The BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) campaign against Israel claimed a major victory in January when New Zealand singer Lorde cancelled a planned concert in Tel Aviv. The fact that there have been no major headline achievements since then is indicative of the very marginal significance of the BDS campaign.
In any given year, the odd Scandinavian investment fund may decide to divest its Israeli assets, an occasional celebrity like Lorde may pullout of an appearance and an array of academic institutions, church organizations and trade unions may pass boycott resolutions. But that's about it.
That is not to say that the BDS movement should be underestimated. BDS supporters would argue that the cancellations and divestments we hear about are merely the tip of the iceberg. The real damage to Israel is the business deals that don't get done, the investments that are not made and the concerts that are never performed by those either opposed to Israel or wary of antagonizing Israel's opponents.
Of course it is impossible to assess how big this damage might be. But it must be very dispiriting for a BDS activist driving along Tel Aviv's Ayalon Highway to see the proliferation of gleaming high-rise developments. This rapidly growing prosperity must hurt much more than the US states that are introducing sanctions against BDS supporters. The fact is that as Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary, affluence abounds, tourism is breaking new records, and a considerable percentage of visitors are businesspeople looking for the latest technologies, which Israel is so famous for.
It must be particularly disheartening for the BDS movement that Israel has already prevailed against a far more threatening boycott campaign. Until the end of the Cold War, most of the world boycotted Israel. The Soviet Union and all Soviet bloc countries, as well as China, India, and even South Korea did not have diplomatic relations with Israel, and only had negligible trade relations.
All that changed in 1992 when all these countries established diplomatic relations with Israel, and they have all since been making up for lost time by enthusiastically buying Israeli products, technologies and companies. China and India especially have emerged as major trading partners, who unlike the Europeans, don't care about Israeli policies.
Moreover, before 1992 the Arab boycott led by Saudi Arabia and the oil rich Arab countries, made many of the largest corporations in the west reluctant to do business with Israel. Companies wanting to do business in the Arab world were asked to declare that they were not doing business with Israel. The major Japanese automakers like Honda, Toyota and Nissan refused to sell their cars in Israel. Pepsi would not sell its drinks in Israel and in 1988 one US company - Baxter Healthcare - sold a factory in Israel manufacturing hospital supplies to Teva so that it could get off what was then called the "Arab blacklist." Today it would be unthinkable for a major western healthcare company to boycott Israel with all its leading edge technologies. Baxter Healthcare itself has acquired several Israeli startups.
Today's BDS movement, founded in 2005 by 170 Palestinian NGOs is a pale imitation of the mighty Arab boycott in the 1980s that had the world's biggest corporations quaking in their boots.
Perhaps BDS's biggest success is in hoodwinking Western leftists and liberals into believing that it is about replacing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition with a left-wing alternative that would be more accommodating on withdrawal to pre-1967 Israel. It is not. By demanding the right of return of Palestinian refugees, BDS de facto supports the destruction of Israel and its replacement by a Palestine with a Muslim majority.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 22, 2018
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