The Question of Boycott

Posted: March 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Settlements | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Barak Ravid reports in Haaretz that the UK will not move its embassy to Africa-Israel’s Kirya Tower in Tel Aviv, because of the company’s role in West Bank settlements construction. Africa-Israel is owned by the London-based Jewish billionaire Lev Leviev.

Ambassador Tom Phillips requested details from Africa-Israel about the nature of its activities in the settlements, and a week ago, the British embassy in Tel Aviv received the information. As a result, plans to move into the tower were frozen.

The embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed the details of the story and explained that its decision stemmed from the fact that Africa-Israel’s response regarding its involvement in settlement activity failed to assuage Britain’s concerns.

Reading this article, I couldn’t help feeling some satisfaction. I am happy with any pressure against building in the settlements, and Leviev’s construction company, Danya Cebus, is involved in some of the most problematic projects in the West Bank, among them Matityahu East and Har Homa in Jerusalem. This sort of economical pressure brings, however, the question of the boycott, and here there are no simple answers.

The idea of boycotting Israel until it ends the occupation has been gaining some ground in the European left since the beginning of the second Intifada. Some people support boycotting Israeli goods and services. Others go all the way to the South African model: no academic ties, no joined sports events and certainly no economical ties.

The supporters of the full boycott give two good arguments: that this method of pressure is effective (look at what it achieved in South Africa), and even more important, that it is non-violent – as opposed to supporting the Palestinian armed struggle.

At this point, I oppose any sort of boycott on Israel for the following reasons:

1. The double standards argument: There are regimes just as bad as the Israeli occupation, and some even worse. You can find good reasons to boycott Sudan, China and even the US. But nobody is going to boycott China, because China is too strong, and beside, everything is made in China.

2. The economical argument: economical pressure hurts the weakest elements of society first. It’s not only unfair, but also counterproductive – Israel’s poorest population is the Arabs.

3. The common sense argument: Well, I’m an Israeli, and I strongly oppose the occupation. Am I to boycott myself? And how is that done exactly?

I don’t support a boycott on products only from the settlement as well. It is somewhat unpractical, since many goods and services have something to do with the West Bank, but are not entirely made there; but more important, it sends the message that the settlers are responsible for the occupation, while I believe the entire Israeli society is to blame. The taxes I pay, for example, are being used to build new settlements and to pay for the army’s presence there. Boycotting only products from the settlements is just making life easy.

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