The recent decision by the Israeli government to deny entry to the country to representatives of organizations dedicated to boycotting it has sparked a fair amount of controversy. To Haviv Rettig Gur, these measures are a product more of grandstanding by some Israeli politicians than of any real strategy to combat the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS). Moreover, he writes, BDS is bound to fail because its premise is based on a misunderstanding of what motivates Israelis:
Some of the [BDS] movement is rather openly and bluntly bigoted against Jews and Israel. Some of it is made up of well-meaning liberals at a loss for how else to aid the Palestinians in their plight. And some, as with all political movements, is a mix of well-meaning empathy and unexamined prejudice. . . . [Its supporters] seek to affect Israelis’ behavior through boycotts and sanctions, but have no clear sense of why Israelis behave as they do in the first place—and thus of what sorts of pressure might be required to change that behavior.
They do not know that most Israelis back, in principle, withdrawal and separation from the Palestinians, or that since the second intifada that began in 2000, most Israelis no longer believe that Palestinian politics can reciprocate such an Israeli withdrawal with peace. That is, they don’t know that Israelis oppose withdrawal because they believe the vacuum they leave behind will be filled by the likes of Hamas, Hizballah, or Islamic State. . . .
Most Israelis believe their children’s lives are literally and directly endangered by the Palestinians’ liberation—far more endangered by that liberation than by the continued low-level conflict required to maintain the occupation. No amount of diplomatic shuttling . . . is likely to make a dent in that mainstream Israeli fear, which is constantly bolstered and validated by the rhetoric and actions of Hamas and other mainstream Palestinian groups, as well as the experience of the 2005 Gaza withdrawal. . . .
If . . . Israelis believe their children’s safety is on the line, what possible effect can an economic boycott have? Would any BDS activist risk his own children’s safety to escape someone else’s boycott? This, for Israelis, is the damning truth behind BDS. . . . Average Israelis, [for their part], mostly hear about BDS from their own politicians, since these boycotters do not engage Israelis and so have no control over how their efforts are being presented to the targets of their ire.