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BDS Israel: The decade in reviewAuthor
by Divest this Monday, Aug. 16, 2010 at 5:24 PM

I thought it might be useful to summarize the progress of the BDS movement since it began a decade ago. Because so much of the BDS project is based on words, including competing claims of success and failure, I thought it best to provide a summary based primarily on numbers which (as I recall from my business days) are the only things that tend to get preserved as information travels up or through an organization.



Since these numbers need to be “scored” against some criterion, I’ve decided to abandon my usual critique of the BDS narrative and, in this instance, accept as a given their primary thesis: that economic activity related to Israel translates to political approval or disapproval. Now some people may say this is overly generous in that it allows them to continue to claim that purely economic decisions are actually fueled by partisan considerations. But if we accept (albeit temporarily) their founding principle on a micro level, then they must also be willing to be judged along the same criteria on a macro basis

During the very period when BDS was supposedly on the march, the size of Israel’s economy (as measured by GDP) nearly doubled from $110B to $190B. Now given that the BDS project is based on their activity having economic consequence for the Jewish state, the takeaway from this chart seems to be that such consequence has been an explosion of growth in the Israeli economy.

Now no doubt some divestniks will cry foul and insist that their “movement” is concentrated outside of Israel and is based on getting individuals and organizations to stop buying Israeli goods or investing in Israeli companies (or in companies that in some way benefit Israel). In which case, the numbers that would be more relevant would be Israel exports, not GNP. While this information was harder to obtain based on a US dollar metric, the following table (based approximately on constant 2000 Israeli Sheckls) shows a trend similar to GDP growth:

Israeli exports are growing rapidly and fueling the hot Israeli economy that the boycotters have spent the better part of a decade working tirelessly to bring to its knees. And as far as divestment (i.e., stopping the flow of investment dollars into Israel) goes, as has been recently documented the European venture capital markets currently invest more in Israel than they do in any single European country. In other words, even in Europe (which has been the target of even more aggressive boycott and divestment activities than the US) the BDS formula that translates investment and divestment into political support indicates overwhelming enthusiasm for the Jewish state.

Yes, as it turns out, after nearly ten years of BDS-related propaganda targeting Israel’s most important ally, the United States, support for Israel has grown almost 20 percentage points.

It’s easy to get lost in the rhetoric of accusation and counter-accusation, claims of success and fraud, questioning of motives, etc. that so-much characterizes the debate over BDS. But when you simply look at the numbers, and take as granted the causal connection between economics and political support the boycotters insist we must do, it’s hard to find a movement that has been more counter-productive to its own aims than boycott, divestment and sanctions.

After a decade of tireless efforts on the part of champions in the cause of BDS, Israel has become more economically successful (wildly so), with exports from and investment in the Jewish state growing rapidly and showing no signs of slowing. And despite (or possibly because) of their non-stop attempts to insert the Arab-Israeli dispute into every civic institution in the land, general public support for Israel is today at an all-time high.

Which leaves we supporters of Israel with an interesting conundrum. Should we continue to fight against BDS or simply stand back and let a movement so successful in shooting itself in the foot continue to fuel the success of the Jewish state?

Related
I thought it might be useful to summarize the progress of the BDS movement since it began a decade ago. Because so much of the BDS project is based on words, including competing claims of success and failure, I thought it best to provide a summary based primarily on numbers which (as I recall from my business days) are the only things that tend to get preserved as information travels up or through an organization.

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