Combatting BDS: Individual Exposés and Economic Reprisals

VII: Combatting BDS A1 and A2


Howard Adelman

The organized Jewish community has been very active in combatting BDS. Whether BDS required the time and resources devoted to that battle and whether that expenditure of time and effort has been effective will not be the focus of this blog. Rather, I will survey the various techniques used to deal with BDS and, in passing, sometimes assess both the effectiveness and mode of engaging in combat. For obvious reasons, most of my illustrations will be Canadian even though a great deal more effort is being expended in the U.S. Further, although the list appears to make each category a totally separate one, the illustrations will make clear the enormous overlaps between and among the categories. The list of a dozen techniques used can be divided into two broad categories, A) Aggressive and B) Defensive.

A) Aggressive
1. Individual Exposés
2. Economic Pressures
3. Lawfare
4. Political Pressure – The Green Party of Canada
5. International Diplomacy
6. Character Assassination
a) Association with violence
b) Anti-Zionism = Anti-Semitism
B) Defensive
1. Community Education – a fundamental existential issue
2. Celebrity Endorsements
3. Long term Leadership Development
4. Long term Coalition Building
5. Research on BDS and on Effectiveness of own methods.
In this and following blogs I will describe and to some degree analyze each type of response.

A1. The Individual Exposé

I will explore one recent exposé in depth rather than trying to cover a number of them over the years. B’nai Brith Canada was active in bringing to the attention of both the Catholic School Board in St. Catharines as well as the head of St. Catharine of Siena Separate School the fact that they had in their employ a teacher, Nadia Shoufani, who taught special ed and ESL, but who also glorified terrorists and terrorism both in public rallies (2 July 2016) and on her Facebook page. At the 2 July Al-Quds Rally in Toronto, she was recorded as stating that, “Palestine will be liberated…Glory to the martyrs.” She made very clear that she was not just referring to the occupied territories on the West Bank, but all of Mandatory Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. At that rally, she praised Ghassan Kanafani and Georges Ibrahim Abdallah of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a proscribed terrorist group in Canada. And she asked those in the audience to join the BDS campaign.

In addition, she also celebrated convicted terrorist, Samir Kuntar (the report omitted that Samir had crushed the skull of a four-year old Israeli girl) and characterized him as a hero and martyr. The Jewish agency report on this issue did not include the way the little girl was killed. Samir had killed an Israeli policeman and in the effort to kidnap an Israeli family in Nahariya – not in the West Bank – and killed the father. After he had smashed the child’s head on beach rocks, he totally crushed her skull with the butt of his rifle. Perhaps these details were omitted out of sensitivity to the family or because a recitation of blood and gore is, in the end, counter-productive.

Nadia also accused the Israel security forces of engaging in extrajudicial murder for “neutralizing” (i.e. killing) Muhammad Nasser Tra’ayra (spelled Tarayah in the B’nai Brith communication), a Palestinian from the nearby village of Bani Na’im, the murderer of thirteen-year-old Hallel Yaffe Ariel whom he stabbed in her back as she slept in the “settlement” of Kiryat Arba near Hebron. Kiryat Arba is a re-introduction after 1967 of a pre-1948 Jewish settlement that had been razed by the Jordanians. Muhammad had scaled a security fence to carry out the murder. The B’nai Brith dispatch did not mention that the settlement of Kiryat Arba existed prior to the 1948 war.

The B’nai Brith dispatch did not mention that Hallel Yaffe Ariel was also an American citizen or that Muhammad Tra’ayra was nineteen years old (the IDF originally reported that he was seventeen), only six years older than his victim. Nor did the report mention that the Palestinian governor of Hebron had paid a condolence call to the “martyr” who killed Hallel. The report did not explain whether B’nai Brith had also contacted the Dufferin-Peel District School Board where Nadia Shoufani also taught. Nor did the report mention that Nadia was affiliated with the Palestinian Solidarity Movement, Actions4Palestine and was a director of the Arab Canadian Cultural Association.

Nadia had also praised Muhammad Tra’ayra’s cousin, Sarah Tra’ayra, who tried to revenge Muhammad’s death by trying to stab an Israeli policeman in revenge and was also killed. Nor did it quote one of Nadia’s statements made at the rally: “I urge you not to be silent. I urge you to speak up, to resist this occupation and support the steadfastness of Palestinians. Support the resistance in any form that is possible. (my italics) I urge you to support the BDS, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel.” Nor was a selection of her many statements on her Facebook page re-quoted. “Please join us in activities supporting the [Palestinian] intifada… Humiliate them. They all worth [not more than] the shoe of every fighter and every martyr.” (12 February 2016)

It is not yet clear what the outcome has been of the investigations launched by both the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board and the St. Catharines Separate School Board. Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) had also contacted the Dufferin-Peal Board. Nor is it clear why neither BB nor FSWC highlighted Nadia’s connection with BDS. Nor did either organization publicize that Nadia is on public record as being an inferior teacher, except in the category of “easiness.” “Nadia Shoufani is a classical studies teacher at Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board located in Mississauga, Ontario. When comparing Nadia Shoufani’s ratings to other teachers in the province of Ontario, Nadia Shoufani’s ratings are below the average of 3.87 stars. Additionally, the average teacher rating at Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board is 1.0 star.”

I was not able to discern the principles of simplifying and writing the brief public release in the communications of either BB or FSWC. Was it simply the need for brevity in press releases the explanation?

A2. Economic Pressures

My focus has largely been on educational and, to some extent, cultural boycotts of Israel, but the economic boycott of Israeli goods and services has been the backbone of the BDS movement. I will deal with indirect economic pressures under Lawfare in the next section. In reviewing the literature in combatting BDS, it is notable that organized Jewish agencies do not appear to have launched reprisals against commercial establishments that support BDS by refusing to order Israeli-made products. I could find no list equivalent to the BDS list, either because the leadership in the Jewish community have decided that publishing such a list would be counter-productive or because it has not undertaken the research to prepare such a list.

In contrast, BDS has targeted a very wide variety of Israeli goods from kitchen tools such as supplied by what has become one of Israel’s best known products (because of the boycott), SodaStream, cupcake decorating kits made and sold by Amav toys (Tip Top Toys, Taf Toys and Ofrat Baby Toys are also on the list), cosmetics such as those of Ahava but also by Dead Sea, Nevo, Sea Spa and many of the products of The Body Shop, Eden Springs Water, which BDS alleges began in the Golan Heights and which sells bottled water in eighteen different countries, Carmel Wines and Golan Heights Winery (also Tishbi and Psagot Wines to name just a few more), dairy product such as Mahadrin that sells Greek yogurt, textiles used by Victoria Secrets and the Gap, Stanley Black and Decker hardware, pharmaceuticals, fresh produce such as dates also by Mehadrin, Tekoa Mushrooms, Israeli diamonds – a major part of the diamond trade, services like Airbnb because they include places to stay in the settlements, as well as a long list of security services, including Hewlett Packard, commercial products such as construction vehicles made by Caterpillar, and, as might be expected, military products not likely to be purchased by consumers such as Uzi machine guns and the wide variety of military equipment sold by Israel Aerospace Industries and Israel Military Industries, perhaps the best known among a wide variety of Israeli military equipment providers. The list is very long and clearly very varied, but, for some reason, it does not seem to have included banking, financial and insurance services as far as I have been able to find out.

There seems to be no consistent set of criteria for inclusion. The reason can include being produced on the West Bank or simply used on the West Bank, ones that employ Arab workers and ones that do not, ones that obtain its raw products from the Dead Sea even if obtaining such products preceded the 1967 war, products of Blue and White Industries, in part because blue and white are the colours on the Israeli flag, skin products made from Moroccan oil because it is an Israeli company using Morocco oil but which may appear to be a Moroccan company because of its name. However, as a BDS spokesperson has written, “We are here focused on companies based primarily in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Though they have explored boycotting international companies doing business with Israel, they have largely avoided that even more arduous route. But the companies, products and services may also have nothing to do with the West Bank.

While BDS supporters in Canada have been putting stickers on products made in Israel, such as Sabra hummus, Keter and SodaStream products, Glutino biscuits, dates and tangerines at grocers, and at hardware stores in Montreal, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Brampton, and other towns in British Columbia, I was unable to find that anyone had been charged with interfering with retail sales by illegally putting one’s own label on a product sold by a store.

In other words, though there are a wide variety of civil society counter-measures that could be taken which would at the same time win loyalty for Israeli-made products, it is not clear why these strategies have not been pursued. Are they too costly to organize and/or do they enhance the BDS publicity? Or has the counter-BDS movement simply relied on a more centralized campaign discussed in my next blog to make BDS efforts illegal.

With the help of Alex Zisman