Confronting the Boycotters
On Saturday, February 1st, at the Munich Security Conference, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, once again shamefully and irresponsibly tried to incite fear among Israelis of potential anti-Israeli boycotts if the ongoing "peace" talks with the Palestinians fail. This was the second time in four months that Kerry warned Israel about "talk of boycotts" and "campaign of delegitimization" if the status quo between the Israelis and the Palestinians is maintained.
Instead of being the trumpet and the megaphone for such warnings, Kerry should be expected to lead the campaign against bigoted, misinformed and anti-Semitic boycotters of Israeli universities and companies in the U.S. and Europe by issuing his own warnings that the U.S. government will not tolerate such boycotts against an ally and a friend. In turn, Israelis should reject such fearmongering. The Israeli government should not turn the other cheek to those threatening her with a boycott by agreeing to the suicidal demands of Kerry and the Europeans to establish another Gaza in the West Bank.
Israel and its supporters should call on the U.S. Congress to intervene and legislate against these anti-Israel boycotters, as they did in the 1970's against the Arab boycott, by stopping taxpayer subsidization of the boycott advocates, instructing the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of these academic institutions and levying taxes, civil penalties and fines against European and American companies who participate.
Giving in to the organized, well-financed and misinformed campaign by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, the American Studies Association announced a boycott of Israeli academic institutions which followed boycotts announced by the Association for Asian American Studies and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.
While economic boycotts of Israel by U.S. companies is minimal, the main threat comes from Europe, where several European corporations, churches, and pension funds have already cut or have threatened to cut their economic relations with Israeli banks and other institutions as a result of the ten-year BDS campaign. The movement is led by Palestinian leadership and 80 NGOs, financed by the European Union and European government funds and grants which were meant to be used as humanitarian aid and not for political warfare. The real goal of BDS is to defame and destroy Israel as a Jewish state, regardless of its borders, through false allegations of human rights violations, apartheid, and war crimes. Given the reality that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and has the freest press, an independent judiciary, as well as religious and racial diversity within its universities -- including affirmative action for Arab students -- such boycotts smell of anti-Semitism.
While the European Union is boycotting Israeli academic and research institutions in Jerusalem and the West Bank, they never consider boycotting brutally oppressive regimes in the Middle East and the world. They are not boycotting China where freedom of speech and press are nonexistent, or Saudi Arabia where women cannot vote or show their face and Jews and Christians cannot practice their religions, or Egypt where Coptic Christians have been openly persecuted. The American academic boycotters never consider boycotting universities in Syria where the Syria government has slaughtered its citizens with chemical weapons, or universities in Iran where political, religious and sexual dissidents are hanged and no academic freedom exists. These academic and economic boycotts have nothing to do with protecting human rights but with scapegoating the Jewish people once again. Singling out Israel, the world's only Jewish state, for condemnation and isolation is to engage in discrimination against Jews, which is also called anti-Semitism. Instead of cowering down in front of bullies and trying to appease them, the Israeli government and its supporters must follow those who choose to stand up instead and reject hypocrisy, bigotry, and moral double standards.
On January 29th, Scarlett Johansson ended her relationship with the humanitarian group Oxfam International over their support of BDS and their criticism of her endorsement of Sodastream, an Israeli company that operates a factory in the Maale Adumim settlement in the West Bank. Oxfam lost hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result.
Sodastream's distributor in France sued a group called France Palestine Solidarite which associates with BDS for their campaign. A French court ruled on January 29th that the French pro-boycott group must compensate Sodastream for denigrating its products and issued a cease and desist order from advertising that the Israeli company's products are sold illegally when they are labeled "made in Israel".
The previous day, the New York Senate passed by a vote of 51-4 a bill to end taxpayer funding to private or public state colleges and universities that support boycotting Israel. This is the first time a legislative body passed such a bill targeting the American Studies Association boycotters. Moreover, 92 universities in the U.S. have released statements rejecting the academic boycotts of Israel. Several universities have cut their institutional ties including Brandies and Indiana. The same day a group of 134 members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter criticizing ASA. The next step is for Congress to instruct the IRS to revoke the tax exempt status of the members of such associations.
If the hypocritical and bigoted Europeans, Palestinians, and other Arabs, as well as their academic and corporate supporters, want to single out the Jewish state, let us take the fight to them and hurt them financially through private lawsuits and legislation. Let Israel finds new economic markets in prosperous Asia where they are appreciated and quickly leave the Europeans to sink economically under their own self-righteousness.
Shoula Romano Horing is an attorney. Her blog www.shoularomanohoring.com