Who Will Prevent the Boycott? Not Israel's Government

When Israeli leaders' solution for growing boycott is to find new export markets, it's time business owners and university professors step up.

Tzipi Hotovely speaks at the Herzliya Conference, in Herzliya, August 6, 2015.
Erez Harodi Studio

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, like her colleague Education Minister Naftali Bennett, espouses a cogent doctrine that both see as a decisive response to people who fear a boycott of Israel: The world needs Israel; the high-tech inventions and discoveries it generates are found in every computer in the world. And if that doesn’t suffice, then in lieu of the countries of the European Union, which has decided to label products from the settlements, there are countries like India, China and Japan that stand like a rock of refuge. To this list we can add most of the countries of Africa, as well as South Korea and the Caribbean islands, that well-known haven for people seeking tax shelters.

When this is the official answer, it’s legitimate to wonder why the government raised an outcry when the German department store KaDeWe decided to remove settlement products from its shelves (before reversing the decision), and why the local academic community got so upset when the American Anthropological Association decided to boycott Israeli research institutes. After all, the research can easily be moved to China, and the luxury goods sold at KaDeWe are eagerly awaited in India.

But beyond the ridicule they inspire, these responses by Hotovely and Bennett reinforce awareness of the boycott. Boycotts of Israel are becoming routine occurrences that require a solution. But in their view, this should be found by locating new export markets rather than by changing Israel’s policies.

The Israeli government’s working assumption is that it makes no difference what its policies are, and that the reason for the boycotts isn’t the occupation, but the hypocrisy of the boycotters, who are obviously tainted by innate anti-Semitism. The fact is, argued Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who as usual hastened to link all objections to the Israeli occupation with the Holocaust and the Nazis – that there are 200 disputes in the world, but only Israel is being dealt with this way.

Netanyahu merely forgets one small thing: This same anti-Semitic world, as epitomized by the European Union, bought settlement products for almost five decades. But now these Western countries, who set the standards for progress and liberalism, are finding it harder and harder to be friends with an Israel that, in their view, undermines the fundamental humanistic principles that created the European Union. In their eyes, a country that belongs to the OECD yet occupies conquered territory and oppresses its people is simply unacceptable.

The Israeli government, which continues to double down on its claims of a hypocritical and anti-Semitic world, ought to be causing Israel’s business and academic circles great concern. These dumbstruck communities, which have thus far refrained from even expressing political opinions, much less protesting, must wake up. Their leaders surely see the approaching tsunami. They must leave their ivory towers and glass-paneled offices at once and stop the erosion.