Top Israeli official admits that boycotting just the settlements is meaningless

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Ladies and gentlemen, this is huge. A professional Israeli propagandist – Ron Brummer, chief of operations in Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Hasbara, has said recently:

“Israel does not have two different economic ecosystems, like, Israel within the green line and Israel over the green line. If you want to divest from the West Bank, Judea and Samaria, you have to divest from Israel, which means you boycott Israel completely.”

Brummer spoke at the Israeli American Council on November 5— an organization funded by Sheldon Adelson– in a panel titled “The Real BDS: Bigotry, Discrimination and Slander.”

Brummer’s affirmation cuts through a discussion that has certainly divided waters.

Last year, Todd Gitlin, Peter Beinart, Kai Bird, Peter Brooks, Michael Walzer, Edward Witten, et al., wrote a letter in the New York Review of Books, titled “For an Economic Boycott and Political Nonrecognition of the Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories”. Whilst promoting a “targeted boycott of all goods and services from all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, and any investments that promote the Occupation”, they nonetheless “oppose an economic, political, or cultural boycott of Israel itself as defined by its June 4, 1967, borders” (and they in fact opened the letter with that statement).

In response, Angela Y. Davis, Chandler Davis, Richard A. Falk, Rashid Khalidi, and Alice Rothchild, et al., published a letter (also in the NYRB), which states that they “welcome the statement’s shattering of the taboo against boycotting Israeli entities that are complicit in—at least selective—violations of Palestinian human rights”, and yet noted the very critical problem they had with the letter:

“Defying common sense, however, the statement calls for boycotting settlements while letting Israel, the state that has illegally built and maintained those settlements for decades, off the hook,” they wrote. They wondered, moreover, “shouldn’t Israeli banks that are not based in settlements but finance their construction be targeted as well?”

Two years ago, I had translated a Hebrew Maariv article on my Facebook page, where Israeli bank officials were warning about a “financial-national tsunami”. The article by Ben Caspit noted that “the banks are in panic following a document produced by the research institute facilitating the EU. According to its recommendations, the union must boycott Israeli banks involved in financial activity in the occupied territories”. The upshot of this was further clarified by officials in the Israeli banking system:

“One way or another… it’s necessary to understand what will happen here on the day that it will be decided to ‘credit mark’. When you mark products it can harm part of the market here and there, but when they mark each credit that the bank gives beyond the Green Line [1967 line] and boycott that bank, the meaning of it is a property confiscation warrant on all the banks. The European banking and credit system is inextricably connected to the Israeli economy, no European bank will accompany projects in Israel, it will not be possible to receive credit in Europe and there is nothing we would be able to do about it”.

All of this completely confirms Brummer’s point about Israel having only one economic system, and it’s all invested in the occupation and the settlements anyway.

It’s important to understand just how much Brummer’s admission is ironic, coming from him. He’s a professional propagandist. He wouldn’t want to strengthen the BDS. But his point is, no doubt inadvertently, making a strong point for it, and for abandonment of ‘selective boycotts’. When I say ‘propagandist’, it’s not just vitriol. Reporter Philip Weiss is being semantically correct in describing Brummer as “the executive director for operations of the Israeli Ministry for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy”, but that last part, “public diplomacy”, is literally called Hasbara in Hebrew. In Hebrew, that literally means ‘explaining’, but many around the world have come to know the Hebrew term as synonymous with propaganda, just like with the Russian name ‘Pravda’ for the old Soviet state-outlet.  

Brummer’s boss is Minister Gilad Erdan, who, as minister of propaganda, has staged vile and lowly propaganda campaigns, such as the recent one against Marwan Barghouti during the Palestinian prisoner hunger-strike. Erdan’s office is entrusted with the task of combatting BDS globally, which it does by all sorts of means, many of which are admittedly kept secret and best not exposed. Erdan has claimed that “the message has to be that it’s not worth being a BDS activist” and that “they [BDS activists] should know that there will be a price”.

Indeed, Brummer also pointed out that there will be a price – and that was the headline of this site’s coverage: “Want to boycott Israel? Be my guest, there will be a pricetag”. This is a somewhat chilling, even if indirect, hint to ‘pricetag attacks’ by religious-fundamentalist Israeli settlers against Palestinians, supposedly as an act of revenge. The most notorious of these has been the burning alive of the Dawabshe family in Duma in 2015.

Brummer’s bellicose rhetoric reaches ridiculous levels, like when he talks about the ‘carrot and the stick’ in regards to BDS: “With BDS promoters… You always have to use the stick and carrot theory. First you hit them with the stick then you hit them with the carrot” – so even the carrot is a stick, when it comes to BDS. Perhaps Brummer believes that the only language that the non-violent BDS movement understands is force – or perhaps it is the only language that he himself can speak.

As to the ‘selctive boycott’ strategy, the notion has been championed by intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, whom I have challenged recently on this point. As I wrote: 

“This notion, of seeing the settlements as separate to Israel, touches upon a very central issue, concerning responsibility: Is it not fair to say, that the Israeli state is responsible for this occupation, for these settlements? Historical appraisal shows that it is – and that the enactment and maintenance of the settler project has been supported de facto by Israel from right to left. We can then wonder why criticism of Israel, as a whole, is so contentious. If a thief has stolen some items, is it not the thief who is to be regarded as responsible?”

Israeli-British professor Avi Shlaim has recently stated in an interview for Jadaliyya, that he is “in favour of EU sanctions against Israel because Israel fails to live up to the terms of the association agreement it has with EU. The preamble of this agreement says Israel must respect the human rights of all the people under its rule. Israel systematically violates the human rights of the Palestinians and therefore I think and I hope that the EU would suspend this agreement until Israel lives up to its obligations.” 

Shlaim confirmed in that interview that BDS is not merely a strategy – it is the only valid strategy available to Palestinians:

“BDS is a global grass-roots movement which has been gathering support at a very impressive pace and it has had a large number of successes with major companies divesting from Israel. It has also had considerable impact on public opinion throughout the world, delegitimising the Israeli occupation. The Israelis take it very seriously. They have formed a unit with a budget of GBP 40 million in order to fight BDS by launching personal attacks on individuals and delegitimising them rather than engaging with the arguments of BDS. And it seems to me that there is now hope that western governments will change their policy of support for Israel… So going back to BDS, there is no hope for the Palestinians to bring about the end of occupation through the support of western governments or the UN, the only hope that the Palestinians have is through BDS.”

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy made a similar statement over a year ago: “we have no choice but to recognize that boycott, divestment and sanctions is the only game in town”.  

And now Brummer, top Israeli propagandist, even confirms that there is no such thing as a selective boycott of Israel. Either you’re in or you’re out.

Indeed, time to choose sides – which side of history you’re on. Israel will tell you that boycotting Israel is ‘anti-Semitic’ – aye, even the center-left lawmaker Merav Michaeli recently said that “a lot of the BDS movement is good old anti-Semitism.”

But in the end, you have to sift through this propaganda, and it becomes a very personal moral matter. To protect Apartheid – or to fight for freedom, justice and equality. And it seems quite obvious now, that you can’t really sit on the fence here – nor on the ‘green line’.  

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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20 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    November 18, 2017, 3:10 pm

    Seems Israel is betting that EU and USA (et al.) will do nothing much. Schlaim is right, but EU has no will to enforce H/R. However, one can but hope that “the people” may someday move their governments to buck the system and do what’s right. Bans (as in France) on BDS make it harder for “the people” to move their governments.

  2. yonah fredman
    November 18, 2017, 6:41 pm

    “In Hebrew, that literally means ‘explaining’, but many around the world have come to know the Hebrew term as synonymous with propaganda, just like with the Russian name ‘Pravda’ for the old Soviet state-outlet.” I understand the gist of what Ofir is trying to say, but it is awkward and propaganda of its own. Many do not know that pravda means truth. And the comparison of using the word truth as the name of a paper and “explanation” as the name of a government agency are barely comparable.

    • oldgeezer
      November 18, 2017, 9:53 pm

      @yonah

      They are totally comparable yonah. It is a government funded, directed and organized effort. Neither deal with actual facts. If you haven’t seen the govt organized trainining sessions, the offers to pay cash for promotion, the fictitious ngo and risibly named fair reporting and watch sites then you have been going through life with your eyes closed.

      Maybe Russia needed to be more hidden due to it’s confrontational position but the Israeli propaganda machine is in your face and far more vile due to that.

      There is no moral highground between the meanings of pravda and hasbara. That is the most asinine suggestion i’ve seen from you in the past year.

    • Jonathan Ofir
      November 19, 2017, 2:47 am

      Why so, Yonah fredman? It’s exactly the point. Many do actually know that ‘pravda’ means ‘truth’, and that this ‘truth’ was state propaganda. Israel’s ‘explaining’ is precisely of the ‘truth’ it believes to need to ‘explain’.

      If this is the only issue troubling you, I’m flattered.

      • yonah fredman
        November 19, 2017, 6:19 am

        jonathan ofir- you preach to the converted. so cheerleading rather than propaganda is the proper label for your rhetoric. the ministry of explanation and the ministry of truth. no, the two don’t sound similar to me, but to your audience that is eager to nod and applaud, it is useful rhetoric.

        in fact the occupation of the west bank seems to me to be a severe error, both morally and politically and it will most probably remain the primary factor in my experience of Zionism (and close to primary vis a vis Judaism) for the rest of my lifespan, so i take the problem seriously. i viscerally reject bds, but it is visceral rather than logical. and bds is a secondary issue compared to the occupation which is primary.

        people who oppose both the occupation and bds will get fewer and fewer soon. so i understand your gleeful tone.

      • eljay
        November 19, 2017, 12:47 pm

        || yonah fredman: … the occupation of the west bank seems to me to be a severe error, both morally and politically … ||

        Acceding to Zionist demands for a “Jewish State” in geographic Palestine was a severe error, both morally and politically.

      • Mooser
        November 19, 2017, 1:53 pm

        “jonathan ofir- you preach to the converted. so cheerleading rather than propaganda is the proper label for your rhetoric.” “yonah fredman”

        WS “preach” (16)

        WS “cheerleading” (3)

        WS “propaganda” (107)

        Offered as an aid to understanding.

      • yonah fredman
        November 20, 2017, 5:28 am

        eljay- There’s a scene at the end of one of the bob hope bing crosby road movies where there is an earthquake and as a result of a chasm in the earth’s crust, crosby and hope are thrust on opposite sides and it is that image that divides me from the past, and the tumult of the years 1881 to 1945 are too extreme for me to have sufficient arrogance to arrogate unto myself the right to micromanage the past that i cannot change one bit. as a result, the establishment of israel is viewed with that type of fatalism, and thus i react to the fact of israel as a given very different from the post 67 situation, having witnessed 67 as a semi sentient pre teen, it has a history and a level of acceptance quite different from/than the level of acceptance that i, perforce of deeply taught emotion, attach to the establishment of israel.
        many/most israelis seem to find communicating with the palestinians very difficult and thus whatever the specific cause, the lack of communication is not a sign of progress, but regress.

        if there are palestinians or speakers of arabic reading this, i would add a mar’habtein, for you are the only ones who break through my fatalism with your presence, particularly when you come with open thoughts or open feelings.

      • eljay
        November 20, 2017, 8:27 am

        || yonah fredman: eljay … the tumult of the years 1881 to 1945 are too extreme for me to have sufficient arrogance to arrogate unto myself the right to micromanage the past that i cannot change one bit. as a result, the establishment of israel is viewed with that type of fatalism, and thus i react to the fact of israel as a given very different from the post 67 situation … ||

        Thanks for dropping yet another steaming pile. Nothing prevents you from advocating or supporting justice, accountability and equality in I-P. Well, nothing but your own love of and desire for Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine.

      • Cazador
        November 20, 2017, 9:39 am

        eljay,

        «Acceding to Zionist demands for a “Jewish State” in geographic Palestine was a severe error, both morally and politically.»

        …and especially militarily, adding also all that Palestinian suffering from résistance attempts, plus the Zionist obvious walls and roads apartheid structures, plus barely hidden genocide tactics, in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and also the Bedouins’ previously left alone territories…

  3. Marnie
    November 19, 2017, 4:00 am

    “Israel does not have two different economic ecosystems, like, Israel within the green line and Israel over the green line. If you want to divest from the West Bank, Judea and Samaria, you have to divest from Israel, which means you boycott Israel completely.”

    Well that’s pretty definitive and much much easier. The ‘settlement’ labels are a joke and there are too many ways to muck up the works. From the mouth of bigly habara , the entire ‘state of israel’ is a settlement and therefore should be boycotted in total. For anyone still on the fence about ‘israel’:

    U.S. Warns Palestinians They Could Lose Washington Embassy Over Abbas’ Call to Investigate Israelis

    The Trump administration to the Palestinians: Without entering serious peace negotiations with Israel, the U.S. could shut down Palestinian diplomatic delegation
    Haaretz 18.11.2017 14:28 Updated: 2:29 PM

    WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has notified the Palestinian Authority that unless it enters serious peace negotiations with Israel, the U.S. could shut down the Palestinian diplomatic delegation in Washington, D.C. within the next few months.

    The message was relayed to the Palestinians by the U.S. State Department recently, but it did not include a firm timeline. It was first reported on Friday by the Associated Press.

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Palestinians that this decision was reached as a result of statements made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who called on the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel and prosecute actions by Israelis.

    The State Department said that the statements made by Abbas go against a U.S. law which stipulates that the Palestinian mission should be closed if the Palestinians try to take action against Israel at the ICC.”

    The palestinians can’t continue to the united states to do anything but support the rogue ‘state’ of israel – they are basically one in the same. I hope that other more enlightened, honest and humane leadership in the zionist bubble outside of the united states and the bastard state of israel will step up and assist with their petition to the ICC.

    • pabelmont
      November 19, 2017, 9:09 pm

      Might this action by USA/Tillerson be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, the camel here being the refusal to act by the EU, South America, maybe a few other states? How long can they put up with the USA-Israel thumbing their noses at international law and international comity and international everything? In other words, I am asking the nations, “Have you, at long last, no decency?”

      • Marnie
        November 20, 2017, 8:53 am

        “Might this action by USA/Tillerson be the straw that breaks the camel’s back…”

        I hope so. The usa is dropping the ball on a lot of issues important to the rest of the world, climate change for one. I hope this will be the last straw and other nations will join together and do what the usa refuses to do. Because, for one thing, the so-called american president is way too busy pretending the white house is a plantation and his job is to keep uppity young black men in their place.

      • Cazador
        November 20, 2017, 10:54 am

        pabelmont,

        Venezuela in on the side of the Palestinians, but that could also explain why the US is trying to take full control of the Venezuelan population by funding and arming opposition groups to the Maduro government, groups that attack the Venezuelans in the streets to create an horror situation which they could accuse Maduro of.

        Of course, if Venezuela didn’t OWN one of the biggest oil reserves in the world, it wouldn’t have had the US government against it for so many decades, the Chavez government having been a clear example of the usual US’ attempts to steal/control other countries’ important reserves of oil, rare earth, valuable metals, etc. just like it does in North Africa, Afghanistan, etc. There are Gazan off-shore gas reserves, and you can be sure Israel is eyeing them and has already signed exploitation contracts for them with a US company, and the same goes for the off-shore reserves of Lebanon.

  4. Vera Gottlieb
    November 20, 2017, 9:54 am

    It would be my pleasure to divest from israel.!

    • Arby
      November 27, 2017, 6:53 pm

      There’s another dimension to this. ‘Most’ Israelis support their fascist government. For which reason I have no qualms about referring to Nazi Israel. (And I am more clear now about whether to boycott all things Israeli or not.) They are a spiritually and mentally ruined people. Just have a look at Abby Martin’s incredible interviews with regular Israelis in Tel Aviv (I believe it was), in which most of them called for murdering all Palestinians!

      • echinococcus
        November 28, 2017, 12:27 am

        And yet another dimension is that the Germans under Nazism lived under the intolerable weight of open military dictatorship. I have trouble finding any such expressions of spontaneous, popular hatred on the part of the German population at any time.
        The Zionist monsters have no excuse apart from their growing up in a Zio bubble. And that is pretty irreversible.

  5. Henry Norr
    November 21, 2017, 8:59 pm

    Jonathan Ofir writes of this Ron Brummer: “He’s a professional propagandist. He wouldn’t want to strengthen the BDS. But his point is, no doubt inadvertently, making a strong point for it…”

    His comments are certainly welcome, in that they confirm the obvious truth about the Israeli economy and should serve to undermine the vacuous arguments for a “selective boycott” of just the settlements. But this assessment of his motives seems to me to leave out an important dimension: in addition to being a propagandist, he is also a fundraiser, and as such he has an interest in exaggerating the efficacy of BDS, on the assumption that the more he can frighten his audience of wealthy Zionists, the more bucks they’ll kick in.

    In fact, that’s something both sides have in common: the Israelis and their American supporters, on the one hand, and proponents of BDS (among whom I include myself) on the other, have a stake in portraying it as a mighty movement on the brink of destroying the Jewish state. Would it were so….

  6. Arby
    November 27, 2017, 6:42 pm

    Richard Falk loses me with his establishment views on Syria.

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