The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel hasn't achieved much so far. Not a single foreign investment fund operating in Israel has left, and not a single corporation has severed its ties with Israel.
Orange's alleged boycott appears to be a foolish verbal entanglement of a nervous CEO who is anxiously watching new cellular companies eating away at his brand and affecting his revenues.
Nonetheless, the risk from the BDS activity is definitely not a trivial thing: Being anti-Israel is now the dominating fashionable trend among students and the young intelligence in the West. Being progressive means identifying with BDS. The battle against Israel, under different slogans, replaces the other political battles for many young men and women and allows them to fulfill their rebelliousness without paying any personal price.
The significant support for BDS in the faculties for humanities and social sciences is particularly concerning, as it shapes the consciousness of the future intellectual-leading elite. That is also where the Israeli academia's weakness stands out. The criminal budgetary negligence of humanities in Israel has left scorched earth behind: The legendary Israeli intellectuals of the past, like Martin Buber or Jacob Talmon, have no successors. In areas like history, philosophy, culture, literature, linguistics and even Judaism and Holocaust studies, the Israeli universities' contribution can definitely be waived, and they can be boycotted without any academic or research damage – as opposed to exact sciences, computer science, basic science, medicine or management, where boycotting Israeli researchers is out of the question. But they have zero political influence.
A massive investment in humanities is therefore the first response to the BDS movement's rise in power. If "our" billionaire Haim Saban wants to donate money for the battle against BDS, he should first make a generous donation to the faculties of humanities in Israel's universities.
When original Israeli films reach achievements as they have, the voices which in the past called for a boycott of Israeli cinema are silenced. When translated Israeli literature captures millions of readers in the West, Israeli authors are invited with a lot of respect to every important and influential event. Whoever calls for a boycott of Amos Oz or A. B. Yehoshua in Italy, for example, will be considered the village fool.
Another response to the growing influence of BDS (assuming there will be no change in the makeup and policy of the government in Jerusalem) is recruiting the Israeli left to the battle. A conflict between BDS members and Israeli PR agents from the school of Yariv Levin or Ayelet Shaked significantly strengthens the anti-Israel boycott movement even more.
The Israeli right-wing representatives use a language and terms which the Western academic left doesn’t understand and doesn’t accept. Their appearance in front of foreign university audiences, and especially in front of BDS spokespeople, inflicts damage on Israel and recruits additional supporters for the anti-Israel movement. They had better keep quiet.
It is only the Israeli political left that can loudly and unwaveringly criticize the wrongs of the occupation and the actual occupation – and all the more so the settlement enterprise – and at the same breath, reject with disgust the calls for a boycott and sanctions on Israel.
It is only the Israeli patriotic left, which opposes both the occupation and the boycott without any hesitations, that can participate as an equal among equals in the Western academic discourse, present its views courageously and firmly, speak out and convince. This complicated view has the only chance of influencing, not Israel's radical enemies who won't budge, but the hesitant academics – who are the majority – and of curbing the dangerous drift towards BDS, of stopping the bacteria from spreading.
If we leave the PR efforts to the religious-nationalistic right which dominates the Israeli government right now and add the dollars from Sheldon Adelson's casinos, we will surely magnify the BDS movement's power and pave its way to achievements it never even dreamed of.