Founded in the territories in 2005, the movement is known for the initials of its goals – BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). It's arousing great interest in Western countries, leaving its mark on the academic system, on economic decisions made by business and political organizations and on the media. Its damage is growing.
Those who have been following this movement from afar may see in it as a historical closure: The Arab boycott, which made it difficult for Israel to integrate into the global economy, died during the Oslo process. It's only natural that after years of stalemate in the peace process it reappears, with a new name and an updated format.
The annual conference of the Palestinian BDS initiative – which launched the international move – was held in Bethlehem on Saturday. Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat offered their greetings from prison.
When Jawad Naji, a minister in the PA government, began his address, participants accused him of collaborating with Israel and forced him to leave the auditorium. They spoke against the Peres Center for Peace, against Seeds of Peace, against the new city of Rawabi. The speeches were similar, in style and content, to speeches heard at a conference held several days earlier by the Yesha Council.
The boycott movement has zero influence in the West Bank. It's not the boycott in the West Bank which Israel should be worried about, but rather the changes in the West's attitude towards us.
In Israel's Left there are those who welcome the spreading boycott. They believe in the South African precedent: An academic boycott and economic sanctions lead to a change in policy. Their support of the boycott – sometimes a boycott against the universities providing them with work – grants them a distinguished admission ticket to Europe's radical Left and crowns them as victims of the Israeli establishment. There's nothing they like better than being victims.
In the Right as well there are those who are happy about the boycott. In the eyes of extreme rightists, it serves as unequivocal proof of the rightness of the perception which says: The problem is neither the occupation nor the stalemate in negotiations, but hatred of Israel. No matter what we do, the world will always want to destroy us. The boycott call is anti-Semitism disguised as a struggle for human rights.
'Lethal Weapon' in Israeli consulateThe truth is that the radical Left in the West has a problem: The fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa left no enemy country to hate. They protest against heads of the rich states, they protest against the corporations and against the stock exchange, but that doesn't generate the same burst of pure hatred evoked by the apartheid regime. If Hollywood were not filled with good, guilt-ridden Jews, we would have seen another film in the "Lethal Weapon" series, this time with blonde villains in the Israeli consulate instead of blonde villains in the South African consulate.
It’s unfair that the latest international surveys place us at the top of the world's most hated countries, alongside Iran and North Korea. Life isn’t always fair. The question is what does a state do in light of this situation: Does it suppress the problem or deal with it? Does it take a painkiller or get chemotherapy?
The fact is that the anti-Israel boycott calls failed to generate a buzz as long as there were negotiations. The rift on the Jerusalem-Ramallah route fertilizes the boycott – talks neutralize it. Negotiations are indispensable for Israel.
In an interview he gave the Washington Post over the weekend, Netanyahu said he was ready to sit in a tent and negotiate with Abbas day and night. Netanyahu's willingness to leave his air condition in the summer heat is touching, but fails to deal with the problem. Approaching millionaires will not bear fruit either, apart from wasting money on empty propaganda.
Israel must do something dramatic: Either announce that it is freezing construction, or announce a massive release of prisoners, or open Area C for Palestinian construction, or all of the above. If the talks are not resumed, the Palestinians will go to the UN institutions in the fall, and the boycott movement will grow wings.
Last week, Naftali Bennett likened the Palestinians to shrapnel in Israel's backside, making his own contribution to the boycott supporters' anti-Israel campaign. Let's assume for a moment that it was a legitimate expression. Israel is the backside, but what is the identity of the shrapnel which makes it difficult for Israel each time it wishes to sit down? Is it Netanyahu's fear of a governmental crisis? Is it the extremists' control of the Likud faction? Or perhaps the shrapnel in the backside is Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi party? Small, but painful.