In recent years, there has been a gradual growth in the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, calling for putting economic pressure on Israel until it recognizes the rights of the occupied Palestinian people and puts an end to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip starting on 27 December 2008, which lasted for nearly a month, has given this movement a powerful reason to redouble its efforts. Dozens of BDS campaigns have gained momentum and publicity; dozens of new ones were launched during or immediately after Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip.
These campaigns range from calls to boycott goods from the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank to calls to stop all economic contacts with Israel altogether. They include protests at sporting events, two countries cutting diplomatic ties with Israel (Bolivia and Venezuela), and many demonstrations around the world, attended by hundreds of thousands of protestors.
The growing protest against the atrocities committed by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip has begun to change something in the Israeli political discourse, and the first indication of this can already be seen in the Israeli economic media.
Although the Israeli economic media doesn’t concern itself with the moral dimension of the attacks on Gaza, the economic dimension of recent events has created a rising level of concern. In order to demonstrate this trend, here are summaries of four articles that appeared in
TheMarker, an Israeli magazine for economic news:
1. On 2 February, Guy Grimland warned about a growing phenomenon of boycott of Israeli high-tech companies, and several Israeli companies received letters from European and U.S. companies explaining that they cannot invest in Israel for moral reasons.
2. On 3 February, Nehemia Strassler, one of Israel’s most famous economic correspondents, attacked the Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor, Eli Yishai, for calling on the Israeli military to “destroy one hundred homes in Gaza for every rocket that falls in Israel.” Strassler had nothing to say about the Palestinians living in these homes or about the loss of life, but he warned:
[The minister] doesn’t even understand how the operation in Gaza hurts the economy. The horror sights on television and the words of politicians in Europe and Turkey change the behavior of consumers, businessmen, and potential investors. Many European consumers boycott Israeli products in practice. Intellectuals call for an economic war against us and to enforce an official and full consumer boycott.
Calls are heard in board meetings of economic corporations to boycott trade relations with Israel. So far deals were cancelled with Turkey, the UK, Egypt, and the Gulf States, and visits by economic delegations were cancelled. It’s much easier now to switch providers while abandoning Israeli providers. Many company boards are required to take wide considerations into account with regards to the good of society and the environment, and they put political considerations in that slot as well.
Of course there is an economic cost to severing diplomatic ties. Qatar cut its trade relations with Israel, Venezuela and Bolivia cut diplomatic relations. Mauritania recalled its ambassador and the relations with Turkey worsened considerably — and this bad ambience seeps into the business sector decisions. Here, just yesterday Dudi Ovshitz, who grows peppers for export, said that “there is a concealed boycott of Israeli products in Europe.”
3. On 6 February, Shuki Sadeh wrote about even more companies that have decided to boycott relations with Israel. A Turkish company demanded that Israeli companies sign a document condemning the Israeli massacre in Gaza before they can offer their services to it. Sadeh quoted Naomi Klein’s recent call for boycott, the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, and Israeli organizations that support the boycott and provide information for the global BDS movement. Sadeh’s article also had concerned quotes by Israeli businessmen who demanded government intervention to protect them from the growing boycott.
4. On 11 February, Ora Koren reported that the Israeli business sectors feel the effects of the attack on Gaza. She reported that Israeli businessmen in Turkey are hiding their names so that the local BDS organizations won’t learn about their activities and that the situation is even worse in the UK.
These four articles are a sign that there is a shift in the effectiveness of the BDS movement against Israel and that if the momentum is maintained and strengthened, Israeli businessmen may decide to move their headquarters away from Israel or to begin to put pressure on the Israeli government to begin respecting international law and ending the occupation.
Shir Hever is an economist, who works for the Alternative Information Center (AIC). This article was published by the AIC on 1 March 2009 under a Creative Commons license.