No doubt the author of the August 31 piece “Is BDS campaign working” meant well in terms of alerting readers to the threat of not just BDS but the whole effort to de-legitimize the Jewish state.
That said, accurate information is always required when analyzing a threat and, unfortunately, the writer chose to take BDS claims of success at face value, rather than digging beneath the surface for more accurate information.
For example, Agrexco (the Israeli flower grower that began his story) is going through financial difficulty not because of significant losses in exports, but due to a major drop in the domestic market (coupled with general business woes). Similarly 2009-2010 “divestment” from the Africa-Israel Corporation was not due to politics but to the company’s near hopeless debt situation, trigged by the 2008-2009 crash in the real estate industry.
In both these cases, BDS activists made claims that the financial problems faced by these companies were based on boycott and divestment advocacy, but when those claims were checked with the people alleged to be doing the divesting, they were exposed fraudulent time and time again.
The article also mentions Caterpillar Tractor without once noting that anti-Israel divestment targeting Caterpillar at universities, churches and the like have been going on for close to a decade without one share of Caterpillar stock ever being sold by one of these institutions for political reasons. And Caterpillar itself has all but told the BDSers to take a hike after years of harassment at annual shareholder meetings.
As we move onto boycotts, the Park Slope Food Co-op is not going to approve a boycott of Israel products “soon,” for the simple fact that a decision on this matter is not even on their agenda. A group of local BDSers is pressuring the Co-op to put a boycott to a member ballot (which wouldn’t necessarily be binding), and even this so-far-unsuccessful campaign has been met with stiff resistance by members trying not to have the Middle East conflict dragged into their community.
The University of Johannesburg recently reversed its decision to break ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University. Hudson Bay has made it clear that it did not pull Ahava products off the shelf at the urging of BDSers. DePaul University rejected (not approved) a boycott of Sabra hummus. In short, the list being presented as a set of boycott or divestment victories is, in fact, a run-down of the countless failures that have plagued the BDS “movement” for close to a decade.
No need for panicEven in situations where BDS “wins” documented in this story are not simply false or outdated, boycott or divestment “victories” can hardly be described as successes. Rockers like Elvis Costello cancelling their gigs in Israel have proven to be far more embarrassing to the performers than to Israel. The violent protests that led to the closure of an Ahava store in London or the ban on Israeli products (including books) by a local council in Scotland exposed BDSers and mindless thugs, incompetent ideologues or both.
Recent attempts to reproduce such bully-boy tactics in Australia has managed to unite nearly the entire Australian political spectrum against the boycotters. So again, are we supposed to quake in fear of such BDS tactics, or simply continue to (successfully) fight against them?
Now there is something to be said about not becoming smug or assuming that if we just ignore BDS or other de-legitimization activities they will just go away.
But in this case, the real story is how most if not all of the problems the author is panicked about have been dealt with rather well. BDS financial hoaxes (such as those relating to Israel-Africa) are now exposed so quickly that divestment champions rarely uses this tactic anymore out of (legitimate) fear of getting quickly caught and embarrassed.
Even in harsh political environments (like U Johannesburg), sensible heads are prevailing. And this entire story of Israel’s alleged dire economic predicament due to boycotts ignores the fact that Israeli exports and the Israeli economy itself close to doubled during the decade when BDS is alleged to have forced it to its knees.
The motto on all these matters continues to be “Don’t Panic, Don’t be Complacent.” And while I welcome calls to avoid complacency, panic really doesn’t do anyone any good.
Jon Haber is a Boston-based writer and activist who runs the anti-BDS Web site www.divestthis.com