As people can see Boycott is going international with campaigns springing up across Europe and even causing ructions in the Italian Jewish community. Also Israel’s most popular Channel 2 Channel devoted a whole programme to it.
Israelis are worried. What ‘degitimisation’ means is a refusal to accept a Jewish State. That is what worries them
The country’s number-one news show runs lengthy piece on the growing movement – and blames it not on anti-Semitism or Israel-bashing, but on settlements.
Stock photo boycott activists in France. (Photo: Olga Besnard / Shutterstock.com)
On Saturday night the boycott of Israel gained an impressive new level of mainstream recognition in this country. Channel 2 News, easily the most watched, most influential news show here, ran a heavily-promoted, 16-minute piece on the boycott in its 8 p.m. prime-time program. The piece was remarkable not only for its length and prominence, but even more so because it did not demonize the boycott movement, it didn’t blame the boycott on anti-Semitism or Israel-bashing. Instead, top-drawer reporter Dana Weiss treated the boycott as an established, rapidly growing presence that sprang up because of Israel’s settlement policy and whose only remedy is that policy’s reversal.
Canada’s largest church supports boycott
In her narration, Weiss ridicules the settlers and the government’s head-in-the-sand reaction to the rising tide. The segment from the West Bank’s Barkan Industrial Park opens against a background of twangy guitar music like from a Western. “To the world it’s a black mark, a symbol of the occupation,” she reads. “But here they insist it’s actually a point of light in the area, an island of coexistence that continues to flourish despite efforts to erase it from the map.” A factory owner who moved his business to Barkan from the other side of the Green Line makes a fool of himself by saying, “If the state would only assist us by boycotting the Europeans and other countries causing us trouble …” The Barkan segment ends with the manager of Shamir Salads saying that between the European and Palestinian boycott, he’s losing about $115,000 to $143,000 a month in sales. “In my view,” he says, “it will spread from [the West Bank] to other places in Israel that have no connection to the territories.”
Weiss likewise ridicules Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who runs the government’s “hasbara war,” as he puts it. Weiss: “Yes, in the Foreign Ministry they are for the time being sticking to the old conception: it’s all a question of hasbara.” This week the campaign’s new weapon, developed with the contributions of world Jewry: (Pause) Another hasbara agency, this time with the original name ‘Face To Israel.’” She quotes the co-owner of Psagot Winery saying the boycott is “nothing to get excited about,” that people have been boycotting Jews for 2,000 years, and concluding, “If you ask me, in the last 2,000 years, our situation today is the best it’s ever been.” That final phrase, along with what Weiss describes as Elkin’s “conceptzia,” are the same infamous words that Israelis associate with the fatal complacency that preceded the surprise Yom Kippur War.
The Channel 2 piece features abortive telephone calls with boycott “victims” who didn’t want to be interviewed for fear of bad publicity. The most dramatic testimony comes from Daniel Reisner, an attorney with the blue-chip law firm Herzog Fox Neeman who advises such clients. He explains:
Most of the companies victimized by the boycott behave like rape victims. They don’t want to tell anybody. It’s as if they’ve contracted some sort of disease and they don’t want anyone to know.
More and more companies are coming to us for advice – quietly, in the evening, where no one can hear them – and they say: ‘I’ve gotten into this or that situation; is there something you can do to help?’“
Without giving the names of his clients or the extent of their losses, Reisner says the boycott is causing Israeli businesses to lose foreign contracts and investors. “My fear is of a snowball effect,” he says. Prof. Shai Arkin, vice president for R&D at Hebrew University, says there are many cases of Israeli candidates for research fellowships at foreign universities being turned down because their resumes include service in the Israeli army.
Advice from a friend abroad comes from Matthew Gould, the British ambassador to Israel: “I love Israel. And I’m worried that in another five years Israel will wake up and find that it doesn’t have enough friends.”
Weiss asks the EU ambassador here, Lars Faaborg-Andersen: “If Israel would change its policy, all this would go away?” The ambassador replies: “Yes. It is about Israeli policies. If the settlement business continue[s] to expand, Israel will be facing increasing isolation.”
The piece presents Tzipi Livni as the country’s would-be savior. She says the current negotiations with the Palestinians (in which she represents Israel, along with Netanyahu confidant Isaac Molho) are holding back the boycott’s expansion, but that “if there is a crisis [in the talks], everything will break loose.” She says she is “shouting at people to wake up.”
Weiss: “What does this all mean? What is it going to be like here? South Africa?”
Livni: “Yes. I spoke with some of the Jews who are living n South Africa now. They say, ‘We thought we had time. We thought we could deal with this. We thought we didn’t need the world so much for everything. And it happens all at once.’”
Sixteen minutes of prime time on Israel’s all-popular TV news show on Saturday night, the end of the week in this country. Bracing stuff. A wrench thrown into the national denial machine – and by Channel 2. Definitely a sign of progress – and of life. Another reminder of why this country is worth fighting for – which, for many of us Israeli boycott-supporters, if not necessarily most of us, is what the boycott, strange as it may sound, is all about.
(Watch the segment here. The English-language segments, interviews with UK Ambassador Matthew Gould and EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen, can be seen at 08:11 and 14:05, respectively.)
Financial Times, January 19, 2014 5:33 amBy Madison Marriage
ABP, the world’s third-largest pension fund, and two major European investors are reviewing their holdings in Israeli banks over concerns that the banks finance illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian-occupied territories.
As well as ABP, the Dutch pension fund with €300bn of assets under management, the investors include Nordea Investment Management, a €130bn Scandinavian fund house, and DNB Asset Management, a €60bn Norwegian fund group.
All three want more information from the Israeli banks about their involvement in financing the settlements, which contravene international human rights laws established under the Fourth Geneva Convention in 2004.
A spokesperson for KLP, one of the biggest Norwegian pension funds, with €45bn of assets, also confirmed that “dilemmas linked to financing [of Israeli settlements] will be discussed at KLP”.
Palestinians see the settlements as an obstacle to achieving a viable state, and most countries consider the settlements illegal.
The reviews come after PGGM, the second-largest Dutch pension fund, two weeks ago became the first big investor to dump its holdings in five large Israeli banks: Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot.
PGGM said in a statement: “Given the day-to-day reality and domestic legal framework they operate in, the banks have limited to no possibilities to end their involvement in the financing of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“Therefore it was concluded that engagement as a tool to bring about change will not be effective in this case.”
ABP has held talks with three of the banks over the settlement issue for a year. The pension fund might exclude the stocks “as a last resort” if the banks fail to act on ABP’s complaints, a spokesperson said.
Nordea Investment Management has sent letters to Leumi and Mizrahi “regarding concerns about the violation of international norms“, Sasja Beslik, Nordea’s head of responsible investment, told FTfm.
The Scandinavian fund house plans to meet these banks in March before taking a decision on whether to withdraw their investment at a committee meeting in May.
DNB Asset Management’s external consultancy GES is engaging with several Israeli banks on this issue.
Israel Discount Bank declined to comment. Banks Hapoalim and Leumi did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr Beslik expects other large investors to start looking at their investment policies on the Israeli settlement matter shortly.
He said: “Very few asset managers have a policy [on this issue], which means that the banks are not under pressure regarding these violations. The pressure on asset owners to live up to their values when it comes to these issues will increase, I am certain about that.”
ING Investment Management, the fund arm of Dutch Bank ING, said that it has requested research on the settlement issue from an independent third party.
Senior Israel officials, including justice minister Tzipi Livni and finance minister Yair Lapid, have in recent weeks sounded increasingly desperatewarnings about the dire effects growing BDS campaigns were likely to have on Israel.
Special meetings are being held this week to discuss increasingly sharp political tensions within the Italian Jewish community centered on differing attitudes toward Israel and the Middle East.
or Moni Ovadia resigns from Milanese Jewish community
The meetings were called in the wake of an incident on Jan. 14, in which Jewish protesters disrupted a panel discussion of a book on the left wing and Israel, “The Left and Israel: The Moral Frontier of the West.” The event was organized at a Rome Jewish center by the leftist Jewish group J-Call – which is modeled on the American J-Space, and the Hans Jonas Association Jewish cultural organization.
Amid what a report in the local Jewish media called “heavy intimidation,” the protesters prevented J-Call spokesman Giorgio Gomel, from speakinTzg, and Gomel and another organizer had to be escorted from the premises by Jewish community security.
Gomel, who has been vocal in his criticism of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians, has frequently come under fire from opposing Jewish factions. Reports said protesters on Jan. 14 unfurled a banner saying “Gomel, go back to Gaza.”
Expressing “alarm and concern,” Renzo Gattegna, the president of Italy’s umbrella Jewish organization, the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, called an extraordinary meeting of the organization’s council to clarify the “limits, procedures and rules” to be followed at Jewish community venues.
At the same time, the leadership of the Rome Jewish community convened an urgent meeting open to all members of the community. “Beyond the image of Italian Jewry as a whole, what is at play is the security of our members,” Rome Jewish community President Riccardo Pacifici was quoted as saying by the Jewish media.
Italian actor Moni Ovadia last year resigned from the Milan Jewish community with accusations that it is a “propaganda office” of the Israeli government.