We continue in this issue to examine the lies collated by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre that are commonly presented by Israel’s opponents in the Israel-Palestine dispute.

Lie # 5

Israel is an Apartheid State deserving of international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns.

Simon Wiesenthal Centre response

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre responds:On both sides of the Atlantic, church groups, academics and unions are leading deceitful and often anti-Semitic boycott campaigns demonising what they call the Jewish “Apartheid” State.

The truth is that unlike apartheid in South Africa, Israel is a democratic state. Its 20% Arab minority enjoys all the political, economic and religious rights and freedoms of citizenship, including electing members of their choice to the Knesset (Parliament). Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have standing before Israel’s Supreme Court. In contrast no Jew may own property in Jordan, no Christian or Jew can visit Islam’s holiest sites in Saudi Arabia.

Origins of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)

BDS is a movement that presents itself as a pro-peace initiative but its real intention is to demonise and delegitimise Israel and to ultimately cause its demise. In 2001, at the Non Government Organisation (NGO) Forum of the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, Israel was condemned for war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Attempts were made at this conference to equate Zionism with racism and a formal declaration was made condemning Israel as an “Apartheid State”. This was the animating idea of the “Durban strategy” including the call for mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military co-operation and training) between all states and Israel. The Durban strategy became the battle cry for the developing BDS Movement

Increasing activity of the BDS movement

The BDS campaign has recently been a focus of media attention in Australia and overseas over:

  • Protests in 2011 and 2012 against the Max Brenner chocolate shops in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Max Brenner was a target because its parent company, an Israeli food conglomerate, gives “care packages” to Israeli soldiers.
  • A University of Sydney boycott of Israeli academic Dan Avnon as part of the BDS academic boycott of Israeli universities. Professor Avnon has conducted in Israel a highly celebrated common civics curriculum, teaching high school students from Arab, secular Jewish and religious Jewish backgrounds under the same roof.
  • The resignation of American actress Scarlett Johansson as Oxfam ambassador after BDS opposition to the actress advertising the products of Israeli company Soda Stream. The company has a factory in Mishor Adumin, an Israeli industrial park on the West Bank, employing both Israeli and Palestinian workers.
  • The introduction of new European Union guidelines that will prevent Israeli ministries, public bodies and businesses that operate in occupied Palestinian territory from receiving loans worth hundreds of millions of Euros each year from the European Investment Bank. Among those excluded from receiving loans from the European Investment Bank will be major Israeli banks including Bank Hapoalim, Mizrahi Tefahot Bank and Bank Leumi.

While some boycotts seem petty, others are likely to damage the interests of individual Palestinians as well as Jews and seem likely to undermine the opportunities for peaceful co–existence between Jews and Palestinians. This, however, is of no concern to the BDS movement. In fact BDS opposes attempts at peace, believing they can only achieve their ends by destroying the Jewish state and replacing it with a Palestinian secular state.

Economic significance of boycotts

Boycotts against Israel are beginning to have an economic effect. It was reported in January that export-driven income of growers in the Jordan Valley’s 21 settlements had dropped by more than 14% or $29m last year. “The damage is enormous,” said David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, which represents about 7,000 settlers. “In effect, today we are almost not selling to the Western European market anymore”. Norway has also blocked its $320 billion pension fund from investing in two Israeli companies because of their construction activities in East Jerusalem.

US Secretary of State John Kerry recently warned President Netanyahu that failure to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians would result in an increase in boycotts.

Biblical perspective

The increased pressure for boycotts against Israel is evidence of Israel’s increasing isolation in the world. Since 2003, the UN has issued 232 resolutions with respect to Israel, 40% of all resolutions issued by the UN over the period and more than six times that of the second placed country, Sudan. We would expect to see from Bible prophecy this trend to continue, particularly with a growing hostility from the European nations. A number of commentators have drawn a parallel between the current boycotts against Israel and the anti-Jewish boycotts that took place leading up to the Second World War and Hitler’s “Final Solution”. Surely the time is fast approaching when the Gogian host will come against God’s people of Israel, “as a cloud to cover the land” (Ezek 38:9). Let us lift up our heads: “for [our] redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).