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“Pro-Palestinians” Versus Real Palestinians

If you want to understand the difference between people who are actually pro-Palestinian and those who routinely but falsely claim that label, it’s worth reading the Forward’s interview with SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum. The headline, of course, was Birnbaum’s admission that having a plant in a West Bank settlement is “a pain in the ass,” and he would “never” locate there today. But the most striking comment was his answer to the question of why, in that case, he doesn’t shut the West Bank plant and transfer its operations to SodaStream’s new facility in the Negev, which has ample capacity:

The reason for staying is loyalty to approximately 500 Palestinians who are among the plant’s 1,300 employees, Birnbaum claimed. While other employees could relocate on the other side of the Green Line if the plant moved, the West Bank Palestinian workers could not, and would suffer financially, he argued.

“We will not throw our employees under the bus to promote anyone’s political agenda,” he said, adding that he “just can’t see how it would help the cause of the Palestinians if we fired them.”

In other words, Birnbaum is concerned about real live Palestinians whose families need to eat. That’s a concern noticeably absent among the usual “pro-Palestinian” types, who couldn’t care less about ordinary Palestinians’ welfare unless it happens to serve their primary goal of attacking Israel: See, for instance, the shocking indifference by “pro-Palestinian” groups to the literal starvation of Palestinians in Syria (since Israel can’t be blamed for it), or the Dutch and German governments’ efforts to halt sewage treatment and landfill projects that would primarily benefit Palestinians because Jewish settlers would also benefit. But it’s a concern ardently shared by ordinary Palestinians themselves, as a 2010 poll showed: By an overwhelming majority of 60 percent to 38 percent, Palestinians opposed the idea that they themselves should refuse to work in the settlements. Real Palestinians care about feeding their families, and they don’t want to be barred from jobs that enable them to do so.

Yet that’s exactly what boycotting companies like SodaStream would primarily accomplish. Though SodaStream says it won’t leave, other Israeli companies have decided they don’t need the hassle and relocated inside the Green Line, throwing their erstwhile Palestinian employees out of work. Countless others choose not to locate in the West Bank to begin with, as Birnbaum admits he would do today.

Currently, 20,000 Palestinians work in the settlements. Eliminating their jobs would cause the number of unemployed people in the West Bank to jump 14 percent–hardly a helpful proposition for an economy already suffering 19 percent unemployment.

This same disregard for actual Palestinians also characterizes other forms of anti-Israel boycotts. Take, for instance, the effort to impose an academic boycott on Israel. As one Palestinian pharmacy professor, who understandably feared to give his name, told the New York Times this month, “more than 50 Palestinian professors were engaged in joint research projects with Israeli universities, funded by international agencies,” and “without those grants, Palestinian academic research would collapse because ‘not a single dollar’ was available from other places.”

Boycott proponents claim that by reducing Israelis’ academic freedom, they seek to “enlarge” Palestinians’ academic freedom. Yet in fact, as this Palestinian professor admitted, Israeli academia is the lifeline keeping its Palestinian counterpart alive. So how would killing off academic research in Palestinian universities “enlarge” Palestinians’ academic freedom? It wouldn’t, of course–but the “pro-Palestinian” crowd doesn’t care about that.

In fact, the only thing these self-proclaimed “pro-Palestinians” do care about is undermining Israel–which is why it’s high time to stop dignifying them with the name “pro-Palestinian.” They are anti-Israel, pure and simple. And that’s what they should be called.


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