BDS: A campaign that is gathering weight

n13-iconThe Economist: Once derided as the scheming of crackpots, the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, widely known as BDS, is turning mainstream. That, at any rate, is the fear of a growing number of Israelis. Some European pension funds have withdrawn investments; some large corporations have cancelled contracts; and the American secretary of state, John Kerry, rarely misses a chance to warn Israel that efforts to “delegitimise” and boycott it will increase if its government spurns his efforts to conclude a two-state settlement of its conflict with the Palestinians. Israel, says Yair Lapid, Israel’s finance minister, is approaching the same “tipping point” where South Africa found itself in opposition to the rest of the world in the dying days of apartheid. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he told a conference of security boffins recently in Tel Aviv. “The world listens to us less and less.”

BDS has begun to grab the attention of some of the world’s largest financial institutions. PGGM, a big Dutch pension fund, has liquidated its holdings in five Israeli banks (though the Netherlands’ largest has affirmed its investments). Norway’s finance ministry has announced that it is excluding Africa Israel Investments and its subsidiary, Danya Cebus, a big building firm, from a government pension fund.

The campaign is drawing support from beyond northern Europe. Romania has forbidden its citizens from working for companies in the West Bank. More churches are backing BDS. An American academic association is boycotting Israeli lecturers. The debate turned viral after Scarlett Johansson, a Hollywood actor, quit her role as ambassador for Oxfam, a charity based in Britain, in order to keep her advertising contract with SodaStream, an Israeli drinks firm with a plant on the West Bank.

Mr Lapid, who favours a two-state solution, reels out figures to show how sanctions could hit every Israeli pocket. “If negotiations with the Palestinians stall or blow up and we enter the reality of a European boycott, even a very partial one,” he warned, 10,000 Israelis would “immediately” lose their jobs. Trade with the European Union, a third of Israel’s total, would slump—he calculates—by $5.7 billion. [Continue reading…]

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1 thought on “BDS: A campaign that is gathering weight

  1. Peter Belmont

    Mr. Kerry’s warnings may mean what they say — warning — or may be ceiled invitations to EU and others to step up BDS-like actions aimed at ending the settlements, the occupation, or both. Mr. Kerry’s slow-motion is not perplexing in AIPAC-dominated America. But the EU is not (so far as I know) pushed around to the same extent as the USA by pro-hard-line-Israel forces, so I don’t understand why the EU has not (long since!) demanded that Israel remove the settlers, the wall, and the settlement buildings, all violations of international law. Indeed, each nation of the EU has presumably undertaken to “ensure respect” for the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 “under all circumstances” and that undertaking, while evidently not compelling action against israel, would at least justify such action.

    All told, the USA’s and world’s attention has focused on “peace-making” for far too long and has ignored the (IMO) more pressing problem of ending Israel’s settlement program and, ultimately, ending the occupation as well.

    That said, I do hope that this posting’s title, BDS gathering wieght, is accurate.

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