The BDS movement declared “victory” when the board of Ben & Jerry’s decided last summer to stop selling its products in the West Bank. If anything, however, this was a disaster for the movement that once again laid bare that its goal is the destruction of Israel, that it contributes nothing to peace or the welfare of Palestinians, and that it creates a backlash that energizes BDS critics. Even more devastating is the fact that Israel’s international relations are flourishing, completely undermining the BDS agenda of turning Israel into a pariah that can be defeated like the Afrikaner regime in South Africa.
The negative response to the BDS movement in the United States is reflected by the 50 governors (and the mayor of Washington, D.C.) who signed a letter rejecting “efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israel,” and the 35 states that have adopted laws, executive orders or resolutions designed to discourage boycotts against Israel.
Since the Ben & Jerry’s announcement, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas have put its parent company, Unilever, on their list of companies barred from receiving investments (Texas also has B&J on its list). Several states have already divested their investments in Unilever. Israel has not collapsed, and the Palestinians have not benefited from depriving Jews in the territories ice-cream. Instead, the company has gotten a flurry of negative publicity and alienated Israelis and pro-Israel consumers.
Not to waste time on the specious South Africa analogy, but neglected point is that pressure worked in that case because it was directed at an unrepresentative regime that was reviled globally. Israel is a democracy that will not disappear due to any economic or political pressure campaign. For proof, see the failure of the Arab League’s 76-year boycott, which technically remains in force but long ago crumbled with the peace treaties signed by Egypt and Jordan. Those were cold peace treaties, as opposed to the recent Abraham Accords, which has not only led to the normalization of relations but a torrent of cooperative activities and an explosion of trade between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Reportedly, other countries may join the peace party and further spoil the BDS strategy of isolating Israel.
Despite the vocal support of BDS by leftists in Europe, their governments have continued to sign military contracts and expand trade and other forms of cooperation with Israel. In France, promoting the boycott of Israel is illegal. The United Kingdom—one of the birthplaces and strongholds of the boycott movement—has closer ties than ever with Israel. In November, for example, the two countries signed a 10-year memorandum of understanding for deepening ties on issues such as cybersecurity, technology development, defense, trade and science.
Even governments that have been hostile toward Israel do not support BDS. Last October, Sweden’s foreign minister became the first senior Swedish official to visit Israel since 2014, when Sweden recognized “Palestine” as a state. Earlier, she said, Sweden wants “more cooperation with Israel, not less,” and that Stockholm does not support boycotts of Israel.
One of the governments that has been most critical of Israel and has politicians who support the boycott is Ireland. Meanwhile, Israel’s exports to the country increased 517 percent in 2021.
Even more embarrassing is the ongoing relations between the Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel. Ben & Jerry’s and other BDS advocates thousands of miles away face no consequences for telling Palestinians what’s good for them, so it’s not surprising the Palestinians ignore them. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 Palestinians are happy to have jobs in Israel, and roughly 30,000 have no hesitation about working in those “obstacle to peace” settlements.
In addition, journalist Tom Gross noted that the most recent data (October 2021) published by the Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics indicated that exports of Palestinian goods and produce to Israel totaled $132.9 million, an increase of 19 percent from the previous month. Palestinians imported $624.7 million worth of goods and services from Israel in October, a 22 percent jump. In 2020, Palestinian imports from Israel were $2.77 billion and exports were $955 million.
Overall, Israeli exports around the world hit a record high of $140 billion in the pandemic year of 2021.
The rabid hatred of the Jews cannot be tempered by defeat; anti-Semites are undeterred and continue to use every possible avenue to delegitimize Israel. The United Nations specializes in the demonization of Israel, and the recent decision to appoint an open-ended investigation of Israel is one example of how the anti-Semites continue to receive encouragement. The BDS campaign promoted by Ben & Jerry’s ill-informed celebrities, ignorant students and faculty, as well as Jews who act like village idiots, is just one more manifestation of anti-Semitism and evidence that despite all the investment in fighting the age-old scourge, it remains ineradicable.
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”