Israeli Minister Slams Boycotts as ‘New Form of Anti-Semitism’

Using economic sanctions to influence Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians is a “new form of anti-Semitism,” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said, even as boycott activists contended that recent successes had Israeli leaders “panicking.”

Bennett told a Jerusalem conference of American-Jewish leaders today that despite boycott efforts, Israel continued to draw record foreign investment, especially in its technology sector.

“I’m not at all ignoring this sort of threat, but let’s be very clear: Anyone who suggests to boycott Israel, that’s an unacceptable approach, that’s a new form of anti-Semitism,” Bennett said. He asked conference participants to campaign against boycotts.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid and other Israeli officials have warned that the sanctions’ still-negligible economic effect may deepen after several European companies and institutions cut ties in recent months with Israeli companies that operate in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Palestinians claim the territories, captured by Israel in 1967, for a future state.

The sanctions campaign also won a higher profile after actress Scarlett Johansson cut her ties last month with the U.K.-based humanitarian group Oxfam, which criticized her for acting as a celebrity spokeswoman for SodaStream International Ltd. (SODA), the Israeli maker of home soda machines with a factory in the West Bank.

Boycott leaders, meeting today in the West Bank near Ramallah, said a decade of activism was bearing fruit.

The boycott initiative has “reached a tipping point in its struggle for comprehensive Palestinian rights under international law,” said Omar Barghouti, a founder of BDS, the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement. “The Israeli government is panicking because of the recent fast growth of BDS around the world, particularly in countries that have always been considered Israel’s closest allies in the world: the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, among others.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net; Fadwa Hodali in Ramallah at fhodali@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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