Blacklist and blue: 6 things to know for February 13
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Israel media review

Blacklist and blue: 6 things to know for February 13

The press joins the frenzy of angry indignation at the UN for making a list of firms operating in the West Bank, and predicts future doom even if the roster lacks teeth now

Palestinian protesters hold up flags and a sign reading "boycott occupation and its products" during a protest at a Rami Levy supermarket in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit, October 24, 2012 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian protesters hold up flags and a sign reading "boycott occupation and its products" during a protest at a Rami Levy supermarket in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit, October 24, 2012 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

1. Rankled by a roster: Israel is fuming over a decision by the UN Human Rights Council to publish a long-threatened blacklist of companies operating in the West Bank, and the tabloid press is following right along, riding shotgun on the indignation express and blaming the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement.

  • “The UN caved to BDS,” cries out Yedioth Ahronoth on its front page. Another headline in the paper terms the roster “the dark list,” as in ignorant.
  • “A black flag has been hoisted above 120 companies,” the newspaper reports.
  • Israel Hayom, as it often does, just lets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu guide the news, splashing his promise that “those that boycott us will be boycotted” on its front page.
  • Columnists for both publications rely on the idea, considered an old chestnut by some, that boycotting settlements hurts Palestinians because they work with these companies and place their salaries over their national political aspirations.
  • “The commissioner dressed up as the human rights commissioner in fact harmed the human rights of tens of thousands of Palestinians and Jews, who work together, shoulder to shoulder, in industrial areas and shared workplaces all over the West Bank,” writes Israel Hayom’s Nadav Shragai.
  • Yedioth columnist Ben Dror Yemini brings a bit of balance, writing that most Israelis are not fans of the settlement movement, and saying a dialogue is needed on its future. But, “there’s a difference between criticizing the settlement movement and a boycott campaign, which opposes the very existence of Israel,” he says.
  • Supermarket mogul Rami Levy, who is included on the list and touts his West Bank stores, where both Israelis and Palestinians shop, as symbols of coexistence, also warns that Palestinians will lose out because of the list. “I scorn the UN,” he defiantly tells Channel 12 news.
  • Those looking to boycott or buycott can find the whole list here.

2. Never again: In Haaretz, diplomatic correspondent Noa Landau slings broadsides at the Israelis who jumped to condemn the list. She saves her sharpest invective for President Reuven Rivlin, a hawk-cum-grandpa, who she notes compared the list to Israel’s “darkest periods.”

  • “In other words, publishing an international database about businesses that operate in the settlements – which is illegal according to international law and UN resolutions – is just as bad in Rivlin’s eyes as the Holocaust. It should be pointed out that this list isn’t even accompanied by any actual sanctions or boycotts, much less gas chambers,” she scorns.
  • And she calls a statement by Amir Peretz, the head of Labor-Gesher-Meretz, opposing boycotts (even though Meretz actually supports boycotts in the West Bank) “ an official death certificate for the Zionist left.”
  • Not making her hit list is former US ambassador Daniel Shapiro, who calls the publication of the list “dumb and wrong.”
  • Kan reports that Israel wasn’t able to campaign to torpedo the list again because it got only a one-hour heads-up about the list’s publication, and only from the Americans.

3. What’s it mean? Not much: Despite the outcry Israeli officials “are confident that the list won’t cause significant damage,” Israel Hayom reports.

  • The New York Times reports, “In a reflection of the political sensitivity surrounding the list, the office said the list had no judicial or legal status.”
  • Walla news reports that some Israeli jurists and policy makers fear that the list will still negatively affect some in Israel, even if it won’t have an immediate de jure application.
  • “There’s no reason for countries or firms to change their behavior in any way, but there is a risk that the list will serve the BDS movement in trying to put public pressure on the companies,” one jurist is quoted saying.
  • As for Israel’s reaction of cutting ties with the UNHCR, ToI’s Raphael Ahren reports that “it was not immediately clear what practical implications the decision would have. The commissioner’s office has representatives stationed in Israel, but they are not known to enjoy good working relations with Israeli diplomats. Officials in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening merely said that any requests they may have will not be answered as of today.”

4. Our man in the statehouse: Boycotting Michelle Bachelet, the council head, is one thing, but Israel Hayom reports that Israel is launching a full-on diplomatic campaign against the list.

  • According to Yedioth, “the Foreign Ministry ordered the embassy in the US to work with 28 states on laws against BDS. The measure is meant to make it so that if anyone boycotts Israel, they themselves will be boycotted by the US. That way they’ll think twice before deciding to boycott Israel.”
  • Netanyahu noted Israel’s existing push for other states to pass anti-BDS laws, drawing some to look askance at him for appearing to admit to meddling in US domestic politics (and sounding like Paulie Walnuts from “The Sopranos”).
  • In a Twitter thread, lawyer Richard Goldwasser notes that Netanyahu or his sponsors may have broken the law.
  • But JTA’s Ron Kampeas says it’s time to untwist those panties.

5. Failure revisited: According to Kan, Israel officials believe the list was published now because of Palestinian pressure after a failed bid for a vote at the UN.

  • Journalists are still chewing over what happened at the UN, and what still may come. ToI’s Raphael Ahren notes that while many countries were careful to not criticize Trump’s plan, they are also not chugging the Kool-Aid on it. “The fact that some countries promised to approach the so-called deal of the century with an open mind does not mean they are ready to abandon their deeply entrenched positions on what the ultimate settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should look like.”
  • Also in ToI, Avi Issacharoff credits the plan with restoring relevance to the fading Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas: “Suddenly, Palestinian eyes are again on the Muqata’a, whether Israel likes it or not, and Abbas is again perceived as the leader of the Palestinian people.”
  • Left-wing activist Yehuda Shaul writes in Foreign Policy that the plan actually appears to be plagiarized from a plan written up by right-wing politician Matityahu Drobles in the late 1970s and early 1980s that sought to place and expand settlements throughout the West Bank.
  • “The similarities expressed in both plans show the extent to which Trump’s plan is an extension of decades of Israeli policy. This is nowhere clearer than in Trump’s promise that Israel ‘will not have to uproot any settlements.’ This assertion is nothing but an entrenching of the status quo, making the splintering of Palestinian territory permanent. The reality that Trump wants to enact is a fully fractured Palestine—more of an archipelago than a state,” he writes.
  • Giving a rare interview to Army Radio, Netanyahu blames the lack of annexation in the wake of the plan on “a communications problem within the Trump administration,” seemingly blaming David Friedman and Jared Kushner, and failing to acknowledge his own role in amplifying the confusion.
  • He also tells the station, “In any case, I will extend sovereignty to Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley. It’s agreed with Trump, and is not linked to any deal with Abbas.”

6. Choosing the chosen: Netanyahu may have a deal with Trump, but 2021 may bring a changing of the guard, with Israeli pundits looking at the ascendance of Jewish Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg.

  • “Together they represent the best chance ever for a Jewish American to hold the nation’s highest office,” writes JTA’s Kampeas. “The candidates also reflect a tension within the American Jewish community. While most Jewish Americans are Democrats, some are more progressive inheritors of the left-wing activism that characterized early 20th-century Jewish politics. Others, wary of protecting their assets in uncertain times or deeply attached to Israel and the right-wing politics that have prevailed there for a decade, take a more centrist approach. For them, a candidate like Bloomberg is potentially attractive.”
  • Noah Berlatsky in Haaretz is less excited by the prospects of a Jewish major party nominee. “With Donald Trump as the Republican incumbent, a Jewish nominee will also almost certainly mean that the 2020 election campaign will be awash in anti-Semitic tropes, slurs, and conspiracy theories. It’s important for the media and the public to be ready to identify them and refute them. The nomination of a Jewish candidate can’t be allowed to become an occasion for increased hatred and violence.”
  • Speaking to Army Radio, US (and sometimes Israeli) pollster Mark Mellman says that “every Democrat has a chance against Trump, because he’s managed the US so terribly. Any candidate, save Bernie Sanders, the same Trump will easily beat.”
  • In Globes, Ran Dagoni gives a pretty good idea of how Israelis view the Democratic race: “There’s still no Democratic superstar from among the candidates. There are polished politicians and billionaires spilling money like water; there are young and old; there are moderates (center-left) and radicals (unapologetic leftists); there are charismatic speakers and those who are less articulate. But Obama No. 2 there is not.”
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