Are BDS boycotts hurting brand Israel?
Israel has made countering BDS a diplomatic priority but just how much of an impact does the movement have?
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, also known as BDS, could potentially cost Israel up to $11.5bn a year.
That’s according to a partially redacted Israeli government report from 2013, which factored in the most extreme scenario of a full-blown EU boycott of Israeli products and a halt to investments.
It’s a sequence of events that may seem unlikely, but has Israeli leaders worried nonetheless.
In recent years, Israel’s diplomatic missions have made countering BDS a priority and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has moved to ban groups which support the movement.
So what is BDS?
BDS is a non-violent people led movement that aims to economically pressure Israel into providing equal rights and a right of return to Palestinians.
Modelled on the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, it has inspired people from around the world to boycott businesses and academic and cultural institutions that have either a direct or indirect affiliation with Israel.
This includes companies associated with illegal settlements, those that provide services to the occupation, companies exploiting natural resources from Palestinian land and those that use Palestinians as cheap labour.
The UN human rights office has currently identified 206 companies linked directly or indirectly to illegal settlements, mostly from Israel and the US but also Germany and the Netherlands.
They include banking and tourism companies, as well as construction and technology firms.
Is BDS already having an impact on Israel? It depends on who you ask.
The Washington-based Brookings Institution claims a consumer boycott will not drastically affect Israel economically because 40 percent of Israeli exports are “intermediate” goods – hidden products used in the production process of goods elsewhere like semiconductors.
Around 50 percent of Israeli exports are “differentiated” goods – goods that can’t be substituted like specialised computer chips.
But data from the World Bank shows a sharp decrease in intermediate exports from 2014 to 2016 – a loss of around $6bn.
In the same period, foreign investment rose to around $12bn after it fell to $6bn following the 2014 assault on Gaza, which killed 1,462 civilians.
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