairman of the Energy Committee.

    It seems that Jewish Democrats will choose President Obama’s agenda every time over Israel’s survival and are even willing in the process to throw Israel under the bus and amplify anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic stereotypes.

    Israel’s captains of industry fear boycott
    (Ynet News) – A hundred of Israel’s leading businessmen and businesswomen will fly to Davos, armed with a poignant message for the prime minister: Maintaining a growing and stable economy requires Israel to make peace with Palestinians, the sooner the better. Leaders and businesspeople ranging from Strauss Group Chairwoman Ofra Strauss to Google Israel CEO Meir Bren and former UN ambassador Dan Gillerman will descend on the Davos Economic Forum to urge Israelis and Palestinians leaders to reach a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    How Israel’s Politics vs. Security Rift Aids Jihadis by J.J. Goldberg

  • Shoshana January 21, 2014, 8:54 PM

    Norway: Boycotting Israel will not promote positive change

    Norway see’s the light, and it’s a ‘lamp unto the nations’.

    • Oui January 21, 2014, 11:37 PM

      More Love from the Land of the Oslo Accords …

      Netanyahu is sincere about a two-state solution — and strong enough to reach a peace agreement despite internal opposition, according to former PM Kjell Magne Bondevik.

      “I’m against a boycott of Israel,” were the identical words uttered by PM Rutte on the occasion of President Peres’ visit to The Netherlands. I suppose labeling the origin of goods is not [f]actually a boycott. To Norway’s delight, it is not part of the EU.

    • Richard Silverstein January 22, 2014, 1:01 AM

      @ Shoshana: the new right-wing Norwegian government has been in power only three months. It will have to work hard to undo the good work of the previous progressive government, represented here :

      Norway’s finance ministry has excluded Shikun & Binui from the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), the largest pension fund in Europe, over its construction of illegal Israeli colonies in East Jerusalem. Analysts have described the company as Israel’s largest real estate business.

      The Norwegian government has previously divested from Israeli military company Elbit, as well as Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus, two other construction companies involved in building illegal settlements.

      Not to mention that Norway is going against the overwhelming EU trend that is moving closer to BDS every day. BTW, that’s not “light” Norway is seeing, but dark, dingy right-wing ideology.

  • Bob Mann January 22, 2014, 3:16 AM

    You wrote that the next statesman scheduled for a Knesset address will be the prime minister of Nauru; however, Nauru does not have a prime minister.

    The Romanian president who also got a lot of press for his supportive remarks was the most recent statesmen to be greeted by the Knesset, though I think he just met with the leadership.

    • Richard Silverstein January 22, 2014, 8:05 PM

      @ Bob Mann: I’m going to hold two fingers up every time I tell a joke in a blog post, Bob. You watch for ’em so you can tell when I have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. In short, it was meant as a joke. Sorry you didn’t get it.

  • yankel January 22, 2014, 9:28 AM

    “But once the boycott impacts the comfortable middle-class lifestyle of which Israelis are justifiably proud, then they will have no choice but to consider the consequences”

    Israel’s middle-class was being continuously battered by the last few governments. BDS might be getting a bit more successful nowadays, impacting on Israel’s tycoons – its notorious 0.1% – whose friendly understandings with the politicians is fast eroding what’s left of that fabled middle-class.

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