Joy Wolfe: On Habima Theatre Company, Boycotts and BUYcotts

A guest post by Joy Wolfe, StandWithUs UK chairwoman  and co-President of the Zionist Federation

StandWithUs UK and many other UK organisations and individuals have applauded the high profile figures (Arnold Wesker, Ronald Harwood, Maureen Lipman, Simon Callow, Louise Mensch MP and Steven Berkoff) who have opposed calls for the Globe Theatre in London to disinvite the world-renowned Israeli Habima Theatre Company.

We also congratulate Howard Jacobson on his positive stand in supporting Habima.

Boycotts of any kind are totally counter productive and do nothing to help the Palestinians.

Hopefully the BDS brigade will think again about disrupting a performance that the majority of the audience wish to support and enjoy.  However, if they do press ahead with their publicly declared threat to cause a disturbance I hope they will be quickly ejected and face legal consequences.

Cultural, academic and trade boycotts are particularly counter productive when Israel has so much to offer the international community.

Not only are they counter productive but often have the exact opposite of the desired effect as people often go out of their way to support companies and shops that are targeted.  Recently in Canada, a targeted shop the boycotters were trying to disrupt was inundated with pro-Israel customers who previously had never even heard of the company.

Another example of a misguided attempt to help the Palestinians was the failed April 15th “Welcome to Palestine” flytilla, when over 1500 pro Palestinian protesters had planned to fly into Israel to disrupt Ben Gurion Airport before moving on to carry out alleged humanitarian visits to “Palestinian prisoners”.

In a brilliantly crafted response, Israel had alerted airlines to the fact that those denied entry into Israel would have to be flown home at the airlines’ expense.  As a result, hundreds were refused boarding at a number of European airports and around 40 who did succeed in arriving in Israel were sent home with a pithily written letter noting all the genuine human rights issues around the world, not least in Syria, where their protests would be better directed.

In the meantime, despite the best efforts of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) campaigners, there are so many positives to prove just how unsuccessful they are.  Israeli trade with the UK has never been at a higher level, academics from Israel and the UK are working together in many cooperative projects, Israel has just signed a new aviation agreement with the EU, and Israel and the UK have an extensive programme of business and academic joint projects.

We should reduce our efforts to counter BDS activists, and similar reactive measures, which give them the added oxygen of the publicity they seek, and concentrate instead on spreading the good news about Israel’s achievements and cooperation with grass-roots Palestinians, which are much more positive and effective ways to create an atmosphere more conducive to moving the peace process forward.

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