In December of 2013, Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, came out against boycotting Israel. Specifically, Abbas stated that “we do not ask anyone to boycott Israel itself…We have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel” (The Times of Israel, “Abbas: Don’t boycott Israel,” 12.13.2013).
The BDS movement, which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, has gained considerable ground on college campuses, being passed by student governments at universities such as Loyola and Stanford. At Vassar, this movement is gaining considerable traction, with the Vassar Student Association voting on it in the next few weeks.
At Vassar, the BDS movement has been centered on the boycott of specific companies: Sabra, Tribe, Hewlett-Packard, Ahava, General Electric, Eden Springs, Motorola, Caterpillar, G4S, Elbit Systems and, interestingly enough, Ben & Jerry’s.
Ben & Jerry’s is a particularly bizarre company to boycott considering that they don’t profit from the occupation. In fact, according to the company’s website, “the company remains committed to contributing 100% of the net licensing fee to foster multicultural programs and values-led ingredient sourcing initiatives in the region.”
In short, Ben & Jerry’s donates all of the money it receives from Israel towards multicultural efforts in order to be a voice for moderation in the region. Their withdrawal as a result of BDS could potentially have unforeseen consequences on the region as a whole.
But even this is not what is most puzzling about BDS. No, even more puzzling than its punishment of companies that do no more than disagree with them is their apparent lack of concern for the economic well-being of the Palestinian people.
As previously mentioned, President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has been an outspoken critic of the BDS movement. Considering that the Palestinian leader has previously linked Zionism to Nazism and has accused Jews of inflating the number of individuals killed in the Holocaust for political purposes it is unlikely he is doing this out of any fondness for Israel (Tablet Magazine, “Mahmoud Abbas: Still A Holocaust Denier, 04.27.2014).
No, there are practical reasons why the President of the Palestinian Authority would oppose BDS that has nothing to do with being a Zionist, which he most certainly is not. Rather, the Palestinian president opposes BDS because it impacts Palestine more than Israel, at least economically. In fact, not only does BDS have the potential to negatively impact Palestine, but it already has.
Take the example of SodaStream, an Israeli company that, due to boycotts from supporters of BDS, lost enough revenue that they had to shut down a factory in the West Bank and move it to Southern Israel, thus resulting in “the loss of hundreds of jobs for Palestinians that reportedly paid between three and five times the local prevailing wage,” according to Forbes (Forbes, “Boycott Israel Movement Stunts The Palestinian Economy,” 02.22.2015).
That same article from Forbes goes on to state that Palestine is economically dependent on Israel. According to Shraga Brosh, the President of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, in an interview with Al-Monitor, tens of thousands of Palestinians works in Israel. The boycott can and, as seen with SodaStream, has resulted in an increase in unemployment among Palestinians as Israeli companies feel the need to close factories as a result of lost revenue.
And while groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are committed to anti-normalization, according to Brosh, Palestinian businesspeople are committed to just the opposite. Brosh claims that he himself has maintained good relations with businesses in Palestine, and that they believe that through economics relations they can develop a much better atmosphere that is conducive to peace.
When BDS advocates for the boycott of Israeli goods, they are obstructing both efforts for peace and the stability of the Palestinian economy. It’s not without reason that of all the people SJP has invited to speak on a campus, none were born in Palestine.
What is more prejudiced, opposing a plan that ignores economic principles because it isn’t conducive to peace, or an organization populated by white students that ignores the viewpoints of those living in Palestine because it fails to match the solution they’ve prescribed? The founder of BDS, Omar Barghouti, is not Palestinian, and in fact is studying at Tel Aviv University. Yet somehow he and a group of American college students believe that they have more of right to determine the conditions for Israeli withdrawal than the Palestinian people. So, perhaps it’s time to ask, who are truly the racists here?
Bowdoin rejected the BDS initiative with 74% of the students voting against.
4/29/15 – A school-wide referendum on having the college participate in the academic boycott of Israel was held, and the proposal was defeated, with 71% voting against it, 14% for it and 15% abstaining.
Excellent article. The BDS meeting I attended 2 days made clear that the presenters themselves HAD NOT READ the Vassar resolution. They rambled on, unable to find passages in the document, and the persenters hardly spoke about the actual Vassar resolution. It gives enormous powers of political /politicized decision making to the VSA Finance officer and provides no cut-off point for the boycott. In addition, the presenters engaged in profiling. In his introduction, the speaker sitting in the middle said “it’s actually mostly Christians that are antisemitic, but let’s leave this for the two Jews on the panel to discuss.” Later on, in the question and answer period, the speaker in the middle asked one of the Jewish students to stand up and be filmed while she was asked if there was anti-semitism. I came away with a feeling that I had attended a kind of show trial.
” Australian-Jewish businessman James Wolfensohn, who served as the Quartet’s Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement. In his memoir, Wolfensohn notes that “some damage was done to the greenhouses [as the result of post-disengagement looting] but they came through essentially intact” and were subsequently guarded by Palestinian Authority police. What really doomed the greenhouse initiative, Wolfensohn argues, were Israeli restrictions on Gazan exports. “In early December , he writes, “the much-awaited first harvest of quality cash crops—strawberries, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers and flowers—began. These crops were intended for export via Israel for Europe. But their success relied upon the Karni crossing [between Gaza and Israel], which, beginning in mid-January 2006, was closed more than not. The Palestine Economic Development Corporation, which was managing the greenhouses taken over from the settlers, said that it was experiencing losses in excess of $120,000 per day…It was excruciating. This lost harvest was the most recognizable sign of Gaza’s declining fortunes and the biggest personal disappointment during my mandate.
The truth about the strangulation of Palestinians you won’t hear from Mr Horowitz. Why?
No Palestinian born there attended the sjp meeting.
Well Mr Horowitz they can’t afford a meal in Gaza but you want them to attend Vassar.
Raj is still hiding his true identity! Here is a link to the great new restaurant scene in Gaza. Seems like reports of people starving in the streets are overblown? I wonder if they have Ben & Jerry’s there?
The very article that Michael posted, highlights the desperation of Gazans to create economic activity. And the only one they can afford to is to cook for each other. And of course the rest of them should just work for Ben and Jerry’s and Sodastream i guess. Thanks Michael. Any update on Israeli apartheid , I heard Palestinians “love” to build those settlements, cause after all that is their “employment” of choice ?
“Abu Hasira added, “This type of investment is inefficient and nonprofitable. The local market cannot absorb such a large number of restaurants, and other problems emerge such as high taxes, financial claims and municipal service fees as well as the employees’ high wages. This has led to the closure of 113 restaurants in Gaza in the past few years.””
Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/11/gaza-restaurants-increase-siege-ban-import-export.html#ixzz41oi5a2yl
Here’s another webpage detailing the open air prison that is Gaza.
What Michael won’t tell you is that most of those investments came when Palestinians believed the Oslo accords were going to be implemented by Israel. Of course a half-truth is better than the whole truth !!!!
The article also claims that most Israeli towns don’t have Olympic size swimming pools (because Gaza has one or two), but read what Haaretz has to say about the economic strangulation of Gazans when it comes to even water
“So here are the facts:
* Israel doesn’t give water to the Palestinians. Rather, it sells it to them at full price.
* The Palestinians would not have been forced to buy water from Israel if it were not an occupying power which controls their natural resource, and if it were not for the Oslo II Accords, which limit the volume of water they can produce, as well as the development and maintenance of their water infrastructure.
* This 1995 interim agreement was supposed to lead to a permanent arrangement after five years. The Palestinian negotiators deluded themselves that they would gain sovereignty and thus control over their water resources.
The Palestinians were the weak, desperate, easily tempted side and sloppy when it came to details.
Therefore, in that agreement Israel imposed a scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating division of the water resources of the West Bank.
* The division is based on the volume of water Palestinians produced and consumed on the eve of the deal.
The Palestinians were allotted 118 million cubic meters (mcm) per year from three aquifers via drilling, agricultural wells, springs and precipitation. Pay attention, Rino Tzror: the same deal allotted Israel 483 mcm annually from the same resources (and it has also exceeded this limit in some years).
In other words, some 20 percent goes to the Palestinians living in the West Bank, and about 80 percent goes to Israelis – on both sides of the Green Line – who also enjoy resources from the rest of the country.”
A really well-written and thoughtful article showing the complexity of the situation. All the antisemitism on campus is disturbing and as alumni we are following everything very closely.