Poetic justice

February 22, 2014 - 1:52:44 am
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is bristling with anger. As a prime minister whose primary concern is the welfare of his people, he could be angry over anything, but it’s rarely that such outrage is triggered by the Palestinian cause. In the past few years, he had been successful in relegating the Palestinian issue to the background, with his government holding all the cards, leaving Palestinians to cry in desperation. But that is changing and what has caused this change is the Boycott Israel momentum which is gaining ground globally. Netanyahu has reasons to get worried because for the first time the Palestinians and their supports in the West are able to hit where it hurts most – the legitimacy and the economic stability of the Israeli state.

Addressing a conference of the US Jewish organisations in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against his country was intended to lead to “the end of the Jewish state”. He launched a scathing attack on supporters of this movement, accusing them of practising “antisemitism in a new garb”, and urged the country’s friends to “expose and outflank” them by emphasising its high-tech achievements and global economic appeal.

If the results are any indication, the BDS movement is another intifata. But here, there is no blood spilled, no missiles fired and no fiery statements. The supporters are using the infinite possibilities of the media and internet to bring to a global audience the excesses committed by the Israeli state and its flagrant violations of the international law. 

Netanyahu is hurt because the blows are coming directly from Europe, not Palestinians. Pressure on Israel is mounting, especially from Europe, where NGOs, trade unions, churches and others are forcing their governments to take action. Last year the EU blocked grants and funding for any Israeli entity operating beyond the pre-1967 borders, building on earlier decisions to require the labelling of goods produced in settlements. Two weeks ago the US secretary of state, John Kerry, warned that Israel would face more calls for boycotts if the current peace talks with the Palestinians collapsed. 

Netanyahu is equating the BDS movement with anti-Semitism, that famous bogey Israel always relies on to silence its critics. He says the supporters of the movement want to see the end of Israel and called upon the friends of the state to come to its rescue. But this is unlikely to succeed this time. The movement is gaining movement, and the fact that even the world-famous scientist Stephen Hawking boycotted a conference in Jerusalem in support of the movement shows the irreversible progress it has made.

Arabs and friends of Palestinians need to offer more substantial support to the movement•