Waze and means: The tactical and strategic failure of BDS

Jun 13, 2013 | Ahron Shapiro

Waze and means: The tactical and strategic failure of BDS

The cult-like and self-aggrandising Boycott, Diverstment and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel campaign suffered another embarrassing setback this month when Facebook and Google wooed the Israeli content-savvy phone GPS app company Waze. The company, based in Herzliya Pituach, reportedly ended talks with Facebook after the California-based company demanded Waze relocate its headquaters, presumably to Waze’s Palo Alto branch office, as part of the deal. 

Google sealed the deal on June 11 for US1.3 billion, and without requiring the Israeli company to pull up stakes.

The high-profile takeover caught the attention of top business writers, who expect the deal to inspire more investment in Israeli tech companies, as Google’s funds are parlayed into a new wave of spinoff projects. As Bloomberg reported:

The injection of Google’s money could trickle down to the next generation of startups in the country, said Izhar Shay, a general partner at Canaan Partners.
“People who worked at this company will go out to invest and create their own companies, and will help mentor other entrepreneurs,” Shay, who is based in Herzliya Pituach, Israel, said in an interview. “It will also help attract additional venture money into Israel.”

The Wall Street Journal‘s Joshua Mitnick said that Waze represents the new face of Israeli high-tech startups following the dot-com boom of a decade ago.

With tens of millions users downloading its mobile application in five years, Waze is the leading edge of a shift among Israeli technology companies to focus on Internet and media software catering to every day consumers – a target market that was once considered beyond the reach of Israel’s tech community .

“Waze in more than one way represents the second golden age of Israeli technology,” said Eden Shochat, a venture capitalist and a serial entrepreneur who has sold a start-up to Facebook.

At any rate, with the acquisition of Waze by Google, BDS activists will surely now be in the unenviable position of having to boycott the world’s top internet search tools or be exposed for their hypocrisy. (Google is currently used in 67 percent of internet searches. Its closest competitor, Microsoft’s Bing which is used in 17 percent of all searches, is also BDS unfriendly, given Microsoft’s substantial investment in Israeli R&D).

After all:

I feel that it’s impossible to boycott someone who has better tech than you-because when you boycott a country with better technology than you, that’s not a boycott-it’s a self-imposed embargo.

The writer who wrote this last month was no mere “Zionist shill”, but none other than one of Malaysia’s leading tech bloggers, Keith Rozario.

Rozario, who was writing to express his disapproval of a Malaysian plan to protect home-grown industry by boycotting Chinese tech, used the example of the Arab boycott of Israel in his blog to demonstrate how boycotts didn’t end up harming the country that was targeted, but rather held back the countries which participated in them. He further hinted that Malaysia, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel, has only hurt itself by distancing itself from it.

Boycotts don’t work-they just send a political message, but almost never achieve their desired economical objective. Add this to the fact, that the country with the most technology wins-and you’ll realize that Malaysia is in no position to boycott anything. We sent a man to space, built the worlds tallest building and even the 4th longest bridge in South East Asia-but we did it all with someone elses technology, whether it was the Russians, Japanese or Koreans. So until we start to develop our own technology-our boycotts will be nothing more than self-imposed embargoes. So the next time you switch on Waze, play with your XBox, or even use any PC with an Intel Inside Chip, just remember how our good (and technologically superior) friends in Israel help make it possible.

The self-destructive nature of Palestinian encouragement of BDS has been noted in several articles lately.

In spite of positive signs from “Breaking the Impasse”, a recently announced joint initiative by Palestinian and Israeli businessmen eager to work together for peace to bring prosperity to both peoples, the reaction coming from BDS activists in the West Bank is likely to sabotage the effort.

Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh recently exposed how the Palestinian businessmen who have expressed interest in joint projects with Israelis to provide jobs and industry in the West Bank have come under attack from officials and activists within their communities.

After rejecting US Secretary of State John Kerry’s new plan to boost the Palestinian economy by investing $4 billion in the private sector, the Palestinians have begun threatening businessmen who want to work with Israeli counterparts.

Kerry’s plan, which was revealed at last week’s World Economic Forum in Jordan, has been condemned by many Palestinians as a U.S. attempt to bribe them into making political concessions to Israel.

But several Palestinian businessmen who attended the conference have welcomed Kerry’s economic plan and expressed a desire to meet with Israeli counterparts to talk about joint investments in the West Bank.

Some Palestinian businessmen who dared to meet with Israeli colleagues in the past few days are now facing threats and calls for boycotting them and their companies.

The harmful effects of BDS to the Palestinian economy have been well documented, such as in this JTA story from February about how BDS threatens the livelihood of some 900 Palestinians from the West Bank and east Jerusalem who work for the Israeli do-it-yourself soda company SodaStream. 

The company has a factory in Ma’ale Adumim’s industrial park, an area which would almost certainly remain part of Israel in any peace agreement but – straddling a border with a future Palestinian state – is envisioned to be a nexus of Israeli and Palestinian economic cooperation. As a matter of fact, it is already serving that purpose to a certain extent today, to the chagrin of BDS activists who chafe at any hint of “normalisation”.

SodaStream has indeed been one of the prime targets for BDS campaigners in Australia and abroad.

On June 1, when a band of anti-Israel activists roamed through a mall in Brisbane, pulling Israeli products off shelves and creating a disturbance that required the police to clear, SodaStream was among a handful of products they targeted.

But how’s that boycott going? Well, SodaStream beat earnings estimates once again in Q1 2013, posting “strong growth” in Australia and notably Europe. It has just raised its projected earnings for the year by about 10 percent. This, in spite of setbacks in Japan unrelated to BDS that have held back its Asia/Pacific sales totals for the quarter.

Investors continue to be bullish on SodaStream. The company’s stock just hit a 52-week high, fuelled by rumours that the company may follow Waze as Israel’s next big takeover target – this time by either Pepsi or Coke. While investor advice publication The Motley Fool doesn’t believe there is a deal behind the fizz, it still stands by SodaStream as a solid investment in the long term.

It’s a shame that SodaStream has become a hype play, because it’s really in much better shape than it was when it last traded this high nearly two years ago. SodaStream’s generating far more revenue and earnings. The model has been validated in dozens of countries as the spike in consumables proves that folks are actually using these beverage systems. Until the fizz goes flat, Sodastream International Ltd (NASDAQ:SODA) will be a tricky stock to lasso.

Hopefully, when it all settles, investors will remember that SodaStream is an attractively priced company making a dynamic product that’s gaining ground. The rumor will likely prove to be rubbish, but SodaStream is definitely not.

The continued success of SodaStream – not by some subjective analysis but by the cold, hard sales figures that financial advisers depend on – is the most compelling evidence that BDS remains the fringe movement that it always was and an abject failure.

In light of this very obvious failure, there stands a chance that BDS organisers may rethink their focus on SodaStream as counterproductive to the illusion of growing success they are trying to create (much as Brisbane’s BDSers appears to have removed a boutique shoe store that stocked an Israeli product from its “BDS Walking Tour” itinerary this time around after experiencing a backlash of overwhelmingly negative publicity that surrounded its bullying tactics on its last tour.)

BDS is a cowardly and duplicitous intimidation campaign that lies constantly about its so-called “victories” (often taking credit for things entirely unrelated to the boycott), a delusional habit that has been called out in the past by even some of its critics on the Left, including Norman Finkelstein. Yet it also lies equally about its goals. While it claims to want to use the boycott to pressure Israel to improve its treatment of Palestinians and its promoters often obfuscate whether the movement supports a two-state or one-state outcome for Israelis and Palestinians, in private most of its prominent supporters freely admit the aim is to delegitimise Israel in order to undermine its very right to exist.

This goal behind BDS was most recently driven home by Palestinian Red Crescent official and activist Mona El Farra in a lecture before Palestinian supporters in Perth on June 4.

BDS’ push for a one (Arab) state to replace Israel was on display at the fourth annual BDS conference in Bethlehem last weekend, when leader Omar Barghouti demanded, among other things, a Palestinian “right of return” to pre-1967 Israel as a precondition for “peace”, espousing the extreme Palestinian position which asserts that Israel should be forced to demographically undo its Jewish majority and become, in essence, a Palestinian state.

While BDS activists like to present themselves to the media as “peace activists”, this is also meaningless doublespeak, as Barghouti also made clear that his movement rejects negotiations with Israel, even if Israel renewed a freeze on construction in its West Bank settlements and agrees to withdraw completely to its pre-1967 boundaries. He makes it abundantly clear that he sees delegitimisation of Israel through BDS as an end in itself, not a means to change Israel’s policies.

Said Barghouti:

The only way to ensure the Palestinians secured all their rights is through the non-violent “resistance” of a full boycott of Israel.

BDS is also a campaign that has often crossed the line between anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activity.

Last year, BDS activists in Melbourne planned a protest in front of a prominent synagogue. The organisers were eventually shamed into cancelling the protest.

More recently, BDS activists have harassed Jews attending synagogue in Boulder, Colorado as AIJAC’s Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz has blogged.

These are hardly exceptional examples. As an incident with an Australian BDS Facebook page illustrated last month, while all BDS supporters are not antisemites, its fair to say that nearly all antisemites are BDS supporters.

Given the preponderance of evidence that BDS harms, and not helps the chances for peace by weakening moderates, BDS activists have found the need to resort to deception in their attempt to market their ideology to the mainstream.

It hasn’t been easy for them. BDS activists crave validation that their methods are working in order to build morale and recruit more supporters. When the evidence says otherwise, they naturally seek to create an illusion of success. It’s impossible for them to make the case that their campaign has made even the slightest dent in SodaStream. For this reason, it stands to reason that sooner or later, they will be compelled to shift their focus and prey upon far poorer performing companies – or more likely, bully more small businesses – in order to maintain this deception.

Ahron Shapiro



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