The decision of several European companies to divest from Israeli companies or blacklist Israeli financial institutions has been celebrated by prominent leaders of the BDS Movement – an umbrella organization, which strives to isolate Israel thorough boycotts, divestments and sanctions. They have been conducting a media blitz arguing that this ne development indicates their increasing global impact. However, the European hardline shouldn’t be seen as the evolution of the “classic” BDS campaign, but in fact, paradoxically, quite the opposite.
The current wave of European pressure on Israel and the call to boycott products and services linked to the settlements – such as the Dutch PGGM pension fund and Vitens Water Company – represents a genuine loss of trust regarding the commitment of the current Israeli government to build peace. In its majority, these boycotts are perceived in the world as a well-intentioned, legitimate, non-violent protest against Israeli policies aimed at “saving” Israel from itself. While it may be argued, as I do, that this approach offers only a simplistic zero-sum mentality, Israel must acknowledge that boycotting products made in the settlements is advocated largely by supporters of the two-state solution.
Indeed, until recently many leaders of the BDS Movement explicitly refrain from supporting a boycott settlement, in fear for legitimizing the State of Israel within a paradigm of Two Nations State. Yet the evident ineffective “total” BDS campaign forced many of them to compromise in calling for “only” a partial boycott. In their eyes, a targeted boycott still constitutes as an “act of delegitimization,” as it sill tarnishes Israel’s reputation. A prominent leaders of the BDS campaign openly stated recently that the BDS’s tactics in boycotting settlement products is “the easiest way to rally support”— a milestone on the path towards a comprehensive boycott.
On the band-wagon of growing criticism over Israeli policies, the BDS leaders operate to generate the false association between Israel and apartheid. They thus label people who worry about Anti-Semitism as being agents of Israel’s lobby, and multinational corporations who are doing business with Israel as apartheid profiteers. They publicly denounce the Two Nation States Solution and reject the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. No wonder then, that the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas publicly denounced the BDS Movement few weeks ago.
The paradox that exists in the current boycotting pressures on Israel is that BDS leaders openly express their goal to undermine the moral foundations that encompasses the paradigm of Two Nation States, while the growing European pressure largely reflects an attempt to secure it.