Germany’s Unexpected Turn against the Boycott-Israel Movement

Aug. 24 2020

In recent years, a major organizing impetus for anti-Israel activity in Western Europe and the U.S. has come in the form of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS), which, despite its limited economic impact, has done much to generate anti-Jewish sentiment. While Germany is home to an active wing of BDS—which has made inroads with far-left parties and a few years ago seemed poised to go mainstream—the movement faced a sudden reversal when, last year, the Bundestag passed a resolution declaring its “arguments and methods . . . anti-Semitic.” The resolution has few legal ramifications, but much symbolic import. In a history of the BDS movement in Germany, Benjamin Weinthal explains what changed:

The story begins with a 2012 EU initiative to affix special labels to Israeli imports from settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights. After a debate that lasted through 2015, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel came down in favor of the labels, a decision that placed it on the side of the BDS campaign.

The political environment began to change, however, with a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. Jewish communities across the continent had to contend with violence and verbal abuse. By 2019, the situation in Germany had worsened to the point that Merkel said, “There is to this day not a single synagogue, not a single daycare center for Jewish children, not a single school for Jewish children that does not need to be guarded by German policemen.”

Despite some minority voices, the German perception of BDS as anti-Semitic has resulted in major setbacks for the campaign. In the German view, the BDS campaign singles out the state of Israel for opprobrium and calls for its complete isolation yet does not advocate any comparable pressure on Hamas or the Palestinian Authority for their abusive and authoritarian conduct. Nor does the BDS campaign demand accountability for the regimes in Damascus and Beijing, whose atrocities exceed by orders of magnitude even the gravest offenses committed in the course of the Arab-Israeli conflict. German lawmakers explicitly assess that the application of double standards to the Jewish state is anti-Semitic in nature. In practice, there is little difference between the slogans “Don’t buy from Jews” and “Don’t buy from the Jewish state.”

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Read more at FDD

More about: Angela Merkel, Anti-Semitism, BDS, German Jewry, Germany

 

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism