is a Bust in the Middle East, but It’s Alive in America
By Jonathan S. Tobin
November 26, 2018
BDS activists who think they are succeeding in isolating
the State of Israel aren’t paying attention to the news. On Sunday, reports
surfaced that negotiations about building a gas pipeline that connects
Israel’s natural-gas resources to Cyprus, Greece and Italy have finally
succeeded. The pipeline network will reportedly be the longest and deepest ever
built. Initial estimates of the cost build it start at $7 billion.
And the good news for friends of Israel doesn’t stop
there. And that should influence the way we think about BDS and its purpose.
Part of the background to this deal is the fact that the
European Union invested $100 million in a feasibility study about importing
Israeli natural gas to the continent. That’s why the plan, dubbed the EastMed
Pipeline Project, will give both Cyprus and Israel preference over other
potential importers of gas into Europe.
The project, which will hopefully be completed over the
next five years, will provide Israel’s already prosperous economy with another
boost. But the preference for Israeli imports also signals that Arab influence
over Europe that is rooted in its ability to export oil and gas is waning. With
Europeans wanting alternatives to both Arab and Iranian oil, as well as Russian
natural gas, Israel will not only profit from the transaction; its standing as
an important economy and a military power to be reckoned with will also grow.
The fact that Italy, Greece and Cyprus are now prepared to
join Israel and Egypt in joint military and civil exercises to protect both the
pipeline and regional security is equally important. Despite continued threats
from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, the notion that the Jewish state stands alone no
longer can be sustained.
Nor was that the only good diplomatic news for Israel in
the past week.
As part of Israel’s continuing effort to foster better
relations with Africa, Idriss Déby, the
president of Chad, arrived in the country for a state visit. Though in
some ways a typical Third World authoritarian—Déby is a graduate of the late
Libyan dictator and terror funder Moammar Gadaffi’s World Revolutionary
Center—he now looks to the West and Israel for aid in the fight against the
Boko Haram Islamist terrorists who threaten his country.
The visit is part of what appears to be a successful effort
to normalize relations with the nations of Sudan, Niger, Mali and Chad—all of
whom have populations that are predominantly Muslim. During the press conference
with the Chadian leader, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that
he would again travel to unspecified Arab countries—he was recently in Oman
for an official visit—a step that would again indicate that talk of Israel
being isolated is a fantasy.
Just as important were reports emanating from the MED 2018
Conference held in Rome last week that Arab countries who usually used such
international forums for Israel-bashing were no longer doing so. Arab
indifference to Palestinian efforts to revive interest in their cause is
painfully obvious. This trend stems more from antipathy to Palestinian
rejectionism and the recognition that Israel is the best ally the Arab world has
against the threat from Iran than any affection for Zionism. But it’s also the
latest proof that Arab nations are as wary of schemes to create a Palestinian
state that is likely to be dominated by radicals as most Israelis.
All that is bitter news indeed for supporters of BDS. They
blithely talk about how disdain for Israel is widespread. Even many friends of
Israel sometimes succumb to the councils of despair. Some on the right
exaggerate the strength of its enemies. Similarly, many on the left assume that
their criticisms of the Netanyahu government’s policies about settlements or
the peace process are so widely shared that it is only a matter of time before
it faces total isolation as an “apartheid” state.
Both are wrong.
Israel’s enemies haven’t given up, and their
hatred—rooted, as it is the powerful virus of anti-Semitism that continues to
fester and grow around the world—isn’t going away. It’s also true that the
hostility of academic elites and many in the media remain a powerful force
seeking to delegitimize Zionism. Yet neither trend can erase the fact that
Israel is more powerful and accepted today than it has ever been.
But all the good news about Israel gaining acceptance in
ways that its leaders could only dream about a few decades ago should also
remind us of what is at stake in the battle over BDS.
BDS advocates have had a few successes, such as the
decision of the Airbnb home-rental company to single out Jews living in the West
Bank for discrimination. They’ve also managed to get in the American Jewish
community with the ability of groups like Jewish Voice for Peace to mainstream
their anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic views about Israel and its supporters.
But while such victories have been far fewer than their
defeats, they have still managed to create an atmosphere on many campuses that
makes it difficult for Jewish students to speak openly of their support for
Support for intersectional ideology, which falsely claims
the war against the one Jewish state on the planet is analogous to the struggle
for civil rights in the United States, has grown in the left, on college
campuses and with popular protest groups like the anti-Trump Women’s March.
The willingness of those who embrace anti-Semites gives the lie to the
assumption that left-wing Jew-hatred is confined to the fever swamps of American
society, as is the case for the far-right.
We should celebrate Israel’s successes, which point to
the utter failure of BDS on the international stage. But those stories only make
it clearer that the real battlefront against BDS is here in the United States,
not in the Middle East.