Many casual observers of contemporary Israeli affairs face a puzzling dilemma when asked to think about the effects of the so-called BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. On the one hand, they hear reports of ever-increasing accomplishments in the Israeli hi-tech sector, with Israeli corporations being purchased by international conglomerates and increases in exports all over the globe. On the other hand, they are being told that BDS is deeply hurting the Israeli economy and is a force that needs to be combated with all the intensity possible. Despite the seeming contradiction between these two realities, the fact is that both are true.
Yes, Israel continues to hold remarkable influence over global markets, and Israeli corporations are able to report growing export figures each year. But when one takes a look beyond the mega-companies and examines the sales reports of smaller Israeli manufacturers and so called “mom and pop” commercial entities, the effects of BDS are deeply troubling.
It is a phenomenon that cannot be trivialized, because literally thousands of Israeli jobs could be lost should the tide not be reversed.
Many abroad think that there is little that can be done to silence the BDS movement. They rightfully assume that these campaigns are being instigated by callous hate-mongers who are unwilling to recognize Israel’s contribution to the world out of their ignorance of the realities of the Arab-Israeli conflict. They hope that if they ignore BDS, it’ll simply go away.
Perhaps this was a position that had some credence in the early days of BDS, when it was just a fringe protest movement, with little to no serious following, but not when we’re witness to factories closing and hard-working Israeli men and women being forced out of their jobs.
Appreciating that BDS is a real threat is the first step, and I believe that more and more within the pro-Israel community are waking up to that. But the question is, what we can each do about it?
Calling out Israel’s critics for the sheer absurdity of their claims is one way to go, and certainly should be done wherever possible. Israeli innovation serves at the center of pretty much every technologically charged industry that drives our modern world. From medicine, to computer engineering, to entertainment, thousands of different operations are only made possible because of the brain-power invested by Israeli developers. Before the critics power up their computers, play with their entertainment devices or undergo medical procedures, they should be prepared to forgo the experience if they are truly honest about boycotting Israel. My guess is that most of these BDSers wouldn’t be so prepared.
But there is a far more practical option that can be adopted by defenders of Israel, and that is to defend our beloved nation through their wallets. The concept of buying blue and white is not a new one, but it is becoming increasingly imperative that people recognize what is at stake if Israeli commercial enterprises are abandoned.
The most fragile actors in any major economy are the little guys. These are the small businesses that lack the financial resources to overcome the loss of even a small percentage of their revenue. When boycotters choose to publically call for the cessation of purchases from Israel, they directly harm Israeli manufacturers at the lower end of the production chain, including small companies that produce Israeli-oriented products like Judaica, souvenirs and crafts. These companies are unable to overcome the hurdle imposed by a significant drop in income and are forced to lay off laborers. Perhaps it’s ironic, but in many cases the boycotts hurt Palestinian laborers just as much as it does Israelis.
The response that we can therefore each take upon ourselves is to make the decision to invest in Israel in some small way by going online today and buying blue and white. It need not be a major purchase, but the collective financial strength of the pro-Israel community around the world is surely far stronger than that of the BDSers. So let’s show our enemies that we cannot be destroyed and add “financial Zionism” to the long list of ways in which we’ve shown our love for the Jewish State throughout its remarkable history.