Analysis from Israel

Yesterday, Jonathan Marks dissected the lie of the BDS movement’s alleged commitment to nonviolence–a lie underscored by the South African chapter’s launch of a “fundraising tour” starring Palestinian airline hijacker Leila Khaled. But another lie about the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement was also exploded this week: the lie that it is having an increasing impact on Israel. The truth, according to a new study released yesterday by the Knesset Research and Information Center, is exactly the opposite: Not only has BDS not dented Israel’s economy overall, but Israeli exports have surged even in places where the movement is most active, like Europe.

Overall, the study reports, Israeli exports rose by 80 percent from 2000 to 2013, with exports to Europe rising even more sharply, by 99 percent. But the bulk of this increase has taken place since 2005–i.e., in the years when BDS was most active. From 2005-2013, despite a sharp drop during the global financial crisis of 2009, annual exports to Europe averaged $15.6 billion. That’s almost double the preceding decade’s annual average of $7.8 billion.

Foreign direct investment in Israel has also risen steeply, posting an increase of 58 percent over the last four years alone–precisely the years when BDS was supposedly having its biggest impact.

Most surprisingly, exports from the West Bank and the Golan Heights, which are the primary focus of boycott efforts, rose even faster than exports overall. Consequently, they constituted 3.1 percent of total exports in 2013, up from 0.5 percent in 2000–and the overwhelming majority of that increase also stemmed from exports to Europe. A handful of industries, like Jordan Valley date farmers, have taken a hit, but the impact on Israel as a whole has been negligible.

As the report acknowledged, this is largely because “A major portion of Israeli exports are intermediate products, like electronic components, that sit inside the final products of well-known global companies.” That makes them hard to boycott: How do you boycott the insides of your computer or cellphone?

But it’s also worth noting that even in Europe, where BDS has gained most traction, the movement’s strongholds are found among academics, trade unionists, and unelected EU bureaucrats–i.e., people with no responsibility for the performance of national economies. In contrast, BDS has few champions among elected politicians in national governments, because these politicians are responsible for delivering economic growth to their constituents and view Israel’s innovative tech sector as a potential contributor to this effort.

Consequently, while BDS was making noise in the press, European governments were quietly working to deepen economic ties with Israel. A particularly notable example is the British Embassy Tech Hub, brainchild of British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould. Founded in 2011, the Hub essentially functions as a matchmaking service between British and Israeli firms, giving the former access to Israeli high-tech and the latter access to partners who can help them grow their businesses and enter new markets. It’s been so successful that other ambassadors in Israel are now consulting Gould on how to replicate his model at their own embassies.

The bottom line is that for all the hype about BDS, its efforts to strangle Israel have been a total failure. BDS may be thriving in the media and on college campuses, but out in the real world, what’s thriving is Israel’s economy.

Originally published in Commentary 

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Why equality doesn’t belong in the nation-state law

Ever since Israel’s nation-state law was enacted in July, one constant refrain has sounded: The law should have included a provision guaranteeing equality to all Israelis. It’s not only the law’s opponents who say this; so do many of its supporters, liberals and conservatives alike. But they are wrong.

Adding a provision about equality to the nation-state law sounds innocuous because civic and political equality is already implicitly guaranteed through the 1992 Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. Basic Laws are Israel’s closest approximation to constitutional legislation, and the 1992 law, which protects the “dignity of any person as such,” has been consistently interpreted by the courts as enshrining equality on the grounds that discrimination violates a person’s dignity. So what harm could it do to offer an explicit guarantee in the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People?

The answer is that doing so would elevate Israel’s democratic character above its Jewish one. And that would negate the entire purpose of the nation-state law, which was to restore Israel’s Jewish character to parity with its democratic one—not superiority, but merely parity.

To understand why this is so, it’s first necessary to understand why adding an equality provision would violate basic constitutional logic. This argument was cogently made from the liberal side of the political spectrum by Haim Ramon, a former senior Labor Party Knesset member and former justice minister. Writing in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition last month, Ramon argued that if anyone thinks equality isn’t sufficiently protected by the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, they should work to amend that law rather than the nation-state law, as the former is where any provision on equality belongs.

This isn’t mere semantic quibbling. A constitution, being a country’s supreme instrument of governance, isn’t supposed to be a jumble of random provisions thrown together with no more thought than a monkey sitting at a keyboard might provide; it’s supposed to be a carefully crafted document. That’s why constitutions typically group all provisions relating to a given topic into a single article or chapter. Each article has equal status; none is more or less important than the others. And together, they create a comprehensive document that addresses all the basic questions of governance.

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