March 02, 2009

Israeli economist: boycotts beginning to bite

Shir Hever, an economist with the Palestinian-Israeli Alternative Information Center (AIC), notes that four recent articles in Ha'aretz' business section, The Marker, have fretted about the impact of boycotts, divestment & sanctions (BDS) on the Israeli economy. Writes Hever in the AIC, March 1:


The growing protest against the atrocities committed by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip have begun to change something in the Israeli political discourse, and the first indication of this can already be seen in the Israeli economic media.

Although the Israeli economic media doesn't concern itself with the moral dimension of the attacks on Gaza, the economic dimension of recent events have created a rising level of concern. In order to demonstrate this trend, here are summaries of four articles that appeared in the Israeli The Marker magazine for economic news:

1. On 2 February, Guy Grimland warned about a growing phenomenon of boycott of Israeli high-tech companies, and several Israeli companies received letters from European and U.S. companies explaining that they cannot invest in Israel for moral reasons.

2. In 3 February, Nehemia Strassler, one of Israel's most famous economic correspondents, attacked the Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Eli Yishai, for calling on the Israeli military to "destroy one hundred homes in Gaza for every rocket that falls in Israel." Strassler had nothing to say about the Palestinians living in these homes or about the loss of life, but he warned:

"[the minister] doesn't even understand how the operation in Gaza hurts the economy. The horror sights on television and the words of politicians in Europe and Turkey change the behavior of consumers, businessmen and potential investors. Many European consumers boycott Israeli products in practice. Intellectuals call for an economic war against us and to enforce an official and full consumer boycott.

Calls are heard in board meetings of economic corporations to boycott trade relations with Israel. So far deals were cancelled with Turkey, the UK, Egypt and the Gulf States, and visits by economic delegations were cancelled. It’s much easier now to switch providers while abandoning Israeli providers. Many company boards are required to take wide considerations into account with regards to the good of society and the environment, and they put political considerations in that slot as well.

Of course there is an economic cost to severing diplomatic ties. Qatar cut its trade relations with Israel, Venezuela and Bolivia cut diplomatic relations. Mauritania recalled its ambassador and the relations with Turkey worsened considerably—and this bad ambience seeps into the business sector decisions. Here, just yesterday Dudi Ovshitz, who grows peppers for export, said that 'there is a concealed boycott of Israeli products in Europe.'"

3. On 6 February, Shuki Sadeh wrote about even more companies that have decided to boycott relations with Israel. A Turkish company demanded that Israeli companies sign a document condemning the Israeli massacre in Gaza before they can offer their services for it. Sadeh quoted Naomi Klein's recent call for boycott, the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott and Israeli organizations that support the boycott and provide information for the global BDS movement. Sadeh's article also had concerned quotes by Israeli businessmen who demanded government intervention to protect them from the growing boycott.

4. In 11 February, Ora Koren reported that the Israeli business sectors feel the effects of the attack on Gaza. She reported that Israeli businessmen in Turkey are hiding their names so that the local BDS organizations won't learn about their activities, and that the situation is even worse in the UK.

These four articles are a sign that there is a shift in the effectiveness of the BDS movement against Israel, and that if the momentum is maintained and strengthened, Israeli businessmen may decide to move their headquarters away from Israel, or to begin to put pressure on the Israeli government to begin respecting international law, and ending the occupation.

Hever has written extensively on the economy of the occupation & the usefulness of BDS tactics to fight it, available here.


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