Livni Warns Israel It Faces A Worldwide Boycott

by James M. WallKerry Miaden Antonov:Reuters 2

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is the Israeli cabinet minister with the task of finding a way back to peace talks. At the moment, she is one more frustrated negotiator.

Livni was so frustrated that she kicked off the month of July with a speech in which she said that if negotiations with the Palestinians don’t start up again soon, Israel will face a worldwide economic boycott.  The Jerusalem Post reported on her speech:

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni warned Monday at an accountants’ conference in Eilat that lack of progress on the Palestinian track could lead to a potential disaster for Israeli exports.

“Europe is boycotting goods,” said Livni, head of Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians. “True, it starts with settlement [goods], but their problem is with Israel, which is seen as a colonialist country. Therefore, it won’t stop at the settlements, but [will spread] to all of Israel,” she said.

This is not what we expect to hear from an Israeli minister.  Nor it is usual for a minister to address the youth of her country with this reminder:

During her Eilat speech, Livni said she was impressed that youth in the country protested against the government decision to export natural gas.

“I appreciate the fact that they care and are thinking about the future, and obligating us to think about the future,” she said. “But the time has come for the same youth to ask, to what kind of state do they want to leave the gas reserves? To a Jewish democratic Israel? Or to a binational Arab state? Or to an apartheid state? It is impossible to deal with economic issues and to ignore the important diplomatic issues related to two states for two peoples.”

Colonialist country? Apartheid state? These are terms rarely attached to Israel by loyal supporters of the government. No wonder the political party, Bayit Yehudi, which is linked to Livni’s Hatnua Party in an “uneasy alliance” in the Netanyahu coalition, was quick to respond with an attack on Livni:

“The policy of sowing fear of boycotts is detached from reality. The Israeli economy is innovative and ground-breaking. The entire world comes here to learn from us, and business people are amazed at Israeli technology and innovations. We advise Livni and her friends not to panic.” 

Political realists who follow the shenanigans of Israel’s right-wing government suggest that Livni may be involved in a strategy to jump start the negotiations. She may also be playing the “good cop” to signal potential European boycotters that Israel does have a few reasonable leaders.

That, however, is an unrealistic rejection of hope in a time of darkness. If Livni, a major Israeli cabinet figure, recognizes the growing danger of a worldwide boycott, the least we can do is take her at her word and see what she and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are trying to work out.

She acknowledged that Israel is its own worst enemy when it refuses to see the impact of boycotts on Israel.  It is in this sense that Livni (right) has a much stronger grasp of what is best for Israel than those U.S. religious leaders who still believe in the superiority of interfaith exchanges over working for justice.

Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy sees the value in Livni’s recognition of the power of boycotts. He  gives her a strong endorsement:tzipi-livni  AFP:GETTY_2

“Anyone who really fears for the future of the country needs to be in favor at this point of boycotting it economically.”

Levy, however, does not believe an indifferent Israeli public will be receptive to Livni’s warning:

As long as Israelis don’t pay a price for the occupation, or at least don’t make the connection between cause and effect, they have no incentive to bring it to an end.

And why should the average resident of Tel Aviv be bothered by what is happening in the West Bank city of Jenin or Rafah in the Gaza Strip? Those places are far away and not particularly interesting. As long as the arrogance and self-victimization continue among the Chosen People, the most chosen in the world, always the only victim, the world’s explicit stance won’t change a thing.

Turning the light of realism on that indifferent public, Levy adds:

It’s anti-Semitism, we say. The whole world’s against us and we are not the ones responsible for its attitude toward us. .  .  .  Most Israeli public opinion is divorced from reality − the reality in the territories and abroad.

Israeli’s right wing media, like its counterparts in the U.S., promotes the public’s “divorce from reality” by calling actions supporting Palestinian justice as anti-semitic attacks on Jews.

To the Times of Israel, opposition to Israeli self-absorbed policies are seen as ongoing battles in a theater of war.

This recent Times story was explicit: From the war in Iraq to the battle against Israel boycotters. In that piece, war strategy is transferred to a political strategy, designed to defend Israel from criticism.

Can an idea honed on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan prove effective in defending against assaults on Israel’s legitimacy in North America? David Dabscheck, deputy managing director of the Israel Action Network [IAN], thinks so.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. A truly global movement against Israeli Apartheid is rapidly emerging in response to this call. 

The idea, in the words of General Stanley McChrystal — commander of the US Joint Special Operations Command — that “it takes a network to defeat a network” played a central role in his concept for fighting insurgents in the Middle East . .  .  .

“It became clear to me and to many others that, to defeat a networked enemy, we had to become a network ourselves,” McChrystal recalled in  Foreign Policy“We had to figure out a way to retain our… levels of knowledge, speed, precision, and unity of effort that only a network could provide.”

The two-year old Israel Action Network figured it needed to form a network to combat its own enemy network.

“We realized we were facing a different type of challenge,” reflected Dabscheck. “We faced a decentralized challenge originating from different groups. If this is a network challenge,” he said, echoing McChrystal, “it takes a network to defeat.”

Dabscheck is wrong, of course.  There is no war between networks.  The boycott strategy has won. It is the only pressure that works. Gideon Levy explains:

A boycott is the least of all evils, and it could produce historic benefits. It is the least violent of the options and the one least likely to result in bloodshed. It would be painful like the others, but the others would be worse.

On the assumption that the current status quo cannot continue forever, it is the most reasonable option to convince Israel to change. Its effectiveness has already been proven. More and more Israelis have become concerned recently about the threat of the boycott. When Justice Minister Tzipi Livni warns about it spreading and calls as a result for the diplomatic deadlock to be broken, she provides proof of the need for a boycott. She and others are therefore joining the boycott, divestment and sanction movement. .  .  .  .

Not a bad outcome for a non-violent movement which began when “In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. A truly global movement against Israeli Apartheid is rapidly emerging in response to this call”.

 The picture at top of John Kerry with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was taken in Rome. It is from The Times of London. The picture is by Kerry Miaden Antonov/Reuters. The picture of Tzipi Livni is from AFP/Getty.


About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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10 Responses to Livni Warns Israel It Faces A Worldwide Boycott

  1. “We are all settlers,” says Gideon Levy to his fellow Israelis.

  2. Fred says:

    People should not by any Israeli products, the way south African products were boycotted to end apartheid there. Israel’s violence, house domoitions and land theft based of religeosu identity is a great evil, and only a powerful world wide boycott of all israeli goods may help to end the cruelty of apartheid in Israel.

  3. J. Martin Bailey says:

    We need not only to boycott Israeli products but to carry the fight to our own Pension Boards and corporate bodies, insisting that–in our name–they divest of Israeli related stocks. As hard as it is for me to say this, we will also need to discourage travel to Israel–and that means Palestine suffers, too, and Palestinian Christians, as well.

  4. Jim, while I admire your reporting as always, this is a painful (read on) narrative for me. Raising Tzipi Livni to be the last hope for sanity and peace-making is like trusting a copperhead snake because it may be less poisonous than a rattler. Livni is the former Mossad agent who intoned in 2008, as she was Zionist Israel’s Foreign Minister, “We will go wild in Gaza.” (I checked and found my memory to be accurate: go to .) That set the tone for the 2008-9 massacre where 1,474 or so Gazans were murdered by the Zionist regime, another 5,000 or so injured, and the place essentially leveled.

    This is also personal in that Hawaii’s first Jewish-and-woman governor, Linda Lingle, invited Livni to address an international women’s convocation in Waikiki, September 2007. Local activists tried, months in advance, to persuade local sponsors and the guv to disinvite Livni as no sort of role model to young women; but our voices were ignored. I was the sole picketer on the ocean side of Livni’s hotel early on the morning of her address to the throng, and a gutteral-voiced Zionist passing on the beach walk cursed at me and tore my protest sign out of my raised hands, wrenching my arms, neck, and back. My already compromised skeletal condition took a turn for the worse that day that still plagues me. Livni made her speech to fawning adulation; I saw the video of it in due course.

    Livni, cloaked by her 2013 snakeskin, is simply acting the “good cop” (as speculated above; that doesn’t mean at all to me that she is “reasonable” or ever wants the Palestinians to have justice, dignity, and their own state). She’s opportunistically aiming to raise her visibility for the furtherance of her Zionist political career, which will surely conclude with a term(s) as PM if she has her way.

  5. Eugene Fitzpatrick says:

    Mr. Stiver’s comment is appreciated and, as I’ve found usually the case, valuably informative. Livni is an arch Zionist, racist and avaricious to the core, who in a just world would be serving a life sentence handed down by the International Criminal Court.

    Parenthetically, I might add that the present Governor of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie, was a firm friend of justice for the Palestinians during his long tenure as Representative from Hawaii in the U.S. House. I hope he’s been a good Governor. He had few equals in the House in battling AIPAC toe to toe.


  6. Harris Fawell says:

    Dear Jim,
    “Livni warns Israel that it faces a world wide boycott”, is a great article.
    Harris Fawell

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