The Economic Boycott of Israel is Essential in the Struggle against the Apartheid Regime
By: Yossi Schwartz (member of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency – RCIT and Central-Israel Branch of Balad), Translated from Hebrew by: Boris Hammerschlag, July 28, 2016, http://the-isleague.com/bds-27-07-2016/#more-726
Important notice: This article was submitted as a response piece to the editorial board of “Local Call” (the Hebrew version of “+972 Magazine”) on July 24th, after it published a pro-Zionist guest article opposing the BDS aiming at sawing demoralization among its supporters. After it already underwent a series of amendments and proof-reading, we were notified, on the 27th, that the editorial board chose to reject our article stating “style and content” as the reason. While hoping that in the near future we might be able to produce an article which meets the standards set by “Local Call” as far as “style and content” goes, we wish to wholeheartedly thank our fellow Balad member, Orly Noy, for her proof-reading, constructive criticism and genuine attempt to have the article published in “Local Call”!
Yonathan Mizrachi article (Why an economic boycott of Israel cannot succeed) is interesting but wrong. Its core premise is that given the shifts in the focus of capital and industrial production in the capitalist world, boycotting Israel cannot possibly be effective. Additionally, it claims that Israel’s propaganda accusing the BDS as a movement rooted in anti-Semitism is effective and therefore supporting it does more harm than good.
Firstly, it should be noted that it is true that imperialist powers, such as the US and EU, consider Israel an effective tool in maintaining imperialist order, especially at a time of mideastern instability, and will continue to support it, including its ‘67 occupation, as long as Israel is seen as effective local brute. This has nothing to do with the economic situation and everything to do with political interests. Therefore, we must count on the masses of the working people – including the European and US middle class – as allies, rather than the rulers of imperialist powers, shackled by capitalist interests.
South African history revealed that the rulers of imperialist powers did oppose the boycott movement for years, as they do now with the BDS movement. However, when it was clear that the Apartheid regime was about to collapse under the pressure of mass struggle, they made a U-turn and joined the boycott to keep their influence over South Africa. That is why, once Israel will be seen by such rulers as weak, they will join the boycott out of their own interests. This will happen the moment that the terrible chaos in the region will produce a revival of the movement for democracy. In light of the political and economic circumstances and the lack of any adequate answers or solutions from those who rule over the Arab countries, hope must be maintained that this is just a matter of time. We also hope that this time, with the important lessons taken into account, the movement for democracy will produce an adequate leadership. A revolutionary democratic movement in the Arab countries will necessarily be also about supporting the national liberation of the Palestinians.
Already the BDS has gathered influence. An internal report which the Israeli government tried to hide, but fell into the hands of Calcalist (an Israeli daily business newspaper), maintains that the cancellation of trading treaties would cost the Israeli economy 1.2 billion dollars per year; an official boycott of commodities produced in the ‘67 occupied territories will reduce Israeli exports to the EU by 300 million dollars; a larger deficit will be created and Israel would have to consider fixing its exchange rate while making use of its central bank’s foreign currency reserves. This is not enough, naturally, but it is far removed from the claim that the BDS does not and will not have any influence.
Secondly, despite the economic crisis, Israel’s main export venues remain the EU (31% in 2015), the US (21% in 2015) and Asia (21% in 2015) with Latin America and Africa in the 3rd and 4th place respectively. Thus, a more extensive boycott of exports to the EU and the US might definitely prove most efficient. The fact that Israel is making efforts to increase its exports to Africa and South-East Asia is part caused by reduced exports, especially from ‘67 settlements to the US and EU. However, despite its branching out efforts, Israel’s main export venues remain unchanged.
In order to sell commodities you must make sure consumers have sufficient buying power. But in such parts of the world it is far from adequate resulting from the attacks by global financial institutions against the living standards of the masses in the 3rd world who are expected to pay the price of a crisis, entirely the fault of big capital. It is actually imperialism which crushes any hope Africa might have to replace the EU and the US as Israel’s main trading partners, even if it wanted to.
Thirdly, the BDS is a tool not meant to replace the popular struggle of the Arab masses, including the Palestinians, and the many who oppose their oppression. It is an effective tool as far as exposing the true nature of Israel as an Apartheid state from the river to the sea. While not of key importance, it should also be noted that Israel itself believes that the BDS poses a real threat, enough to focus on increasing exports into Asia and Africa. This only means that increased efforts should be made to strengthen the boycott movement among these nations as well.
Netanyahu’s latest trip to Africa was designed to increase weapon sales to dictators who oppress their own people. Therefore, we must support the struggle of the masses against these despotic regimes while making the important connection to the Palestinian struggle, especially against Israeli military exports to those rulers.
There is an answer to the Tel-Aviv’s hysterical accusation that countering Israel’s crimes with a boycott is anti-Semitic. It is not at all difficult to explain how Israel’s criminal actions fuels the fire of real-life anti-Semitism, one which is nowadays directed mainly at Arabs and Muslims, while Israel bands together with genuine anti-Semitic movements.
We live in a time of great instability both socially and politically, resulting from the global economic crisis. The masses are being politically polarized left and right. It is true that the rightward tendencies are strong, but it is mere matter of time until strong left movements will show themselves. First signs of this happening has been demonstrated during the latest election campaign in the US, with millions expressing support for Bernie Sanders just because he was mistakenly perceived as an advocate for socialism. Strengthening leftward tendencies while building an adequate, loyal leadership, goes hand in hand with strengthening the boycott movement and it is our duty to provide support for the position that Israel must be boycotted.
It is true that boycotting regular Israeli commodities cannot be effective to the extent of forcing Israel to evacuate or even freeze the settlement of the West Bank and it will certainly not be enough to change its character. But the main fields of Israeli exports – i.e. the military industry, diamonds, chemistry and tech – are still vulnerable. Trade unions could prove most efficient in doing so by refusing to load or unload commodities, especially military produce, in every sea and air port used by Israel. Of course, this cannot be achieved without a struggle to shift trade union policy over to our side, as strong trade unions in different countries already have as they joined the boycott movement. The trade union sphere could prove a decisive factor in the struggle for BDS success.
 The elections period in the US proved more than ever that many Americans are aware of and enraged by the fact both traditional contending parties serve the interests of Wall-Street rather than those of the masses.