Israel boycotters: The goose and the golden egg

Part 3. of a 3 part series on the whys and wherefores of Israel boycotters

All in the name
Steve Apfel
On 7 August 2013 12:06

Popular causes of the world have a political dynamic. This makes causes prone to high-jacking, and from there on they’re messy through and through. Politics corrupts. Conscience commands a price. Avarice drowns integrity. Fortune attends reputation. Fame attends both; and the road to fame likes nothing more than a people oppressed, for real or contrived. 

Only look at the Palestinians, the world’s favourite cause. Look at the godfather, Yasser Arafat, and the gentlemen in that ‘pound seat’ now. Money – buckets of free money predispose demagogues to care nothing for bettering their people. And why should they? Search the planet for a politician who’d disturb a state of limbo if it meant turning off a money tap.

Eighteen billion dollars of bounty gushed into Ramallah and Gaza City over a decade. …To fill a few deep pockets. That’s only from Western donors. What the Arab league has flung at the Palestinian cause is anyone’s guess.

Boycotters enter where? They sit around the table with fat beneficiaries who sup on the world’s favourite cause. Boycotters are among thousands that have come to so depend on baying for the Palestinians that a brokered peace with Israel would spell the doom of a thriving industry.

Only look at the sustainability factors in favour of the boycott business: Mountains of cheap capital on demand; global reach; well-connected stakeholders; media channels beating a path to their door; and a traded commodity – Israeli misdeeds – for which the world has a gluttonous hunger. If those are not conditions for big business what others are there?   

Nominally, the participating firms – NGOs with colourful names like Jewish Voices for Peace, J-Street, Breaking the Silence – are autonomous, not-for-profit and apolitical. In real life they are none of those things. There are not hundreds but thousands of bodies, all lobbying and pushing for the boycott and isolation of Israel, a bewildering number located in tiny Israel. And on this business people depend for jobs; people in their tens of thousands, who are lucky enough to be employed, with their type of skills.  

Trade is brisk, the money big and the players earnest. There are billionaire private investors, Euro zone countries that hand out money on demand, ecumenical coffers, flush Arab potentates and proverbial Joe public.

Boycotters operate a certain business model. The model gives them a vested interest in human right abuses – the brand ‘Israel’ exclusively, and the more cooked the better. War crimes, occupation, apartheid, theft of water, organ harvesting are the boycotters’ stock-in-trade; assets that convert to cash. Money follows mud-slinging. Write on the willful wickedness of Israel and the media beats a path to your door.

Look at Desmond Tutu. Business savvy to his holy fingertips, Tutu basks in publicity and rakes in money from dragging Israel through the mud. A has-been ambassador for Israel jumped feet first into the ‘defame Israel’ business, telling us not to “buy ‘Israeli’ goods made in Palestine.” Observe the artful skill of the propaganda monger. By sleight of hand Alon Liel contrives to turn truth on its head. With inverted commas ‘Israeli’ becomes a bogus name whereas Palestine, comma-free, is for real. 

Boycott campaigners are the paparazzi while Israel the bogeyman is their cash cow. Exactly how much is that cow worth to them? Resource allocations may be indicative. Human Rights Watch devotes three times more resources to digging up dirt on Israel than to Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority combined.  Amnesty Int. produced 255 mud-spattered indictments per million Israeli people, only 60 per million on Syria, 23 on Iraq and Iran, and a mere 9 on Saudi Arabia. That’s how valuable Israel is to boycotters. 

But let’s not forget the foot soldiers. Try telling them that Obama’s envoy has brokered a peace deal which absolves the nation they love to hate. Would boycotters accept an Israel that comes up smelling of roses? Income, lime-light, travel, articles, careers and, for the lucky few, celebrity status would all wither away without a cause to buoy them. Israel the monster is the goose that lays the golden egg.

What exactly would this golden egg be worth, to an academic for instance? If he’s anything like the one who told me to stop attacking the egg-laying goose, it would be worth a good deal. Value can be attributed to benefits, however arcane. Approbation of peers and faculty heads; or going about campus life without fear of harassment: how much would the academic sacrifice for such benefits – as much as his integrity is worth?

Attend Professor Tony Judt, a loud defamer of Israel before he died young. Judt felt compelled to attack Israel; he intimated, because the campus environment was hostile, and he wanted to make sure that as a Jewish academic he was untainted by once having worked on a kibbutz.

Kenneth Levin, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, writes that identification with peer groups, and a wish to ingratiate themselves by defaming Israel is a motive especially for Jewish boycotters. Often, Levin writes, pragmatic gain is factored in as well. A boycott-supporting academic is far more likely to garner invitations to lecture abroad, with the accompanying honoraria; or to win visiting lectureships. Jewish roots command a premium. Being Jewish, writes Levin, bolsters the impact and value of an Israel-defamer.    

So boycotters ride the money-go-round. They exact a price; their concern for Palestinians doesn’t come free.

Here is one reason for their hot and cold feelings: hot when Israel is the culprit, cold when Israel’s neighbours are. Return on investment is the boycotter’s rule of thumb. The return from attacking Israel is a risk-free, high reward investment. What could they possibly gain by attacking Lebanon, or Jordan, or Syria for treating Palestinians like dirt?

Nothing. The EU won’t throw a cent at you for attacking Muslim-on-Muslim abuse; nor would George Soros or the Ford Foundation or the New Israel Fund. As for the big moneyed Saudis, they wouldn’t give you the time of day – not if you planned to hold a hundred ‘Lebanon Apartheid Weeks.’

Profiling the boycotter

Who, or what shall we call upon to demonstrate some of the lessons we’ve learnt from the series? What better than confessionals of real life boycotters? A seat-of-the-pants Israel defamer, a battle-hardened boycotter who has seen action on the frontline is, like a photograph, worth more than a thousand words. What can we learn from them? 

Boycotters are fear-ridden

Out of fear, cult members are devoted to the death. I’ve encountered some who abhorred the goals or the violent methods of their BDS buddies, yet would never come out and say so. Their fear is palpable.

Jewish boycotters are shame-ridden

I encountered a boycotter who acknowledged the miraculous achievements of the start-up nation. But would he show his pride, openly? ‘Adulate fellow Jews!’ he cried aghast. Now here’s the same young man who bad-mouths Israel without batting an eye, loudly and without a semblance of shame. But to praise Israeli achievements – too shameful to even contemplate.

Boycotters are muddle-minded

Consider this item from a well-educated boycotter, a professor’s boy. “This week an Israeli report came to the conclusion that the occupation of Palestinian territories was not actually an occupation. This news must have been met with widespread celebrations within the occupied territories. I’m pretty sure that if these territories had streets, the Palestinians would be partying in them after discovering that all this time they had simply imagined being oppressed.”

What does that piece of written comedy have to tell us about the boycotter? Facts are not apposite. What exclusively matters to him is a feeling from the heart: “Oppressed.”  He would never think of asking the questions we’d expect an educated youngster to ask:

a) Who said Palestinians are oppressed? Was it the man in the street? Was it those boycott bodies paid by foreign money to defame Israel? Or was it the highly polished Palestinian PR machine?                                                                               

b) In what parts of the West Bank and Gaza are they oppressed? Is it in parts under the Palestinian Authority where 60 percent of the people live? Is it in ‘Hamastan’, 100 percent under Islamic rule?                                                                                        

c) Who is the oppressor? Would that be Israel? Or would it be Sharia law enforcers; or PA Chairman Abbas and his unelected millionaire coterie?

d) Who said they are “Palestinian territories’? Is that by right of law? Or is it an article of faith? Or perhaps some group’s policy? Or perhaps a non-negotiable demand?    

Those are questions you’d expect an educated boycotter to ask. Instead he falls back on his feelings. Facts just aren't apposite. The mind of a boycotter is a pulpy mess.

Boycotters treat international law as a joke

Not a single one of their demands finds expression in articles of international law. The piece of writing we looked at a moment ago makes a joke out of law. On the other hand the very public and core principle of the boycott movement demands that Israel complies with law. It’s all a joke – a laugh in private, behind doors in the BDS propaganda room. The boycott Israel cause has not a legal leg to stand on. Boycotters are as lawless as they claim Israel to be.

The boycotters’ bequest

As a reward for our efforts boycotters have left us two items of lasting value. The first item is the difference between a critic of Israel and a deadly enemy.

A critic and a deadly enemy are alike in making demands on Israel, and unlike in the demands they make. A critic demands that Israel adopts different policies or changes the way it implements policies. A deadly enemy demands that Israel gives in to Palestinian demands, even if that means – especially if that means – euthanasia for Israel.  

The second bequest takes the form of a psalm of thanksgiving. Every day a boycotter finds reason to look heavenward and praise the golden goose: ‘How valuable are your crimes, oh Israel, your consideration for enemies, oh tolerant nation.’

Steve Apfel is director of the School of Management Accounting, Johannesburg. He is the author of the book,'Hadrian's Echo: The whys and wherefores of Israel's critics' (2012) and a contributor to, "War by other means." (Israel Affairs, Special Issue. July 2012)

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