By: Amb. Freddy Eytan, JCPA—
Israel is rightly alarmed at the escalating scale of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. BDS constitutes a concrete threat to the future of Israel’s economic, academic, cultural, sports and political standing. BDS is not only a well-organized and structured global operation that aims to push for Israel to withdraw from territories, but a campaign of well-oiled lies, of dangerous international dimension.
Of course it is legitimate to criticize the policies of a government, but the BDS movement goes far beyond legitimate criticism, and in essence calls for the dismantling of the Jewish state. How to fight against anti-Semitism when incitement to hatred of Israel and Jews is rapidly spread by globalization and social media?
While the Arab boycott against the Jewish state is not new– it began at the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, but it was organized then by the Arab League due to the territorial dispute with the nascent state. Since 2005, however, it has taken an unprecedented turn with the creation of the BDS movement.
Despite huge investment and effort, BDS has so far not scored any significant economic and trade sanctions against Israel, because governments are fiercely opposed to it.
The question is whether the spread of BDS and increasing public pressure will encourage leaders of the international community to change their firm opposition to the detriment of Israel.
Any fair-minded person must contemplate why the BDS movement is focused on the Jewish state, while massacres continue all over the Middle East and are almost completely ignored. A real theater of the absurd!
Currently, the main success of BDS has been in the cultural and academic field. Thus, we see artists and musicians cancelling appearances in Israel as well as some academics who refuse to attend meetings and forums.
This smear campaign, animated ferociously via social networks, is systematically accompanied by threats to any person who intends to come to Israel.
In recent days, the boycott movement has escalated and could snowball following the words of Orange CEO, Stéphane Richard in Cairo, and the termination of the contract with the Israeli company Partner, just three months after its signing.
How can one not be amazed by the acrobatic explanations of a major French corporation that had just extended its contract? Why did it take the French state, which owns over 25% of Orange shares, so long to condemn the boycott against the Jewish state? Why did Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius not make a distinction between “colonization” and the Jewish state, and underscore that this grotesque gesture was made against a friend and ally?
Is there no contradiction when French companies like Orange praise the prowess of Israel’s economy and her advanced technology and, at the same time, give in to the pressure of a boycott?
Fortunately, 48 hours after his original statement, the CEO of Orange realized he had made a serious mistake. Mr. Richard stated that his remarks had been “misinterpreted” and that he remains a true friend of Israel. But the damage has already been done and his apology does not excuse the fault … or the stupidity.
How can France revive the peace process and submit a resolution to the UN Security Council in advance if its work is biased and not transparent?
Anyone who thinks that French policy towards the Palestinians would have changed if a peace process was underway and that a leftist government would have ended the boycott deceives both Israeli and international opinion. The Arab boycott exceeds all divisions between left and right. It is launched against all Israelis and all Jews – regardless of their political affiliation or opinion – and therefore our struggle must be conducted in unison.
The initiative taken by American Jewish billionaires to fight BDS should also be followed in Europe, especially in the U.K and France.
We believed that the time of former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing and his prime minister Raymond Barre had passed: There is no longer a list of French companies who are victims of the Arab boycott.
Note also that during the 1950s, despite the good relationship Israel maintained with Socialist France, the Renault company, which was to build a factory in Israel to build Dauphine vehicles for the IDF canceled a contract, preferring the offers from Nasser’s Egypt; the same thing happened with Orange, since this company has also bowed to pressure to support the Egyptian market which, no doubt, is ten times bigger than Israel’s with its 33 million customers. So we see that France has often yielded to economic blackmail, not to mention that in 1967 and 1973 when Israel looked death in the face, France twice imposed an embargo on arms.
Certainly, “business is business “, and independent business strategy must be respected. In this regard, and in the context of the effects of globalization, simple financial considerations often take precedence over political interests.
We can also do business without engaging in blackmail and boycott because it has a limit to everything, especially when the BDS campaign is a savage and premeditated political act.
BDS is gaining ground, but if certain chancelleries naively think that diktats, pressures and boycotts will advance the peace process in this way, they are completely mistaken.
This deceptive campaign is outrageous. It is orchestrated by the Palestinians against a democratic country. This is counterproductive and double-edged. To restart the peace process, we need to restore mutual trust and the Palestinians must agree to sincere dialogue with Israel’s democratically elected representatives.
Research indicates that most of those involved in the BDS movement are ignorant of the fundamental issues that drive the conflict with the Palestinians. They do not know much about the Israeli reality and are unable to lead a real substantive debate.
In this sad context, Israeli diplomacy needs to be shaken up through creative initiatives and develop a new strategy, more muscular and more sophisticated. We need to think “outside the box” to effectively counter misinformation, and on this point Jewish communities around the world should be consulted and take on this struggle in full coordination. Also, Israel should focus its efforts on direct and permanent contact with businesses, universities and artists.
We recognize the long-term work that remains to be done to convince our partners of our just cause. Hypocrisy, prejudice, and ignorance often prevail, but it is sadly how the world operates.
It is important to combat BDS with historical facts, figures, and irrefutable evidence on the ground. False propaganda and incitement to hatred are cowardly and a contemptible way to fight. Such methods dispel every chance of peace in this region of the world where chaos reigns committed by the “fools of Allah.”