Alarm Bells in Israel, a Tale of Spunky Defiance in The Times

The boycott movement has become big news in Israel. Last weekend an influential show, “Channel 2 News,” ran a long segment on the issue in prime time. One day later the topic appeared again, this time under banner headlines on the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth, the country’s largest newspaper.

As Larry Derfner, a journalist with the Israeli English-language online magazine 972, wrote, this unprecedented publicity brought “an impressive new level of mainstream exposure” to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and served as a “wake-up call,” and “a wrench thrown into the national denial machine.”

The television program, he noted, was heavily promoted, ran for 16 minutes and was narrated by “top drawer reporter” Dana Weiss. Moreover, it “didn’t blame the boycott on anti-Semitism or Israel-bashing” but treated it as an “established, rapidly growing presence that sprang up because of Israel’s settlement policy and whose only remedy is that policy’s reversal.”

The print story ran under the following headline and subhead: “100 leaders of the economy warn of boycott on Israel: The world is losing its patience and the threat of sanctions is increasing. We must reach an agreement with the Palestinians.” It reported that a group of major Israeli businessmen warned Netanyahu of the threat to Israel’s economy last week before the World Economic Forum in Davos.

How has all this played out in the Times? One day after the Yedioth article, it published a piece by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren titled “Israeli Settlers Use the Web to Push Back on Boycott,” which appeared in print only in The International New York Times and was available online on the Middle East page of the World section under the title Letter From the Middle East.

The story is built around the spunky defiance of a pair of settlers, two “American-born religious Jews raising four children high on a hilltop” inside the occupied West Bank. They run a website promoting settlement products as “an attempted antidote to the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ movement.”

The story acknowledges that the boycott movement has been gaining ground, and it quotes two Israeli ministers, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, who have sounded the alarm about the effects of the boycott. But the real focus of the story is the couple, Gedaliah and Elisheva Blum, and their determination.

“The Blums have not been deterred,” Rudoren writes. They are promoting settler art online, “from their modest home,” along with products by other “small businesses” run by settlers. They also get the last word in the story: “We saw a boycott, we see injustice, then you do something about it. Even if it’s just one little baby step.”

Rudoren refers to the occupation of the West Bank in an oblique fashion. It is “what most of the world envisions as the future Palestinian state.” The settlements are “generally viewed as illegal under international law,” and the occupied Palestinian (and Syrian) territories are land “the international community generally considers illegally occupied.” Readers could take all these claims as mere opinions, as one side in an abstract legal argument.

The story reports without comment that the Blums believe Israel should annex the West Bank, but it gives no sense of what this dispossession would mean to the indigenous Palestinians and no hint of the brutal methods already used to support the settlement enterprise—settler attacks on villagers and the demolitions of wells, cisterns, animal shelters, homes and schools in Palestinian communities.

It also provides no hint of the wake-up call now sounding in Israel, from its premier television news program to the front page of its leading newspaper. Times readers, unless they are fluent in Hebrew and follow alternative media like 972 Magazine, will have no clue.

Barbara Erickson

4 thoughts on “Alarm Bells in Israel, a Tale of Spunky Defiance in The Times

  1. Hi there! This article could not be written much better!
    Lookijg at this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He continually kept preaching about this. I’ll
    send this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a very good read.
    Thanks foor sharing!

    Like

  2. Mr. Blum objects to using economics to achieve a political goal. But Israel is employing this very tactic against the Palestinians. Look at the restrictions on travel and transport, the denial of access by farmers to their lands in need of cultivation, and the draconian confiscation of land. Yes, Israel is using economic oppression in order to take control of more and more territory. Politics and economics are inexorably intertwined. I agree with Mr. Blum’s statement that the innocent should not suffer, and I definitely do not want his family to be deprived of what they need. By the same token, however, there must be concern for the sufferings of the Palestinian families. We are all brothers and sisters, whether Jew or Gentile.

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  3. Thank you for your kind words Barbra. We look forward to receiving the attention these businesses deserve. Clearly there is a wide space between you and I as well as our audiences in what we believe. The fact is that people will read and believe what they want and will not be swayed by the likes of you or me. Therefore, I thank you for the additional exposure.

    We are not a political organization. The birth of his campaign was in response to people using economics in place of political maneuvering. We see that the people on the ground who are trying to live a simple life and feed their kids should not be the target. If there is disagreement, there are legal channels which can be looked into.

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