BDS is failing: a continuing series (June 2016)

Here’s the latest installment in our monthly round-up of BDS fails.

Economic

German auto giant Volkswagen has made a $300 million investment in Israeli rideshare start-up Gett, which has a presence in more than 60 countries worldwide including London, Moscow and New York.

The deal will see the two companies form a “strategic partnership,” which will allow them to share data and explore collaboration for future projects. Volkswagen will offer Gett’s services to business customers, while Gett drivers will be able to buy discounted VW cars to use as taxis.

Volkswagen said the deal was part of a move towards modernizing the company’s technological and business platforms.

Cancer treatment company Galil Medical has been acquired by UK healthcare company BTG plc for $110 million. Galil Medical, which has its development operations in Yokneam near Haifa, has developed cryoablation systems and needles for treating kidney, prostate and other types of cancer. BTG, traded on the London Stock Exchange and Nasdaq specializes in cancer treatments and medical devices and has a market cap of $2.2 billion.

Political

In response to widespread efforts to isolate Israel spearheaded by the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a number of universities around the world have taken a stand this past week in support of the Jewish state.

On Monday, it was reported by Israeli daily  Haaretz that Italy will bring its largest ever delegation of academics to Israel in what Italian officials say is a move aimed at countering BDS. The joint academic initiative comes on the heels of a petition signed by some 300 Italian academics who called on Italian universities to cancel agreements with their Israeli counterparts.

“It’s an unprecedented effort to respond concretely on a very delicate issue. We believe that research and universities should be free and open to dialogue and exchange,” Francesco Talo, Italy’s ambassador to Israel, told Haaretz. “We thought that the best answer would be action: to concretely do exactly the opposite of what some people ask us to do and bring a significant number of Italian researchers and academics to Israel. Everybody is free to say what they want, but we will respond with actions.”

The front-page story [in Switzerland’s Basler Zeitung on Monday] by veteran journalist Dominik Feusi, headlined “Resistance in Parliament against money for Israel-critical campaigns,” stated that MP Christian Imark had introduced a motion supported by 41 lawmakers from across the political spectrum calling on the FDFA to stop all direct or indirect funding to organizations that sponsor “racist and anti-Semitic actions” or are involved in BDS campaigns.

The move could bring about a sea change in Swiss funding for scores of anti-Israel NGOs operating in Israel and in the disputed territories.

Arutz Sheva reports: Things didn’t go quite as planned for a group of anti-Israel activists, who hoped to force the closure of an Israeli-owned shop in honor of “Nakba Day” – the day dedicated to mourning the failure of combined Arab armies to destroy the State of Israel at birth.

But they weren’t prepared for the response by pro-Israel activists, who turned the tables on the BDS flash mob.

Having learned of the event via social media, the Israel Advocacy Movement mobilized far more activists – including a number of pro-Israel Muslims – seriously outnumbering the bewildered group of far-left and Islamist extremists. Adding insult to injury, the pro-Israel campaigners used the opportunity to flood the Israeli shop with customers, defying the drowned-out calls for a boycott.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sppNXQ6KR0M]

StandWithUs applauds the United Methodist Church (UMC) for voting to withdraw its membership, and end all financial support and staff participation in the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. The petition was passed with a vote of 478 in favor and 318 against at the UMC General Conference, taking place in Portland, Oregon from May 10th-20th. The vote represents a major defeat for anti-Israel groups in the United States.

The petition, titled, “End Coalition Support,” calls the US Campaign a, “one-sided political coalition,” and notes that, “its agenda includes seeking ‘to isolate Israel economically, socially, and culturally,’ and promoting ‘comprehensive divestment’ against Israel, while overlooking anti-Israel aggression.” The petition concludes by recognizing that, “blaming only one side while ignoring the wrongdoing of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran will not advance the cause of peace.”

The United Methodist Church has rejected several resolutions calling for the 12-million-member Protestant church to divest from companies engaging in business with Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

Church committees over the weekend voted down four Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions resolutions brought to a vote at the church’s quadrennial United Methodist Church General Conference in Portland, Oregon, taking place this week.

The resolutions would have seen UMC divestment from three companies that pro-Palestinian activists have accused of working with Israeli security forces to sustain Israel’s West Bank settlement enterprise: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.

Instead, the Finance Committee opted to favor a petition that had been amended into a general commitment to responsible investment of church funds.

A number of groups, including one called United Methodist Kairos Response, who prepared the resolutions for this year’s conference, had lobbied for the divestment measures at the 10-day church policy-making forum.

Similar BDS petitions in the UMC failed in both 2008 and 2012.

But, at last, there is some good news to report out of Vassar. Students secured enough signatures to bring both the resolution and the amendment to a referendum. To be honest, I felt certain that, at the very least, the BDS resolution would pass. I know of almost no campus at which the pro-BDS forces have seemed stronger. But both measures failed convincingly. The resolution, lost 573-503, and the amendment failed 601-475.

The margin was not nearly as great as it was in the BDS loss at Bowdoin last April, in which BDS gained a mere, humiliating, 14 percent of the vote. Still, Vassar must be a devastating loss not only for pro-boycott Vassar students but for BDS movement enthusiasts nationally. Recall that Vassar is the place where even an ardent supporter of the boycott was shocked at the extent of anti-Israel sentiment he encountered there: “the spirit of that young progressive space was that Israel is a blot on civilization… If a student had gotten up and said, I love Israel, he or she would have been mocked and scorned into silence.” Selling BDS there should have been like selling water in the desert.

Though the BDS movement has suffered many setbacks, the failure at Vassar may be its biggest failure yet.

Cultural, Scientific and Technological

An eight-year-old Palestinian boy from Beit Jala, who suffered from a rare defect in his foot, is now relived of his pains, thanks to an unusual operation recently carried out at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

The young patient, Hana Zeitun, who has not left his home for years due to his condition, can now get out and play with his friends.

“We, family members, used to take turns massaging his foot night and day to try to alleviate his pain. This was the only thing that reduced his pain along with huge amounts of pain killers. But now the leg has recovered from the surgery and the pain is much reduced,” said Zeitun’s father, Malki.

Hana suffered from arteriovenous malformation (AVM), an abnormal connection between his arteries, taking oxygen from his heart and veins and carrying blood with carbon dioxide and wastes back to the heart – thus bypassing the capillary system.

Amid rumors that Bruce Springsteen will perform in Tel Aviv this summer, he and his E Street band have come under fire from supporters of boycotting Israel.

On Monday, band guitarist Steven Van Zandt — who is also known for playing a mobster on HBO’s “The Sopranos” — responded in typically direct style. In a series of tweets, he called Israel boycotters “politically ignorant obnoxious idiots”.

On Thursday, the British pop icon performed some of his greatest hits in Yarkon Park as part of his world tour “Wonderful Crazy Night” (which is also the name of his latest album). The show included some of the singer’s hits beginning from the 70s as well as his more contemporary songs.

  • A flurry of performers coming to Israel in June (List from Israellycool)

Brian Wilson – Beach Boy June 8

South Africans “Die Antwoord” – June 8

Simply Red – June 14th

Foreigner – June 14 th and 15th

Alice Cooper – June 16

Zakk Wilde – June 22

Sergio Mendes – June 24 -25

Barry Manilow – June 30th

A few days ago, on May, 19, Grove Ventures, one of the largest and most successful Israeli high-tech companies, co-founded a $100 million venture capital fund for investment into the fields of IoT, artificial intelligence and cloud computing. The fund is supported by an international investment base including companies originating in Israel, Japan, the USA, China, Europe and Taiwan.

Israeli-made app, Houzz, is a winner in Google’s newly minted Play Awards for the best Android apps. Houzz, founded in 2009 in Tel Aviv by Israeli couple Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen, took top honors in the Best App category.

The Google Play team chose the free platform for home remodeling that brings together both professionals and homeowners via mobile, local and social tools. Other apps in the running in the Best App category included Colorfy, BuzzFeed News, and Yummly.

Israeli drug development company Oramed (Nasdaq: ORMP) announced Wednesday the success of its Phase IIb study for its insulin capsule. The primary goal of the trial to reduce blood insulin levels at nighttime was achieved, without a significant increase in hypoglycemic events (a drop in blood sugar below the healthy amount).

Its Nasdaq share price jumped by 25% as the news of the announcement spread. Oramed is preparing for the third phase of clinical trials. The success of Phase IIb means the company will receive the second portion of the investment from Chinese company HTIT, partly owned by Sinopharm, which had committed to investing up to $50 million in Oramed based on the achievement of certain conditions.

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