by: David Harris-Gershon on January 20th, 2014 | 23 Comments »
Something remarkable has happened in the last 24 hours in Israel, with two of the country’s most popular media outlets, one television and one newspaper, making the growing effectiveness of boycotts against Israel as their top stories.
Perhaps more remarkable? Neither outlet sought to demonize those leading the European and Palestinian boycott efforts as anti-Semitic, as so often happens in America. Instead, the focus was on these boycotts’ growing impact on Israeli businesses and their root causes: Israel’s settlement enterprise and continued conflict with the Palestinians.
It all started on Saturday night with an in-depth, primetime expose by what is easily Israel’s most watched news program: Channel 2′s “Weekend” (סוף השבוע). This is how Larry Derfner at +972 Magazine described the moment:
On Saturday night the boycott of Israel gained an impressive new level of mainstream recognition in this country. Channel 2 News, easily the most watched, most influential news show here, ran a heavily-promoted, 16-minute piece on the boycott in its 8 p.m. prime-time program. The piece was remarkable not only for its length and prominence, but even more so because it did not demonize the boycott movement, it didn’t blame the boycott on anti-Semitism or Israel-bashing. Instead, top-drawer reporter Dana Weiss treated the boycott as an established, rapidly growing presence that sprang up because of Israel’s settlement policy and whose only remedy is that policy’s reversal.
Watching the program, I was struck by how forcefully Weiss made clear that Israel’s settlement enterprise is to blame for Israel’s growing isolation, and how truly threatening the boycotts are becoming from an economic perspective. In one salient moment of many, Weiss interviews a food company executive in the West Bank who not only admits to losing approximately $140,000 a month due to boycotts, but also that the spread of such boycotts across Israel is inevitable.
To drive home the point that this is already happening, Weiss interviews a lawyer at one of Israel’s top law firms who reveals that, in private, companies are already coming to him in a panic. While his analogy may be offensive, what it represents is remarkable:
Most of the companies affected by the boycotts behave like rape victims. They don’t want to tell anybody. It’s as though they have contracted some kind of disease and don’t want anyone to know.
More and more companies are coming to us for advice quietly, at night, when no one can hear them. And they say: “I’ve gotten into this or that situation; is there something you can do to help?’”
A day after Channel 2′s watershed expose, Israel’s most popular newspaper, Yediot Achronot (ידיעות אחרונות), dedicated its entire front page to the issue of boycotts and their growing economic impact. Its main story contained the headline, “100 economic leaders warn of boycott on Israel.”
This headline was supplemented by a smaller headline which read, “The world is losing its patience and the threat of sanctions is increasing. We must reach an agreement with the Palestinians.”
For a progressive Zionists such as myself, who both wants Israel to thrive and views economic sanctions as a legitimate form of protest against Israel’s troubling geo-political policies, this is an incredibly important moment. For I have long maintained that Israel is incapable of stepping away from its settlement enterprise and its occupation of the Palestinians without outside pressure compelling it to do so.
I have long wanted that outside pressure to come from a close ally: namely, the United States. However, for me, the goal of such pressure is for Israel to conclude what Israel’s most popular newspaper has just written: that Israel must reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians for the country to thrive.
Israeli media has just awakened the populace. The question will now be how long it takes the populace to awaken its leaders.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.