Certainly, Israel’s struggle against the BDS movement in the last decade has been a most bitter PR battle—one that both angers and animates supporters of the Jewish state. After all, BDS freely slanders Israel, wins student-body votes on U.S. campuses and has garnered the support of several outspoken U.S. members of the House of Representatives.
Yet over the last year, Israel has never been less isolated, and the amount of foreign investment in the country and its people has been massive. Indeed, each investment can be seen as a victory over BDS.
Case in point: Israeli companies in 2020 attracted a record-breaking $9.93 billion in investments globally, mostly from the United States. That figure was up 27 percent over the course of 2019.
The investments have focused on Israeli advances in cyber-security, financial tech, smart mobile, digital health care, e-commerce, transportation and coronavirus care, pharmacology, measurement-and-testing, agritech, foodtech and artificial intelligence.
“The impressive investment figures are remarkable at the time of global crisis,” said Start-Up Nation Central (SNC) CEO Professor Eugene Kandel. “They indicate the global investors’ trust in the maturing ‘Start-Up Nation.’”
This economic support of Israel flies in the face of the worldwide BDS movement against the State of Israel, launched in 2005. While BDS adherents on the progressive left claim the movement is merely a protest against Israeli policies toward Palestinians, BDS leaders are more candid.
The BDS slogan says it all: “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea”—in other words, all of Israel. Movement co-founder Omar Barghouti has admitted, “If the occupation ends, would that end support for BDS? No, it wouldn’t—no.”
Just last May, Barghouti clarified that “there won’t be any Zionist state like the one we speak about. … The Palestinian minority will become a Palestinian majority of what is today called Israel.”
It’s worth noting, again despite protestations of the ultra-left, that advocating the destruction of the world’s only Jewish nation among all the world’s nations—and attempts to delegitimize and demonize Israel as BDS does—is anti-Semitic.
Good news: This definition of anti-Semitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Association has been accepted by 28 nations and is used by many of them, including the U.S. State Department, to condemn BDS. In addition, some 32 U.S. states have outlawed BDS.
More good news: When it comes to harming Israel through economic boycott, divestment and sanctions—let alone destroying the Jewish state—the BDS movement has failed miserably.
Israel is one of the most economically successful countries on earth. It ranks 30th by GDP among all nations, though it is one the world’s smallest by area and population. By per-capita GDP, Israel ranks 22nd. Its GDP growth rate of 4.87 percent in 2020 exceeded that of Japan, Germany and the United States.
Possibly the greatest defeat for BDS this past year was the Abraham Accords, putting to bed the myth that there is a regional Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Jewish state is incapable of making peace with the Arab world. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have all signed peace agreements with Israel, with many more on the way.
Remember that BDS was built on the foundation of the Arab boycott, and the anti-Semitic program initiated in 1945 by the Arab League—forbidding its members from any relations with any Jews living in then-Palestine and later the State of Israel. This boycott sanctioned any company that dealt with the Jewish community and Israel, attempting to cripple and destroy the nascent Jewish state.
With key Arab states now formally embracing trade and diplomatic deals with Israel, for radicals in Europe and North America to continue pursuing a BDS boycott policy looks out of touch with the reality of the region and of Arab opinion.
To underscore the failure of both the Arab boycott and BDS, the Abraham agreements have led to huge new investment in Israel from Arab countries. They understand how much Israel and its people have to contribute toward progress and development in the region.
A couple of weeks ago, the United Arab Emirates announced that it was setting up a $10 billion investment fund aimed at strategic sectors in Israel. Through the $10 billion fund, the UAE “will invest in and alongside Israel, across sectors including energy manufacturing, water, space, health care and agritech,” according to the official press release.
Despite these triumphs on the global economic battlefield, Israel still faces threats from BDS in an equally critical arena. Indeed, the fight against BDS is also over the hearts, minds and souls of millions of students, intellectuals, journalists, politicians and the average voter in the West.
In 2020, the student bodies at three prominent U.S. universities—Columbia, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Tufts—voted to support BDS-style divestment in Israel. Notably, however, no U.S. university has ever divested from investments in Israel as a result of such student initiatives.
What’s more, over the years—thanks to campus information campaigns of CAMERA, StandWithUs, AMCHA and my organization, Facts and Logic About the Middle East, the majority of BDS initiatives on U.S. colleges have been defeated. Yet such efforts to overcome lies about Israel on campus is increasingly difficult in the face of the intersectionality movement, which attempts to brand Israel as a colonialist power that oppresses not just Palestinians, but also, by extension, African-Americans, LGBTQ people and women.
In addition, the fact that BDS supporters like U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were recently re-elected by large margins demonstrates how hating Israel has become normalized in the corridors of power. Also, in early 2020, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights created a list of 112 companies with connections to Israeli communities across the “Green Line,” effectively creating a boycott list of Jewish-owned companies.
While Israel’s supporters can proudly hail the nation’s success in attracting unprecedented economic support for its achievements in technology, we clearly have to redouble efforts to defeat BDS lies ceaselessly circulated among college students and academics, as well as artists, intellectuals and leftist progressives. Our job is far from done.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.