The Scourge of Boycotts Past, Present and Future
December 21, 2018
‘Twas the month before Christmas
And without so much as a flinch
AirBNB joined the Israel boycott
And became the new corporate Grinch.
In recent weeks, it seems as if there have been an unprecedented number of anti-Semitic decisions and declarations that have been dismaying and worrying. Some are cloaked in the veil of being “only” anti-Israel. Make no mistake, these are bald-faced, anti-Semitic acts and need to be called out. While there are no shortage of anti-Semitic grinches this season, and in general, there may be a light at the end of this long dark tunnel.
The Scourge of Boycotts Past is a three tier Arab-led boycott initiated before Israel was formally restored to Jewish sovereignty. The primary boycott prohibits direct trade between Israel and Arab countries. The secondary boycott is against foreign companies that do business with Israel. A third boycott involves the blacklisting of companies that trade with other companies that do business with Israel.
As a result, for most of Israel’s 70 years, many multi-national companies chose to join the boycott rather than risk losing business with the much bigger Arab world. Their decision was governed by dollars over sense, and certainly over integrity.
For instance, other than Subaru, it was hard to find a Japanese car in Israel. For years, McDonalds chose to pay a fine for violating U.S. laws rather than fry its burgers in Israel. And even the cola war took sides in the Arab-Israel war with Pepsi’s slogan touting itself as a “the choice of a new generation” in fact just perpetuating the anti-Semitism of generations.
Fortunately, much of the Arab boycott has waned. Today there is direct and indirect Israeli trade, some public and some under the radar. But lest there be a vacuum, since 2005 a new anti-Semitic Israel boycott has grown, The Scourge of Boycotts Present. Loosely, under the umbrella of “BDS,” this has blown a new wind in the sail of Israel haters. In parallel, a new wave of anti-boycott legislation has grown around the world, making companies that participate in such boycotts either in violation of the law and or subject to loss of government business for their discriminatory policies.
Ironically, one of the companies that does business in Israel has been subject to the most flak recently. Israel was the third country in which Ben and Jerrys operated, in a generation when their social activism branded flavors didn’t have the taste of anti-Semitism. Recently however, Ben and Jerrys chose to use rabid anti-Semite Linda Sarsour as a poster child for their launch of a new flavor, the proceeds of which would benefit the U.S. Women’s March.
This is played out in social media where friends, both Jews and Christians, who don’t necessarily have any reason to interact otherwise, are posting, tweeting, and sharing messages, cartoons, memes and more, calling for a boycott of their calorie rich and integrity light desserts. My personal favorite highlighting this is this list of alternative Ben and Jerry’s flavors: Berry Blood Libel, Nutty No Vanilla Farrakhan, Palestinian Sour Grapes, What’s all the Fuhrer Strudel, Blood-Orange Italian ISIS, Low Ara-Fat Quds Crunch, Roger Waters Brick Wall Brittle.
More recently, there’s AirBNB. My social media and others’ are filled with calls to protest, cancel accounts, and a wide array of possible legal actions that might befall AirBNB for their actions uniquely discriminating against Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. For cities, states and countries that have enacted anti-BDS legislation, indeed there’s a potential legal and loss of business backlash which AirBNB probably didn’t project.
Ambassador Michael Oren explained succinctly, “Airbnb blacklists Jewish apartments in Judea and Samaria—not Palestinian apartments, not apartments in Turkish occupied Cyprus, in Moroccan occupied Sahara, not in Tibet or the Crimea. Airbnb’s policy is the very definition of anti-Semitism. No one should use its services.”
I’m easy. I canceled AirBNB after calling to register my protest. I can live quite happily without Ben and Jerry’s. I also haven’t had a Pepsi in close to 40 or more years. Jews are heartened not only by the growth of Christian support for Israel in parallel to the evolution of the movements to boycott Israel. We see an opportunity to have a wider backlash against companies that do boycott Israel through the increased collective economic and political power of combined forces.
While the BDS scourge (Scrooge) has become more and more virulent, leaving no potential company out of its crosshairs, one of its most aggressive and “successful” targets and victims is SodaStream. As a result of BDS protests against SodaStream, they ended up moving their factory from an industrial area in part of Israel that’s over the “Green Line” demarcating the 1949 armistice line, to a new location in southern Israel.
Because of the BDS boycott, the biggest losers were the hundreds of Palestinian Arab employees who lost their jobs when SodaStream moved its factory. The economic impact this caused is still wreaking havoc among Palestinian Arab families whose relatives used to work there.
This just underscores the anti-Semitism of the BDS scorched-earth tactics. They claim to support Palestinian Arabs, but have no hesitation to target major Israeli companies that employ them and from which they benefit far more than an average company in the Palestinian Authority. Israeli companies provide salaries far higher than they would get in the Palestinian Authority, along with medical and other social benefits that are simply foreign in their own society.
BDS’ anti-Israel venom is further highlighted in cases like this because companies like SodaStream, and many others, are perfect examples of coexistence between Jews and Arabs, even fostering close friendships. But in the case of “supporting” Palestinian Arabs, the anti-Semitic hatred against Israel trumps all, even when the Arabs are the losers.
Yet, through this, there’s hope for the Scourge of Israel Boycotts Future. With the recent purchase of SodaStream by Pepsi, perhaps the pendulum of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic boycott of Israeli companies is swinging the other way. Pepsi, once a leader of the Israel boycott has now purchased a major Israeli company that is targeted by today’s boycotters. That’s irony.
I doubt that anyone at Pepsi actively contemplated this being more than a good business move as they invested $3.2 billion in SodaStream. However, their practical decision is certainly a 180-degree turn from their position as leaders of the Israel boycott just a few decades ago. Now, they are not just doing business in Israel, but investing there significantly. So, in some capacity, even if it’s only a good business decision, the irony of Pepsi making this move is certainly a case of corporate repentance.
Maybe, however, someone at Pepsi has been reading their Bible. Maybe they realized that when God says, “I will curse those who curse you” (Genesis 12:3), they understand that multi-national corporations are not exempt.
Either way, whether in prayer for Israel, or united against anti-Semitic boycotts and protesting of Israel, Jews and Christians standing together wield a lot more influence both economically, and with God. Maybe, just maybe, the tide is turning against the haters.
U.S.-born and educated Jonathan Feldstein immigrated to Israel in 2004. Throughout his life and career, he has fellowshipped with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes a regular column for Standing With Israel at charismanews.com and other prominent web sites. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.