Who loses when you boycott Israel

  It is a movement that is making a lot of noise. On university campuses around the world, in the media and in civil society organisations in countries across the globe. The calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel. Even our illustrious (and I use this term loosely) former Minister of Intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils has fashioned a new career dedicated to this end.

The motivation is simple. If you paint Israel with the same colours as that of Apartheid South Africa and dish out the same treatment, then you can change the political status quo. Sounds simple doesn’t it. Except that in this case, changing the status quo in Israeli politics is not the end game result that detractors hope to achieve. In this case, questioning Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state is up for debate. Anti-Israelists will passionately argue that this treatment worked for South Africa but fail to realise that the South African paradigm is not one solution fits all. Two different regions, two completely separate issues.

The question we have to ask ourselves is who really stands to lose in a boycott of Israel. We have seen attempts from academics to institute boycotts of Israeli academics including the controversial endorsement by Ben Gurion University professor, Neve Gordon. When you look at the amount of intellectual know how that is exported from Israel to other countries, especially third world and developing nations in the fields of agriculture, science, technology and medicine.

It serves no purpose to instigate academic boycotts because all this serves to do is close off intellectual discourse, after all, aren’t universities agents of free thinking and venues to challenge the status quo? It is not in the best interest of academic freedom to encourage boycotts as this seriously inhibits the flow of great ideas.

What about boycotts of goods? This is where civil society becomes a little noisier and we wonder if they have nothing better to do than to stick their noses into the events of other countries whose politics they know little about instead of concentrating on the challenges in their own countries. Oops, did I say that? Seriously though, earlier this year our very own Cosatu tried to block the unloading of a ship with Israeli goods. This was just prior to them marching on the Jewish communal organisations on a Friday afternoon, in suburban Johannesburg. Genuine concern or just a convenient excuse to use intimidatory tactics against the opposition? It definitely begs the question.

It seems our very vocal trade unionists have forgotten about who stands to lose the most in a boycott of Israel. It will definitely be people who live in drought stricken areas of South Africa who benefit from Israeli agricultural technology. It will be those suffering with AIDS who benefit from Israeli medicine and research. The list is endless but a boycott would seriously inhibit Cosatu’s sms-ing abilities if they intend to do it properly!

It is very easy for activists on both sides to play armchair politician but the impact is on the citizens. Palestinians stand to lose a lot more than Israeli’s in a boycott. At a time when the economy of the West Bank is showing significant signs of recovery and Israel have fulfilled their promises by taking down a significant amount of checkpoints wouldn’t boycotts set back the achievements significantly?

You can’t compare the situation with that of Gaza. It is exceptionally naïve to level the blame for the situation squarely on Israel. What about Egypt’s responsibility over the closed Rafah crossing? What about Hamas’ role in Gaza? Hamas have created a Taliban-esque regime that severely restricts the civil liberties of Gaza’s citizens not to mention a genocidal charter that openly advocates the destruction of Israel. This is disguised in the romantic language of resistance.

While I consider myself a romantic, I don’t buy into the “look at how Israel is oppressing us and we have no choice but to blow up our children and fire rockets and mortars” argument. I believe in responsibility and accountability and it is no coincidence that for the most part, western governments boycott Hamas and regard them as terror organisation. The Goldstone Report fiasco has once again proved that there is a whole movement in global politics that believe in rewarding terrorists and punishing victims. So I guess one shouldn’t be surprised when these very parties choose to cut their noses off to spite their faces.

While the situation in the Middle East is not an easy one to fix, and Lord knows many have tried, perhaps the best way forward is to proceed with cautious hope and not to cry boycott at the drop of a hat.

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2 thoughts on “Who loses when you boycott Israel

  1. The arab boycott of Israel even pre-dates the founding of the state as the Arab League, back in 1946, determined that one way to halt the Zionist developing of the land was to prevent any and all goods produced withing the mandate by Jews from emtering or being sold, in any member stae of the league. Also the constant attacks on Jewish rural settlements consisting of burning fields and outright thievery of farm animals and destruction of equipment, not too mention the murder of Jewish workers, was designed to make any economic progress that would advance the Zionist endeavor almost impossible to achieve.
    Upon the creation of Israel, the Office for the Boycott of Israel, opened up in Damascus, Syria, where it still functions today, publishing voluminous excreta naming all companies, products, organizations and individuals, including film stars, notables, and even cartoon characters(yes, when Disney productions made an animated film in the 1950s, there was a horse named “Samson” and the boycott office declared Disney and his cartoons, banned. I guess that changed when Hamas used a Mickey Mouse look alike to call for the death of Israeli children) from ever being allowed to enter or be employedd in any way in the moslem milieu.
    Familiar products like Coca-Cola, which originally refused to do business in Israel, and had a large bottling plant in Cairo,

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  2. The arab boycott of Israel even pre-dates the founding of the state as the Arab League, back in 1946, determined that one way to halt the Zionist developing of the land was to prevent any and all goods produced withing the mandate by Jews from emtering or being sold, in any member stae of the league. Also the constant attacks on Jewish rural settlements consisting of burning fields and outright thievery of farm animals and destruction of equipment, not too mention the murder of Jewish workers, was designed to make any economic progress that would advance the Zionist endeavor almost impossible to achieve.
    Upon the creation of Israel, the Office for the Boycott of Israel, opened up in Damascus, Syria, where it still functions today, publishing voluminous excreta naming all companies, products, organizations and individuals, including film stars, notables, and even cartoon characters(yes, when Disney productions made an animated film in the 1950s, there was a horse named “Samson” and the boycott office declared Disney and his cartoons, banned. I guess that changed when Hamas used a Mickey Mouse look alike to call for the death of Israeli children) from ever being allowed to enter or be employedd in any way in the moslem milieu.
    Soft drink companies, automobile mancorporations, etcufacturers, agricultural product corporations, etc, ad infinitum, decided not too risk their multi-million dollar investments in an arab economy of, in 1948, 55 million people just so the 650,000 Jews in 1948 Israel could drink Coke while driving their Ford pick up truck to pick up their kids; favorite Chiquita bananas. So, what was the result?
    The boycott actually forced Israel to develop its home based economy to provide for the Israelis what they could not get otherwise. It independent investment and such great impetus to Israeli entrepreneurship and developed a tradition of independent investment and required that the resources of the country be exploited to the fullest-it created an atmosphere of initiative and originality that has made the Israeli economy one of the fastest growing and successful in the western world. By boycotting everything from carbonated beverages to cars to John Deere tractors, Israeli companies expanded and flourished and were able to develop alternative products and services that have today, become the envy of Western industrialization. Israel owes the arab boycott a great deal of thanks for forcing it to look within itself for the means to produce all the items denied it by those who cowered inthe face of losing their business in the Islamic states. It is this striking and innovative culture of independence and risk taking that has made Israel, as Dan Senior writes, in his excellent book “Start Up Nation.’ the envy of other states, both large and small, who send their young people here to learn how its done and make venture capitalists from all over the world, invest their billions of dollars here. Israel, a country with a population of only 7.5 million people, has more companies listed on NASDAQ than all of Europe combined and is only 2nd to the USA, in that financial institution. For all this, Israel owes the Office of the Arab Boycott of Israel a great deal of thanks.
    But I must add something I find quite amusing. In 1950, when Coca-Cola decided to boycott the Jewish State, it didn’t figure on the resistance that this move would invigorate. Jewish delicattessen owners in New York City, about 300 of them at the time, decided they would no longer stock any product from Coke. Owners of grocery stores and supermarkets all across the USA and Europe, took Coke products off their shelves and several advertising firms in the US, dropped Coca Cola as a client, even though it cost them business. So, what happenned? Coke signed a contract with the Israeli bottling company, Tempo, to produce all their products in Israel! So the Egyptian govt seized the bottling plant in Cairo(which was owned by a Jewish family) and Coke was officially no longer available anywhere in the middle east, but for Israel-the upsurge is that, even today, Coke does more business in little Israel than in all the members of the Arab League combined.
    So, I know this is just a small example, I could write much more onthe topic, but I don’t want to be boycotted by the beduin!

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