By Nehemia Shtrasler
The entire week was marked by boycotts. It began with a few dozen theater people boycotting the new culture center in Ariel, and continued with a group of authors and artists publishing a statement of support on behalf of those theater people. Then a group of 150 lecturers from various universities announced they would not teach at Ariel College or take part in any cultural events in the territories. Naturally, all that spurred a flurry of responses, including threats of counter-sanctions.
That was all at the local level. There’s another boycott, an international one, that’s gaining momentum – an economic boycott. Last week the Chilean parliament decided to adopt the boycott of Israeli products made in the settlements, at the behest of the Palestinian Authority, which imposed a boycott on such products several months ago.
In September 2009, Norway’s finance minister announced that a major government pension fund was selling its shares in Elbit Systems because of that company’s role in building the separation fence. In March, a major Swedish investment fund said it would eschew Elbit Systems shares on the same grounds. Last month the Norwegian pension fund announced that it was selling its holdings in Africa Israel and in its subsidiary Danya Cebus because of their involvement in constructing settlements in the occupied territories.
The sums involved are not large, but their international significance is huge. Boycotts by governments gives a boost to boycotts by non-government bodies around the world.
Human-rights organizations in Europe are essentially running campaigns to boycott Israeli products. They are demonstrating at supermarkets, brandishing signs against Israeli goods. Worker organizations, with millions of members, send circulars to their people calling on them to forgo Israeli products.
I talked with farmers who say there are retail chains in Europe no longer prepared to buy Israeli products. The same is true for a chain in Washington.
The world is changing before our eyes. Five years ago the anti-Israel movement may have been marginal. Now it is growing into an economic problem.
Until now boycott organizers had been on the far left. They have a new ally: Islamic organizations that have strengthened greatly throughout Europe in the past two decades. The upshot is a red and green alliance with a significant power base. The red side has a name for championing human rights, while the green side has money. Their union is what led to the success of the Turkish flotilla.
They note that boycott is an especially effective weapon against Israel because Israel is a small country, dependent on exports and imports. They also point to the success of the economic boycott against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
The anti-Israel tide rose right after Operation Cast Lead, as the world watched Israel pound Gaza with bombs on live television. No public-relations machine in the world could explain the deaths of hundreds of children, the destruction of neighborhoods and the grinding poverty afflicting a people under curfew for years. They weren’t even allowed to bring in screws to build school desks. Then came the flotilla, complete with prominent peace activists, which ended in nine deaths, adding fuel to the fire.
But underlying the anger against Israel lies disappointment. Since the establishment of the state, and before, we demanded special terms of the world. We played on their feelings of guilt, for standing idle while six million Jews were murdered.
David Ben-Gurion called us a light unto the nations and we stood tall and said, we, little David, would stand strong and righteous against the great evil Goliath.
The world appreciated that message and even, according to the foreign press, enabled us to develop the atom bomb in order to prevent a second Holocaust.
But then came the occupation, which turned us into the evil Goliath, the cruel oppressor, a darkness on the nations. And now we are paying the price of presenting ourselves as righteous and causing disappointment: boycott.