Thursday, June 17, 2010

Boycott and Divestment?

The following has just been published in The Nation.

Insanity, they say, is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Actually, that is just scientific irrationality. In human affairs, alas, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting the same result. A case in point is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, which—considering what happened at the University of California, Berkeley, in late April, and off the Gaza coast in late May—will be coming soon to a campus near you.

If you missed it, Berkeley's student senate passed a BDS resolution against Israel, targeting General Electric and United Technologies, which presumably support Israel's occupation force. The student president vetoed the resolution. The senate then failed to override it, but the vote was thirteen to five in favor, with one abstention. The reports I've read of the debate suggest people falling into a familiar pattern: professors, students, union activists, etc. torturing logic to depict Israel's faults—which are serious enough to be unique—as "apartheid," while rehearsing the principles of action that arguably worked against South Africa a generation ago.

I say "arguably" because some of apartheid's most courageous critics, who helped to bring about an end to white rule, were opposed to B and D, even when they cautiously favored S. In 1987, when I was an editor of the Harvard Business Review, I interviewed Tony Bloom, CEO of the South African food processing giant Premier Group. Early on, Bloom rejected apartheid's foundations, and his company hired political detainees after they were released from prison. He had been among the small group of white business leaders who risked all in 1985 to meet with ANC leaders in Zambia—a great turning point. He befriended future South African President Thabo Mbeki and worked to support the transition to democracy. Though he eventually moved to London, he continued to transform his conglomerate into a model postapartheid firm.

What Bloom told me in 1987 was that, yes, foreign government sanctions on South African trade made sense in certain cases. But the boycott of South African universities and business people, and especially divestment campaigns against international companies doing business in the country, were seriously counterproductive. Why? Because those actions generally undermined the very people who advanced cosmopolitan values in the country. To get social change, you need social champions, in management as in universities.

Corporations like GM, Daimler and IBM did profit from the apartheid era, in the sense that they made the cars, trucks and computers South Africa needed and made enough profit to stay in business. But by this standard, tenured professors of democratic philosophy at Witwatersrand profited, too. The point is, great corporations, like great universities, are teaching institutions. Bloom thought foreign, technology-heavy corporations were especially important breakers of apartheid taboos, bringing what might be called scientific doubt—not to mention international management protocols opposed to racism and bigotry, like the Sullivan Principles. Their managers were Bloom's elite allies; had they been forced to pull out by their shareholders, it would have been a disaster for him and others devoted to reform.

This, I hasten to add, was a regime whose original wealth was almost entirely extractive, built on the labor of black Africans in mining and farming, and an economy whose trade was still largely in diamonds, minerals and produce. Sanctioning South African trade meant distressing, mostly, mine and plantation owners who profited directly from the old exploitation. There was a common political language, English, and despite strong local ethnicities and tongues (Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, etc.) a perversely unified culture divided by class and race. Yet people like Bloom personified a growing urban industrial sector (mainly with British roots) that needed global technological culture, financial services and commercial know-how. The entrenched security state seemed to him a throwback to naked colonialism, defending a more retrograde capitalism and a huge (largely Afrikaner) public sector. Even under apartheid, that is, you had enlightened people who needed the world's backing, and B and D cut the ground out from under them. In contrast, Bloom thought, state officials might be shunned. Segregated sports teams might be shunned. South Africa might be kept out of regional free-trade agreements, so the economy as a whole might be seen by the public as promising and yet held back by racism.

Which brings us to Israel today. Some Israeli democrats and peace activists welcome the BDS trend, if reluctantly. They argue what seems plausible, that the only way to influence the Israeli government (and the Israeli right more generally) to end the occupation is through mounting outside pressure. And, true enough, the Israeli state apparatus persists in according semiofficial status to various institutions—the Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund, the Orthodox rabbinate—that privilege J-positive blood. The warped legal frame accommodating these institutions, from the administration of national lands to the "status quo" agreement banning interfaith marriages, valorize a settlement mystique, a tribal conception of Jewish identity and a cult of Jerusalem; the groups resisting democratic reform of the state are, unsurprisingly, the same that support Greater Israel. (I argued all these points in my book The Tragedy of Zionism in 1985—hence, my interest in Bloom.)

Nevertheless, is Israel really like apartheid South Africa? No. The Israeli economy does not depend on Arab labor—and never did. (From 1967 to the 1990s, it is true, Israelis did employ tens of thousands of Palestinians in construction and agriculture; but these proved marginal industries, and foreign workers eventually replaced them with little dislocation.) What, if not residual colonialism, accounts for residual discrimination? Tragically, the very institutions that make Israel discriminatory today consolidated their power during the 1920s and '30s, under the British Mandate, and were meant to cultivate autonomous "Hebrew labor" and economic self-sufficiency separate from the Arab feudal culture. The idea, then, was a revolutionary, secular Hebrew culture (which is why most Diaspora rabbis thought Zionists to be apostates). This separatism led to the globalized Hebrew republic in greater Tel Aviv, a civil society that's become a greenhouse for technology start-ups as independent of labor-intensive industry as Silicon Valley. Economically, the ideal solution for Israeli entrepreneurs would be to saw Tel Aviv and the coastal plain off Eurasia and float it out toward Cyprus. The internal rival to Greater Israel is Global Israel.

And, not coincidentally, Israelis and Palestinians can hardly be thought of as antagonistic classes in a common political economy. Rather, they both cherish linguistic and other cultural distinctions they want to protect—distinctions that morph into inflamed nationalisms and "religious war" when people on either side of the Green Line feel backed against the wall. Finally—despite institutionalized discrimination and the disquieting excesses of its security apparatus—the Israeli state still accords its citizens, including about 1.5 million Arabs, a functioning democracy, the right to vote, a free press and an independent judiciary. Democratic Israel is under threat from growing numbers of rightists for whom settling "Eretz Yisrael" is of a piece with containing, if not disenfranchising, Israeli Arabs and Jewish dissenters skeptical of their version of the Jewish state. But, then, how to strengthen dissent? By isolating dissenters?

People who advocate for boycott and divestment often slide over these matters. They may say they are modestly trying to pressure Israeli elites into ending the occupation. But take the Berkeley initiative to scale and add in the boycott of Israeli universities, recently proposed in England's academic union. How would cutting off the most progressive forces in Israel from global corporations and international scholarly events accomplish this? Even generalized trade sanctions, like keeping Israel out of the OECD (which, in fact, it recently joined), would have mainly impaired Israel's estimated $25 billion in high-tech exports, not extractive, postcolonial industries, as in South Africa. Polls show that about 40 percent of Israeli Jews have abidingly secular and globalist (if not liberal) attitudes. Who gains from economic decline and the inevitable consequence of most educated Israelis fleeing to, well, the Bay Area? Wouldn't the rightists, also about 40 percent, be most satisfied to see Israel become a little Jewish Pakistan?

Besides, divestment on the Berkeley model assumes the capacity to identify companies specifically supporting occupation activities. But Israel's networked economy makes this virtually impossible. Is United Technologies bad because one division, Sikorsky, makes Israeli attack helicopters—or is it good because another division, Carrier, makes Palestinian air conditioners? And what about GE CAT scans? For that matter, what about the Samsung cellphone the attack helicopter pilot may be carrying, or the Android software on the cellphone? OK, some will respond, just make the boycott more general. But the idea that precipitating Israeli economic collapse will somehow hasten a democratic outcome is like smacking a TV to fix the picture. Come to think of it, it is like blockading Gaza to sink Hamas.

My impression from various encounters with advocates for B and D is that they are simply unable to imagine that the post-1967 Israel, an Israel of occupation, is not the only possible one. They take for granted that all Israelis are colluding in an immoral, outdated structure—that, QED, a "Jewish state" must mean racist privileges for Jews. They imply, but will not just say, that the two-state solution is an illusion and that Palestine is bound to become a bantustan; that we are on the path to a binational state, one person, one vote, in the whole of historic Palestine—and that punishing Israeli globalization will hasten its arrival. (Presumably, as in South Africa, the citizens of this new state will all speak an exotically accented English.)

But what seems far more likely than a binational state, given the irredentist instincts of the Israeli right and the precedent of violent "steadfastness" of Palestinians (reinforced by the Islamist trend gripping many Palestinian young people), is a kind of Bosnian war. It could start tomorrow with, say, a riot among increasingly impoverished Jerusalem Arabs and spread like wildfire across the West Bank and Israeli Arab towns of the Triangle region. How will B and D do anything but make all Israelis feel demonized and prone to apocalyptic thinking and ethnic cleansing? Already, polls suggest that the Israeli center, which is skeptical of the settlers, feels "the West" does not appreciate what it is like to live with suicide bombers and missile attacks.

Targeted sanctions against the occupation are another matter, however. Foreign governments might well ban consumer products like fruit, flowers and Dead Sea mineral creams and shampoos produced by Israelis in occupied territory, much as Palestinian retail stores do. The EU already requires Israel to distinguish products this way. If Israel continues building in East Jerusalem, and the UN Security Council majority sanctions Israeli tourism, the US government might well choose not to veto the resolution. The Pentagon might sanction, say, Israel Aerospace Industries if, owing to continued settlement, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations break down. Any US sanctions would dominate Israeli headlines for weeks. These would not much hurt the economy directly but would gesture toward the larger truth Israeli managers understand in their bones, namely, that an advanced, networked economy is built as much on expanding relationships with global companies as algorithms, and political isolation will naturally lead to economic isolation.

Israelis, indeed, must be made to choose between Global Israel and Greater Israel, but you do not automatically hurt the latter by wrecking the former. Sanction the Israeli government for activities that obstruct peacemaking. Hurt the settlements. But boycott and divest from the private sector, and you may
create an economic implosion. Israel's ratio of debt to GDP looks eerily like that of the weakest EU economies. Unlike Greece, Israel has a rising class of cosmopolitan entrepreneurs who have been politically complacent, especially during the second intifada and Bush administration. But only they can lead the country out of political crisis—and only if they can hold on to their prestige, which is itself rooted in international commerce. This prestige, after all, is what diplomatic "engagement" aims to achieve—does it not? We want the soft power of global markets to encourage the formation of more worldly business and professional classes everywhere, from Russia to Syria. Isn't that why we invest such hope in Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad? We said Bush, Cheney and Rice were wrong to boycott whole countries. They were.

24 comments:

Y. Ben-David said...

Ah, yes, Bernie draws for us the mythical "Green Line" (the pre-1967 cease fire lines). There is the "bad side", i.e. Judea/Samaria (the "settlers") which Bernie wants to see boycotted, and there is the "good side", the side he lives on, which should not be boycotted. But Bernie's myopia doesn't let him see the truth...the HE is the problem. HE came from America and now lives in a house that belonged to Arabs before 1948 when they fled or were expelled. You see, not only do Arabs reject the Israeli presence in Judea/Samaria, they ALSO reject Bernie's presence, along with rest of Israel within the Green Line. So if Bernie gets his "good boycott" over the Green Line, eventually he will also get his "bad boycott" because the Arabs will not stop at the Green Line...they want ALL of Israel eradicated.

Anonymous said...

I think its perfectly fine for Palestinians to ask the world not to pay money to the state who is oppressing them. That just straight up makes sense and I think its a bit of a stretch to say that you wouldn't do exactly the same if in their position.

I don't see this trend of young Islamists any more powerful now than its ever been. Arguably the PA's policies have squashed most of this in the WB... have a look at what a political demonstration looks like in the WB now. The numbers are in their 10s-20s and mostly internationals... of course the Secret police are everywhere.

Of course I know you are thinking of Hamas - but really is this a new wave? now? Read Beverly Milton-Edwards and Sara Roy on the conditions in Gaza after Oslo. Hamas were new in the 1980s (but even then they weren't really very new) they were at their peak as a movement in the 1990s (I am sure you remember). What has happened more recently is that they have turned (internally at least) to embrace a hybrid form of political Islam as a way of taking on what they see (and many non-Islamists agree) as a corrupt and collaborator Regime in Ramallah. Believe me, the people at their core hate Israel, but they also truly hate the PLO.

Read Shlomo ben-Ami's account of the Israel's history - Israel often likes to fight the enemy it wants to see - rather than the confronting a movement in its true form (to be fair so do most armies, but in Israel the Army is very very very powerful and very close to the state).

Of course I don't mean to be charitable to Hamas, of Hizbollah etc. in the slightest, but even if one recognises the murderous intentions of these groups, an honest analysis will show that Israeli's rhetoric and actions has often been directed at seeing the enemy that it wants to fight. In this case a savage, fanatic, terrorist movement, in truth Hamas' successes in the political field have been because (regardless of their aims) they have tapped a genuine sense of frustration and betrayal in young men. How else can we explain their election victories in Christian towns all over the West Bank (including the beer making capital of the oPts in Taybe!).

On a 'Jewish state' as a 'racist state' to be honest I don't know - that seems like misdirection. Of course many critics can point to the obvious examples of racist behaviour by the state - the ethnic cleansing in Sheik Jarrah for instance, or the absurd supreme courts' rulings about supporting 'deportations' of Gazans from the WB even when they agree there is no security risk, the hundreds of thousands of house demolitions all over the West Bank, the denial of Palestinians from history, the arbitrary arrest and detention, the use of torture, denial of access to myriad basic rights.

But I don't think these are really motivated by a desire for a pure Jewish state - that would be absurd and doesn't reflect what I see in Israel everyday - but perhaps if I can hypothesis this kind of behaviour seem actually to be motivated by a certain obsession with Palestinians by a powerful minority (some of whom are represented in government: as if denial of rights and basic dignity to another people can help shore up the fundamentals of their one Platonic Republic) combined with the general laziness of others who haven't taken the time to challenge the intellectual and cultural structures that support these abuses.

BDS is only one tool. Its limited and it might not work. But what other tools to reasonable Palestinians who want to gain their freedom have left to use in order to shake reasonable Israelis out of their stupor and confront the on going absurdity of Israel's military occupation the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Read a bit more... try again, and maybe I will reconsider my perspective on the BDS.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

Professor Avishai makes more of a case for the boycott than he attempts to defeat. I distinctly recall the cosmopolitan argument against South Africa apartheid and rejected it then, and for good reason. It put pressure on those cosmopolitans to really yell at their reactionary counterparts inside South Africa and put pressure on enough South Africans to say, "Enough with apartheid, too."

Israel is not an apartheid state the way South Africa was. The consequence of oppressive policies in the West Bank and Gaza creates some elements of such a state but such a formulation has always struck me as more obscuring than illuminating. Instead of a boycott, I always thought pressure from US leaders was the best way to go, with the US simply refraining from economic aid and threatening to stop one or more items of military hardware.

But now, the economic aid from the US to Israel has dwindled because of Israel's export success. There is also no chance that any administration in Washington, including this one, will stop any shipment of military hardware to Israel.

I will not support the boycott movement even at this point, but I wonder whether Netanyahu's announcement of an ease of the blockade of Gaza is tied to a larger concern that the boycott movement is gaining steam. So I find myself acting like the cosmopolitan person in South Africa, hoping the boycott movement does not gain steam, but starting to recognize the growth of that movement might have a salutary effect on Netanyahu...and finally help American Jewish organizations recognize that Americans such as Peter Beinart, Matt Yglesias, J Street folks, and li'l ol' bloggers like me, and people in Israel including those who write for Haaretz and Professor Avisahi are truly the moderate voices--and that it is time for Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank and stop the blockade of Gaza.

And most importantly, enough people inside Israel will put pressure on the Israeli government to start up the peace negotiations that even the head of Hamas is now seeking. That is what really infuriates me, which is that--at this moment!--a terrorist organization, Hamas, is now more willing to engage in peace talks than an Israeli governmental leadership.

Potter said...

Who gains from economic decline and the inevitable consequence of most educated Israelis fleeing to, well, the Bay Area? Wouldn't the rightists, also about 40 percent, be most satisfied to see Israel become a little Jewish Pakistan?

If I follow that thought experiment through, I just can’t imagine that happening. I don’t think these folks are, but if they are inclined to a Jewish Pakistan, they too lose; don’t they need Tel Aviv to survive?

Perhaps the Tel Aviv sector will weigh in instead of leaving for elsewhere.

So if BDS or rather some sanctions plus a small boycott/divestment movement (which cannot be prevented) forces the complacent to perhaps get involved in their political issues as opposed to picking up and running elsewhere, it’s worthwhile. How else can outsiders who care (not only those who want to see Israel destroyed) register their strong feelings about the direction that the country is taking?

The present situation is unsustainable. Sooner or later people, even those inclined to a Jewish Pakistani, will be running from more war, which they cannot win. So I don’t see how Tel Aviv, coastal Israeli’s, can avoid facing this and keep business humming.

Without international pressure of some sort, you have what? Without international support for the Palestinians ( which the BDS movement is psychologically) rewarding non-violence, I think you will see more violent “steadfastness”.

I won’t give up my Israeli Feta cheese (better than all the rest), but I realize Trader Joe may stop carrying it. Those who feel they must boycott and divest will do so. I don’t think it will be a huge movement especially if there is other action on the international level, real change in the situation.

Potter said...

Who gains from economic decline and the inevitable consequence of most educated Israelis fleeing to, well, the Bay Area? Wouldn't the rightists, also about 40 percent, be most satisfied to see Israel become a little Jewish Pakistan?

If I follow that thought experiment through, I just can’t imagine that happening. I don’t think these folks are, but if they are inclined to a Jewish Pakistan, they too lose; don’t they need Tel Aviv to survive?

Perhaps the Tel Aviv sector will weigh in instead of leaving for elsewhere.

So if BDS or rather some sanctions plus a small boycott/divestment movement (which cannot be prevented) forces those complacent or “divested” psychologically within Israel to perhaps get involved in their political issues as opposed to picking up and running elsewhere, it’s worthwhile. How else can outsiders who care (not only those who want to see Israel destroyed) register their strong feelings about the direction that the country is taking?

Sooner or later people, even those inclined to make up a Jewish Pakistani, will be running from more war, which they cannot win without Tel Aviv. So I don’t see how the Tel Aviv community, coastal Israeli’s, can avoid facing this and keep business humming, their heads down.

You seem to be okay about some international pressure. Without some sort of meaningful pressure it seems there is going to be no movement on the part of Israel. International pressure ( sanctions) also weakens Israel’s position. It’s not a good corner that Israel has painted itself into, needing to be pushed.

Also without international support for the Palestinians ( which the BDS movement is at least psychologically) rewarding non-violence, I think you will see more “violent steadfastness”.

Potter said...

Who gains from economic decline and the inevitable consequence of most educated Israelis fleeing to, well, the Bay Area? Wouldn't the rightists, also about 40 percent, be most satisfied to see Israel become a little Jewish Pakistan?

If I follow that thought experiment through, I just can’t imagine that happening. I don’t think these folks are, but if they are inclined to a Jewish Pakistan, they too lose; don’t they need Tel Aviv to survive?

So perhaps the Tel Aviv sector will get involved in instead of leaving for elsewhere.

If BDS or rather some sanctions plus a small boycott/divestment movement (which cannot be prevented) forces those who are “divested” psychologically/politically in Israel to perhaps get involved in vital issues as opposed to picking up and running elsewhere, it’s worthwhile.

Sooner or later people, even those inclined to make up a Jewish Pakistani, will be running from more war, which they cannot win without Tel Aviv. So I don’t see how the Tel Aviv community, coastal Israeli’s, can avoid facing this and keep business humming, their heads down.

You seem to be okay about some international pressure. Without some sort of meaningful pressure it seems there is going to be no movement on the part of Israel. International pressure ( sanctions) also weakens Israel’s position. It’s not a good corner that Israel has painted itself into, needing to be pushed.

How else can outsiders who care (not those who want to see Israel destroyed) register their strong feelings about the direction that the country is taking?

More importantly , without international support for the Palestinians ( which the BDS movement is at least psychologically) rewarding non-violence, I think you will see more “violent steadfastness”.

Potter said...

Sorry about that- it was weird- I tried to comment several times changing it a little each time- but it never showed up. So now you have them all!!! (essentially the same)

jrys said...

Why is it bad to boycott corporations that are not based in the occupied territories but operate there, while at the same time corporations based in the West Bank or East Jerusalem are appropriate targets?

You want to talk about how a subsidiary of UT makes ACs for Palestinians. Fine, but are you denying that Israeli West Bank-based companies don't employ Palestinians and give them an income? Does that mean these companies don't deserve to be targeted by boycott efforts?

You want to argue that the "good" companies cannot be classified as supporting the occupation because of their complex role in the Israeli economy, but have no problem arguing against the "bad" companies. It doesn't work like that.

Look, the BDS movement is still in its infancy. It doesn't have broad-based support yet. So there's still time to avoid a situation where operating in or associating with Israel is a net negative. But the "Globalists" need to get their act together. If they can't be bothered to stand up to the Eretz Yisrael types, the rest of the planet is under no obligation to continue to wait for them to act.

Potter said...

One of my versions that I did not post had this thought:

It would not be a bad thing for Israelis to feel collective punishment. Since Palestinians are all guilty for Hamas, Israeli's must be responsible for the present government. .. ( indeed as we all were held responsible for Bush). Granted they will go into a defensive posture and batten down the hatches, but that may give way to deeper reflection.

-----

regarding the difficulty of my ability to post yesterday- I also notice now, as yesterday, that the "comment" link below what you have written registers only 1 comment when you have 8- maybe 9 now, if this gets in.

Larry Rosenwald said...

Here's the thing, for me: the argument Bernie's making against BDS is reasonable and persuasive. But it doesn't sufficiently address the motives of some at least of those who support, or are on the point of supporting, such policies. The motives have to do with despair, hopelessness etc., the feeling that top-level approaches, reasonable approaches aren't ever, ever going to bring about a solution, that Israel will continue forever as an occupying and blockading power, that the present situation is no more "unsustainable," to use President Obama's word, than many other iniquities. There's much wrong with BDS; but it emerges at least in part from a sense of what's wrong with all other approaches to the Occupation, which so far have produced depressingly little.

Basil Hakki said...

The above editorial makes the seemingly valid argument that the B & D effort hurts precisely the segment of Israeli society that is amenable to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians. But this segment, whether you call it the globalists or intelligentsia, wields practically no influence on Israeli political decisions which now are made by the extreme right wing and the militarists. But notwithstanding its political weakness the Israeli globalists have become de facto material enablers of the right wing by providing the technological, industrial and financial underpinnings of the state. Therefore the B & D may unfairly impact the globalists but it also undermines the militarists’ economic strength. It is hoped that that may eventually get their attention.

John Sacks said...

This article reveals a mixup adolescent's drivel.
Real drivel attempting to meld lines and really quite stupid examples.
I think it is time for B.A. to retire and 5realize that bhe will go down in history for whatrever reason as a lover of Arabs.
He is certainly a detriment and a hater of Jews and Israel.
I will no longer gaze at his blog.

Sam Bahour said...

I must respectfully take issue with how the representation of the Palestinian Civil Society BDS campaign is portrayed here.

The BDS effort speaks for itself here: http://bdsmovement.net/ and begs a simple question for each and every one of us, especially progressive Israeli Jews: if you do not support BDS (which is by no means a one size fit all campaign) then suggest other non-violent means the Palestinians should employ to end this Israeli imposed misery.

Sitting and waiting for almighty to bring the occupation and systematic discrimination tumbling down is not an option, at least not for those wanting to realize co-existence sooner rather than later.

Bernard Avishai said...

I have tried to show why B and D (S is another matter) are counter-productive. My friend Sam Bahour (and others) are raising a fair question that deserves an answer: what if not B and D can we do to push the Israeli government, or at least more Israeli citizens, to a settlement that ends the occupation?

I'm not sure I can do justice to this big question here, but let me start by saying that, if B and D are indeed counterproductive, I'm not sure why the burden is on someone arguing the point to prove what else would work. I would welcome arguments against my arguments (other than mechanistic ones that merely state "business funds the regime, the regime supports the occupation").

My point, after all, is that B and D will not work, indeed, it will only isolate and undermine the only people in Israeli society who actually have a hope of turning things around in the Israeli political universe. And as to what else might work, I think the answer is self-evident: working in the political realm and in the media to encourage Washington and the EU to push the parties to a settlement, supporting government sanctions on produce from the settlements, isolation of the Israeli government diplomatically (as in the nuclear conference), attenuation of Pentagon relations with the Israeli military industries, public demonstrations, resistance among American Jews to AIPAC, and so forth.

It is already sinking in to Israeli business people and other elites that such political isolation will inevitably lead to blowing Israel's big economic opportunities; and that we need big changes here, given the burdens on the government budget. In a way, the Haredi burden is the other side of the continuing occupation and the anemic rates of growth. We do not have a new leadership yet, but something is moving here.

My point is that you do not have to work toward the implosion of the Israeli economy to expect an economic argument for peace to gain ground. Other forms of political pressure have not worked yet. But this does not mean they should be abandoned in favor of an approach that will send Israel's top, most cosmopolitan people abroad, and push the people they leave behind into the hands of the right. Aren't there parallels on the Palestinian side, Sam? By the way, I am not sure how I mis-characterized "the representation of the Palestinian Civil Society BDS campaign." But if I have, I apologize. I was, in any case, really trying to characterize the BDS campaign on American and British campuses, not that of the PA.

Shoded Yam said...

"...Insanity, they say, is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Actually, that is just scientific irrationality. In human affairs, alas, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting the same result."

Exactly. Cognitive Dissonance

Boycott and Divestment will not work. While assessments such as that of Basil Hakki are quite logical (and I happen to agree with them), we mistakenly and repeatedly believe that the opposition will eventually see this logic too. I suggest that this belief is based upon the premise that we're all playing this game according to the same rule book. It should be obvious to everyone here, that this is simply not the case. In as much as the Netanyahu Administration is largely made up of xenophobes and political oppurtunists of one stripe or another, I find it difficult to believe that the Israeli gov't and the "Cabinet of 7" doesn't rely on a dedicated brain trust when decisions have to be made by adults.

There was an article of great interest in last weeks Haaretz;

"A geopolitical game changer"
By Gal Luft

"... a gigantic deposit of natural gas called Leviathan, 6.5 times the size of Tel Aviv, was found, roughly 100 nautical miles from where the flotilla fiasco took place and well within Israel's extended territorial waters. This discovery may provide Israel with security in terms of its supply of electricity, turn it into an important natural gas exporter and provide a shot in the arm of some $300 billion over the life of the field - one-and-a-half times the national GDP - to the Israeli economy, already one of the most resilient in the world."

"... this discovery is nothing short of a geopolitical game changer. To understand its magnitude, consider this: The world's biggest gas discovery in 2009, 238 billion cubic meters, was made by a U.S.-Israel consortium at a site called Tamar, 60 miles off the coast of Haifa. The nearby Leviathan field is estimated to be twice that size."

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/a-geopolitical-game-changer-1.295522

I read somewhere else (sorry, I can't find the link)that the Israeli gov't expexts the TAMAR field to begin operations no later than 2013.

Is it really beyond the realm of possibility that Israeli intansigence is based upon a calculation that the world's (especailly europe's)sensitivities re. political, ethnic, and demographic issues will soon be trumped by its need for cheap energy?

Anonymous said...

BA points exactly to the problem when he says, "My impression from various encounters with advocates for B and D is that they are simply unable to imagine that the post-1967 Israel, an Israel of occupation, is not the only possible one..." What this says to me is that the BDS gang may masquerade as "end the occupation" activists but what they really want is an end to Israel. Most people can feel this instinctively and that is why the movement isn't gaining any traction and which is why BDS language and tactics are becoming ever so much more shrill and hateful.

Y. Ben-David said...

Question for Sam Bahour:

Your friend Bernie says you and your fellow members of the "entrepeneurial elite" are going to "push aside the gunmen from FATAH, HAMAS, the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, Islamic Jihad etc, and take control of the Palestinian Authority". I would like to know when and how you are going to do this?

T Ezrahi said...

Hi Bernie,

Thanks. Probably the best defence of non-boycott that I've read. And after reading this I am tending to agree to a selective boycott rather than a sweeping one. However, I read things differently when it comes to the progressive businessclass/hightech elite. And more generally, the secular, outward looking population who believe in a two state solution but have lost faith in the possibility of reaching one. I think you are right to call them complacent, but unlike you, my feeling is that they need pressure to shock them out of their complacency. They are a key group (mostly Kadima voters) who can really make a difference and I think that in thinking about the bouycott, they should be strategically factored in. So far nothing has caused them to budge. Can you think of another solution other than threatening their sense of belonging to the larger global community? If they feel that the settlements, the government and its policies are a threat to their way of life, their membership in the big wide world, don't you think that could galvanize them into taking a more constructive political role?

Also I think the BDS movement is a popular response to the fact that governments are clearly not doing enough to put pressure. Boycotts are one of the only effective tools had by ordinary people when governments fail to act...

Talya Ezrahi

Sam Bahour said...

Thanks. It's a longer discussion than I can have online right now, but in short I think BD (and hopefully soon more S) is working and as an educational platform it address exactly what the source of the problem is, and not only the occupation part it. If profit is being made comfortably in TLV no one has any incentive to act...only when profit and business as usual is at risk will common, decent folk take note that the cages they built on the other side of the wall are unsustainable and sooner or later will bite back. As such, economic implosion in Israel may be the final weapon that can Israelis to see that they are part and parcel of this mess and no matter how thick our yellow pages book (referencing Cohen's recent article) becomes, life will not be normal for both sides of the wall as long as one side is oppressed on both sides of the wall and beyond!

Potter said...

BA: "...Insanity, they say, is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Actually, that is just scientific irrationality. In human affairs, alas, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting the same result."



SY: “Exactly. Cognitive Dissonance”

I keep doing the same thing and I get different results, some of which I like. I have learned to expect that, or account for it and work with it. In human affairs, you never get the same result either- which is what makes life so interesting and difficult.

Cognitive dissonence actually liberates us. Conflicting ideas and emotions causes examination and change or rationalization- hence ie Boycott divestment will not work. But maybe business interests in Israel will also experience cognitive dissidence and make a change. I mean for instance could they have picked up the tab for the Sheik Jarrah demonstrations?

I don’t believe Israel will turn into a Jewish Pakistan either which is also using a template to predict the outcome.

Larry Rosenwald said...

Bernie writes,
"I'm not sure I can do justice to this big question here, but let me start by saying that, if B and D are indeed counterproductive, I'm not sure why the burden is on someone arguing the point to prove what else would work."
If this were a debate, I'd say there'd be no burden whatever. But it's also a deliberation, in which some us are asking our friend or teacher or colleague or gadfly Bernie to help us with a question. We want an end to the occupation; bds is an attempt to bring about that end. Bernie says, bds won't work. Maybe it won't. But then we're saying, or at least I'm saying, well, maybe it won't, but the other measures that Bernie suggests haven't shown much in the way of results either, so why should we put our trust in them? So let's pretend it's 3 AM, and we're all up late drinking ouzo or something, and someone says, "Hey, Bernie, help us think outside the box and figure out something with an actual promise of bringing the Occupation to an end."

Potter said...

What is happening with BDS and what will give it more momentum are those who wish Israel’s survival joining those who you say wish to destroy Israel- and true, also giving hope to Arab hardliners making it harder for Israel to make a deal maybe. That time is passing. So even the threat of BD/S taking hold amongst those who want an Israel to survive might produce some movement. I think these folks are actually considering that BD and S, or BD if there is no S, will be effective, will change the path Israel is on. So it’s not a matter of whether it actually succeeds, which it may, but what even the threat does, which is happening now. Israel is running out of time in more ways than demography: more and more will have less and less memory of the post war sentiment which was such incredible heartfelt sympathy and even (tribal pride, a memory of the heady old days of pioneering and good feeling in helping a new country grow, even with pennies in a little blue and white “pushka”. They will have completely woken up from their nostalgia, deeply disappointed. Or they will be gone, not having transmitted that old feeling to their kids. There will be many young and old willing to join, just to feel they are doing something.

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