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September 5, 2014 8:19 am

The BDS Movement Can’t Harm Israel’s Economy, Just its Reputation

avatar by Alex Margolin

A Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) protest against Israel in Melbourne, Australia, on June 5, 2010. Photo: Mohamed Ouda via Wikimedia Commons.

The Gaza war has given the BDS movement a shot in the arm, just as students return to campuses across the U.S.

But will a new level of activism lead to crippling boycotts? Probably not, according to several recent articles on the subject.

Most Israeli companies, writes Adam Reuter, chairman of the Reuter Meydan Investment House, are safely out of reach of the boycotters.

Israeli exports are almost never sold to the end consumer. In fact, this is the case for about 95 percent of Israel’s exports, almost all of which are involved in business-to-business (B2B) trade with large international corporations who are only interested in the best product or service at the most competitive price.

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But what about products from businesses such as the Sabra Dipping Company, a hummus manufacturer that’s currently the target of a student union boycott at the University of Ottawa?

Those types of boycotts are more symbolic than they are meaningful in economic terms, according to Lawrence Solomon, executive director of the Urban Renaissance Institute.

The targeting of Sabra for its links to Israel points to the student union’s desperation for meaningful action. Boycotting, divesting, or sanctioning Sabra Hummus could never bring Israel to its knees. Neither could boycotts of the entirety of Israel’s agricultural products, which represent a mere 2% of Israel’s exports. To hit Israel where it hurts, a boycott campaign would need to attack its high tech sector – Israel’s lucre as well as its pride – but this boycott would be a non-starter.

So if the BDS can’t harm Israel’s economy, why does it persist in promoting boycott campaigns? The answer is that the BDS movement is more concerned with harming Israel’s image than it is in harming Israel’s economy.

Despite the rhetoric about economic pressure, what the BDS movement really seeks is to spread hatred towards Israel. And calling for a boycott of products with ties to Israel is one way of communicating that Israel is “beyond the pale” and not part of proper society.

This article was originally published by HonestReporting.

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