Omar Barghouti, founder and leading guru of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, whose goal is to weaken Israel economically to the point of collapse, now finds himself in an embarrassing position, for having, in a moment of candour, exposed the inherent contradictions at the heart of his project.
Speaking of the pandemic in an Arabic-language Facebook broadcast, as part of a webinar, titled “BDS and Anti-normalization: The most important strategies to fight against [Trump’s] deal of the century, even in the time of COVID-19,” Barghouti stated, “If you use medical equipment from Israel—it’s not a problem. Cooperating with Israel against the virus—to begin with, we do not consider it normalization,” adding, “If Israel finds a cure for cancer, for example, or any other disease, then there is no problem in cooperating with Israel to save millions of lives.”
In a sarcastic response to Barghouti’s statement, former IDF spokesman Peter Lerner tweeted, “What’s this boycott Israeli everything, except Israeli medication?” Piling on, international human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky tweeted, “We might find cure for #CoronaVirus, but not sure we can find vaccine for this kind of mega hypocrisy!” Not to be outdone, the Israel Advocacy Movement tweeted, “Meet Omar Barghouti, he founded the BDS movement… This is how he boycotts Israel: He chose to go to Tel Aviv University. He uses technology built in Israel. He won’t boycott Covid-19 vaccines developed in Israel. Total hypocrite.”
Barghouti is taking the flak here, but really, his critics are only shooting the messenger. It is the message of BDS itself that is inherently hypocritical. And always was. The pandemic is only calling attention to the ongoing hypocrisy that has plagued the movement from its inception.
When you call for a boycott of a company whose policies you disagree with or product you find offensive, you stop using its products and you encourage others to do so. In a boycott of a company, you are attempting to force change by reducing its profits, but if the CEO concedes defeat, you are content to let the company thrive. If they don’t change, then you are content to see the company go under. In either case, it’s not personal. The outcome has no material effect on the boycotter, because there are other companies making similar products.
In the case of a country whose policies are offensive, as for example in the case of South Africa and apartheid, massive boycotts can be extremely effective. But once apartheid ended in South Africa, the boycotters went on to find other causes to rally against. South Africa rejoined the family of nations in full legitimacy. It wasn’t personal, it was the system.
But the BDS movement was never about Israeli policies or products, and no change of political leadership would ever have placated this group. Because with the BDS gang, it’s very personal. It is Israel’s existence that agitates them, and therefore they can never declare their boycott a success as long as Israel continues to exist as a Jewish nation. That’s why they keep calling it an apartheid state, even though nothing remotely approaching apartheid is applicable to Israel. Unlike all other boycotts, BDS harbours at its core an exterminationist mission.
The only problem is that unlike boycotting, say, Iran, where all you’d have to give up is carpets and pistachio nuts, Israel’s productivity affects every facet of modern life. BDS-niks can’t live a normal life without Israeli inventions and products.
You couldn’t use your computer, because all Intel Premium and Celeron computer processor chips were either developed or manufactured in Israel. Even if you could, you’d have to stop sending emails because the necessary algorithm was developed by an Israeli. You couldn’t use any mobile phone, the technology for which was invented in Israel. Likewise voice mail. Also no e-books. Or Video on Demand.
Cherry tomatoes? Sorry. Ok, maybe you can do without them, but what about your medications? Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals, the largest generic drugs company in the world, likely manufactured some or all of your meds. And on the subject of your health, be sure not to get cancer. Israeli research is deeply bound up with common cancer protocols. I also recommend against getting HIV, as your treatment plan is sure to include Israeli-developed drugs. Ditto for MS and Parkinson’s. Don’t even think about wearing that bracelet that sends an alert if you are having an epileptic seizure. Liver disease, emphysema, myeloma, spinal implants, heart stents, vaccines of all kinds…
Shall I go on? I could, you know, at great length. But you get the drift. Barghouti can’t be singled out as a hypocrite. There isn’t a single activist or ally in the BDS movement who isn’t as well.
What’s really pathetic is to see these earnest Israel-haters out in force invading grocery stores to put stickers on tubs of Sabra Humus and packages of Israeli dates as a warning to consumers they are products of Israel. Really, guys? Humus and dates is what you’re proud to say you’re boycotting? How brave to take the risk of a dirty look from a customer.
But their sacrifice pales beside the one of those who went that extra mile and took part in that so-courageous boycott of the Montreal retailer who dared to sell Israeli-made Naot shoes! For months in 2011, a small group of anti-Israel activists from the group Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) paraded up and down in front of Le Marcheur shoe store every Saturday attempting to intimidate both the owners and their customers. Humus, dates, shoes. Wow. Tales of the Resistance to tell their awestruck grandchildren!
If a single one of these moral preeners ever gave up the use of a computer, a cell phone, a medical treatment or anything else invented or manufactured in Israel that he or she found essential – no, not even essential, let’s say convenient – to their lifestyle, I’d be forced into a grudging respect for them. But to my knowledge, not a single BDS activist ever has done so. I’m by no means the first to note the arrant hypocrisy of a movement that never walks the walk of its talk. But this elephant in the room never got the attention Barghouti is getting now.
So why is this pandemic different from all other days and nights in the lives of the BDSniks? Because, as 18th century writer Samuel Johnson so wisely observed, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” None of us knows if we will be the one to be hanged, but we do know it’s a possibility, and yes, such a prospect does tend to concentrate the mind on the hope of a vaccine or a cure being found before we get it.
Omar is no different from any of us in his fear. And he is also no dummy. He knows very well that Israel is likely to be amongst the first to develop useful products and techniques in this battle.
Indeed, Israel was recently ranked by the COVID-19 Deep Knowledge Group as the “safest country in the world” for its response to the coronavirus. It was the first to stop flights from Chinese hot spots like Hubei, to implement lockdowns to protect its citizens (including Arab citizens, of course), to quarantine overseas travellers. Israel is carrying out more tests than any other country in the world, tens of thousands a day. People who have tested positive have “home hospitalization kits” delivered to their doorstep with tools like automatic-read thermometers for handling their at-home self-care with the aid of telemedical support.
As is its wont in crises, Israel is generous with its tech savvy. The Israeli division of Medtronics released blueprints for its ventilators so companies could mass produce them free of charge. When Hamas released rockets over Israel and declared they would murder six million Israeli Jews, Israel responded by sending medical aid to the Palestinians, trained their medics and treated their stricken people. Some apartheid.
Argaman, an Israeli company, has developed a cotton antiviral material to be used for masks, whose properties go beyond the limitations even of the N95 masks, considered the gold standard up to now. Originally designed to protect chemo patients, this mask actually kills “all” viruses “100% of the time,” says Argaman president Jeff Gabay. It’s washable and bleachable and virtually indestructible, he says. The masks are now in the process of replacing the N95 masks in Hong Kong. The material can also be used to make bedding and hospital gowns.
If this material is as effective as the company claims, this could be a game-changer in the annals of medicine. If it is, it will of course will be made available to everyone, including Hamas and Omar Barghouti and his minions, and they’ll take them gladly, if not gratefully. Too bad it took so long, and a pandemic to make it crystal clear to everyone what a bunch of political losers the BDS gang is.