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Are Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) effective?

The answer is "Yes."

In Haaretz, not long ago, Yoni Eshpar published a seriously flawed article claiming that Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions are not effective. He was considering the case of Israel, of course. Ralph Seliger has echoed his idea as well. The implications of Eshpar's "analysis" are that that there is nothing immoral or wrong with boycotting Israel, but that boycotters should look for a more effective method to achieve their aim of ending the Zionist regime, and that Israelis can be complacent about the BDS movement because boycotts are not effective.

Eshpar considers the sanctions against South Africa, against Fascist Italy, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and Khomeini-ist Iran. He claims that these were not effective in bringing down the regimes. But in so doing, Eshpar proves that the originators of the BDS have already achieved the first stage in their plan, which is to get Israel to be considered as an illegitimate regime, which, just like Fascist Italy or Saddam Hussein's Iraq, invades countries and murders people for no good reason. Eshpar would then have to agree that the "Zionist regime" is evil, and that the only difference of opinion should be about the best way to get rid of it. Very probably that is not his intention, nor that of Ralph Seliger, but that is the logical outcome of their position. Ralph Seliger made the equally odious argument that boycotts are not justified only because they would include boycotts of works of art that are critical of Israel. Otherwise, presumably, it would be fine to boycott Israel, because Israel is just like South Africa and Fascist Italy. So the boycotters have achieved their first objective, and Eshpar is clearly wrong.

Eshpar also errs in his historical analysis. It is true that the League of Nations sanctions were ineffective in stopping Mussolini's conquest of Abyssinia. But the sanctions that were passed, after much bickering, had been watered down intentionally to the point where they had no effect on trade. The League members were greedy for trade with Italy and didn't care about the political consequences. So the sanctions were, in effect, a green light to Mussolini - a signal that nobody cared and that the League would only "go through the motions."

Fascist Italy, Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Iran of the Mullahs, and the sanctions against these countries, differ from Israel in one important respect. All three of those countries had already committed immoral acts that were universally understood as such. The purpose of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against those countries was not to convince the world that they are "bad guys," but to end the regimes there, because world public opinion had concluded that those regimes violated every norm of decent behavior. The purpose of the BDS movement is to first convince the world, mostly by repeating "Israel Apartheid" over and over, that Israel is like those odious regimes, and most especially like South Africa. As the BDS movement has a different immediate goal, the cases that Eshpar presents are not comparable.

Eshpar is also wrong in equating the South African economy with Israel's. Unlike South Africa, Israel is a tiny country that cannot exist without importing fuel and other essentials. Israel does not have the resources or the manpower to create a domestic arms industry that would supply all the needs of modern warfare. Unlike South Africa, Israel cannot dig gold out of the ground. We must sell things in order to get foreign currency. And the delegitimization movement, the sanctions and the boycotts, will, if not combated, eventually create the sentiment that Israel is like South Africa, Fascist Italy or Saddam's Iraq, just as portrayed in Eshpar's article. This would be translated into a mandatory international boycott and perhaps a blockade. It is not unimaginable. There was a blockade of arms shipments to Israel in the war of Independence, and that the United States government severely punished those who violated it.

The BDS movement has two sorts of objectives. The first one, declared openly by the groups that initiated it and most of the groups that support it, is to wipe out the Zionist movement and to end the Jewish state by painting it as similar to apartheid South Africa. (See Let's talk about BDS and The Success of the American Jewish Establishment). Bay Area Campaign to End Israel Apartheid states that they are opposed to "colonialism, imperialism and Zionism." The slogan of the "International Jewish anti-Zionist Network" is "Confront Zionism - Divest from Israel." MSU students at UC San Diego who rioted in support of a BDS resolution screamed, "Palestine is Free, from the River to the Sea." The ISM (International Solidarity Movement), the MSU (Muslim Students Union), the MSA (Muslim Students Association) the PACBI, Al-Awda ("the Return") and similar groups are behind the BDS movement. They are all out to destroy Israel as the state of the Jewish people. They all support "right" of return of Palestinian refugees, or a "one state solution" or both. BADIL is a European-supported Palestinian refugee "rights" group that agitates for right of return of refugees and BDS. An activist at a BADIL conference gave an example of the sort of targets BDS should focus on. He said that boycotts should include the Intel Corporation, because Intel has a plant in "Iraq al Manshiyeh" in occupied Palestine. Iraq al Manshiyeh is Qiriat Gat, in the middle of Israel, well within the green line 1948 borders. These are the advocates of BDS.

Don't say you did not know. Don't say nobody told you. A few BDS groups may try to evade the issue, but there is no group, among those supporting BDS. which also supports the right of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Their goal is to delegitimize the idea that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination.

The second goal of BDS is to build a movement. Today they use the boycott device and the settlements issue. Tomorrow it will be a campaign to accept Hamas and try Israelis as war criminals. There are no Israeli settlements in Gaza and no occupation soldiers, and Hamas is a self-declared genocidal organization. And after tomorrow there will be another reason for a boycott, a petition or a rally.

The Cominform pioneered such actions to gather signatures and warm bodies of "useful idiots" that it could use to build its organization and gather power and influence. Money gathered for a front organization that was petitioning to save the Spanish Republic, or a group that was fighting Jim Crow in the United States, could be used to finance other projects. Each rally, each general strike and each petition gave them publicity and new potential adherents. Those who signed the petition for disarmament were asked if they wanted to hear lectures on Marxism-Leninism or to join in a general strike. In this way, a movement was built. It made no difference what issue attracted a person or what high ideals caused them to sign the petition. If they signed, the signature was used to support the regime of Joseph Stalin. All of the idealists became, as everyone now understands, unwitting partners in the gulags, the purges and the executions. Every victory on any such issue was turned into an "achievement" of the Party, just as MSU (Muslim Students Union) and the other sponsoring organizations of BDS stand ready to turn every vote for divestment into a vote against the existence of Israel.

What about boycotts that are limited to settlement products? Uri Avnery and Gush Shalom have such a boycott. It can be done in Israel, where you can distinguish honey that is made in Yad Mordechai and wine that is made in Zichron Yaakov from settlement products. But the BDS movement in the USA is intentionally designed to ensure that there is no distinction between Israel and the settlements. Fruit that comes from Israel is not marked as to origin, so the boycotters want you to boycott all the fruit, even if it is grown in Hod Hasharon. Petroleum that is sold to Israel becomes gasoline that is pumped in Tel Aviv, but also in Yizhar. The company is "profiting from the occupation" and the BDS people tell you it must be boycotted. Coal that is sold in Israel fuels the electric plants that send electricity to Tel Aviv, Haifa and Ashdod, but also to Ariel and Maaleh Edumim in the West bank. Therefore, companies that sell coal to Israel must be boycotted. Caterpillar bulldozers are used to pave roads in the Negev and the Galilee, but they are also used to destroy illegally built structures, whether they are built by Jews or Arabs, so the boycotters want you to divest from Caterpillar.

It doesn't matter why you signed the petition. It doesn't matter why you raised your hand in favor of an Israel boycott. If you did it, you are supporting a movement that is designed to destroy the Jewish national home. You are supporting the Hamas and those who oppose the peace process.

There is no way to support BDS without supporting the movement to destroy Israel, because that is what BDS is about. There is no reason for complacency about BDS and no reason to minimize the damage it is doing. It cannot be argued that BDS won't be effective, because it already clearly is effective.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2010. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000739.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 4 Comments

The BDS factions may alleged at times they are simply seeking to compel Israel to comply with alleged int'l law, though they often seem rather weak on which law or laws they are refering to. Their principal aim remains the elimination of the State of Israel, whcih from some points of view may be a legitimate objective. However what the BDS factions do not explore nor I suspect ever consider is what the consequences of their proposed actions would be. IMO a bankrupted Israel forced to merge into a Palestine dominated by "Palestinians" would rapidly descend into outrights and very bloody civil war. The only alternative would if the 6 million+ Israelis are evacuated to the EU (It is the EU states that will implement BDS). What is not clear is what the impact to UK or any other EU state of large numbers of dispossessed Israelis. Certainly the DBS people will not want them living nextdoor.

Rod Davies, Tuesday, June 1st


If not BDS -then what ?
How can we make the Israelis aware of the dangers they are facing. To make them think--and stop acting out of collective paranoia ? The path you have taken leads to selfdestrucion- and you are losing your friends in an everincreasing number. The settler movement and religious fanatics are your true enemies, not the palestinian people.

Dag Andersson, Friday, May 28th


The first stage in the BDSers' plan was getting Israel labelled (and libeled)as an apartheid state. It is what animates BDS and gives it the limited strength that it has. Without this official designation, the BDSers might have to deal with states that really do practice religious apartheid and myscogeny.

Lynne T, Friday, May 28th


BDS is simply an extension to the global level, using politically correct rhetoric, of the decades long Arab boycott and embargo of Israel. Israel has weathered it amazingly well. Of course, the extension needs to be fought and being a wealthy, developed country, Israel must not invest in its human talent and resources to deal with the worst it may face. What is really need in the long run is fortitude and resolve to survive its enemies' efforts to secure the conditions for its eventual destruction.

NormanF, Friday, May 28th


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