This week we recognized Holocaust Remembrance Day. So, naturally, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon decided it would be an ideal moment to rationalize recent acts of Palestinian terrorism. Elsewhere, Europeans decided to cover up Western artwork so the prickly sensibilities of a visiting Holocaust-denying, terror-funding Islamist dignitary would not be offended. And here at home, the U.S. Customs Department began rejecting Jewish products made in the West Bank labeled “Made in Israel.”
Anti-Israel activists at J Street and elsewhere have pushed for implementation of a decades-old customs guidance (a 1993 regulation meant to spur Palestinian economic activity after the Oslo Accords — an agreement Arabs, in the end, abandoned) as a punitive measure aimed at Jewish-run companies in the West Bank. Strange, isn’t it, how so many of the same people who lecture us about insensitivity and “Islamophobia” propose laws specifically targeting Jewish businesses?
To put the administration’s new guidance into some perspective, it’s worth noting that The Simon Wiesenthal Center labeled a similar European ban as one of the most anti-Semitic acts of 2015 — a year in which it had plenty to choose from:
The European Union has chosen to label products from the Golan Heights and disputed territories on the West Bank alone, ignoring the products of other occupied and disputed territories in the world such as Western Sahara, Kashmir, Tibet and products from areas controlled by terrorist Hamas and Hezbollah. This use of double standards against Israel typifies modern anti-Israelism and has been at the core of anti-Semitism for many centuries.
There has always been a morally dubious double-standard when it comes to land under Israel’s control. Hundreds of millions of minorities live under occupation in the world, yet you’ll never see leftists marching for the rights of Coptic Christians or Kurdish statehood; trendy media outlets aren’t going to produce misleading ahistorical propaganda films about the dozens of ethnic subgroups living under occupation — most with far less of a chance at self-determination than the Palestinians.
Then again, perhaps if Tibetans start stabbing civilians and blowing up children, the U.N., E.U., The New York Times, and Vox might be more interested in championing their cause. Well, they’d have to stab the right kind of people, of course.
Though The Simon Wiesenthal Center points to some important examples, there’s really no precise contemporary analogy to the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Tibet, for instance, was a country with historic borders and institutions that was invaded by its powerful neighbor, while the disputed territories in the West Bank were lands secured during wars of Arab aggression. The inhabitants — who elected terrorist organizations to lead them whenever given any self-determination — have waged a war on Jewish civilians long before the “occupied territory” even existed.
According to State Dept spokesman, what Obama admin just did counts as step toward boycotting Israel. pic.twitter.com/yJni1Gt34p
— Omri Ceren (@cerenomri) January 28, 2016
But setting aside this enduring hypocrisy for a moment, the entire boycott movement is centered on a destructive economic notion. For those not driven by loathing or fanaticism, the idea of targeting the most modern, well-paying, and prosperous companies in an impoverished area might seem counterproductive.
Take SodaStream. When it gave in to protesters and moved its manufacturing plant from disputed territory into Israel proper, (though it claims it left the West Bank for unrelated reasons), the company was employing somewhere around 600 Palestinians. Like most Israeli firms operating in these areas, the pay was higher than market wages in the area. Now, only around 130 of those Palestinian are permitted to enter Israel, if, that is, they are willing to travel four hours a day to the factory on the other side of the Green Line.
Omri Ceren, managing director at The Israel Project and who I first noticed as flagging this story, says: “Targeting West Bank Jews won’t leave a scratch on the Israeli economy, but they’re seen across the region as the United States going out of its way to alienate a crucial ally. It looks like petulant lashing out for its own sake.”
It’s certainly does. Then again, whatever economic impact the new guidance will have, and probably not much on Israelis, there’s no doubt antagonists will have a shiny new talking point — “Even the United States sees the injustices of Israel” — and they’ll comfort themselves in the idea that the U.S. has been pushed a little closer towards joining the broader European-style boycott (which Obama supports) and the BDS movement.
As we saw during the recent capitulation to Iran, Barack Obama (and the Left in general) cares increasingly little about alienating our one-time ally. Sure, activists might be flailing. But what this sort of (mostly) empty gesture might do is reinforce the belief among Palestinians that continuing to stab mothers and children and firing rockets into Israel is a winning strategy, because even the U.S is finally coming around. It’s utterly irresponsible and entirely unsurprising.