Just when we thought the world could not get weirder, Norwegian Parliament Member Bjornar Moxnes, at the outset of February, 2018, nominated the campaign to boycott, divest and sanction Israel (BDS) for a Nobel Peace Prize. Moxnes, the thirty-seven year old leader of the Red Party, the most radical socialist party in Norway, apparently thinks that embracing extreme Islamist activism offers a solid path to peace in the Middle East.
Nominating BDS for a Nobel Prize is the equivalent of nominating ISIS for an Oscar. Their video work may enjoy millions of views on YouTube, but let’s not be naïve, Mr. Moxnes – not everyone who creates a spiking trend in social media deserves an entertainment prize, let alone the Nobel Peace Prize. That should go to those who have earned it by actually promoting peace.
We Should Not Underestimate the Damage of BDS
I highly doubt the Norwegian Nobel Committee will take this proposal seriously, but stranger things have happened in the past. Sadly, this cannot be dismissed as the isolated action of a provocative politician who hopes to appease an insulated constituency. Mr. Moxnes’ absurd proposition emerged after the decision of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2017 to send letters to some 200 multi-national companies that warned them to desist doing business in Judea and Samaria. Irish folk singer and Senator, Frances Black, followed suit in January 2018. She tabled a bill in the Irish legislature that would make buying products produced in West Bank punishable as a criminal offense in Ireland.
What could possibly possess an Irish pop-culture artist to pick up the cause of extreme Islamist activists calling for the destruction of the Jewish State? Any rational explanation eludes me. Doesn’t Ms. Black have more pressing matters to deal with closer to home? Perhaps, to borrow words from the song “24 Hours”, which she published in 2002, “she’s got a secret confession; she feels it’s out of control; just like a burning obsession; and she can’t leave it alone”. Please leave it alone, Ms. Black. Please.
Arguably, both Moxnes and Black are merely obscure and eccentric politicians who do not enjoy overwhelming popularity in their respective countries. It would be a mistake, however, to ignore their actions.
It may well turn out that BDS does not actually constitute a viable threat to the Israeli economy; an economy essential to stability and peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs. The growing number of governments and private enterprises around the world clambering over each other to obtain Israeli technology seems to confirm that hope. Nevertheless, this misses the point. BDS may not be dangerous economically, but it is dangerous morally, and it certainly does not help the Palestinians.
BDS is Anti-Peace
The BDS campaign is unashamedly opposed to dialogue, peace talks, negotiations or economic collaboration between Israelis and Palestinians. For this reason, even the self-confessed far-left leaning American professor, Norman Finkelstein, a man been denied entry into Israel in the past due to his overtly subversive anti-Israeli activism, has condemned BDS. Professor Finkelstein understands the crux of the situation. BDS is not dedicated to improving the lives of Palestinians, but rather to destroying Israel.
To quote Professor Finkelstein’s own words in a 2012 interview, “I mean we have to be honest, and I loathe the disingenuousness. They don’t want Israel. They think they are being very clever; they call it their three tier. We want the end of the occupation, the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever because they know the result of implementing all three is what, what is the result? You know and I know what the result is. There’s no Israel!”.
The reason Professor Finkelstein gives to justify his opposition to BDS is, not surprisingly, the very reason for which Hamas has endorsed this campaign. Hamas, like BDS, is dedicated to eradicating the Jewish state. “We salute and support the influential BDS Movement,” the extreme Islamist organization proudly tweeted on its official English-language account, on July 5, 2017.
Hopefully, the Norwegian Nobel Committee will recognize the incongruity of the proposal to award their prestigious prize to a campaign backed by Hamas, a faction that the European Union itself recognizes and rejects as a terrorist organization.
BDS is Anti-Palestinian
I highly doubt that Mr. Moxnes, Ms. Black, or any of their colleagues have ever visited the Jewish-owned businesses in the West Bank they propose to boycott. If they did, they would understand that BDS imposes a terrible cost upon Palestinians.
I recently visited factories throughout the West Bank, interviewed Jews and Palestinians, and discovered encouraging facts. Despite the futile banter of foreign politicians, peaceful co-existence and economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians is not just a delusional vision of the future. It has become a reality today.
Well over 100,000 Palestinians are employed, this very day, in Jewish businesses across Israel, Judea and Samaria. Currently, some 70,000 Palestinians possess Israeli work permits, with experts estimating that tens of thousands more are employed illegally by Jewish citizens of Israel. According to Avi Zimmerman, the Chairman of the Judea & Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, approximately 30,000 Palestinians are employed in Jewish-owned businesses throughout the West Bank, providing upwards of USD $300,000,000 in salaries to Palestinians per annum.
According to several Palestinian workers I interviewed, each salary earned by them supports an average of ten people, due to the traditional multi-generational co-habitation in Palestinian households. The very businesses which BDS would like to shut down put food on the table for approximately 1,000,000 Palestinians every day. This helps explain why two of the co-founders of the Judea & Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry are Palestinian businessmen, one from Hebron and one from Ramallah.
I found Palestinian workers in West Bank enterprises integrated throughout varying corporate ranks, from menial laborers to members of executive management, happily working together with their Jewish co-workers. I met and spoke with Palestinian Chief Chemists, Engineers, Foremen and Plant Managers. Several explained that their employers grant academic scholarships to their children to study in Palestinian universities, and later hire them to work for the same companies. They told me, proudly, that they drive to work each day with their children and work together with them in businesses that award them salaries five times higher than the average salary in the Palestinian Authority. These include pension payments and robust social rights.
Rashid, a Palestinian assembly line manager in a plastics factory, commutes to work each day from his home in a West Bank village called Salfit. He explained that he spends the money earned each month in local stores in his village, where he purchases food and other basic goods necessary for his household. Rashid, unprompted, said that from his perspective, a BDS-forced factory shut-down or relocation to an area within the Green Line would produce a devastating ripple effect for him, his family, and his entire village.
This is precisely what happened when, thanks to BDS activism, the SodaStream and Bagel-Bagel factories relocated from Judea and Samaria to undisputed territories. In each case, hundreds of Palestinians lost their jobs and were replaced by Jewish workers. The primary population actually suffering from the effects of BDS today is the Palestinians.
BDS is Anti-Semitic
The first thing Adolf Hitler did in April, 1933, a mere three months after opening the first Nazi concentration camps, was to declare a boycott of Jewish businesses. Very few Germans at the time, including astute Jewish intellectuals, connected the two events. It would have been considered ludicrous to assert that those modest camps, organized for the detainment and correction of “political dissidents”, would eventually become extermination machines to which men, women and children would be shipped in cattle cars.
Hitler understood something that very few grasped at that time. If he could delegitimize Jewish trade and commerce and cripple the Jewish community economically, he could pave the road to their eventual physical annihilation.
At that time, one symbol united all Jews around the world, namely, the Star of David. This icon of Jewish pride had been in use by Jewish communities around the world for 1,000 years. A child growing up in a Jewish community, beheld this symbol every week at their neighborhood synagogue. It was incorporated into joyous holiday festivals, weddings, and feasts.
In November 1939, the Nazi party intentionally took this symbol of Jewish pride and transformed it into a symbol of shame. They forced every Jew under their jurisdiction to wear a “Jewish Badge”, a yellow arm band with a black Star of David. Today, BDS also seeks to take a symbol of pride, the hard-earned productivity of Israel, and make it a symbol of shame.
Citizens of the Jewish state are rightfully proud of Israel’s technological, medical and life-saving achievements. Israeli businesses generate immense value for the entire world. These enterprises have created camera capsules that track digestive disorders, drip irrigation systems which provide sustenance in draught stricken areas, geothermal energy, solar and desalination technologies, mobile-eye automobile cameras which prevent car accidents, face recognition cameras in airports which prevent terror, new surgical robots, nanosatellites for affordable space exploration, as well as many technologies which enrich our lives, like text-messaging, Skype, WAZE and WhatsApp. In fact, this list just scratches the surface.
It is inconceivable that, less than ninety years after the atrocities witnessed by Europe in the twentieth century, European leaders and diplomats would actually endorse a campaign that, once again, calls for the boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. Instead, they should celebrate the economy of a Jewish state that provides millions of jobs for Palestinians, and solves existential problems faced by the rest of humanity. Any person who has ever uttered the words “never again” in the context of Holocaust remembrance should stand up and fight BDS.
We can only hope that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, founded to reward people who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations”, will completely reject the preposterous initiative of Bjornar Moxnes. Economic cooperation, not boycott, brings peaceful coexistence, fraternity and hope for an end to conflict between nations.
The Committee need only ask Rashid, and hundreds of thousands of other working Palestinians, whether it is BDS or, rather, courageous Israeli and Palestinian businesspeople practicing peace, who deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. The answer could not be more obvious.