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Friday, March 5, 2010

After a week of watching the BDSers wave their arms around during "Israel Apartheid Whatever" I thought Sol's readers might want a little (numerical) reality check (from Divest This):

Given that the theme of this year's increasingly fraying "Israel Apartheid Week" is Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), I thought it might be useful to summarize the progress of the BDS movement since it began a decade ago. Because so much of the BDS project is based on words, including competing claims of success and failure, I thought it best to provide a summary based primarily on numbers which (as I recall from my business days) are the only things that tend to get preserved as information travels up or through an organization.

Since these numbers need to be "scored" against some criterion, I've decided to abandon my usual critique of the BDS narrative and, in this instance, accept as a given their primary thesis: that economic activity related to Israel translates to political approval or disapproval. Now some people may say this is overly generous in that it allows them to continue to claim that purely economic decisions are actually fueled by partisan considerations. But if we accept (albeit temporarily) their founding principle on a micro level, then they must also be willing to be judged along the same criteria on a macro basis. And regarding that macro basis, here is Exhibit A:

Israeli GDP.jpg

My goodness! During the very period when BDS was supposedly on the march, the size of Israel's economy (as measured by GDP) nearly doubled from $110B to $190B. Now given that the BDS project is based on their activity having economic consequence for the Jewish state, the takeaway from this chart seems to be that such consequence has been an explosion of growth in the Israeli economy.

Now no doubt some divestniks will cry foul and insist that their "movement" is concentrated outside of Israel and is based on getting individuals and organizations to stop buying Israeli goods or investing in Israeli companies (or in companies that in some way benefit Israel). In which case, the numbers that would be more relevant would be Israel exports, not GNP. While this information was harder to obtain based on a US dollar metric, the following table (based approximately on constant 2000 Israeli Sheckls) shows a trend similar to GDP growth:

Israeli Exports.jpg

In other words, Israeli exports are growing rapidly and fueling the hot Israeli economy that the boycotters have spent the better part of a decade working tirelessly to bring to its knees. And as far as divestment (i.e., stopping the flow of investment dollars into Israel) goes, as has been recently documented the European venture capital markets currently invest more in Israel than they do in any single European country. In other words, even in Europe (which has been the target of even more aggressive boycott and divestment activities than the US) the BDS formula that translates investment and divestment into political support indicates overwhelming enthusiasm for the Jewish state.

Now I suppose the divestment crew can always retreat to the unstated fact that the whole BDS enterprise is really a propaganda exercise, more concerned with getting their anti-Israel narrative made part of the public record within companies, schools, churches, unions and other institutions targeted by divestment activists. If that's the case, the goal of BDS could be said to not be immediate economic punishment, but a gradual erosion of public support for Israel which may someday lead to effective boycotts, divestment programs or actual sanctions a la South Africa.

If that's the case, the last numbers the BDS crew has to deal with are these ones:

Israel Support.jpg

Yes, as it turns out, after nearly ten years of BDS-related propaganda targeting Israel's most important ally, the United States, support for Israel has grown almost 20 percentage points.

It's easy to get lost in the rhetoric of accusation and counter-accusation, claims of success and fraud, questioning of motives, etc. that so-much characterizes the debate over BDS. But when you simply look at the numbers, and take as granted the causal connection between economics and political support the boycotters insist we must do, it's hard to find a movement that has been more counter-productive to its own aims than boycott, divestment and sanctions.

After a decade of tireless efforts on the part of champions in the cause of BDS, Israel has become more economically successful (wildly so), with exports from and investment in the Jewish state growing rapidly and showing no signs of slowing. And despite (or possibly because) of their non-stop attempts to insert the Arab-Israeli dispute into every civic institution in the land, general public support for Israel is today at an all-time high.

Which leaves we supporters of Israel with an interesting conundrum. Should we continue to fight against BDS or simply stand back and let a movement so successful in shooting itself in the foot continue to fuel the success of the Jewish state?

Discuss...

9 Comments

This non-Jewish supporter of Israel sees this as encouraging. Thanks

Jon Haber,

Would you discount the possibility that the fight against BDS had some positive effect in the results?
Surely the increased support did not come from nothing, but evolved from increased awareness of the reality on the ground?

Now while the European venture capital markets currently invest more in Israel that could be brought to an end if a gradual erosion of public support for Israel comes about through ignorance and misleading information and which will most probably lead to effective boycotts, divestment programs or actual sanctions a la South Africa.

During the fight with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 there were rumours of an attempt by some Europeans to push through sanctions against Israel.

If anything I think the fight to get the facts out onto the street are well worth the effort if anything to avoid the double edged sword of revisionism which seems to be holding sway in the media and academia and generally among the European "proletariat".


Fantastic post. Just the tonic.

Wonderful analysis and positive attitude. Nil carborundum.

Outstanding article.

The dip in exports in the 200-2003 period was due to the collapse of the Internet and telecommunications bubbles, two areas where Israel's hi-tech industry was significantly overweighted relative to other sectors.

Of course, the biggest hole in the BDS movement's attempts to stop people from buying Israeli fruit comes from the Arabs:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1153539.html

Israeli trucks cross into Syria in annual 'apple invasion'

The Quneitra crossing into Syria opened yesterday to let through the first apple shipment of the year, in what has become an annual tradition since it began as a special arrangement six years ago.

The sale of Golan apples in Syria began in 2004, at the initiative of the Israeli Agriculture Ministry. The move came in response to a request by Druze farmers in the Golan Heights, because there were too many apples in the Israeli market.

Yes - Israel's "enemies" just love those Israeli apples!!

Well, whew, this must be so reassuring. You know, the Israeli state has decided that bds will delegitimize it. Its even putting a campaign on a war footing to combat bds. So they must know something the author of this article doesn't know.

Personally, I think bds will work. You should be worried, in my opinion.

Actually, Linda, you comment fits in very well with what I was going to reply to Cynic.

Point of act, the negative correlation between BDS activity and the growth of the Israeli economy, exports and popularity in the US did not arise from nothing. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and the general disgust with boycotting the Jew (regardless of whether you consider it effective or not) has led to an understandable reaction on the part of Isreal and the Jewish public at large. And this, in turn, has contributed to the trends in which the harder BDS activists work, the more the state of Israel seems to benefit.

No doubt BDS advocates will insist that people like me paying attention to them is a demonstration of their strength and effectiveness, but this is simply another version of "heads I win, tails you lose" in which case Israel's critics are free to do what they want and if anyone chooses to respond, that is taken as more evidence of the critic's progress.

There is a possibility that our success of turning back BDS again and again (the next test will come out of Davis, CA next week - stay tuned), will cause BDSers to regroup and finally have some success. But after a decade of such stark failure, as illustrated by the numbers included in my original story, I have trouble seeing how they will turn the corner, even if you choose to believe they will with all your heart.

I don't see how anybody with a sense of history could get involved with the BDS movement.

Also, the Arab boycott of Israel should be questioned by the UN.

This is harming not only Israel but also the Arabs, who could benefit from trade with the Israelis, whose innovative approaches to agriculture, desalinization, and irrigation could improve conditions for millions of people.

Sophia,

This is harming not only Israel but also the Arabs,

You must be aware by now that those Arabs harmed are written off as shahids in the war against the yahud.
Did not the Arab deaths in Nazareth, Israel from Hezbollah rockets in 2006 get such a send off?
Many a time Hamas has made the same argument when confronted with the human shields they called up to stop an Israeli action.
I don't have any link at hand but there was one when they rallied all those women to the cause of shielding some building.

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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