I have been thinking for weeks - since hearing of the ridiculous idea of the American Conservative Movement's men's clubs to boycott Chivas Regal in retaliation for the West Dunbartonshire Council's boycott of Israeli goods - how best to express my contempt for the notion of boycott and counter-boycott. I have found a way.
Casting around for some sage advice for the man just appointed to the most difficult post in the foreign service, I remembered that the embassy in London is housed in the elegant home built for William Makepeace Thackeray in Kensington Palace Gardens. Who could provide better inspiration than the great satirist?
(No, I didn't reread "Vanity Fair." Why do you think they have all those famous quote websites? ) The best of all his sayings is probably the simplest: "Good humor is one of the best articles of dress one can wear in society."
Just like that I knew what Daniel Taub should do, as soon as he unpacks his bags in London and presents his credentials to Her Majesty. He should take a plane to Aberdeen and then drive an hour north to the tiny town of Keith, where he will find one of Scotland's main tourist attractions, Strathisla Distillery, home of Chivas Regal. I am certain the mild-mannered staff at Strathisla will welcome him. Over a large snifter of 18-year-old Chivas (leave the fancy 25-year-old Royal Salute to the Chinese businessmen ) he can drink to the health of both nations and toast many more decades of friendship between the Scots and the Israelis. Then, if he has time before the flight back to London, maybe a quick visit to the local tartan museum. Now wouldn't that be a much more dignified, and frankly more Jewish, response to West Dunbartonshire Council's petulant boycott?
Taub's predecessor at the Court of St. James, our new ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, made a number of visits to Scotland. These were boisterous speaking engagements, usually invaded by mobs of pro-Palestinian activists, trying to push the invader back, south of the border. Daniel Taub's first ambassadorial visit to Scotland should be a much more civil affair.
Readers with a basic knowledge of Highland geography are nodding their heads. Dunbartonshire is in southwest Scotland, while the fair vale of Keith is in the northeast. So why have the men's clubs and other self-appointed guardians of Jewish pride elected to boycott Chivas? Apparently Chivas Brothers has some kind of corporate offices in that unhappy corner of Scotland and therefore is worthy of our opprobrium. This goes to show how pointless a tool any boycott is. Chivas Regal is blended from 20 different Single Malts from many parts of Scotland; its distilleries, blending operations, offices, warehouses are all in different areas, and the owners anyway are across the water in France - alcohol giant Pernod Ricard.
The West Dunbartonshire Council boycott is, of course, every bit as preposterous. The jumped up local politicians of the council buy and use Israeli goods without noticing. When they speak through their mobile phones, do business on the Internet, collect a prescription and even when buying fresh produce at the grocer. There's nothing new about a boycott being a blunt instrument in this day and age. Usually it is just a symbolic conceit of puny organizations with an inflated sense of their own importance. Take for example, the anti-Israel academic boycott in Britain. Now you and I know that Israeli academia is hopelessly left-wing, not to say defeatist and post-Zionist. So, in boycotting their Israeli colleagues, British lecturers are cutting themselves off from the Israelis closest to their own views and giving invaluable ammunition to the right who argue the world is anti-Semitic and against us anyway. But those self-important academic union activists can't help themselves. Such boycotts may not do much direct damage but the effect is cumulative - what is generally nowadays called "delegitimization," a feeling of unease that something is not quite right with Israel. Though the boycotters like to link their actions to the occupation of the West Bank and the control Israel still exerts over the Gaza Strip, they do nothing to directly harm the occupiers themselves. Indeed, while the best thing for Israel would be to end the corrosive occupation and reaching a two-state solution with the Palestinians, the boycotts will only persuade a large part of Israeli society that such a solution is impossible. After all, they are boycotting all of us, so they obviously hate us whether or not we are in the West Bank.
But that isn't the point of a boycott. It has nothing to do with rationality or efficiency. People boycott other people, companies, entire nations, because it's satisfying and, above all, fashionable. It has nothing to do with human rights. There are at least 100 countries in the world with a worse human rights record than Israel. But boycotting Venezuela hasn't got quite the cachet. The left should make it clear such actions are laughably pathetic.
So instead of being so crass at to try and out-boycott the boycotters by denying ourselves whiskey, we should glorify Scottish products (with the exception of haggis ). Ambassador Taub, please take the lead here.
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