You may not have heard, but the reality is that the Israeli and Palestinian economies are integrated, symbiotic and have benefited from tremendous cooperation in the past. Yet the success of the Israeli Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, IPCC, like its very existence, does not get media coverage. It does not fit the narrative increasingly dictated by anti-Israel propagandists. The Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement (“BDS”) is driving a wedge between two economies and two peoples which should enjoy synergy. By abusing the world’s compassion to isolate and dehumanize Israeli people, BDS is willing to deprive millions worldwide of life saving products, and it is actually hurting the exact people that it claims to defend.
BDS’ flagrant and undifferentiated character assassination campaign against an entire country, Israel, its promotion of an international boycott of its entire output, a blanket ostracism of its entire culture, of all of its academics – ultimately, of its entire population – cannot be defended on moral or ethical grounds in this day and age, no matter where one stands politically. But such a campaign also cannot be defended on strategic grounds.
The Palestinian people need Israel, its democratic, prosperous, neighbor. It is a natural phenomenon that successful economies, by osmosis, benefit their neighbors. With commerce come job creation and knowledge sharing. The IPCC has many members whom can attest to success stories even during tense times. The IT sector can pride itself on groundbreaking cooperation between companies in Tel Aviv and Ramallah, removed from divisive politics. And countless Israeli factories provide Palestinian families with incomparably higher wages, better working conditions, and necessary sustenance. To boycott Israel is to sabotage them.
So why does BDS enjoy such success? How is it having an impact despite being entirely destructive to the people concerned on both sides? Indeed, the moral case that BDS makes against Israel is largely bankrupt. For all of its flaws, Israel is incomparably more free and politically decent than its neighbors. Its treatment of Palestinians under its control is arguably better than the treatment that Palestinian people receive under their own leaders. And Israel is among the most diverse and most tolerant societies on earth. In fact, BDS’ founder himself, Omar Barghouti, studied at the publicly funded Tel Aviv University – which does not stop his efforts to have that school boycotted.
BDS succeeds because it exploits the naiveté and good faith of westerners. People in the west are not accustomed to being lied to. They are not accustomed to having their natural compassion and empathy for others’ suffering exploited to political ends. And what BDS does is desecrate the West’s vulnerabilities, its sacred narratives of suffering – Apartheid, World War II, the Civil Rights struggle and so forth – to recast Israel as everyone’s villain and Palestinians as the quintessential victims. Too many followers of BDS are not familiar with the historic details of the conflict and the map of the region to see how they are being manipulated. And Israel has done a terrible job speaking to these people and to their concerns.
Ironically, the boycott may end up strengthening Israel. The Arab League Boycott of Israel of the 1950s and 60s, of which BDS is but a new, disguised incarnation, actually forced the young Israeli economy to dramatically raise its standards so as to compete in Western markets. It was a catalyst to Israel’s tremendous economic growth. And so it might be again. But not for the Palestinians. And not for the millions worldwide who benefit daily from Israeli innovation.
"Ironically, the boycott may end up strengthening Israel"
BDS’ ideal world – a world where Israel is a weakened, isolated pariah and all Israeli products are taboo – is a world from the past, bereft of some of the most helpful and life improving features of modernity. It is a world where, from our morning commute, we are deprived of the Waze app, and its knack for avoiding us traffic jams. It is a world where, during those traffic jams, our cars get damaged because we no longer have the MobileEye technology to warn us of impending collisions, including with pedestrians, and our insurance bills rise accordingly. In fact, it is a world where USB drives, tablets, cellular phones and computers themselves are virtually absent, since they like the INTEL chips that fuel every aspect of our lives were developed in some way in Israel. No Facebook, no smartphones either, no Excel or word-processing as we know them. And no cheap phone calls to relatives and friends abroad to pass the time, because Voice Over IP technology is also Israeli.
Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
But those are trifles. Israel’s contributions to our every day lives do not end at technology. Israel saves lives every day, and is making the world a better place for millions. That too is something BDS is trying aggressively to end. Drip Irrigation, the frugal irrigation technology developed by Israelis as they turned the deserted Holy Land into an oasis, has contributed to fighting famine and drought around the globe. Israeli drip irrigation is used in over 100 countries that would go hungry otherwise. Should they starve to feed BDS’ schadenfreude?
Would infants have to go unmonitored at night? Baby Sense – the invention which prevents thousands of crib deaths by monitoring babies’ breathing and heartbeat at night would be verboten. Better your infants endangered than treating Israelis as human, according to Barghouti and BDS. Likewise, life saving treatments to countless ailments – from cancer to diabetes to Alzheimer’s and MS – are all the brainchild of dedicated Israeli scientists, always looking to help. Imagine surgery without computer assistance.
And what of our planet’s health? Solar Windows, an energy efficient power generating system consisting of photovoltaic transparent units is also Israeli. And it is powering clean buildings all over the world. Just as are Wind Tulip’s silent turbines. Just as Israel leads the planet in conserving, renewing and producing fresh, life-giving water. BDS would have us go thirsty, while soiling our planet, just to placate the need of some to see Israelis (unduly) humiliated.
The list of Israeli innovations that our society and the welfare of millions increasingly rests upon is much longer, and ever lengthening. The beneficiaries of these inventions are worldwide, including Palestinians, including everyone reading this piece. Some of these inventions are a result of exchange of academic research between higher institutions – a cooperation that BDS opposes as vehemently as it opposes Western artists innocently playing their music for Israeli fans.
The BDS movement does not serve the cause of peace and dialogue towards a final resolution of the conflict. It does not open channels of communication and friendship. It rather exploits human compassion and lack of expertise in order to kill those channels, in order to push an agenda that is destructive to Israelis, Palestinians, and the whole planet alike. And it is wrong. It is slanderous. A country that produces so much good for mankind cannot in any conceivable way be the evil one that BDS portrays.
Let us hope that all the energy invested in the BDS movement can be recycled to find positive ways of integrating the two economies, societies and cultures which inevitably, despite BDS’ best wishes, will continue to live in proximity to one another.
Any views expressed are the authors' own and do not necessarily represent those of Your Middle East
ALSO READ: Let's not forget: the real drivers behind Palestinian anger