The Palestine Solidarity Committee in India supports the first international Week Against Mekorot and says NO to water apartheid
Mekorot is Israel’s state-owned water company responsible for implementing “water apartheid” on Palestinians, including the international crime of pillage of natural resources in occupied territory, discrimination against the Palestinian people as an ethnic group and vital support for the illegal settlement enterprise. (See http://stopthewall.org/week-action-against-mekorot)
In 2005, Mekorot established a business arm to begin a process of international expansion. Among the countries where it has signed lucrative contracts is India. The Haryana Government last month signed an MOU with Mekorot for the joint development of a dual pipeline project. (See http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/haryana-govt-signs-mou-with-israel-govt-company-114022601120_1.html)
[ Image credit: via http://www.stopthewall.org ]
This is Mekorot’s record:
It is clear that all cooperation with Mekorot inherently benefits from or contributes to the illegal settlement enterprise.
Campaigns have been established to kick Mekorot out in Argentina, Italy, Greece and Portugal. In Argentina, activists recently announced they succeeded in suspending the construction of a US$170 million water regeneration plant – a project which would have financed not only water apartheid in Palestine but exported it transforming access to water in Buenos Aires from a human right to a luxury item for the rich.
By doing business with Mekorot, India would, in effect, be supporting its illegal and unjust practices with regard to water against the Palestinian people.
The Palestine Solidarity Committee in India demands that the government and business establishment in India eschew business as usual with Israel and support the international movement to exclude Mekorot from public contracts and hold the company accountable for its water apartheid. The First International Week Against Mekorot is between 22 March 2014, World Water Day, and 30 March 2014, when Palestinians mark Land Day.
The Palestine Solidarity Committee in India appeals to all Indians of conscience to take a stand for water justice and support the International Week against Mekorot, 22-30 March 2014.
Palestine Solidarity Committee in India
Subhashini Ali (President, AIDWA), Shyam Benegal (Filmmaker), Syeda Hameed (Member, Planning Commission), Githa Hariharan (Writer), Meena Menon (Activist), Saeed Mirza (Filmmaker), Maimoona Mollah (Janwadi Mahila Samiti), Seema Mustafa (Journalist), Saeed Naqvi (Journalist), Anand Patwardhan (Filmmaker), Prabir Purkayastha (DSF), Annie Raja (General Secretary, NFIW), D. Raja (Member, Rajya Sabha and National Secretary, CPI), N. Ram (Journalist), Nayantara Sahgal (Writer), Pallab Sengupta (AIPSO), S.P. Shukla (Former Secretary, Min. of Finance), Vivan Sundaram (Artist), Achin Vanaik (Academic), Sitaram Yechury (Member, Rajya Sabha and Member, CPI-M Politburo)
Their names are Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17. They were once soccer players in the West Bank. Now they are never going to play sports again. Jawhar and Adam were on their way home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium on January 31 when Israeli forces fired upon them as they approached a checkpoint. After being shot repeatedly, they were mauled by checkpoint dogs and then beaten. Ten bullets were put into Jawhar’s feet. Adam took one bullet in each foot. After being transferred from a hospital in Ramallah to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman, they received the news that soccer would no longer be a part of their futures. (Israel’s border patrol maintainsthat the two young men were about to throw a bomb.)
This is only the latest instance of the targeting of Palestinian soccer players by the Israeli army and security forces. Death, injury or imprisonment has been a reality for several members of the Palestinian national team over the last five years. Just imagine if members of Spain’s top-flight World Cup team had been jailed, shot or killed by another country and imagine the international media outrage that would ensue. Imagine if prospective youth players for Brazil were shot in the feet by the military of another nation. But, tragically, these events along the checkpoints have received little attention on the sports page or beyond.
Much has been written about the psychological effect this kind of targeting has on the occupied territories. Sports represent escape, joy and community, and the Palestinian national soccer team, for a people without a recognized nation, is a source of tremendous pride. To attack the players is to attack the hope that the national team will ever truly have a home.
The Palestinian national football team, which formed in 1998, is currently ranked 144th in the world by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). They have never been higher than 115th. As Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril al-Rajoub commented bluntly, the problems are rooted in “the occupation’s insistence on destroying Palestinian sport.”
Over the last year, in response to this systematic targeting of Palestinian soccer, al-Rajoub has attempted to assemble forces to give Israel the ultimate sanction and, as he said, “demand the expulsion of Israel from FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.” Al-Rajoub claims the support of Jordan, Qatar, Iran, Oman, Algiers and Tunisia in favor of this move, and promises more countries, with an opportunity at a regional March 14 meeting of Arab states, to organize more support. He has also pledged to make the resolution formal when all the member nations of FIFA meet in Brazil.
Qatar’s place in this, as host of the 2022 World Cup, deserves particular scrutiny. As the first Arab state to host the tournament, they are under fire for the hundreds of construction deaths of Nepalese workers occurring on their watch. As the volume on these concerns rises, Qatar needs all the support in FIFA that they can assemble. Whether they eventually see the path to that support as one that involves confronting or accommodating Israel, will be fascinating to see.
As for Sepp Blatter, he clearly recognizes that there is a problem in the treatment of Palestinian athletes by the Israeli state. Over the last year, he has sought to mediate this issue by convening a committee of Israeli and Palestinian authorities to see if they can come to some kind of agreement about easing the checkpoints and restrictions that keep Palestinian athletes from leaving (and trainers, consultants and coaches from entering) the West Bank and Gaza. Yet al-Rajoub sees no progress. As he said, “This is the way the Israelis are behaving and I see no sign that they have recharged their mental batteries. There is no change on the ground. We are a full FIFA member and have the same rights as all other members.”
The shooting into the feet of Jawhar and Adam has taken a delicate situation and made it an impossible one. Sporting institutions like FIFA and the IOC are always wary about drawing lines in the sand when it comes to the conduct of member nations. But the deliberate targeting of players is seen, even in the corridors of power, as impossible to ignore. As long as Israel subjects Palestinian athletes to detention and violence, their seat at the table of international sports will be never be short of precarious.
The first quarter of 2014 has been an interesting time for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign, with a number of promising developments – particularly in Europe – and indications that the Israeli government is taking the ‘threat’ posed by boycott initiatives more seriously than before.
One significant development has been a rash of decisions by European pension funds to divest from or blacklist Israeli banks and corporations on the grounds of those entities’ complicity in violations of international law. The first came In early January, when it was announced that Dutch pension fund giant PGGM had withdrawn its investments from Israel’s five largest banks because of their involvement in West Bank settlements.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted at the time that the decision would be “liable to damage the banks’ image, and could lead other business concerns in Europe to follow suit”. Significantly, the €131 billion fund cut ties with Israeli entities that are not strictly settlement-based enterprises because of the realisation “it would be impossible to create a firewall between its investments in Israeli banks and the banks’ activities in the territories”.
Other similar announcements followed. A Norwegian finance ministry-run $810 billion oil fund divested from Israeli firms Africa Israel Investments and its subsidiary Danya Cebus, due to their involvement in settlement construction. Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank,blacklisted Bank Hapoalim because of settlement complicity, while Scandinavian investors Nordea Investment Management and and DNB Asset Management announced they arereviewing their own holdings in Israeli banks.
In mid-February, a leading Dutch association of investors issued a report claiming that many of Israel’s pension funds, insurance companies and banks “fail to adequately apply guidelines on international law and human rights” with respect to investments linked to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Then at the end of the month came the news that Luxembourg state pension fund FDC had excluded nine major Israeli banks and companies, as well as US company Motorola, on account of their involvement in violations of international law. Five major banks, Elbit Systems, and Africa Israel Investments were among those blacklisted.
A second development of note was success with regards to public awareness of BDS, withScarlett Johansson’s role as Oxfam global ambassador ending as a result of the actress’ contract with SodaStream. While pro-Israel groups spun Johansson’s preference for a lucrative contract with the Israeli company as a ‘failure’ for BDS campaigners, this assessment simply showed their lack of understanding about the nature of the battle they face.
The story gave BDS campaigners the opportunity to promote their message in ways not seen since Stephen Hawking refused an invitation to Shimon Peres’ conference. Many were sceptical or even scornful of the claim that SodaStream’s employment of Palestinians could mitigate the plant’s location in an illegal settlement. The Financial Times called Johansson’s defence “naive”, while The Economist noted that “Israeli financial institutions” and “infrastructure companies” are unable to “separate themselves from activities” in the occupied territories.
Furthermore, the narrative of the controversy from the general public’s point of view was ‘Hollywood actress forced to choose between Israeli company and internationally-respected development charity’. In other words, it was Israel vs. human rights – and no matter what Johansson herself picked, that constituted a blow to ‘brand Israel’. Shortly after Johansson and Oxfam parted ways, Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Boycott National Committee published an op-ed in The New York Times on ‘Why Israel Fears the Boycott‘.
Thirdly, there have been reports this year showing that a boycott of settlement-based businesses is already having an impact, with the income of Israeli farmers in the occupied Jordan Valley falling by 14%, or around $29 million. David Elhayani, head of the settlers’ Jordan Valley Regional Council, described “the damage” as “enormous”. Meanwhile,lawmakers are taking steps to provide financial compensation to businesses in the occupied territories harmed by international boycotts, and in mid-January, an Israeli television report on the boycott campaign featured a leading Tel Aviv-based attorney who said that
Israeli businesses were turning to him in increasing numbers because of cancelled contracts, conflicts with international boards, lost investments and all kinds of other boycott-style pressures stemming from international opposition to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and settlement policies
In January, the EU’s Ambassador to Israel warned of a “price to pay” in the case of the failure of peace talks, and subsequently, EU officials confirmed that measures such as the labelling of settlement products and the issuing of guidance to businesses on settlement trade are prepared and ready to be implemented. Germany, meanwhile, conditioned grantsfor high-tech and science research “on the inclusion of a territorial clause stating that Israeli entities located in West Bank settlements or East Jerusalem will not be eligible for funding”.
Finally, the pushback against the American Studies Association vote for boycott showed signs of backfiring, with efforts to legislate against academic boycott condemned by critics of BDS as an attack on academic freedom. The Modern Language Association conference in January meanwhile hosted a panel discussion on BDS, one of the best-attended sessions of the gathering, prompting anger from the likes of the Anti-Defamation League and otherboycott opponents. In February, 138 Irish academics pledged their support for the academic boycott call. In respect to these developments, note that chair of Israel’s Council for Higher Education’s planning and budget committee Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg recently described the country’s scientists as “ambassadors for Israel” and “an army…facing attempts to boycott us”.
Alongside these developments, the first two months of 2014 also witnessed an uptick in the amount of discussion of boycott and divestment initiatives in the Israeli media and amongst leading politicians. After having initially been ignored, “boycott concerns”, in the words of the Associated Press, have now “become central to Israel’s public discourse“.
A contributing factor were high-profile comments made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who in early February noted what he called “an increasing de-legitimization” campaign and “talk of boycotts“, especially in the event of the failure to deliver a negotiated settlement. A month later, President Obama warned that should peace talks fail, the U.S. would have limited ability to protect it from “international fallout.”
Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni has frequently referred to a boycott of Israel, warning of South Africa-style isolation, and attacking construction in more isolated West Bank settlements as contributing towards an “international boycott“. This week, Labor party leader MK Herzog lamented that the boycott movement “is turning into a strategic threat”. From the other side of the Israeli political spectrum, Jewish Home hardliner MK Ayelet Shaked described “the cultural and academic BDS campaign” as “the greatest threat faced by [Israel]“, while Deputy FM Ze’ev Elkin labelled BDS one of Israel’s “most serious strategic threats“.
A significant proportion of the noise about BDS in Israel over recent months has been focused on potential economic damage. Israel’s Finance Minister Yair Lapid made waves when he warned of an economic crisis that will “hit each [Israeli] in the pocket” should peace talks break down and boycotts increase. Lapid also referred to “an unsettling list of organizations already joining the BDS movement against Israel”, and, referencing Apartheid South Africa, warned “that the tipping point could come unexpectedly“.
President Shimon Peres has proclaimed “the danger of an economic boycott” to be “far more palpable than a security threat”, given how Israel “live[s] on exports“. MK Moshe Gafni offered a similar message: “a decision has to be made about priorities: Judea & Samaria [West Bank] or joining the world economy”. Even the bullish and defiant Economics Minister Naftali Bennett has spoken of the need to reduce dependence on Europe when it comes to trade, due to the concerns over boycott.
Alongside the politicians, a number of leading Israeli business figures – such as the ‘Breaking the Impasse‘ group – have also warned about the potential impact of boycott, and have thus urged the political leadership to secure a peace deal that would thwart such a possibility. Similar fears are being echoed by those within pro-Israel lobby groups in the West – see, for example, a warning by Mick Davis of the UK’s Jewish Leadership Council of the threat posed by “BDS and other punitive measures”, if “current talks falter”.
This is the context then for plans being mooted by the Israeli government to intensify efforts to combat BDS campaigns. Just this week, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly referred to BDS in his speech at AIPAC – and as Haaretz correspondent Barak Ravid pointed out, “the more [he] elaborated on the issue [of BDS], the more he revealed just how worried he is”. The Financial Times, reporting Netanyahu’s condemnation of BDS campaigners as anti-Semites, said his comments “marked one of the clearest signs yet that the movement is making an impact at the highest level of his government.”
In early February, against a backdrop of reported divisions between the Strategic Affairs Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs about how best to respond to BDS campaigns, Netanyahu convened a closed-doors meeting of senior ministers to “seriously discuss boycott for the first time“. Meeting participants were presented with a proposal by Yossi Kuperwasser, Director of the Ministry for Strategic Affairs.
Ideas under discussion apparently included propaganda initiatives, lawsuits in Western courts, promoting anti-boycott legislation in “friendly capitals”, using spies to “dig up intelligence linking [BDS] supporters…to terrorists“, and boosting intelligence about pro-BDS organisations through the combined resources of the Israel Defense Forces’ intelligence department along with the Shin Bet and Mossad (representatives of the latter two organisations attended the meeting).
In parallel to these steps, FM Lieberman announced on 3 February that “a new interministerial team” had been established “to fight efforts to boycott Israel and products manufactured beyond the Green Line”. The state has also been defending the anti-boycott law in front of the High Court, on the grounds that “freedom of expression in Israel is not absolute”.
Until recently, Israel and its lobbyists have been caught between trying to downplay BDS campaigns as ineffectual and useless, while simultaneously condemning boycott strategies and mobilising to oppose them. It would appear that there is now sufficient momentum behind boycott and divestment campaigns that many in the Israeli government and in West-based lobby groups now prefer to have an open, direct confrontation. It is, in other words, a sign of desperation.
Williams’ claim was as absurd then as it appears in hindsight, but his sentiment was far from rare on the American and British right in the 1980s.
Yet today’s so-called progressive and liberal Zionists employ precisely the same kinds of claims to counter the growing movement, initiated by Palestinians themselves, forboycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.
Indeed, looking back, it is clear that Israel’s liberal apologists are recycling nearly every argument once used by conservatives against the BDS movement that helped dismantle South Africa’s apartheid regime.“Singling out”
In a 1989 op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor, University of South Africa lecturer Anne-Marie Kriek scolded the divestment movement for singling out her country’s racist government because, she wrote, “the violation of human rights is the norm rather than the exception in most of Africa’s 42 black-ruled states” (“South Africa Shouldn’t be Singled Out,” 12 October 1989).
Kriek continued, “South Africa is the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa that can feed itself. Blacks possess one of the highest living standards in all of Africa,” adding that nowhere on the continent did black Africans have it so good. So, “Why is South Africa so harshly condemned while completely different standards apply to black Africa?” she asked.
Divestment opponents in the US provided similar justifications. In 1986, for instance, Gregory Dohi, the former editor-in-chief of the Salient, Harvard University’s conservative campus publication, protested that those calling for the university to divest from companies doing business in South Africa were “selective in their morality” (“I am full of joy to realize that I never had anything to do with any divestment campaign …,” Harvard Crimson, 4 April 1986).
Divestment was wrong not only because it would “harm” black workers, Dohi claimed, but because it singled out South Africa.Déjà vu
Where have we heard these kinds of arguments before?
Arguing against BDS, The Nation’s Eric Alterman writes, “The near-complete lack of democratic practices within Israel’s neighbors in the Arab and Islamic world, coupled with their lack of respect for the rights of women, of gays, indeed, of dissidents of any kind — make their protestations of Israel’s own democratic shortcomings difficult to credit” (“A Forum on Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS),” 3 May 2012).
Alterman’s only update to Kriek’s logic is his mention of women’s and gay rights, a nod to The Nation readers’ liberal sensitivities.
Alterman’s sometime Nation colleague, reporter Ben Adler, has also reprised Kriek’s and Dohi’s 1980s-style arguments: “If you want to boycott Israel itself then you need to explain why you’re not calling for a boycott of other countries in the Middle East that oppress their own citizens worse than Israel does anyone living within the Green Line” (“The Problems With BDS,” 31 March 2012).A scary brown majority
The late neoconservative war hawk, and long-time New York Times columnist William Safire — who in 2002 insisted, “Iraqis, cheering their liberators, will lead the Arab worldtoward democracy” — also sympathized with white supremacist anxieties about the implications of a single democratic South Africa.
One person, one vote “means majority rule, and nonwhites are the overwhelming majority in South Africa,” Safire wrote in a 1986 column. “That means an end to white government as the Afrikaners have known it for three centuries; that means the same kind of black rule that exists elsewhere in Africa, and most white South Africans would rather remain the oppressors than become the oppressed” (“The Suzman Plan,” 7 August 1986).
Almost thirty years later, liberal Zionists exhibit the same empathy with racists in their own hostility toward the Palestinian right of return, which BDS unapologetically champions.
Such a scenario would spell the end of Israel’s Jewish majority, a horrifying prospect for ethno-religious supremacists who, like whites in South Africa did, fear the native population they rule.
Cary Nelson, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, well-known in academic circles for his left-liberal activism, conveyed the same fears in a recent anti-BDS tirade. He argued that “nothing in decades of Middle East history suggests Jews would be equal citizens in a state dominated by Arabs or Palestinians” (“Why the ASA boycott is both disingenuous and futile,” Al Jazeera America, 23 December 2013).
Nelson’s racism-induced panic is further distilled in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, where he argues that the BDS movement seeks “the elimination of Israel,” after which, “those Jews not exiled or killed in the transition to an Arab-dominated nation would live as second-class citizens without fundamental rights” (“Another Anti-Israel Vote Comes to Academia,” 8 January 2014).
Of course he wouldn’t put it this way, but Nelson fears, in effect, that Palestinians might do to Jews what the Israeli settler-colonial regime has done to Palestinians since its inception.Relying on puppets
Last December, Mahmoud Abbas, the autocratic puppet leader of the Palestinian Authority, and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), declared his opposition to BDS, leaving Israel and its apologists predictably overjoyed.
In The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier chides pro-BDS academics for speaking on behalf of Palestinians. “Who is Abu Mazen [Abbas] to speak for the Palestinians, compared with an associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, San Diego?” he quipped (“The Academic Boycott of Israel Is a Travesty,” 17 December 2013).
Jeffrey Goldberg is just as derisive, writing in his Bloomberg column that the American Studies Association — which voted to boycott Israeli institutions — “is more Palestinian … than the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization” (“Some Lessons in Effective Scapegoating,” 16 December 2013).
These and other liberal Zionists insist that the Israeli- and US-approved Abbas is the only authentic representative of Palestinian sentiment. They ignore the overwhelming support for boycotting Israel among the Palestinian people.
But for many Palestinians, an apt comparison for Abbas is with Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the black leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party.
Buthelezi was often denounced by black South Africans as a collaborator with the white apartheid regime and lauded by British and American conservative opponents of sanctions as the true voice of black South Africa.
In a 1985 address to representatives from US companies operating in South Africa,Buthelezi insisted that the majority of South African blacks firmly opposed sanctions because they would “condemn a great many millions and a whole new generation to continue living in appalling slum conditions.”
In 1990, Buthelezi came out against an ANC-led campaign of mass civil disobedience — marches, boycotts and strikes — throwing his weight instead behind “cooperation” and “negotiation” with the white regime.
This offers a striking parallel to the present-day Palestinian Authority which continues to give legitimacy to the endless “peace process” while suppressing direct action against the occupation.
Buthelezi was only the most prominent of a handful of black apologists and collaborators with the apartheid regime. Others included Lucas Mangope, puppet leader of the Bophuthatswana bantustan who also fiercely opposed sanctions that would isolate his white supremacist paymasters.
Mangope cringed at the idea of a one-person, one-vote system in South Africa and spent the last days of apartheid desperately clinging to power over his “independent” island of repression.
Yet it wasn’t uncommon for US media outlets — including The New York Times — to label Mangope, and others like him, “moderate” black leaders.
Israel, it seems, has taken its cues directly from the apartheid playbook, cultivating a small circle of Palestinian elites willing to maintain the occupation in exchange for power and comfort.
And liberal Zionists are more than happy to bolster the ruse by using these comprised figures’ words against Palestinians who still insist on their rights.Think of the workers
When Mobil Corporation was forced to shut down its operations in South Africa in 1989 due to what it called “very foolish” US sanctions laws, its chief executive, Allen Murray, feigned concern for the impact on black workers.
“We continue to believe that our presence and our actions have contributed greatly to economic and social progress for nonwhites in South Africa,” the oil executive declared (“Mobil Is Quitting South Africa, Blaming ‘Foolish’ Laws in US,” The New York Times, 29 April 1989).
Before finally giving in to boycott pressures, Citibank also justified its refusal to divest by citing its obligation to the South Africans it employed.
Last month, SodaStream chief executive Daniel Birnbaum echoed this transparent posturing when he defended the location of his company’s main production facility in the illegal Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim.
The only thing keeping him from moving the factory, Birnbaum claims, is his loyalty to some 500 Palestinian SodaStream employees. “We will not throw our employees under the bus to promote anyone’s political agenda,” he told The Jewish Daily Forward (“SodaStream Boss Admits West Bank Plant Is ‘a Pain’ — Praises Scarlett Johansson,” 28 January 2014).“Constructive engagement” again?
Scarlett Johansson, the Hollywood actress who resigned from her humanitarian ambassador role with the anti-poverty organization Oxfam in order to pursue her role as global brand ambassador for SodaStream, applauded the company for “supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.”
Such appeals for cooperation with an oppressive status quo in the face of growing support for BDS mirror President Ronald Reagan’s insistence on “constructive engagement” with apartheid South Africa.
While asserting in 1986 that “time is running out for the moderates of all races in South Africa,” Reagan opposed sanctions that could foster change. Today, supporters of the endless Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” also regularly insist that “time is running out,” while fiercely opposing BDS.
Reagan praised his British counterpart Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for having “denounced punitive sanctions as immoral and utterly repugnant.” Why? Because “the primary victims of an economic boycott of South Africa would be the very people we seek to help,” the president argued (“Transcript of Talk by Reagan on South Africa and Apartheid,” The New York Times, 23 July 1986).
The Reagan administration even funded a survey of black South African workers to prove they loved working for benevolent American corporations and adamantly opposed divestment, never mind the fact that advocating for sanctions under apartheid was a severely punishable offense.
Fast forward to 2014 and Jane Eisner, editor of the liberal Jewish Daily Forward publicly hails SodaStream as the solution to the conflict, using her newspaper to portray Palestinian workers as grateful to be employed by the settlement profiteer, sentiments they expressed while being interviewed under the watchful eyes of their supervisors.Taking racism a step further
Today, twenty-first century liberals and progressives who are ideologically invested in Zionism have embraced the rationales of racist right-wingers from a bygone era.
What’s more, liberal Zionists have taken the racism a step further than Reagan and Thatcher ever dared to go with South Africa.
Although they opposed sanctions, Reagan and Thatcher regularly denounced apartheid as an unjust system that needed to be dismantled.
Israel’s apologists, by contrast, firmly support the maintenance of Israel’s discrimination against Palestinians with their insistence that the country remain a “Jewish state” and their continued denial of the Palestinian right of return.
Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized.
Last week, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen warned on Israeli television that the country would face “increasing isolation” if the peace process collapsed, echoing remarks he made in January about a “price to pay” in terms of boycott and divestment initiatives by European companies. Yet last week also saw the official launch of Israel’s participation in the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme, making it “eligible to compete for €77 billion worth of industrial research grants over seven years”. This juxtaposition is a useful picture of current EU-Israel relations, with close cooperation continuing even as strains have emerged in the context of a troubled peace process and civil society pressure.Euros in their eyes
The cooperation between the EU and Israel is deep, broad-ranging, and financially significant for both parties: the 2012 upgrade of relations, for example, affected 60 different areas of cooperation. That same year, the total bilateral trade in goods was worth just under€30 billion, with 35% of Israeli imports coming from the EU, and 27% of Israeli exports going to the EU.
Aside from scientific research within the Framework Programme, when it comes to technological innovation the EU sees it very much in its own interest to have close links with the country’s hi-tech sector. As European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said during a speech at Haifa University in 2012: “A continent such as Europe, that invests heavily in innovation, needs to have close links with a ‘start-up nation’, like Israel.”
In 2012, Israel exported €1.16 billion in military-related technology to Europe, with Israeli organisations participating in 46 projects within the European Security Research Programme. Defence industry giant Elbit, for example, is a partner in ongoing EU projects “totalling €29.2 million”. On the eve of Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza in November 2012, the EU sponsored an Israeli weapons fair.
Yet aside from the obvious financial benefits, there are also those in the EU supportive of close ties with Israel for ideological reasons. A recent report co-published by the Friends of Israel and Henry Jackson Society portrays “the relationship between the European Union and the State of Israel” as “based on common values”, with the latter described as “a vibrant democracy that treasures the core Western values of human rights and rule of law”.
Then there is the role played by pro-Israel high-ranking officials and lobby groups like European Friends of Israel (EFI) – with an overlap between the two. One example is Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, who, in the words of Brussels-based journalist David Cronin, “has acted as Israel’s best buddy in the EU hierarchy”. Last October, Tajani – who used to be on the board of EFI – led “a delegation of 65 companies and industry association from 17 EU Member States” to Israel.Reading between the guidelines
Recently, however, there have been some undeniable bumps in the road. The year in review for EU-Israel relations in 2013 was to a large extent dominated by the furore over the EU’s publication of guidelines ”on the eligibility of Israeli entities and their activities in the occupied territories for grants, prizes and financial instruments”.
The guidelines were not ‘new’ – they clarified pre-existing policy and closed loopholes that enabled EU money to go to West Bank settlement-based entities. The guidelines do not, however, prohibit EU grants for entities that have activities on both sides of the Green Line, so as long as the funding in question is designated for a project inside pre-’67 Israel.
In response to the guidelines, Israel – to quote an EU official speaking to me in Brussels recently – “went nuclear”. The official, who has an intimate working knowledge of the guidelines and their publication, said he was surprised by the reaction: “we informed the Israeli embassy here in Brussels and two days later it appears in [Israeli newspaper] Haaretz”.
The official suggested that the response was so sharp because the EU was not simply confirming its political position but was using legal instruments to defend it. Thus while a “light” measure, it was still “a precedent”, he noted. He also pointed out that last summer saw the EU publish two other similar items: one related to marketing standards for fruits and vegetables, and one on the certification of organic products – both containing territorial aspects.
Yet EU officials were keen to emphasise that issuing the guidelines was closely linked to a desire for further cooperation with Israel – a case of “clearing an irritant from the table”, as one put it to me. A senior European External Action Service (EEAS) official claimed that the guidelines were about “facilitating cooperation by removing a lack of clarity when agreements are made”. He suggested that Palestinian officials’ positive response to the guidelines was because they naively believed everything they read in Israeli newspapers.
Some involved in civil society lobbying of the EU concur with this assessment. One experienced NGO policy officer made an analogy to the sex-education policy ABC – Abstinence, be faithful, use a condom. “The guidelines are ‘C’, use a condom – you can have sex with Israel, but be safe”. This approach, she said, “is based on the EU’s problematic distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Israel”, referring to the territorial aspect of the guidelines.
Others involved in Palestinian advocacy, however, are more positive. One Brussels-based campaigner told me that the EU’s decision to push ahead with the guidelines was, at least in part, a response to pressure from civil society organisations. There is also, she suggested, a fear that the two-state solution is in grave danger, and that the move should be understood as reflecting this fear of no deal being achieved.Sending a message
If the guidelines were bad enough, from the Israeli government’s point of view there is likely worse to come. EEAS officials told me that Brussels is prepared to “get serious if necessary” with regards to two specific measures: the labelling of settlement goods, and the publication of guidance to businesses on settlement trade, known as ‘common messages to business’.
The labelling of settlement goods has been an issue for some time, with officials blaming slow progress on energy being diverted to the peace process and the guidelines. There is support for such a step amongst at least a dozen or so member states, and the European Commission “is said to have prepared draft labelling guidelines“.
Similarly, the common message to businesses is also ready to be rolled out, with a draft text approved. Though unpublished, it is believed to emphasise the financial and reputational risks for individuals and businesses who get involved in settlement-related activities, with an official comparing it to the advice published by the UK government last year.
This would make it weaker than what many campaigners have hoped for, lacking any serious content on corporate responsibility or reference to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). This despite the fact that in June 2013, the EU told the UN Human Rights Council that it “calls on European companies to implement the Guiding Principles in all circumstances, including in Israel and occupied Palestinian territory.”
That is broader than the ‘common messages’ being prepared, and closer to the approach adopted by Dutch pension fund PGGM, which cut ties with Israeli banks on the basis that some of their business was related to the settlements. When I put this to an EEAS official, he claimed that developing a legal policy based on wider complicity was not feasible, with the legal office of the Commission apparently having a conservative interpretation of relevant UN documents, including the ‘non-recognition, non-assistance‘ element of the International Court of Justice’s 2004 advisory opinion on the Wall.
A Brussels-based pro-Palestinian campaigner familiar with the work done on the common messages to business told me that, while weak, the document is an attempt to play catch up with fast moving developments: “the common messages can raise awareness but the process has already started, and more divestment will come.” More interesting, she thought, would be “the political effect it will have on Israel.” EEAS officials confirmed to me that the timing of publication is tied to the progress of Kerry’s initiative, as well as Israeli settlement construction.The big wheel and the small wheel
Whether you’re talking about the 2013 guidelines, or the potential labelling and common messages to business, it is clear that a critical factor in the EU taking such measures is pressure from civil society: the big NGOs and smaller solidarity-focused campaign organisations working in Brussels and continent-wide on Palestinian rights and accountability.
One policy worker, citing Israeli activist Michel Warschawski, described the dynamic using a big wheel and small wheel analogy, where the ‘small wheel’ of more radical, principled groups moves the ‘big wheel’ of the mainstream NGOs. She explained how in Brussels their work is constrained by the hegemonic discourse and the need to speak in a language that EEAS officials understand. This was an issue raised by other activists I spoke to, including an experienced campaigner who referred to a “tendency in recent years” for “big human rights NGOs to depoliticise everything when it comes to Israel” – a result, she said, “of concluding after years of experience that a technical approach is better” and enhances their credibility.
The disadvantage of this strategy, according to those campaigners coming from a background more shaped by solidarity politics, is that by depoliticising the issues in bilateral discussions, the mainstream NGOs make those groups that do come with political arguments easier to label as ‘extremists’ – despite the fact that there is very much a political case to be made. Thus while working on a technical level can “be better in the short term”, it risks “losing the bigger picture such as the occupation and systematic violations”.
The EU officials I met with in Brussels revealed, directly or indirectly, that human rights groups and campaigners are having an impact on relations with Israel. For example, when I asked a senior EEAS official about EU money going to arms industry giant Elbit Systems, he conceded it was an issue being “brought to our attention by civil society more and more” (he also, without prompting, referred to pressure felt in parliament over G4S).
Indeed, when discussing last year’s guidelines, EEAS policy makers confirmed that talk of ‘closing loopholes’ was at least in part a reference to the controversy over settlement-based company Ahava receiving funding under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), which was a big campaign focus of pro-Palestinian organisations.
When pushed about close relations with Israel even as routine violations of international law continue, the EU officials were keen to argue that they influence Israel through engagement. One claimed to me that the threat of further measures is more effective than actually implementing them. When it was pointed out that this could sound like empty threats, a senior EEAS policy maker shifted gears slightly, and pointed to a change in Council statements in 2013 from being purely “declaratory” to “operational”. It is a question of “overlapping circles”, he said to me: “legalities, moral responsibilities of companies, and consumer pressure”.
Officials took credit for curtailing anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset during Netanyahu’s previous term, while “concerns” about individual Palestinian human rights defenders have, apparently, “been taken seriously”. Yet those responsible for formulating policy also seem to have a pessimistic view about their chances of influence on questions of Palestinian human rights due to a belief that for the Israelis, “this is an existential problem”.Is there a Plan B?
For now, the EU’s single-minded focus is the peace process, and seeing U.S Secretary of State John Kerry succeed in his drive for a final agreement. Yet there is a kind of blindness, an unwillingness to contemplate a scenario outside of that which the EU has invested in and relied on for so long. When I suggested that successive Israeli governments – not least the current one – have done their best to block the emergence of a genuinely independent Palestinian state, an EEAS adviser to the peace process replied that “the only thing I have in front of me is an Israeli PM who subscribes to a two-state solution”.
This desire not to upset Kerry’s apple cart, along with a growing sense of panic that the two-state solution paradigm might be about to disappear forever, has pushed the EU to offer what they see as a significant incentive for a deal, as well as help in making a deal stick through contributions to the resolution of final status issues. Central to this effort is the promise of a Special Privileged Partnership, announced in the conclusions of the December coucil meet, where Israel and a future Palestinian state would be offered a smorgasbord of mutual and bilateral cooperation agreements of an economic, political and cultural nature.
The focus of the Special Privileged Partnership, with its promise of substantial reward intended to encourage a deal, means that for those working on the peace process, there is a reluctance to speak of further anti-settlement measures: “there is no menu of sticks” in the words of one. The official advising on the peace process emphasised that the EU sees it in its own interests to have a two-state solution – which is the only solution, he said, because “all the other options are not viable”. And if there’s no deal? “Let’s focus on what we can do now”, he said.
But the question of what the EU will do in the event of no agreement is becoming unavoidable – not to mention how EU policy would be affected by developments such as instability in, or even the collapse of, the Palestinian Authority – or potential Israeli measures like annexation of parts of the West Bank. One activist told me that civil society organisations need to be ready for the ‘day after’ the Kerry plan – though pointed out that with European elections in May, mobilising MEPs to pressure the Commission will be difficult to do until later in the year (the vote is also expected to return a more conservative-minded parliament).
Kerry’s April deadline, previously assumed by some to be a make or break moment, has already been stripped of its significance: a ‘framework’ is all that is promised, which might well be delayed, and about which both sides are permitted to express reservations and objections. The EU might be reticent to launch new settlement-targeted measures while there’s still a ‘process’, but this should be distinguished from decisions by private companies responding to civil society campaigning – where momentum is likely to continue.
A pro-Palestinian campaigner in Brussels, summarising prospects for the rest of 2014, feels optimistic. “There is this dynamic about guidelines and messages to business, the potential failure of the peace process – and just a growing noise about BDS and government and corporate measures. I think the EU is a bit overwhelmed.” Perhaps we will soon see that the EU’s relationship with Israel, despite its officials’ best efforts, is ultimately shaped by pressures and developments outside of Brussels’ control.
Within the framework of a field visit carried out by the French Euromed Network (REF) from 13 to 19 February 2014 in Palestine, the members of the REF delegation noticed what follows :
On February 17, 2014, in Ramallah, a meeting between the REF delegation and the PNGO delegation was held. This meeting resulted in a common statement :
1. Both delegations express their rejection of the policy of apartheid and segregation led by the State of Israel.
2. Both delegations support the resistance of the Palestinian people for the realization of their national aspirations to an independent State with Jerusalem as capital, as well as the right to return of the refugees and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.
3. The REF delegation is committed to promote the BDS campaign (Boycott Disinvestment Sanctions) and the international campaign for the liberation of the Palestinian prisoners.
Ramallah, February 17, 2014
Dans le cadre d’une mission effectuée par le Réseau Euromed France (REF) du 13 au 19 avril 2014 en Palestine, les membres de la délégation REF ont constaté ce qui suit :
Le 17 février 2014, à Ramallah, une rencontre s’est tenue entre la délégation du REF et une délégation du PNGO (Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network). Cette rencontre a débouché sur une déclaration commune :
1. Les deux délégations expriment leur rejet de la politique d’apartheid et de ségrégation menée par l’État d’Israël.
2. Les deux délégations soutiennent les résistances du peuple palestinien pour la réalisation de ses aspirations nationales à un État indépendant avec Jérusalem comme capitale ainsi que le droit au retour des réfugiés et le droit à l’autodétermination du peuple palestinien.
3. La délégation du REF s’engage à mieux faire connaître la campagne BDS (Boycott Désinvestissement Sanctions) et la campagne internationale pour la libération des prisonniers palestiniens.
Ramallah, 17 février 2014
Support Palestinians call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign until Palestinian Human Rights are recognized by Israel.
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, called on the International community to be brave and support B.D.S. Campaign until the Israeli Government recognizes Palestinian Human Rights.
Mairead Maguire said:
‘The Palestinian narrative is a story of a prolonged occupation by Israel based on policies of Apartheid and racism, ongoing building on Palestinian land of Israeli settlements, house demolitions, and the continued denial by Israel of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. Gaza, the largest open air prison in the world, of which Israel is its jailer as it holds the keys and totally controls all aspects of life of the people of Gaza. One and a half million people in Gaza, mostly under 2l years of age, continue in the words of Israeli Professor and Academic, Jeff Halper, to be ‘warehoused’ by Israel with all rights being violated by Israel. The Gaza port has been closed for over 40 years, their airport destroyed and crossing into West Bank blocked. The people of Gaza do not have the basic right to travel into the West Bank to visit relatives without passes from Israel, and students in Gaza are forbidden to travel to study outside Gaza. These conditions mean that Gaza is still under occupation. The Israel policies of divide and rule, keeping Gaza and West Bank cut off from each other, ensures that neither human contact or real peace negotiations can take place, (as is evidenced by the fact that at the current Peace Talks presided over by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, Gaza palestinians (in which 40% of Palestinians live) are not represented at the negotiating table.)
South African visitors to Palestine have described the situation of blockade, occupation, as far worse than anything they experienced under the South African Apartheid era.
Why has this desperate injustice perpetrated upon the Palestinians by Israeli Government Policies been allowed to go on for over 60 years, in spite of United Nations over 60 resolutions, calling on Israel to uphold International law, but continuing to be ignored by Israel?
When anyone in International community is brave enough to articulate the facts of Israel’s repression of the Palestinian people they are bullied, threatened and accused of anti-Semitism. This insidious practice by Israeli Government and its policy supporters has been very effective in silencing critique or debate on Israeli/US military and financial supported foreign policy, but also causes self-censorship by many concerned for their political and professional careers, or trading profits. However, the Palestinian people take hope from those who are brave enough to take a stand, such as the Irish Trade Union Movement, Stephen Hawkins, Russell Tribunal on Palestine, and a growing international movement of support.
We all know the Jewish Narrative, particularly the story of the holocaust, but our sadness for this one of humanities greatest acts of inhumanity, should not stop us from speaking out on Israel’s current policy of a ‘silent genocide’ of the Palestinian people, and currently today of the people in Gaza.
The denial by Israel of Palestinian basic freedoms is not a natural humanitarian tragedy, it is an Israeli Government policy, in which many Governments, Media, Corporations, and Companies (such as Hewlett Packard and G4S who profit from the illegal occupation) are all complicit if not by supporting Israeli Government through funding, trading,etc., then by their silence.
But, there is much we can all do. The greatest hope we can give Palestinian people is to tell the Palestinian narrative, even at the risk of being called anti-Semitic. This will give legitimacy to the Palestinian people and in time will force Israel to choose peace not land, as it has done for so long. The Palestinian people have asked the International community to support their nonviolent BDS campaign (boycott, divestment and sanctions) and I applaud the recent actions of the Irish Academics in responding to this Appeal, and calling for a Boycott of Israel Universities, as indeed they are part of the system which upholds Apartheid and occupation by Israel.
Professor Falk, the UN special rapporteur for Palestine, who in his 6 years has often been refused entry into Palestinian territory, by Israel authorities, has recommended that UN member states should impose a ban on imports of products from Israeli settlements. I hope many will follow his advice.
As a well supported International BDS campaign helped end Apartheid in South Africa, the Palestinian people believe, as do growing sections of the International Civil Community, that a similar International campaign will help end Israel’s denial of Palestinians human rights, freedom and peace.
NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE
28th February, 2014
Mekorot is Israel’s state-owned water company responsible for implementing ‘water apartheid’ on Palestinians, including the international crime of pillage of natural resources in occupied territory, discrimination against the Palestinian people as an ethnic group and vital support for the illegal settlement enterprise. In 2005, Mekorot established a business arm to begin a process of international expansion. Several lucrative contracts have been signed in countries like the US, Cyprus, Argentina, India and Uganda. In Greece Mekorot is vying for a share in the government’s privatization drive. Cooperation agreements have also been signed in Brazil, Portugal and Italy.
Civic groups are outraged that their governments are turning a blind eye to Mekorot’s involvement in violations of international law and human rights and are instead rewarding it with a business as usual approach. Campaigns have been established to kick Mekorot out in Argentina, Italy, Greece and Portugal. In Argentina, activists recently announced they succeeded in suspending the construction of a US$170 million water regeneration plant – a project which would have financed not only water apartheid in Palestine but exported it transforming access to water in Buenos Aires from a human right to a luxury item for the rich.
Vitens, the largest water supplier in the Netherlands, ended a contract with Mekorot just days after it was signed due to the company’s involvement in violations of international law. Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, canceled a meeting with Mekorot officials for the same reasons.
Momentum is building with the growth of the global BDS movement. It is now the time to intensify pressure on public authorities to exclude Mekorot from public contracts and hold the company accountable for its water apartheid. Join the First International Week Against Mekorot between 22 March 2014, World Water Day, and 30 March 2014, when Palestinians mark Land Day.
This is an opportunity to cement an international coalition against Mekorot a worldwide awareness raising campaign. Use the week to launch campaign initiatives, promote public awareness and pressure governments to act. Register your participation by writing an e-mail to: email@example.com. A website will be set to consolidate the efforts during the week.
PENGON/Friends of the Earth Palestine, Palestinian BDS National Committee, Land Defense CoalitionSix reasons to boycott Mekorot
1. Mekorot operates a system of water apartheid: Mekorot has been responsible for water rights violations and discrimination since the 1950s when it built Israel’s national water carrier, which is diverting the Jordan River from the West Bank and Jordan to serve Israeli communities. At the same time it deprives the Palestinian communities from the possibility of access to water: Palestinian consumption in the OPT is about 70 litres a day per person – well below the 100 litres per capita daily recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) – whereas Israeli daily per capita consumption, at about 300 litres, is about four times as much.
Mekorot has refused to supply water to Palestinian communities inside Israel, despite an Israeli high court ruling recognizing their right to water.
A French parliamentary report called these policies water apartheid.
2. Mekorot’s vital support for the illegal settlement enterprise: Mekorot support for colonial settlement has continued since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights. The company took monopoly control over all water sources in the occupied territories, implementing policies that bolster Israeli settlements at the expense of Palestinian communities.
The United Nations report of the independent international fact-finding mission on the implications of the Israeli settlements on the rights of the Palestinian people as well as the latest report on the settlements by the Secretary-General of the UN denounce Mekorot’s role in the settlement enterprise.
All cooperation with Mekorot inherently benefits from or contributes to the illegal settlement enterprise. Dutch public water company Vitens states that “Whether it comes to knowledge about extraction of water or to the benefits that can be achieved with smart grids, these cannot be separated from what the UN writes about the policy of Mekorot (*) towards the Palestinian territories and the settlements.”
3. Mekorot participates in the international crime of pillage of natural resources and wanton destruction of water infrastructure:
Mekorot operates some 42 wells in the West Bank, mainly in the Jordan Valley region, which mostly supply the Israeli settlements.
Mekorot works in close partnership with the Israeli military, confiscating irrigation pipes
from Palestinian farmers and destroying the water supply sources of Palestinian communities. In 2012 alone the Israeli army demolished 60 water and sanitation structures belonging to Palestinians.
4. Mekorot denies Palestinians the human right to water as a tool for the Israeli policy of displacement:
In the summer Mekorot, escourted by the army, turns off the tap on Palestinian West Bank communities, leaving them to dry.
Mekorot is a proud partner of the JNF’s “Negev Blueprint” plan, which will see 40 000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel uprooted from their homes into reservations and their land used for Jewish-only settlement in the Negev.
5. Mekorot exports its water apartheid benefiting from water privatization:
Argentina’s Public sector union ATE stated during its campaign that “if the tender is awarded to Mekorot water would rank as a luxury item and not as a vital resource that is a social right, and, secondly, human rights would be violated by giving the award to a company that supports the Palestinian genocide.”
6. Mekorot’s purported ‘expertise’ on water is plain ‘bluewashing’: the construction of water myths intended to bolster Israel’s image abroad. Unlike what the company claims, Israel did not make the ‘desert bloom’. The area of historic Palestine is rich in water and Palestinians have a centuries-old agriculture tradition. Israel exploited this myth to justify its misguided diversion of the Jordan River waters, turning the historic river into a sewage pit, and to justify aggression against neighboring countries. The reality is that Israel is a water waster, its citizens consume water double the European average and its agriculture sector is ecologically unsustainable, with government subsidized farmers growing water thirsty crops.
Join the First International Week of Action Against Mekorot between 22 March 2014, World Water Day, and 30 March 2014, when Palestinians mark Land Day. Take a stand for water justice!
Learn the facts about Mekorot’s human rights abuses:
Whether one is for or against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as a means to change the current situation in Palestine-Israel, it is important to recognize that boycotts are internationally affirmed and constitutionally protected forms of political expression. As non-violent instruments to effect political change, boycotts cannot be outlawed without trampling on a constitutionally protected right to political speech. Those who support boycotts ought not to become subject to retaliation, surveillance, or censorship when they choose to express their political viewpoint, no matter how offensive that may be to those who disagree.
We are now witnessing accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS. We ask cultural and educational institutions to have the courage and the principle to stand for, and safeguard, the very principles of free expression and the free exchange of ideas that make those institutions possible. This means refusing to accede to bullying, intimidation, and threats aimed at silencing speakers because of their actual or perceived political views. It also means refusing to impose a political litmus test on speakers and artists when they are invited to speak or show their work. We ask that educational and cultural institutions recommit themselves to upholding principles of open debate, and to remain venues for staging expressions of an array of views, including controversial ones. Only by refusing to become vehicles for censorship and slander, and rejecting blacklisting, intimidation, and discrimination against certain viewpoints, can these institutions live up to their purpose as centers of learning and culture.
Professor of Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley
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Natalie Zemon Davis
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Mariam C Said
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Institute for Advanced Study
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University of London
Goldsmiths, University of London
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On 18 November 2012, Thomas Hock, the vice president of labor relations for Veolia Transportation, checked into the Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland, California, for a three-night stay in the San Francisco Bay Area.
A month earlier, BART — the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail system — had quietly hired Hock as a labor consultant in preparation for the impending contract negotiations between BART and its employees.
By the end of his short visit, Hock had billed $7,000 in consulting fees at $350 an hour — and that was just the beginning.
Following his first November visit, Hock would make an additional seven trips to the Bay Area, racking up $83,000 in fees and expenses, before being hired under contract to serve as the chief negotiator beginning on 1 April 2013.
At the time, BART spokespersons tried to downplay their hire, but the public agency’s hefty investment in Hock’s services indicated their anticipation of the unions’ insistent bargain demands at the negotiating table (“What’s behind the BART strike?,” Mother Jones, 1 July 2013).
In 2009, when BART was floundering with a sizable deficit induced by the 2008 financial crisis, BART employees had gracefully agreed to $100 million in cuts.
The unions knew it was time for the workers to get a raise, and Hock was BART’s weapon. BART set aside a maximum of $399,000 for Hock’s services — half of which was used up within the first two months of the negotiations (“Ohio transit attorney eating through BART tab for ongoing labor negotiations,” San Francisco Examiner, 1 October 2013).“Hired gun”
“Hock is a man that has grown very rich working as a hired gun to disrupt contract negotiation to force unions out on strike,” Lawrence Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), told The Electronic Intifada.
Between April and December 2013, local chapters of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and ATU held two strikes before reaching an agreement.
The alliance between Veolia and BART was part of a pattern being produced across the country. Cities, counties and states contract with Veolia to run public transportation, waste or water services with the promise of reducing costs — usually on the backs of the workers.Complicity
As has been extensively documented by The Electronic Intifada, the French corporation Veolia Environment and its subsidiary Veolia Transdev has acted in complicity with Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.
In direct violation of international law, Israel transfers its own waste to this landfill, which is situated on occupied land.
Veolia also holds a share of CityPass, the company contracted to operate the Jerusalem Light Rail project, which connects western Jerusalem to the surrounding illegal settlementsin East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.
Veolia also owns 80 percent of Connex Jerusalem, the company tasked with running the trains of the project (“Veolia Transportation Israel stopped operating the Modiin bus network,” Who Profits?, August 2013).Nurturing acrimony
But as the company stretches its corporate tentacles from its home-base in France into Palestine, San Francisco, Bangladesh and various European countries, it is aiding in the expansion of its own opposition.
Whether by polluting local water, cutting the pensions and slashing the pay of transport workers, or helping to run Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Veolia nurtures acrimonious relationships with local populations, labor and trade unions and other activists.
Until his splashy deal with BART last year, Hock’s — and for that matter, Veolia’s — public reputation was minimal in the US beyond those informed about its transgressions in Palestine.
But anger and frustration with the company has been mounting, particularly over its labor and environmental records.
A year prior to the BART troubles in the Bay Area, Thomas Hock had helped drag out a long negotiation process with transit unions in Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona — provoking a federal intervention before the National Labor Relations Board, which found that Veolia had engaged in “regressive, bad faith, and surface bargaining” (“BART’s lead negotiator has a history of illegal behavior,” East Bay Express, 10 July 2013).
And currently in Boston, Massachusetts, public school bus drivers are waging an ardent battle to keep their jobs, pay and benefits after the city sold its public school buses to Veolia Transportation last year.
In 1999, Hock founded Professional Transit Management (PTM), a transit labor consulting firm which was acquired by Veolia Transportation in 2008.
Since 2001, PTM has incurred 51 complaints before the National Labor Relations Board, charging Hock’s and Veolia’s firm of stalling the negotiation process, spying on employees, punitively firing outspoken employees and bargaining in bad faith.Tarred image
Now, Hock and Veolia have become synonymous with union-busting — and the company’s tarred image is proving to be a boost for campaigners calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
The need for support through coalition-building with labor, environment and other social justice activists has long been recognized as vital for the BDS movement to grow and strengthen its ability to achieve victories.
Nancy Murray is a longtime Palestine solidarity activist based in Boston. For some time, the greater Boston area’s commuter rail system has been operated by an amalgam of three companies, known as Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail (MBCR), the majority shareholder — 60 percent — being Veolia.
In 2011, Murray’s group, the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights, decided to mobilize against the continuation of this contract — worth over $4 billion — slated to be renewed at the beginning of 2014.
“When we started this, I didn’t think we were going to get very far,” Murray told The Electronic Intifada. She explained that Veolia had a stronghold on the contract with no competition.
Furthermore, Murray explained, “Massachusetts has a very well-organized anti-Palestinian rights movement.”
The anti-Muslim and pro-Israel Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) is based in Boston; and when Murray called for divestment from Israel bonds it triggered a counter-campaign urging residents to buy more of them.
“So we had to play this a little carefully. It was clear that if we just focused on the human rights violations of Veolia in Palestine there would be a huge counter-movement in Massachusetts,” she said.History of malfeasance
So the campaigners broadened their critique of Veolia, reached out to a variety of interest groups and forged a multifaceted argument against the state contracting with the company.
For example, they brought attention to the company’s history of malfeasance: a 2011 state audit that found MBCR had double-billed the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) (“T payments to contractor challenged,” The Boston Globe, 19 January 2011).
They also drew attention to how the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration had fined Veolia $130,000 for 22 “serious health and safety offenses” at its Massachusetts maintenance facility in November 2011.
“We did focus on Palestine at times,” explained Murray. She helped organize a solidarity bus ride with the Palestinian “Freedom Riders” who protested the Jewish-only buses that Veolia operated in the West Bank in 2011.
And in late 2012, the group demonstrated outside Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government when Mark Joseph, Veolia Transportation’s chief executive officer, delivered alecture on transportation.
During the process of educating the community about the vast canvas of Veolia’s misconduct, Murray’s group included information about Veolia’s nefarious conduct in Palestine.
“We weren’t sneaking it in; it retained prominence in our campaign,” she said. “But, in terms of the way we talked about it to the public, it was all of these other issues that really gave us a leg to stand on.”
On 8 January this year, the MBTA ditched Veolia’s Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail contract (“Veolia, a BDS target, loses Massachusetts commuter rail contract,” Mondoweiss, 9 January 2014).
“We don’t take credit — we don’t say we got the contract taken away. Because while we were significant, we were never cited specifically,” Murray said.Spearheading opposition
Only a few months earlier in another part of the country, the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee had successfully prevented their city from contracting with Veolia Water to provide “cost-saving” consulting services to the municipal water department.
Sandra Tamari, a member of the St. Louis group, told The Electronic Intifada that while it was longtime Palestine solidarity activists who spearheaded the opposition to the contract, the success of her city’s campaign was due to their appeal to local concerns.
“If we’d only focused on Palestine we would not have been able to build those coalitions. We want to find companies that are complicit in all kinds of problematic activities and violations,” she noted.
News of the imminent city contract with Veolia first appeared in the local paper, the River Front Times, which reported that the contract had sparked anxiety within the department.
One anonymous insider told the paper that fears of layoffs swamped the office as the threat of privatization loomed (“French firm Veolia wins consulting contract with St. Louis water division,” 4 December 2012).
Like many cities privatizing traditionally public services, St. Louis had argued that efficiencies were needed amid a budgetary crisis. And while the contract with St. Louis was not a full-scale privatization scheme, it did expect Veolia to implement cost-saving measures.
Tamari’s group, already poised to target Veolia, quickly mobilized its members and convinced the city to postpone a vote on the contract until there could be a more extensive investigation into the company’s shoddy environmental record.Abysmal record
Over the next ten months, the voices opposing the contract amplified and diversified to include the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and the Boston-based group Corporate Accountability International.
Furthermore, the Washington-based non-profit organization Food and Water Watch provided substantial research demonstrating Veolia’s abysmal record managing water supplies.
Among the issues highlighted were that Veolia had owned and operated Indianapolis’ water department until the company was sued for unfairly hiking rates. In addition, the US Attorney began an investigation into the safety of the drinking water, and the city had to buy Veolia out of its contract.
And, in 2008, watchdog group the San Francisco Baykeeper sued Veolia for dumping 10 million gallons of sewage into the San Francisco Bay from its Burlingame city sewer treatment plant (“Money down the drain,” Food and Water Watch, February 2009 [PDF]).Broad alliance
On whether the subject of Palestine is at risk of getting diluted through coalition-building, Tamari and Murray emphasize that it has the opposite effect. Coalition-building creates a broad audience which can receive the BDS message.
“When you’re talking about a local issue it’s okay to not be as forceful about international concerns. We made a very conscious choice to focus on the common goal: to dump Veolia. And we’re all committed not to undermine anyone’s focus,” said Tamari.
“Being pro-Veolia wasn’t an option for anybody,” she added.
In October 2013, Veolia withdrew from its $250,000 contract with the St. Louis water department (“Veolia Water withdraws from contract with city of St. Louis,” Riverfront Times, 29 October 2013) .
As it promised in St. Louis, Veolia has been hawking its services to municipalities byarguing that private companies are good at saving money.
In its contract in Boston to run the public school buses, Veolia was given strong incentives to reduce labor costs: the company receives up to 50 cents of every dollar it saves through “efficiencies or cost-saving” measures.
Some of those early “efficiencies” came through the company’s “Intelliride” technology, which uses computer software to determine the best travel routes and how much time each route should take.Intransigence
“Right off the bat, they didn’t want to do even the simple things,” bus driver Steven Gillis told The Electronic Intifada. Gillis has been driving Boston’s children since 1985.
After getting a taste of Veolia’s intransigence, Gillis and his union began digging into the company’s contract with the city. They discovered that Intelliride and the new pay system resulted in drivers not getting the full pay owed to them.
“I had never really heard of Veolia until last July,” Gillis said. Last November he, along with three other long-time bus drivers, were fired by Veolia after they led a protest the previous month.
At about the same time, Murray’s anti-Veolia campaign was gaining traction. “We discovered recent action in the Boston area by the Palestinian self-determination movement,” Gillis said. “Veolia really brings people together.”
That was the theme of a day-long conference held in San Francisco in February this year. Endorsed by nearly twenty different groups, including trade unions, Food and Water Watch, and Palestine solidarity groups, the conference, “Stop Privatization, Defend Labor, Human Rights and the Environment,” was introduced as “the first time that there’s been a conference tying together the struggle of labor, human rights and the environment with the company Veolia.”
The day reflected the breadth of alliances the BDS campaign has built since its launch in 2005.
At the conference, Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), spoke via Skype from Ramallah in the West Bank.
“Successes against Veolia have been on issues where struggles converge,” he said.
Barghouti emphasized the important alliance that the BDS movement has forged with trade unions around the world, beginning in South Africa and growing to include trade unions inIreland, the United Kingdom, Brazil, France, Italy and Canada.
Barghouti remarked that since the first victory against Veolia in the Basque city of Bilbao in November 2008, successful BDS campaigning has cost the company billions in lost business.
The human rights organization Global Exchange maintains a full list of BDS victories around the world that have cost Veolia a total of $23.97 billion in contracts.
Echoing Gillis’ sentiment, Barghouti told the audience, “It’s not difficult to organize mass anger against Veolia.”“Proud” to serve apartheid
Indeed, the strength of BDS and coalition-building can be detected in Veolia’s responses.
While Veolia has shown signs of wishing to abandon its contract with the Jerusalem Light Rail — which continues to haunt the company in its ventures in North America and Europe — it has nevertheless adopted an offensive tactic to combat the local alliances forged against it.
In a letter sent to the Boston bus drivers on 25 November 2013 and seen by The Electronic Intifada, Alex Roman, a general manager with Veolia, wrote: “BDS is part of an international movement dedicated to attacking the nation of Israel and anyone … that does business in or with Israel in the disputed territories of Palestine. This group’s goal, according to its international leader, is the ‘euthanization of Israel’ and they have no problem with lies and distorting the truth.”
Roman added: “We are falsely attacked by BDS because a subsidiary of our parent company helps operate a highly popular and successful modern light rail system in the ancient and diverse city of Jerusalem … It’s very popular in the Palestinian Arab neighborhoods it serves and we are proud to be part of operating it.”
The Electronic Intifada reported last year that Alan Moldawer, Veolia Transportation’s executive vice president, sent a very similar statement to the local government in Sonoma County, California, in response to a campaign aimed at ending a Veolia contract to run buses there.
But despite Veolia’s attempts to wedge divides between the multiple groups that hold grievances against the company, the success stories of Murray and Tamari, and the ongoing struggle of transportation workers like Gillis, demonstrate that the global movement to resist Veolia will continue to be powerfully effective when targeting the company on the local level.
Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter@CharESilver.
The following excerpts are from a press conference held on the morning of February 17 at Al Bireh Municipality Hall that was organised by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC).
Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement and a representative of the Palestinian Campaign for Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel the BDS National Committee (BNC), stated:
“In the last year or so, the global BDS movement, led by the BNC, reached a tipping point in its struggle for comprehensive Palestinian rights under international law. The Israeli government is panicking because of the recent fast growth of BDS around the world, particularly in countries that have always been considered Israel’s closest allies in the world: the US, Germany, the Netherlands, among others.”
“Whether in the academic, cultural, or economic areas, BDS, which is a non-violent, anti-racist human rights movement, has reached a qualitatively new phases, whereby our worldwide partners are leading grassroots movements in applying effective pressure on major banks, pension funds, corporations and academic associations to boycott Israel as was done to South Africa’s apartheid regime. Israel has officially recognized BDS as a ‘strategic threat’ to its regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.”
Haitham Arar, representing the General Union of Palestinian Women, a member of the BDS National Committee (BNC), stated:
“Palestinian women and their representative unions have always been in the leadership of local and international boycott campaigns against Israel to end the occupation and realize all our rights under international law as a people. We also work at the UN level and with women’s organizations around the world to further the BDS movement as the most effective form of solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
“In 2014, the UN-declared year of solidarity with the Palestinian people, the BDS movement will intensify, inside and outside, in pursuit of our full rights under international law. BDS calls for a full boycott of Israel and its complicit institutions; this is very similar to, and deeply inspired by, the boycott and divestment movement that helped end apartheid in South Africa.”
“A very important part of the BDS strategy is the military embargo on Israel, because Israel is one of the world’s leading military exporters that profit from wars and war crimes. We can have a substantial impact on this part of the Israeli economy.”
“All Palestinian trade union bodies are proud to be founding members of the BDS movement. We work with international and increasingly with Arab trade union bodies to spread BDS against Israel’s occupation and human rights violations.”
Responding to a question regarding Israel’s increasing emphasis on trade with “the East” as a response to the growing boycott in the West, Mr. Ibrahim said:
“Nations in the global South naturally understand colonialism and racial repression and therefore stand with the Palestinian people. If Israel thinks its increasing trade with China, India, Brazil and others will keep growing unchecked, they are wrong. We have deep partnerships with major trade union bodies in those countries, and we shall mobilize more grassroots support for BDS in 2014 to counter Israel’s attempt to increase trade there.”
Rifat Kassis, Kairos Palestine, a group of key Christian Palestinian figures from all denominations which adopted BDS in 2009, said:
“Churches play a considerable and fast growing role in holding Israel accountable for its occupation and denial of our basic rights through pressure and measures against companies involved in the occupation and violations of international law. When the Kairos Palestine document was issued in 2009, it opened the doors of many churches around the globe for the Palestinian-led, global BDS movement.
“Major churches in Canada, the US, the UK, India and elsewhere have adopted BDS measures against companies profiting from the occupation, and particularly from the illegal settlements. This phenomenon is undoubtedly spreading and growing.”
Nasfat Khuffash, Coordinating Council of Palestinian NGOs, which coordinates the work of the three main NGO networks in the OPT, all of which are part of the BNC, said:
“Israel and its lobby groups are waging an open war on Palestinian and international NGOs that adopt BDS, trying to dry up our sources of funding through intimidation, bullying and direct threats.
“We shall counter their announced lawfare against BDS by mobilizing Palestinian, Arab, global South and Western support for freedom of speech and our right to advocate nonviolent resistance strategies against Israel’s occupation, colonialism and apartheid.”
“Israel is trying to criminalize BDS, and this is a direct assault on freedom of expression. All freedom-loving citizens of the world should stand against this new Israeli attack on free speech.”
Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an international series of events that seeks to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
UK and US: February 24-March 2
Europe: March 1-8
Palestine: March 8 – 15
South Africa: March 10-16
Brazil: March 24-28
Arab world and Asia: TBA
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu convened senior ministers Sunday to discuss ways of fighting boycott and divestment initiatives proliferating in Europe and worldwide. Present at the meeting were Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz.
The main proposal under discussion was prepared by Yossi Kuperwasser, Director of the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, and other participants in the meeting included representatives of the Mossad, Shin Bet and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
Israeli media has reported that “the discussion was held in secret“, with an imposed “media blackout” meaning that even the offices of participating ministers were “not even officially willing to confirm that the meeting took place”.
There is a difference of opinion between Steinitz and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), with the former pushing for a more proactive and confrontational approach. Steintz’s proposal means “invest[ing] substanial resources” in a public campaign, to the tune of “100 million shekels”. This would pay for “PR materials and aggressive legal and media campaigns against pro-boycott organizations”.
The MFA, meanwhile, is said to prefer “quieter, diplomatic channels”, judging that “a public campaign against [BDS activists] will only play into their hands, bolstering them.” According to The Jerusalem Post, Lieberman promised last week “that within some 45 days the public would see the plan Israel has in place to fight the boycotts.”
Ideas apparently discussed by senior ministers included lawsuits “in European and North American courts against [pro-BDS] organizations” and “legal action against financial institutions that boycott settlements…[and complicit] Israeli companies”. There is also the possibility of “encouraging anti-boycott legislation in friendly capitals around the world, such as Washington, Ottawa and Canberra”, and “activat[ing] the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S.” for such a purpose.
Another topic was the question of “a lack of knowledge and inefficient tracking by Israeli intelligence of pro-BDS organizations”. Although Steinitz’s Strategic Affairs Ministry “has provided the Israel Defense Forces’ intelligence department a budget of several million shekels for the purpose of bolstering military surveillance of such organizations”, reports Haaretz, “the need for the prime minister to instruct the Shin Bet Security Service and the Mossad on the efforts is likely to come up.”
Academics and commentators—including Crooked Timber bloggers—disagree over the American Studies Association’s decision to endorse an academic boycott of Israel. There should be far less disagreement over two bills recently proposed in New York’s andMaryland’s state legislatures. These bills prohibit colleges and universities from using state monies to fund faculty membership in—or travel to—academic organizations that boycott the institutions of another country. Designed to punish the ASA for taking the stance it has, these bills threaten the ability of scholars and scholarly associations to say controversial things in public debate. Because they sanction some speech on the basis of the content of that speech, they run afoul of the US First Amendment.
We write as two academics who disagree on the question of the ASA boycott. One of us is a firm supporter of the boycott who believes that, as part of the larger BDS movement, it has put the Israel-Palestine conflict back on the front burner, offering much needed strategic leverage to those who want to see the conflict justly settled. The other is highly skeptical that the ASA boycott is meaningful or effective, and views it as a tactically foolish and entirely symbolic gesture of questionable strategic and moral value.
This disagreement is real, but is not the issue that faces us today. The fundamental question we confront is whether legislatures should punish academic organizations for taking politically unpopular stands. The answer is no. The rights of academics to partake of and participate in public debate are well established. Boycotts are a long recognized and legally protected mode of political speech. The purpose of these bills, as some of their drafters admit, is to prevent organizations like the ASA from engaging in this kind of speech and to punish those organizations if they do—merely because the state disapproves of the content of that speech. For these and other reasons, the Center for Constitutional Rightsand the New York Civil Liberties Union have declared their opposition to these bills.
The bills affect both of us directly as taxpayers (one of us lives in New York State, the other in Maryland) and as working academics. But they also potentially have much broader consequences. One hundred and thirty-four members of Congress have signed a letter condemning the ASA, and it is very likely that other state legislatures will take up similar bills, unless there is a public outcry.
We thus write not only to express our joint opposition to these bills but also to invite others who share our opposition to express it by signing below (those who want to debate the underlying questions rather than sign should not do so here, but in this separate discussion post). We encourage you to share this statement with colleagues in your departments and professional associations, to urge them to adopt it or their own statements, and to take the necessary actions to oppose this type of legislation wherever it may arise.
More immediately, we encourage readers who live in New York State or Maryland to contact their state representatives, and if necessary, governors. Contact information for New York can be found here and here; for Maryland, here. While initial reports from New York this afternoon are positive—due to a flood of phone calls, a key committee chair in the Assembly has temporarily pulled the legislation for reconsideration—the bill’s backers in the Assembly intend to pursue some version of it. It has already passed the State Senate. Hence the need for continued and consistent pressure in both states.
Update (February 6)
The Washington Free Beacon is reporting that a bill has been introduced into the US House of Representatives that would cut off federal funding to any academic institution that boycotts the State of Israel. Though this bill does not immediately affect the ASA, which relies on no federal funding, it goes significantly beyond the legislation introduced in Maryland and New York. And may well have repercussions for the ASA insofar as it defines an institution’s participation in the boycott to mean, among other things, that “any significant part of the institution” —perhaps an academic department that voted with theASA?—is boycotting the State of Israel.
According to The Forward, leaders in the New York State Assembly are retooling the bill and planning on introducing it at some point in the future.
Second Update (February 7)
The bill’s sponsor, Peter Roskam, makes it emphatically clear that the legislation is not intended to prevent academics from engaging on boycotts in general, but instead to punish them for boycotting some states rather than others. From his statement:
It is ludicrous for critics to go after our democratic friend and ally Israel when they should be focusing on the evils perpetrated by repressive, authoritarian regimes like Iran and North Korea.
PSAGOT, West Bank (AP) — These days, when Yaakov Berg tries to sell his award-winning line of Psagot boutique wines, he encounters obstacles from every direction. As a Jewish vintner in a West Bank settlement, his product is increasingly considered off-limits.
“Not just overseas, also in Tel Aviv,” says Berg, 37. “So we have big problems. Actually, it’s almost impossible to sell in (Tel Aviv) restaurants.”
With Israel mired in a struggle to combat growing calls in Europe to boycott Israeli products and businesses with ties to the controversial settlements, a quieter and more informal campaign is subtly emerging at home among Israelis themselves.
Israelis who may have long supported peace but also considered the settlements no big deal are starting to ask why Israel continues building there in the face of what looks like a rare global consensus against them verging on outrage.
And even among Israelis who consider the West Bank Israel’s by right, there seems to be some discomfort now with continued investment in the West Bank instead of a genuine effort to address an internal housing crisis and other social ills in Israel.
Although no formal movement exists, a de facto distancing from the settlement enterprise is increasingly evident, especially in people refraining from buying settlement products ranging from wines to organic produce and cosmetics made from the Dead Sea.
“As an Israeli, I oppose a regime in the West Bank that I find illegitimate and I don’t want any part of it so I make an effort not to buy those products,” said Yaron Racah, a 38-year-old high-tech worker from the Tel Aviv area. “If I can’t help stop it, at least I can do no more harm by taking an active part in something I don’t believe in.”
More than 550,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, contiguous areas captured in the 1967 war, amid roughly 2.5 million Palestinians. In 2013, Israeli authorities advanced plans for more than 14,000 apartments in settlements in various approval stages, according to the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now.
Palestinians say these areas, plus the Gaza Strip on the other side of Israel along the seacoast, should form their future state. They complain that the growing settler population makes it ever more difficult to partition the Holy Land into Israel and a Palestinian state.
Some Israelis see a big security risk in giving up the West Bank, which commands the highland over central Israel. Many religious Jews see it as their biblical heartland.
The issue has taken center stage in ongoing U.S.-mediated peace talks, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying that continued construction raises questions about Israel’s commitment to peace. He and top European officials have warned that Israel could face increased isolation and economic pressure if peace talks fail and settlements grow.
Hanging in the air is the question of what happens if Israel becomes truly inseparable from the West Bank. With 6 million Jews and 2 million Arab citizens inside Israel, a merging together with the West Bank does not look much like a “Jewish state.”
Some on both sides say the point of no return may have already been crossed. And nervousness over this prospect is driving some Israelis to positions that would have seemed implausibly radical just a few years ago.
Zehava Galon, head of the dovish opposition Meretz Party, said that while she opposes international boycott efforts against Israel as a whole, she refrains from consuming settler products because there must be a “price to the occupation.”
“It is unacceptable. Whoever thought they could deceive the entire world succeeded for a few years but that is over,” she said.
Some academics have refrained from cooperating with their settler colleagues, a trickle of actors have refused to perform in theaters in the settlements and, in some cases, reserve soldiers have refused to report for guard duty in settlements. In parliament, dovish lawmakers have recently been pushing for more transparency in funding for the settlements.
Some Israelis even quietly speak of the need for even harsher action by the world, in particular by the European Union, which affords Israel a special status that is key to its people’s sense of normalcy and has them competing in European sports championships and events like the Eurovision Song Contest.
Amira Hass, a columnist for the Haaretz daily who is considered unabashedly pro-Palestinian by many of her fellow Israelis, called on European countries to stop allowing Israelis to visit without applying for visas in advance.
“Disruption of our freedom of movement and the chances of being refused visas would be a well-placed warning sign, telling us that our normality is nothing more than an illusion,” she wrote Wednesday.
Given that some in Israel have accused international boycott advocates of being anti-Semitic, such domestic parallels are a sensitive issue.
Yoram Cohen, of the Tanya winery in the settlement of Ofra, called the Israeli boycotters “trendy” hypocrites who had no problem purchasing wine from countries with much worse human rights records. Berg said he was afraid that a vocal minority was “poisoning” the public discourse and influencing others to shun settlement products.
Businesses that operate in settlements, including SodaStream, an international maker of carbonated beverage machines that recently ran an ad featuring actress Scarlett Johansson during the Super Bowl, say they provide well-paying jobs to Palestinians. But Palestinian officials say the presence of settlements stifles their own economic development.
Along with other West Bank wineries, Berg recently went public with news that dozens of Tel Aviv restaurants were boycotting their wines in hopes of shaming them into reversing course.
The Associated Press contacted more than a dozen Tel Aviv restaurants, including some named by settlers. All refused to discuss the subject.
It wasn’t just the fear of alienating clients that likely deterred them from speaking but also a 2011 law in Israel that could expose them to lawsuits if a boycott became official. The law did not make a boycott call a criminal offense, but rather a civil issue that could trigger financial compensation. There is no actual precedent of this happening yet.
Among consumers, feelings are mixed.
“We need to show that there are people here that disagree with the settlements, (that) not everybody thinks this is OK,” said Tel Aviv resident Chai Hazen. “If a boycott is the way to do it … that’s what we will do.”
But fellow Tel Aviv resident Tali Biton said the internal divisions only harmed the country’s image and its economy.
Yaniv Rosner, who runs a liquor store in neighboring Kfar Saba, said clients rejecting settler wine was a rare thing. Either way. He added, wine and politics should stay apart: “Give me a good wine from Lebanon and I will sell it too.”
The pro-Israel camp – and some supporters of the Palestinian cause – are viewing the Scarlett Johansson / SodaStream saga as a defeat for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. I fundamentally disagree.
Yes, the actress refused to bow to pressure to stop being the poster girl for the Israeli company, which has a factory on occupied Palestinian territory. And yes, she stepped down as an ambassador for Oxfam at the end of January because of the charity’s contribution to that pressure.
However, SodaStream shares sank to their lowest level since 2012 following the spat. Much more importantly, the actions and reactions of the company, and to a far greater extent Johansson, unwittingly gave BDS a massive – and free – publicity boost, with weeks of global media coverage that is ongoing.
“The Lost in Translation star has accidentally turned a searchlight on an important issue – whether it is right or lawful to do business with companies that operate in illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land – as well as inadvertently sprinkling stardust on the campaign to boycott Israel until it withdraws from the occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem,” the Financial Times wrote in an editorial.
Furthermore, the involvement of a Hollywood star and international sex symbol got the attention of many people who may have been hitherto unfamiliar with BDS, and even the Palestinian cause in general. As such, those of us who have never been particularly impressed by her acting finally have something to thank her for.Fringe to mainstream
Even if one views the SodaStream affair as a setback, BDS has made great and undeniable strides since its establishment almost a decade ago, modelled along the campaign that was pivotal to ending apartheid in South Africa. Initially mocked and dismissed as fringe fanaticism, it is becoming mainstream, garnering greater support worldwide.
BDS is gaining traction in countries and regions that are key trading partners and allies of Tel Aviv – particularly the United States and Europe
It is causing alarm in Israel, not least because BDS is gaining traction in countries and regions that are key trading partners and allies of Tel Aviv – particularly the United States and Europe – and because the movement is being backed by an increasing number of Jews, such that Israel passed a law in 2011 banning support for boycotts.
BDS “is moving and advancing uniformly and exponentially,” Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said in December. “Those who don’t want to see it will end up feeling it.” Israeli parliament member Ayelet Shaked last month described the campaign as “the greatest threat faced by the country.”
They are both right. BDS is proving to be the most effective means of achieving Palestinian rights and national aspirations in the face of Israel’s intransigence. The movement is succeeding where negotiations, arms, and even other forms of peaceful resistance have failed.Recent achievements
Its achievements are far too long to list, but highlighting just some of those from this year alone shows the impact it is having, particularly impressive given the short period of time:
- Danske Bank, the largest in Denmark, has blacklisted Israel’s Bank Hapoalim because of its involvement in the funding of settlement construction. Danske Bank had already decided to pull its investments from Africa Israel Investments Ltd and Danya Cebus for the same reason.
- The latter two companies have been excluded from Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global, the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, which holds 1% of global equity markets. The Finance Ministry had received a recommendation from the Council of Ethics to exclude the companies “due to contribution to serious violations of individual rights in war or conflict through the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem.”
- Sweden’s Nordea Bank, the largest in Scandinavia, said it will boycott Israeli banks that operate in the occupied territories.
- The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will reportedly investigate British security company G4S for its supply of surveillance equipment at Israeli checkpoints in the occupied territories.
- Dutch pension fund PGGM has withdrawn investments worth tens of millions of euros from five Israeli banks. “Given the day-to-day reality and domestic legal framework they operate in, the banks have limited to no possibilities to end their involvement in the financing of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,” said PGGM.
- Germany, one of Israel’s staunchest allies, is conditioning research support and cooperation on the exclusion of settlements. This “represents a significant escalation in European measures against the settlements,” Agence France Presse reported.
- The boycott of settlement products resulted in the income of Israeli farmers in the Jordan Valley falling by more than 14% last year, the Associated Press reported. “The damage is enormous,” said David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, which represents about 7,000 settlers. “In effect, today, we are almost not selling to the European market anymore.”Unheeded warnings
Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned last month that even a partial European boycott would cost the country some $5.7 billion in exports annually, and almost 10,000 jobs. “The Israeli economy will retreat, every Israeli citizen will be hit directly in his pocket, the cost of living will rise, budgets for education, health, welfare and security will be cut, and many international markets will be closed to us,” he said.
Similarly, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said if current peace talks fail (and they almost certainly will), Israel will likely face an international boycott “on steroids.” Predictably, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ignoring internal and external warnings. In so doing, he is supplying and injecting the steroids.
Israel’s traditionally fearsome PR machine is proving increasingly impotent as the country grows more isolated. Justifying the unjustifiable is looking more and more ridiculous and abhorrent to more and more people, companies, institutions and governments.
Given Israel’s vast military superiority, and the diplomatic immunity the United States provides at the U.N. Security Council, BDS is hitting where it hurts: the economy, whose “vulnerability is now greater than the threat of war,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said last month.
“Today, the economy is managed by multinationals… Today, you don’t need a boycott from above, a boycott by countries; it’s enough for a certain company to turn up its nose,” Peres added. They are doing just that, often beyond the reach of governments that would rather avoid the issue.
South Africa “didn’t realize until well after the fact the severity of the sanctions against it,” said Lapid. Time will tell whether Israel will do the same. Two things are certain: the price of its occupation, colonization and repression is rising fast; and the scenario predicted by the finance minister can be avoided by granting the Palestinians their inalienable rights.
Instead, announcements of settlement construction continue unabated, and demolition of Palestinian homes is at a five-year high, not to mention a raft of other daily violations. The ball is in Israel’s court, but it can no longer play according to its own rules. Whether its leadership realizes this yet is another matter.
Heike Schotten is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she teaches political theory, feminist theory, and queer theory (her work is available here). She has been active in the Palestine solidarity movement since 2006.
Trains typically run on tracks consisting of two rails, but when they are powered by electricity, they run on a third rail that supplies the train with electric power. Third rail systems are often used for mass transportation because they are so efficient. The third rail is nevertheless hazardous. If you touch it, you might die from electrocution.
Israel is often called the third rail of US politics. This means both that support for Israel powers US politics and also that anyone who dares to question it will pay the price.
It also means that Israel’s sacrosanct status is a particularly efficient means of keeping status quo US politics running, even as it effectively wards off interference with its invisible machinations.
Israel’s third rail status in US politics is the reason why the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement in the United States has lagged behind that of many European countries. It is not simply the clout of the Israel lobby or the shared US-Israeli imperial foreign policy agenda that protect Israel from scrutiny.
It is also the reflexive cries of “anti-Semitism!”; the ostracism and demonization of critics of Israel in families, workplaces, and communities; the threats, intimidation, demotion, and firing of public critics of Israel. Each of these functions effectively as the equivalent of a subway sign declaring: “Third Rail: Do Not Touch.”
The latest and most significant BDS victories in the US, however, make enormous strides toward dismantling Israel’s third rail status in US politics, in particular because of where they have occurred: campus Hillel houses (a national Jewish student organization) and the so-called ivory tower of academia.
In academia, of course, the victory is by now well-known: the American Studies Association (ASA) resolved — by a significant majority of those voting — to boycott of Israeli universities. Meanwhile, in a less-remarked upon but no less remarkabledevelopment, Swarthmore College declared its Hillel House an “Open Hillel,” meaning that it will not exclude from membership Jewish students who are critical of Israel or endorse BDS (as Hillel International mandates).
The ASA was not the first academic association to endorse academic boycott — that honor goes to the Asian American Studies Association. Nevertheless, the spate of academic resolutions regarding Israel (a more moderate one was considered at this year’s American Public Health Association meeting) is truly remarkable.
Moreover, the sheer volume of discourse produced about the ASA vote — now impossible to summarize, much less representatively index — means that this event has exceeded the goals of its organizers and is reverberating far beyond the hallowed halls of academia. To wit: stories and editorials condemning the ASA vote have appeared in the national papers of record, including the New York Times and Washington Post.
The usual suspects have penned the usual screeds deploring the “anti-Semitism” of BDS (including the indefatigable Alan Dershowitz and reliably frumpy neocon Charles Krauthammer), while dyed-in-the-wool Zionists are busy proposing legislation to punish universities and organizations engaged in boycott. Meanwhile, the rest of the country has been learning about professional academic associations, what they do, and why they might be interested in taking a position on a political issue.
An internet meme of Netanyahu’s speech at the UN depicting the progress of Iran’s nuclear program with the American Studies Association’s logo
And the defenses of the ASA vote have been amazing — moving, erudite, and profound in their taking seriously the meaning of both “public” and “intellectual” (see, e.g., Robin Kelly as well as this sampling of speeches from the ASA vote itself).
Meanwhile, on campuses, as universities from Brandeis to Penn State (Harrisburg) have severed their ties with the ASA, faculty and students have been pushing back: faculty atTrinity as well as a collection of Indiana faculty (among others) have courageously called out their presidents’ condemnation of the boycott; at Northwestern University, thestudents filed a petition in protest of their president’s public condemnation.
Then, of course, there was the cascade of further academic boycott decisions in the wake of the ASA vote: the governing council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association declared its support of the boycott, as did the University of Hawai’i's Ethnic Studies Department — the first academic department at any US college or university to do so. Next up: the Modern Languages Association. Stay tuned.
Why has the ASA vote been such a high profile victory? Although Norman Finkelstein recently dismissed the ASA victory as a mindless distraction by out-of-touch activists, the ASA vote has been rightly cast as a tipping point by PACBI and a turning pointby David Lloyd, one of the founders of USACBI.
Steven Salaita speculates that the higher profile of the ASA and some of the vote’s lead organizers led to increased media scrutiny, and also gave the opposition more time and motivation to galvanize. My own guess is that the ASA’s identity as the American Studies Association (rather than the Asian American Studies Association or the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association) also had something to do with it.
To those unfamiliar with American Studies beyond its name, one might expect a field consisting of paeans to the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and U.S. exceptionalism of various sorts. Yet American Studies is actually a highly critical field influenced by feminism, Marxism, postcolonialism, and anti-racisms among other approaches and is deeply critical of American exceptionalism. Its support of academic boycott, then, can be marshaled by Zionists and other conservatives as part of a larger U.S. “culture war”and a betrayal of “American values.”
Of course, the fact that public criticism of Israel by an “American” Studies Association could be understood as a betrayal of “American values” makes clear that unwavering support for Israel is intrinsic to American values, that questioning American values is perceived by critics as tantamount to their destruction, and, therefore, that there is significant overlap between American values and Zionist values.
As J. Kēhaulani Kauanui makes clear, to take on Israel’s status as a Zionist settler colonial project requires challenging the very foundation of the United States itself.
As such, critique of Israel cannot be tolerated for fear that the underpinnings of the US settler project might be subject to critical scrutiny.
A similar shattering of taboos occurred when Swarthmore College students declared its Hillel House an “Open Hillel,” meaning it will hence forward welcome members of all political positions regarding Israel. This is only the latest development in the Open Hillel Movement of students across the US seeking to challenge the orthodoxy of Hillel International and the Jewish establishment more generally (see the excellent campaign timeline here).
That Hillel is a Jewish establishment player and Zionist proxy — not simply a campus group promoting Jewish student life — was made even more explicit when it recently partnered with AIPAC, clarifying the groups’ joint intention to “empower, train, and prepare American Jewish students to be effective pro-Israel activists on and beyond the campus.”
Each of these victories represents a profound step forward for BDS in the US. They are significant in themselves, but they are especially important because of the unlikely places in which they occurred: Hillel, an institution of the Jewish establishment in the US, and academia, a place that, as Stanley Fish’s multiple blog posts make clear, Americans would prefer to remain “neutral” or free from political positions of any sort.
These victories demonstrate that the default views of mainstream American and Jewish life are, in fact, neither neutral nor objective, but distinctly partisan and pro-Israel. In touching the third rail of American politics — precisely in those places presumed to be beyond or outside politics themselves — the BDS movement is not only achieving major victories but also doing valuable work in unmasking the ideological workings of American liberalism and Jewish establishment politics.
Support of Israel is increasingly becoming a partisan position in the U.S. The conflation of Jewishness and Zionism is increasingly a partisan position within Judaism. These are signs of a sea change, and the necessary foundation of a real overhaul of U.S. political discourse on Israel.
Far from being a “cult,” as Finkelstein would have it, BDS is increasingly mainstreamand reaching the “broad public” he insists it must. The media is increasingly promoting the voices and positions of BDS activists (see, e.g., recent editorials in the Financial Times and, by Omar Barghouti, in the New York Times).
The stepping up of embarrassing hasbara efforts in public spaces such as subway stations suggests Israel knows all too well it might lose the battle of public relations in this country. It shows that the third rail might be less and less hazardous to the touch and increasingly an electrifying force for change in U.S. politics.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect Ma’an News Agency’s editorial policy.
Gaza children paint a mural against a siege that the EU helps to finance.
Has the European Union finally confessed that it is footing the bill for the occupation of Palestine?
In a roundabout way, one of its envoys may have done just that. Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, recently warned about the consequences of the Union deciding to cut its assistance to the Palestinian Authority should the current “peace” talks prove fruitless.
“I think it is realized in Israel that this money is key to the stability of the West Bank and in Gaza,” the Dane said. “If we don’t provide the money, I think there is a great likelihood that Israel would have to provide far more.”
Faaborg-Andersen’s choice of words are instructive. He appears to believe that the EU is doing Israel a favor by providing “stability” in the territories occupied in 1967.
As far as I can see, he did not elaborate on his comments. Had he done so, he could have explained that international law obliges an occupying power to meet the basic needs of a people under occupation. By stumping up around €460 million ($622 million) to Palestine each year, the EU is relieving Israel of its legal responsibilities.Spin
The spin constantly being put on this aid is that it improves the living conditions of the Palestinians. The statements and “fact sheets” cranked out by Brussels bureaucrats don’t explain that some of it directly finances the infrastructure of occupation.
In 2012, for example, the Union boasted about how it was giving €13 million ($17.5 million) to upgrade equipment such as X-ray machines and computer technology used at Karem Abu Salem, the crossing for goods between Gaza and present-day Israel.
There was a major omission in the announcement of this “generous” gift. Karem Abu Salem — known in Hebrew as Kerem Shalom — is controlled by Israel, which has placed severe restrictions on the flow of goods into the Strip. By lending Israel a hand, the EU was accommodating the illegal siege of Gaza. It wasn’t the first time that the Union had facilitated such illegality.Don’t trick us
If you understand French, I’d urge you to read Palestine, la trahison européenne(Palestine, the European betrayal). Written by Véronique De Keyser, a member of theEuropean Parliament, and the late human rights champion Stéphane Hessel, this book documents how aid ostensibly earmarked for the Palestinians actually benefits Israel. After Hamas won a democratic election in 2006, the EU refused to channel aid through an administration headed by that party. In March 2006, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, then the Union’s external affairs commissioner, decided that €40 million ($54 million) would be paid directly to Israel so that Israeli firms could deliver fuel to Gaza.
I have never argued that the EU should cease giving money to Palestine. Doing so would deprive too many people of education, healthcare and energy. Instead, what I have demanded is honesty and accountability.
The taxpayers of Europe should not be tricked into thinking that our money is always being spent in a benign fashion. We should be told straight out that it is aiding an occupation. If Israel refuses to accept its legal responsibilities, then it behoves the EU to send its aid bills to Israel and insist on reimbursement. And when Israel destroys EU-financed projects — as it has done on numerous occasions — the Union must take Israel to court. To their shame, the Union’s representatives have always been too cowardly to sue Israel.Sinister
Fresh data contained in an official EU report on the arms trade reveals something even more sinister. It indicates that the value of export licenses for weapons issued by the Union’s governments jumped by 290 percent between 2011 and 2012: from €157 million ($212 million) to €630 million ($851.5 million).
These statistics probably don’t give a full picture of the cooperation involved. Britain (a long-standing EU member) released figures last year indicating that the sale of military items to Israel can be measured in billions, rather than millions. Still, they indicate that the Union is blithely ignoring its own law on the weapons trade. It forbids arms exports if they are likely to be used for repression or to exacerbate regional tensions.
There is, of course, a pattern forming here. Israel is treated as if it is above the law.
New York - The National Lawyers Guild and other organizations calling for human rights and for the rule of law in Palestine and Israel today urged academic institutions to reaffirm their commitment to free and open campus debate. The plea for free expression, including the right to call for human rights boycotts, was prompted by a series of repressive responses to the American Studies Association’s recent resolution to adopt a boycott against state-funded Israeli educational institutions. These institutions provide research and training used to maintain Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
Official discrimination against particular viewpoints violates longstanding First Amendment free speech rights. Administrative usurpation of a faculty’s right to decide whether to maintain a departmental association with a scholarly association violates the core values of academic freedom that school officials claim to be defending. This includes the right to engage in prior debate before making a decision. Faculty are entitled to take public positions, individually and as associations, on matters of public concern. The severing of official ties with a scholarly association because it took a controversial position on a matter of public concern chills campus speech and debate. Beyond these constitutional violations, such actions undermine a school’s responsibility to teach – and model – democratic decision-making and dissent.
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed that “[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.” (West Virginia State Board of Ed. v. Barnette)
NLG President Azadeh Shahshahani said, “In a hasty and intolerant official rush to dissociate themselves from the ASA resolution, some colleges and universities are trampling this core free speech right and academic freedom itself, which they purport to defend.”
As this country’s longtime defender of academic freedom, the American Association of University Professors, has stated: “It is the right of individual faculty members or groups of academics not to cooperate with other individual faculty members or academic institutions with whom or with which they disagree.”
Signatory organizations are the National Lawyers Guild, American Muslims for Palestine, the Center for Constitutional Rights,Jewish Voice for Peace, the National Students for Justice in Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, The United States Palestinian Community Network, the Council on American-Islamic Relations – California, and Al Awda-New York.
Azadeh Shahshahani (NLG): (404) 574-0851; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jen Nessel (CCR): (212) 614-6449; email@example.com
Suzanne Adely (Al Awda-NY): (773) 510-7446
Rachel Roberts (CAIR-California):(408) 986-9874; firstname.lastname@example.org
ONCE derided as the scheming of crackpots, the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, widely known as BDS, is turning mainstream. That, at any rate, is the fear of a growing number of Israelis. Some European pension funds have withdrawn investments; some large corporations have cancelled contracts; and the American secretary of state, John Kerry, rarely misses a chance to warn Israel that efforts to “delegitimise” and boycott it will increase if its government spurns his efforts to conclude a two-state settlement of its conflict with the Palestinians. Israel, says Yair Lapid, Israel’s finance minister, is approaching the same “tipping point” where South Africa found itself in opposition to the rest of the world in the dying days of apartheid. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he told a conference of security boffins recently in Tel Aviv. “The world listens to us less and less.”
BDS has begun to grab the attention of some of the world’s largest financial institutions. PGGM, a big Dutch pension fund, has liquidated its holdings in five Israeli banks (though the Netherlands’ largest has affirmed its investments). Norway’s finance ministry has announced that it is excluding Africa Israel Investments and its subsidiary, Danya Cebus, a big building firm, from a government pension fund.
The campaign is drawing support from beyond northern Europe. Romania has forbidden its citizens from working for companies in the West Bank. More churches are backing BDS. An American academic association is boycotting Israeli lecturers. The debate turned viral after Scarlett Johansson, a Hollywood actor, quit her role as ambassador for Oxfam, a charity based in Britain, in order to keep her advertising contract with SodaStream, an Israeli drinks firm with a plant on the West Bank.
Mr Lapid, who favours a two-state solution, reels out figures to show how sanctions could hit every Israeli pocket. “If negotiations with the Palestinians stall or blow up and we enter the reality of a European boycott, even a very partial one,” he warned, 10,000 Israelis would “immediately” lose their jobs. Trade with the European Union, a third of Israel’s total, would slump—he calculates—by $5.7 billion.
Anxious to hold on to their markets, Israel’s businessmen are increasingly backing the peace camp. The names on a recent advertising campaign in its favour included such luminaries as the head of Google in Israel. Hitherto they had usually preferred to stay out of politics.
Israel’s government is divided over how to react to the BDS campaign. The finance ministry has temporarily shelved a report it said it would publish on the possible consequences of BDS. But Israel’s press and ministerial addresses are increasingly full of worried references to it.
Some Israelis argue that this publicity merely feeds the BDS campaign, others that isolation has benefits. Israel’s position as a hotbed of hi-tech start-ups is due in part to decades of circumventing Arab boycotts. A French arms ban in the 1960s sparked the development of its weapons industry, helping to catapult Israel into fourth place in the world’s league of arms exporters. And if the West turns its back on Israel, there is, they say, the east. Relations with India have warmed of late, and those with China are getting closer. The economy minister, Naftali Bennett, a sceptic of the peace process, recently toured the Far East, saying he was bringing a “light to the gentiles” by way of Israeli business. But Mr Bennett is in a minority on BDS: his colleagues are a lot less sanguine.