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 boycott efforts haven’t kept Israel from drawing 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 sanctions.
Palestinians and their supporters have been working for years to punish Israel economically for its settlement of lands the Palestinians want for a future state. While the economic effect has been negligible, the sanctions movement scored several successes in recent months, with several European companies and institutions cutting ties with Israeli companies that operate in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
It also won a higher profile after actress Scarlett Johansson severed ties last month with the U.K.-based humanitarian group Oxfam, which criticized her for acting as a spokeswoman for SodaStream International Ltd., the Israeli maker of home soda machines with a factory in the West Bank.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid, speaking after Bennett at the same event, warned that the sanctions campaign could have “dire” economic consequences. Israel’s export-dependent economy makes it “particularly vulnerable to any kind of international sanctions or boycotts,” he said.
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.”