The battle against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel takes many forms. In this fight, every tactic is valuable, including individual and grassroots level activism, as well as larger government led initiatives. Recently, a number of trends have emerged that are opening up new avenues for the anti-BDS community.
Chief amongst these are the brave steps that legislators have taken, primarily in the U.S., to stymie the prejudicial elements of the BDS campaign. Anti-BDS laws and initiatives have been passed in several U.S. states and by the federal government. These laws are a critical component in the fight against BDS as they place major legal obstacles in the path of those looking to ostracize Israel from the global community of nations.
Another key government led initiative was the recent anti-BDS conference that Israel hosted in the UN. The world body, which is infamous for its biased treatment of the Jewish state, was an ironic yet important venue for the event, as it will become an increasingly important BDS battleground. The conference was a way for Israel to argue against BDS in front of the international community and defend the country from what it sees as the anti-semitic nature of the movement.
However, these laws and government initiatives depend on the goodwill of friendly lawmakers and diplomats. Israel won’t be able to find support amongst these decision makers unless it also has sufficient support amongst the people they represent. That’s why grassroots outreach will play an important role in sustaining support for Israel among the general population.
One important tool in this fight is the Israeli tech industry, which can serve as an important barrier against BDS. As I wrote a few years ago, Israel’s tech scene has made the country a vital, and deeply integrated component of the global economy. This makes Israel a difficult country to boycott from a practical perspective, but it also provides anti-BDS activists with a valuable resource to argue against the movement.
One example of how this works from a practical perspective is an initiative coming out of Tel Aviv University – the TAU Innovation Conference. This event, led by the university’s innovation center, StarTAU, is a unique showcase of Israel’s tech industry that brings together entrepreneurs and innovators from all over the world. The event is led by TAU students and provides a meeting space for key members in the flourishing tech scene, who come together once a year to gain new insights and advance the community in various ways.
The conference will feature leading speakers and panel discussions on the startup industry, bringing together individuals from multiple sectors for a week of “education, investment, and networking.” Additionally, the event is organizing a series of tech talks that will take place on Rothschild Blvd that the public will be able to attend for free. The conference runs June 6th -8th. You can register here.
The yearly event is one of the largest in the country, bringing together more than 5,000 participants from all over the world. In addition to the various panels and talks at the conference, is a startup competition – TLV Startup Challenge 2016 – that will feature pitches from more than 40 aspiring companies.
StarTAU, the university organization responsible for the event is one of the most important centers of entrepreneurship in the country, and serves a pivotal role in connecting students to the tech industry. The organization, and the yearly conference, are great examples of how Israel’s tech industry can help play an important role in combatting BDS.
With university campuses serving as one of the most challenging battlegrounds against BDS, the work that StartTAU and others are doing is critical. Israel’s tech scene demonstrates the dynamic energy of the country. It is this energy that can help persuade young students around the world to see Israel in a new light, and the conference plays an important role in that effort.
Israel’s tech industry is an engine of growth, not only from an economic perspective, but also in the ways it inspires Israelis to think of new ideas and build new businesses. It is a bridge to the global business community and helps Israelis foster new relationships with people all over the world. The industry has the potential to play a key role in the fight against BDS, alongside grassroots and government efforts. With the help of events like the TAU Innovation Conference, students and young people around the world can see how Israel is looking to the future, and building it in the countless startups spread across the country.