When I moved to Israel from Canada in 1982 one of the first things I did was go to the local grocery to get some grub for the family.
They wanted a bottle of Pepsi-Cola so I looked for it but didn’t see any and finally settled for Coke, the only brand name I recognized.
I asked the cashier when I got to the checkout. “You don’t carry Pepsi?”
“Boycott,” he replied. “Welcome to Israel.”
The original boycott of doing business with Israeli companies was hatched by the Arab League in 1948 as an act of war. Pepsi-Cola went along with it until the 90s when it slipped in with the crowd under the cover of Oslo. The act did not require much courage under those circumstances.
The boycott is back big-time under a new label, BDS, but it’s the same old “Jews Out!” movement meant to besmirch Israel as a pariah state simply because the Arabs, some of them, covet our territory.
Given its boycott history it was somewhat surprising that Coca-Cola this time would want to identify with the anti-Semites of the world. They haven’t done so directly but when you lie down with dogs you are going to get fleas.
Coca-Cola gave money to Oxfam, one of the most anti-Semitic organizations in the world. Soda Stream is an Israeli company that enables making soft drinks in the home. Scarlett Johansson, a Jewish actress, who did work for Oxfam, was set to present an ad for Soda Stream at the Super Bowl football broadcast. Oxfam squawked. Scarlett quit them and went ahead with the ad. Obviously Coca-Cola did not contribute big bucks to Oxfam, ostensibly a charitable organization, so that it could flagrantly attack an Israeli competitor. On the other hand, and this became a huge issue because anything touching the Super Bowl becomes a huge issue, Coca-Cola did not disavow the actions of Oxfam meaning it could be dragged further into the anti-Semitic machinations of this organization in the future.
Coca-Cola is based in Atlanta so its executives must have heard of Martin Luther King. He spelled out the issue. “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”
Those participating in the new boycott such as Oxfam were found by the French Supreme Court in 2012 as being guilty of engaging in discrimination, an illegal activity. The court resolved different cases with conflicting verdicts that had come up through the system.
The cases were initiated under the French anti-discrimination law of 1981 by the National Bureau Of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism against those involved in boycott activities. This outlaws “incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence against a person or a group of persons on the basis of descent, ethnicity and nationality or the fact whether or not one belongs to a race or a religion.”
Criticism of Israel or the policies of any of its governments is not anti-Semitism. It becomes that when the intent of the critic is defamation based on lies. A second determining factor is whether a group applies the same judgmental standards to other nations as it is applying to Israel.
“Anti-Semite,” by the way, is a loanword from German which means only one thing, “Jew hater.” It has no connection with “Semite,” any more than “antidote” has any connection with “dote.” Racists try to make “Semite” into a word referring to some imaginary race but there is no science for this. Semite refers to a language group and no one can determine the racial origin of people speaking any major language.
The updated “Jews Out!” movement called BDS was started in 2005 by the Palestinian Authority. They narrow the focus to the territories that they covet, part of the Israeli capital of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. These are disputed territories and have been subject to negotiations since Oslo, which is the proper way to go. In their BDS campaign, and it seems to me that the D in the title is superfluous, the Arabs state a barefaced lie, that the Jews are residing in the disputed territories in violation of “international law” and groups such as Oxfam simply parrot that without examining the facts.
The only international law pertinent to the disputed territories is Article 80 of the United Nations Charter. It accepts the ratification by the League of Nations of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which declares that Jews have a right to live in any part of Palestine.
Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years and I can’t see any government ever signing it away so that is off the table. Much of the rest was supposed to go for an Arab state in a 1948 partition but the Arabs rejected the deal, figuring half a loaf wasn’t good enough for them, launched a war to drive the Jews into the sea, and lost their gamble. At that point Jordan grabbed the areas in question but this was an illegal occupation recognized by no one except Britain and Pakistan. Technically Jordan, since it was a foreign element, introduced an “international law” into the area; it required that these territories be “judenrein.” This is the “international law” the BDS movement refers to.
There are lots of countries who are in possession of disputed territories. Britain is one of them but it is also a special case. With Britain as far as Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria go, what was illegal was deemed legal as long the Arabs had them, but what was legal became illegal the moment that the Jews got them. Right now Britain is hanging on to the Falklands halfway round the world with its 60 billion barrels of oil which the Argentineans say belongs to them. No one has launched a BDS movement against Britain.
The litmus test which demonstrates that governments and other authorities are acting from anti-Semitic motives in regard to Israel is how they deal with China. The Chinese occupied Tibet, an independent state, in 1949, and ever since then have been involved in brutal repression of the Tibetans and their culture. The Chinese and the rich Arab oil states are like two sides of one coin, a literal coin, for most governments and businesses. They are worth lots of money if you suck up to them. This means in terms of China, don’t mention Tibet, and in terms of the Arab states, take their side against Israel as best you can.
The most blatant case which serves to prove all the rest is that of South Africa. The ruling party ANC has adopted the “Jews Out!” boycott as its official policy. Meanwhile China is South Africa’s largest trading partner. The Dalai Lama is the globetrotting spiritual leader of the Tibetans. In 2009 he received an invitation to a conference of Nobel laureates. The government blocked his entrance. They denied him a visa again in 2011. As a result he didn’t even try to attend the Nelson Mandela funeral last year. All this is in line with appeasing the wishes of China. Business is business after all.
The only anomalous case is that of Norway. They have two traditions functioning side-by-side. On one side you have the Nobel committee which makes awards to people it thinks have contributed greatly to humanity in various fields. In 2010 it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to an incarcerated Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. China froze diplomatic relations and they remain problematical. Now the Dalai Lamai is supposed to visit in the spring and China already thrown a conniption fit over that.
The other influence in Norway is the predisposition to collaborate with anti-Semites going back to the days of Quisling. Norway has cordial relations with Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel. The quisling element in Norway keeps the anti-Semitic pot boiling in that country.
Kerry, the US secretary of state, made a veiled threat that if the Israelis don’t buy his peace plan they could suffer economic repercussions presumably from the Europeans going overboard on the “Jews Out!” boycott. I have no idea why he said that because if the peace plan does not stand on merit, it’s not worth considering. But here’s what anti-Semites forget, and I am not referring to Kerry. Not everyone is an anti-Semite; they are not even a majority in most places. The Coca-Cola case is instructive. If someone allows their brand to get tainted with the stigma of anti-Semitism, they will pay a price in the market-place and could run afoul of jurisdictions which have laws on the books against discrimination. Also, once into an Arab boycott it is not easy to get out. Under pressure in the US Coca-Cola announced in 1968 that it would open a plant in Israel. It immediately was placed under the ban by the Arabs despite the fact it dragged its feet for another quarter-century.
If the Europeans want to mix business with anti-Semitism, and they have been doing this for a thousand years, they are going to hurt some of their own companies and workers. Meanwhile Israel will survive as it has since the days of the pharaoh.
This post has been updated to correct a factual error concerning Coca-Cola’s participation in the original boycott.