The first ever anti-BDS conference in Israel brought together politicians of all stripes to show their commitment to the fight against boycotts. In doing so, however, they showed just how effective the boycott movement really is.
President Reuven Rivlin is interviewed during Yedioth Ahronoth’s Stop BDS conference, Jerusalem, March 28, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Israel’s best selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, and its online platform Ynet, hosted a conference Monday in Jerusalem’s Convention Center dedicated entirely to combatting the BDS movement. The very existence of the spectacle — the first national conference of its kind co-sponsored by StandWithUs and attended by over a thousand people — gave BDS (short for boycott, divestment, and sanctions) more attention in Israel than it could have ever hoped for.
It was a tell-tale sign that the global movement to boycott Israel has become significant enough to warrant such an event, whose speakers included President Reuven Rivlin, senior Knesset ministers, members of the opposition, World Jewish Congress head Ron Lauder and comedian Roseanne Barr. (There were, of course, no speakers at the conference who represent or support BDS).
The cognitive dissonance became clear the moment the conference began. Yedioth Ahronoth Editor-in-Chief Ron Yaron told the crowd that the power of BDS cannot be underestimated, and that Israel does not want to find itself in the position Apartheid South Africa was in 5 t0 10 years’ time. Yaron immediately caveated that there is no connection between Israel and South Africa. Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who oversees government efforts at combating BDS, opened by saying that people should not “overemphasize” BDS.
While the BDS movement and its most dominant spokesperson, Omar Barghouti, were the main target of the conference (Barghouti came up several times when speakers described the Israeli government’s recent efforts to revoke his permanent residency status), speakers also went after Israeli human rights groups for allegedly aiding BDS efforts.
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