Boycotts and sanctions often, maybe even usually, backfire when applied to states. That is the main point of a thought provoking article in today's Haaretz by Zvi Bar'el.
Bar'el uses the opportunity to argue against Israel's official blockade of Gaza, Israelis unofficial boycott of Turkey, and the growing general BDS campaign against the Israel.
Anywhere sanctions are imposed - from Iraq to Iran, from Gaza to Pakistan - nationalist and radical forces actually have become stronger. Even the intellectuals who oppose the regimes have found themselves forced to defend them from outside intervention. Nationalism, or more correctly, extreme nationalism, rejoices.Even in the much lauded South African example of a "successful" boycott, Bar'el points out that, to the extent the boycott was a critical factor in the fall of apartheid, it took decades to do its work. More relevant was the fall of the Soviet Union (which undercut the Communists in the ANC and removed white's fears of losing their economic privilege) and the simultaneous rise of two conciliatory and powerful leaders: De Klerk and Mandella.
In regard to the probable effectiveness of BDS on Israel, Bar'el writes:
... the call is motivated by the same logic that guides [Israeli] government policy in Gaza, and it is just as mistaken. After all, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that the Israeli government or the public will behave differently than Gazans or Iranians.
The fact that Israel is a democracy is no guarantee. Proof of this lies in the collective behavior in the face of Turkey's attack (sic!) on Israel and the threat of military sanctions. Cancelling vacations in Antalya, protests and boycotting Turkish goods have become symbols of the "just struggle" against the bad guys.
If Israeli scholars are banned by universities in London, that's not so terrible. They can still go to Pennsylvania, and if they are banned there, they can still correspond and publish online; what's more important is that foreigners don't dictate policy "to us." If now, even before a boycott, lecturers have to think twice about what they say lest extreme nationalists mark them, then under sanctions, some elected officials may ensure such academics are immediately fired. In any case, people waiting for an academic uprising amidst a boycott should have their heads examined.
Bar'el may be right.
But that is no reason not to boycott goods and services from Israeli settlements. The settlements are an unmitigated evil, and the root of the current impasse, and most of the injustices in Israel/Palestine affairs. And, because boycotting the settlements does not target all Israelis, it drives (or at least may drive) a wedge between the settlers and the rest of the Israeli population. And that can only be good for prospects for peace and justice.
Oddly enough - or maybe not, given the wizardry of targeted ads on the Internet - the very page that displays Bar'el's article (see image above) also displays an ad for Ahava cosmetics - one of the most high profile settlement products sold world wide.
Ahava should be boycotted. It is produced by Mitzpeh Shalem a settlement in the West Bank. It uses as its ingredients, Dead Sea salts - extracted from the occupied territories in an area confiscated by the Israeli government and given to the settlers. And access to the Dead Sea is denied to Palestinians, even though approximately 25% of its shoreline is in the West Bank.
So pass it on: Boycott Ahava. And boycott other products of the occupied territories. This includes many of "Israel's" wines; you will need to read the label carefully to see which wines are made where. A partial list of settlements and their products can be found here.
And you won't be alone. The Palestinian Authority has called for a targeted boycott of settlement products. (It pointedly did not call for a boycott of all Israeli goods.) And the Methodist Church in England just today decided to boycott products from settlements.