My call for Zionist BDS (which, by the way, is not just a settlement boycott; it’s also reinvestment in democratic Israel) has elicited several critiques.
The latest is that regardless of its abstract merit, Zionist BDS wouldn’t work. As The Forward puts it, “a settlements boycott, even if carried out in full, would hardly make a dent in the Israeli economy—or even in the settlements’ own economic condition.” But to be worthwhile, a settlement boycott merely needs to alter the incentives that companies face when deciding between locating in democratic and non-democratic Israel. And settlement boycotts have done exactly that.
Already, pressure has led the Swedish Multilock Company and Barkan wine to relocate within the green line. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who has helped lead the Palestinian Authority’s boycott against settlement products, has declared that “I believe it is working.” And in 2010, the Washington Post’s Janine Zacharia noted that seventeen Israeli companies had left the West Bank since the PA's boycott began. All this, of course, is with the active opposition of the American Jewish community. If significant numbers of American Jews, their organizations and their government distinguished between the way they treat democratic and nondemocratic Israel, the impact would be far greater.
Today, the Israeli government—with the active consent of the organized American Jewish community—provides myriad subsidies for Jews to leave democratic Israel to settle across the green line. Regardless of your opinion about the Palestinian willingness to make a two state deal today, such policies are deeply self-defeating since they make a two-state solution harder ever. A settlement boycott could help to rebalance the scales. If critics disagree—and yet still profess a belief in the two state solution—then they should offer their own alternatives for how to stop the settlement growth that threatens Israel’s democratic future. I’m all ears.