Last week, the cancelling of the football match between Argentina and Israel scheduled on June 9th hit the headlines in Israel and the Palestinian territories. “A victory of terrorism’, according to some, a slap on the face of Israel, for others; it is important to retrace what happened in order to decipher the events and to weigh its consequences.
That sportive event, part of the preliminary games before the World Cup, had been scheduled for a long time and was to be held in Haifa. Under the pressure of the Minister of Culture and Sports, Miri Reguev, it had been relocated to Jerusalem. Despite the higher costs of several millions of shekels (supported by the Israeli taxpayer) implied by that relocation, the passionaria of the Israeli right had convinced Netanyahu to take that decision. By including the game in the programming of the celebrations of the seventieth anniversary of Israel she was responsible for, Miri Reguev was hoping to benefit politically from a huge sportive event in the Israeli capital.
The holding of the international game in Haifa (a Jewish-Arab city, a particularly strong symbol since five players of the Israeli team are Arab) was not criticized by Palestinians. But the relocation to Jerusalem, three weeks after the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem, sparked a strong response from Jibril Rajoub, Chairman of the Palestinian Soccer Federation. Miri Reguev thus offered a big present to the fierce opponents of Israel, who have been trying for years to develop their campaign of boycott.
Obviously, in spite of all the means invested year after year in the BDS campaign (Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions), the economic impact of BDS remains non-existent, while the Israeli economy is booming around the world. BDS did not succeed to mobilise outside of militant circles supporting the Palestinian cause, apart from a few stars lile the musician Roger Waters or the film-maker Ken Loach. In spite of this limited failure of the boycott, the Israeli right keeps using the threat of BDS on the same level as the threats seriously endangering the country—like Iran’s nuclear program, Hezbollah’s arsenals in Lebanon, and Hamas’ s missiles in Gaza—in order to mobilise the Israeli public opinion and to ensure its control over it.
It is proof, if any was needed, of the objective collusion of the Israeli right with BDS. Inefficient on economic terms, calls for a boycott do not encourage the Israeli government to change its policy. Quite the opposite: handled by the right in power, these calls might convince Israeli citizens that any change in politics woul be useless.
Should we conclude that there is no space for non-violent actions against occupation, which would be conducted by militants who do not want the destruction of the State of Israel, but who hope for the establishment of a Palestinian State ? Of course not. But, when you support a cause, you must assess the scope of the texts you sign and of the actions you conduct. When, in a recent petition addressed to the French President, calling for the cancellation of the France-Israel season, the authors mention the “annexionist nature of Israel” or “the threat of a full-scale liquidation of the Gaza ghetto”, they exclude themselves, by using such inappropriate and abusive language, from the public debate we could have with them (you may read on our website in French the analysis of that petition by Meir Waintrater, President of JCall France).
Of course, we would be ready to discuss with the advocates of the Palestinian cause, including BDS supporters: we have always been opposed to their campaign, while being equally opposed to the occupation and to the continuing colonization of the Palestinian territories. The most sincere of these militants do not understand that by attacking all the symbols of the Jewish State they instill in the Israelis and their friends a feeling of insecurity, since what is at stake is not the policy of Israel, but its existence itself. Seventy years after its creation, Israel remains for most Israelis—and most Jews in the world—a country on borrowed time. A questioning of its legitimity is used by the Israeli right in order to reactivate the national unity and to refuse the workable compromises without which there is no way out for Israelis and Palestinians alike.