“Israel’s captains of industry fear boycott,” announced a front-page headline this week in the newspaper of the nation.
At first glance it seemed simply foolish: by warning of a boycott, they are actually encouraging one. But quickly enough it became apparent that this was part of an organized campaign to pressure Netanyahu to accept the demands posed by the Palestinians and John Kerry.
To ensure the message gets across, Ynet explains that this was “a tough message for the prime minister” from the elites attending the economic summit in Davos: “The conflict hurts citizens in the pocket. If we want economic stability and growth, it’s urgent we reach an agreement with the Palestinians.” According to the site’s editors, “not only John Kerry is urging Netanyahu to reach an agreement with the Palestinians,” but so are the top players in the Israeli economy. The list includes prominent names: Dan Proper of Osem, Ofra Strauss, Meir Brand of Google Israel.
The headline featured a round number so readers would remembering it better. In the meantime, though, one of these leaders fell out: Rami Levy, whose chain of supermarkets includes stores in Gush Etzion and the Binyamin region. After the social networking sites—including his own Facebook page—filled up with threats to boycott him, Levy lost no time arranging an interview with Erel Segal and disclaiming any part in the initiative.
One wonders how many others were unknowingly recruited by the campaign.
If, heaven forfend, the Palestinians were to accept what the Jewish businesspeople are trying to give them, it would be a victory for terrorism and violence. Since the businesspeople are so very wary of the Arab boycott, perhaps they should be shown that there is another side to the dynamic, and surrender to the boycott carries its own price. Most of their customers, after all, are Jews. Ergo those Jews who do not agree with them can come together, initiate their own boycott, and refuse to consume products made by the companies whose officers were parties to the demand.
Yes, precisely: a counter-boycott boycott. Not nice, you say? On the contrary, it is both nice and just—and imperative as well. The business leaders’ demand did not come in a vacuum. It was part of a carefully coordinated campaign aiming to defeat Netanyahu precisely at the critical point of the negotiations. Thus two days later, another headline suddenly announced that the president of Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva was concerned by the prospect of an academic boycott of Israel. Those commenting on the article were quick to point out the university’s well-known political orientation, but the damage was done.
I wonder whether there was a hidden hand behind the campaign. Surely enough, Itai Reuveni of NGO Monitor ascribed the timing to close cooperation between the many leftist organizations involved in the matter. In the way that only an avowed opponent can be, he is impressed by their ability to unite in a common struggle.
I pour some cold water on his enthusiasm: “There’s no shortage of foundations abroad giving them all money. There’s no need for them to fight each other.”
Advocates of the boycott include Israeli organizations, such as the Coalition of Women for Peace, which was lavishly supported by the New Israel Fund and foreign foundations. One way they pursue their vision of “peace” is by carefully keeping track of Israeli economic enterprises and systematically listing them on their website. They engage in goal setting just like in the army, targeting, for instance, major Israeli banks and security companies such as Elbit and G4S. Even cosmetics company Ahava has been ravaged by the amazons of the “peace”-mongering coalition. Foreign organizations simply go to their website and put the intelligence gleaned to work.
Are the Arabs in on it, too? Certainly. They haven’t disappeared, I was told by an intelligence officer who follows the field—they’ve simply become more sophisticated. There are indications that they are funding the European organizations. While the main actors in the stratosphere of the boycott industry are international organizations, under the surface there are hundreds of Palestinian and Arab cells and groups, such as the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refuge, near Rachel’s Tomb.
Why, then, hasn’t the army been ordered to put an end to the farce by closing the enemy office and stopping money transfers to it, as was done in Jude and Samaria in the past? After all, this activity is barred by the Oslo Accords, as well as by various laws that forbid discrimination and racism. There’s no doubt that Shai Nitzan and General Mandelblit, who has Netanyahu’s ear, could find even better legal cause. However, they haven’t yet gotten around to enforcing the Knesset’s law regulating Israeli NGO’s.
So what is to be done? There’s no substitute for civil society. The Israeli public, which finds itself on the defensive here, lacks the financial resources of those who would defeat it. But we have far more volunteer power. We need to create task forces to adopt different organizations. Even countries: Israelis from a given country can lead a public relations campaign for Israel in that country. Thousands of volunteers are needed for the task.
In the end, the government will wake up and adopt the campaign as a state effort in the same way that Israel fought against the Arab boycott. True, the assignment is bigger this time, but the population also is bigger, as well as more aware. A combination of establishment and volunteer forces can defeat the new enemy that threatens Israel’s security and growth.