Boaz Raskin

Threats of boycott as a marketing gimmick

It has become quite apparent that there is a coordinated campaign being waged right now in the media against Israel. No, it is not a campaign to boycott Israel. That has proven to be a complete failure and that is not surprising, since no major countries or political figures actually support it. The ongoing campaign is meant to induce the fear of a boycott among the Israeli population. It is being stoked at the highest levels. Kerry doesn’t miss an opportunity to talk about it. Even Obama throws in a sentence once in a while when he wants to get some attention. Israeli politicians like Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni have also gotten in on this phenomenon.

No one is actually coming out and threatening Israel with a boycott. Kerry sticks to ‘people are talking about a boycott’. This is a convenient formulation, since it is self-confirming. Kerry talks about people talking about a boycott, and, amazingly, people are talking about a boycott. Lapid and Livni are not too far behind in parroting Kerry. The ‘threats’ are of course all vague and unsubstantiated, but that doesn’t prevent politicians from from using them for their purposes. Journalists of course love this kind of stuff and happily contribute. Some, like those at Haaretz, have been waving the same flag and trying to scare Israelis since before the Berlin Wall fell.

This particular campaign started in earnest about a year ago when Kerry became Secretary of State. There were certainly people mentioning a ‘boycott’ before, mostly among the fringe left and other rabid supporters of the Palestinians that populate the BDS cult. They have had minimal success, but now the ‘threat of a boycott’ has been elevated to be the primary threat facing Israel. Very little has actually changed in the past year, so it is difficult to explain the sense of foreboding doom that pervades the remarks of Kerry, Livni and Lapid. Oh, right, I forgot, there was one change, though it had nothing to do with economics. Negotiations with the Palestinians have restarted.

At first glance it would appear counterintuitive that negotiations with the Palestinians would intensify the mentions of ‘people talking about a boycott of Israel’. So, it is legitimate to ask why now, and why the threats are getting more intense as negotiations with the Palestinians have stalled. Perhaps it might make sense to even inquire whether peace talks should stop since they appear to be the direct cause of ‘people talking about a boycott of Israel’.

Of course the answer is that the proponents of an agreement with the Palestinians can’t produce any possible positive benefits of such an agreement that would compensate for the risk it entails. They have basically stopped trying because it is quite obvious that there are no benefits to Israel or Israelis. The region is a mess and there is very little that Israeli companies can import or export to/from our neighbors. The surrounding states are unstable and wouldn’t be able to enforce a grand bargain even if words were signed on a peace of paper. There will be no skiing at The Cedars (unless you want to get kidnapped) and no coffee in Damascus (unless you want to be killed by an explosive and shrapnel laden barrel dropped from a helicopter ). The Pyramids are off limits, and those trips to Baghdad will certainly have to wait. The ‘New Middle East’ in all its glory was massively over-hyped and has hugely under-delivered.

They could try to point to previous agreements signed with the Palestinians to look for positive benefits for Israel. Then again then they would have to answer rather uncomfortable questions such as what the benefits were that justified over a thousand dead Israelis. They could argue that Israeli security will be ensured by foreign peacekeepers/observers and strong security commitments by the Palestinians. But then they would have to explain why those commitments by the Palestinians at Oslo did not prevent bombs blowing up on Israeli buses or why neither the PA nor foreign observers managed to prevent the influx of thousands of rockets into Gaza.

Instead they don’t even bother to try. There is a new boogieman – a boycott. If the Israeli government doesn’t go through with an agreement that in all likelihood will lead to rockets falling on Tel Aviv, then he might, or might not come, but heaven forbid ‘people keep talking about it’. To make them stop surely Israel must sacrifice its security. It would only be rational.

About the Author
Boaz is a techie and a news junkie. Born in the Soviet Union, raised in New York and as of 15 months ago an oleh hadash in Israel. He has a hard time writing in the third person, but is persevering. Boaz has a technical background working in startups and an MA in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Currently working in a startup in Israel.
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