Top Israeli official admits that boycotting just the settlements is meaningless
Ladies and gentlemen, this is huge. A professional Israeli propagandist – Ron Brummer, chief of operations in Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Hasbara, has said recently:
“Israel does not have two different economic ecosystems, like, Israel within the green line and Israel over the green line. If you want to divest from the West Bank, Judea and Samaria, you have to divest from Israel, which means you boycott Israel completely.”
Brummer spoke at the Israeli American Council on November 5— an organization funded by Sheldon Adelson– in a panel titled “The Real BDS: Bigotry, Discrimination and Slander.”
Brummer’s affirmation cuts through a discussion that has certainly divided waters.
Last year, Todd Gitlin, Peter Beinart, Kai Bird, Peter Brooks, Michael Walzer, Edward Witten, et al., wrote a letter in the New York Review of Books, titled “For an Economic Boycott and Political Nonrecognition of the Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories”. Whilst promoting a “targeted boycott of all goods and services from all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, and any investments that promote the Occupation”, they nonetheless “oppose an economic, political, or cultural boycott of Israel itself as defined by its June 4, 1967, borders” (and they in fact opened the letter with that statement).
In response, Angela Y. Davis, Chandler Davis, Richard A. Falk, Rashid Khalidi, and Alice Rothchild, et al., published a letter (also in the NYRB), which states that they “welcome the statement’s shattering of the taboo against boycotting Israeli entities that are complicit in—at least selective—violations of Palestinian human rights”, and yet noted the very critical problem they had with the letter:
“Defying common sense, however, the statement calls for boycotting settlements while letting Israel, the state that has illegally built and maintained those settlements for decades, off the hook,” they wrote. They wondered, moreover, “shouldn’t Israeli banks that are not based in settlements but finance their construction be targeted as well?”
Two years ago, I had translated a Hebrew Maariv article on my Facebook page, where Israeli bank officials were warning about a “financial-national tsunami”. The article by Ben Caspit noted that “the banks are in panic following a document produced by the research institute facilitating the EU. According to its recommendations, the union must boycott Israeli banks involved in financial activity in the occupied territories”. The upshot of this was further clarified by officials in the Israeli banking system:
“One way or another… it’s necessary to understand what will happen here on the day that it will be decided to ‘credit mark’. When you mark products it can harm part of the market here and there, but when they mark each credit that the bank gives beyond the Green Line [1967 line] and boycott that bank, the meaning of it is a property confiscation warrant on all the banks. The European banking and credit system is inextricably connected to the Israeli economy, no European bank will accompany projects in Israel, it will not be possible to receive credit in Europe and there is nothing we would be able to do about it”.
All of this completely confirms Brummer’s point about Israel having only one economic system, and it’s all invested in the occupation and the settlements anyway.
It’s important to understand just how much Brummer’s admission is ironic, coming from him. He’s a professional propagandist. He wouldn’t want to strengthen the BDS. But his point is, no doubt inadvertently, making a strong point for it, and for abandonment of ‘selective boycotts’. When I say ‘propagandist’, it’s not just vitriol. Reporter Philip Weiss is being semantically correct in describing Brummer as “the executive director for operations of the Israeli Ministry for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy”, but that last part, “public diplomacy”, is literally called Hasbara in Hebrew. In Hebrew, that literally means ‘explaining’, but many around the world have come to know the Hebrew term as synonymous with propaganda, just like with the Russian name ‘Pravda’ for the old Soviet state-outlet.
Brummer’s boss is Minister Gilad Erdan, who, as minister of propaganda, has staged vile and lowly propaganda campaigns, such as the recent one against Marwan Barghouti during the Palestinian prisoner hunger-strike. Erdan’s office is entrusted with the task of combatting BDS globally, which it does by all sorts of means, many of which are admittedly kept secret and best not exposed. Erdan has claimed that “the message has to be that it’s not worth being a BDS activist” and that “they [BDS activists] should know that there will be a price”.
Indeed, Brummer also pointed out that there will be a price – and that was the headline of this site’s coverage: “Want to boycott Israel? Be my guest, there will be a pricetag”. This is a somewhat chilling, even if indirect, hint to ‘pricetag attacks’ by religious-fundamentalist Israeli settlers against Palestinians, supposedly as an act of revenge. The most notorious of these has been the burning alive of the Dawabshe family in Duma in 2015.
Brummer’s bellicose rhetoric reaches ridiculous levels, like when he talks about the ‘carrot and the stick’ in regards to BDS: “With BDS promoters… You always have to use the stick and carrot theory. First you hit them with the stick then you hit them with the carrot” – so even the carrot is a stick, when it comes to BDS. Perhaps Brummer believes that the only language that the non-violent BDS movement understands is force – or perhaps it is the only language that he himself can speak.
As to the ‘selctive boycott’ strategy, the notion has been championed by intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, whom I have challenged recently on this point. As I wrote:
“This notion, of seeing the settlements as separate to Israel, touches upon a very central issue, concerning responsibility: Is it not fair to say, that the Israeli state is responsible for this occupation, for these settlements? Historical appraisal shows that it is – and that the enactment and maintenance of the settler project has been supported de facto by Israel from right to left. We can then wonder why criticism of Israel, as a whole, is so contentious. If a thief has stolen some items, is it not the thief who is to be regarded as responsible?”
Israeli-British professor Avi Shlaim has recently stated in an interview for Jadaliyya, that he is “in favour of EU sanctions against Israel because Israel fails to live up to the terms of the association agreement it has with EU. The preamble of this agreement says Israel must respect the human rights of all the people under its rule. Israel systematically violates the human rights of the Palestinians and therefore I think and I hope that the EU would suspend this agreement until Israel lives up to its obligations.”
Shlaim confirmed in that interview that BDS is not merely a strategy – it is the only valid strategy available to Palestinians:
“BDS is a global grass-roots movement which has been gathering support at a very impressive pace and it has had a large number of successes with major companies divesting from Israel. It has also had considerable impact on public opinion throughout the world, delegitimising the Israeli occupation. The Israelis take it very seriously. They have formed a unit with a budget of GBP 40 million in order to fight BDS by launching personal attacks on individuals and delegitimising them rather than engaging with the arguments of BDS. And it seems to me that there is now hope that western governments will change their policy of support for Israel… So going back to BDS, there is no hope for the Palestinians to bring about the end of occupation through the support of western governments or the UN, the only hope that the Palestinians have is through BDS.”
Israeli journalist Gideon Levy made a similar statement over a year ago: “we have no choice but to recognize that boycott, divestment and sanctions is the only game in town”.
And now Brummer, top Israeli propagandist, even confirms that there is no such thing as a selective boycott of Israel. Either you’re in or you’re out.
Indeed, time to choose sides – which side of history you’re on. Israel will tell you that boycotting Israel is ‘anti-Semitic’ – aye, even the center-left lawmaker Merav Michaeli recently said that “a lot of the BDS movement is good old anti-Semitism.”
But in the end, you have to sift through this propaganda, and it becomes a very personal moral matter. To protect Apartheid – or to fight for freedom, justice and equality. And it seems quite obvious now, that you can’t really sit on the fence here – nor on the ‘green line’.