feel boycott's sting
Creeping sense of isolation as culture, economy take hits
By Danielle Haas, Chronicle Foreign Service
San Francisco Chronicle
6 August 2002
Jerusalem -- Relations between the Goldyne Savad Institute of Gene
Therapy at this city's Hadassah Hospital and the Norwegian Veterinary
School have long been warm.
So it came as a shock when Professor Ingrid Harbit, who heads the
Oslo school, sent Goldyne an e-mail on April 22 rejecting its request
for a DNA sample because of Israeli military activities in Palestinian
"(Against) this background, I find it impossible for me to
deliver any material to an Israeli university," she said in
Many Israelis fear that their country is fast becoming an international
pariah after a rash of cancellations by foreign artists and sports
figures, as well as calls within international academic and business
circles for a boycott of Israel -- either for safety reasons or
to protest the Ariel Sharon government's handling of the Palestinians.
The creeping isolation has added to the psychological and economic
pressure on Israelis as they struggle to maintain a semblance of
"life as normal" amid the bloodshed.
"It's reconfirmed the Israeli sentiment growing since the
start of the intifada that 'the whole world is against us,' "
said Chemi Shalev, a writer and commentator for the mass circulation
Experts also warn of practical ramifications. Israel already is
suffering from the effects of the global economic downturn and the
cost of fighting the Palestinians.
On Monday, Finance Ministry officials said they estimated that
the economy would record about $10.5 billion in lost output this
year -- half coming from the effects of the Palestinian uprising
and half from the world economic slowdown. The intifada's cost to
individual Israelis works out to about $1,000 per person.
The already shaky economy contracted 0.6 percent in 2001 and is
expected to post another 1 percent drop this year. The jobless rate
stands at 10.5 percent.
EFFECTS OF ISOLATION FEARED
Senior Israeli economist Yoram Gabai, noting that resource-poor
Israel is almost totally dependent on selling goods it produces
to the outside world, said, "Isolation means economic collapse,
not just a decline in standard of living."
"Faster than expected, we will find ourselves in the time
warp of (white- dominated) Rhodesia in the 1970s and South Africa
in the 1980s: enforced isolation from without and an isolationism
from within," Gabai predicted. "The enormous price of
isolation will drag us into withdrawing from the (occupied) territories,
either in the context of a peace treaty or without one as a unilateral
The pressure being applied from abroad has drawn stinging criticism
from Israeli officials.
Science, Culture and Sports Minister Matan Vilnai said the boycott
in the cultural sphere was "understandable given the security
situation and daily images on TV." But he condemned any shunning
of the country for its military tactics as "contemptible"
at a time when Israelis were "fighting for our lives. "
The primary reason cited by many people choosing to stay away is
fear for their safety. There has been an alarming 42 percent drop
in tourism in the first half of this year from the same period a
Eight foreign cast members recently canceled their scheduled participation
in a new opera production of the Israel Philharmonic, while well-known
performers who once regarded Israel as a natural stop on their tour
circuit also have given the country a wide berth, including the
Red Hot Chili Peppers rock group, which canceled last year.
More recently, the Bremen Opera and Venice Baroque Orchestra called
off scheduled appearances at the Jerusalem arts festival in May,
and the Belgian Groupov theater group canceled for "ideological
HUGE DROP IN TOURISTS
Israeli arts and cultural institutions are hunkering down to weather
An Israeli museum spokeswoman said that attendance by foreign visitors
had dropped by 80 percent since the conflict began and that the
number of local visitors had been halved. It still mounts exhibitions
but now closes on Sundays because of the fall in numbers.
"We are trying our best to carry on, to let people know we
are open for business," she said.
The famous Masada desert fortress and the grave of Israel's founding
father, David Ben-Gurion, were among 58 tourist sites given a temporary
reprieve from closure after an 80 percent drop in admission receipts.
Sports figures also have given Israel the cold shoulder. In March,
UEFA, European soccer's governing body, barred Italian team AC Milan
from playing a match in Jerusalem, and several players from the
English soccer team Chelsea stayed away from a game with Hapoel
Israeli business executives have had to travel overseas to meet
counterparts who are hesitant to come to them, and foreign student
programs have seen attendance fall.
An increasing number of people cite Israeli activities in the West
Bank mounted as part of its "war on terror" as the reason
they want to break academic and financial links to Israel.
"The Israeli government appears impervious to moral appeals
from world leaders. However, there are ways of exerting pressure
from without," Professor Steven Rose, a Jewish academic from
Britain's Open University, wrote in a letter to the Guardian newspaper
in which he opened a campaign to suspend European funding of Israeli
In May, Britain's largest lecturers union urged universities and
colleges to consider severing academic links with Israel to protest
its "illegal and barbaric" incursion into Palestinian
Soon afterward, Mona Baker, a professor of translation studies
at Manchester University, triggered an outcry after sacking two
liberal Israeli academics because she did not wish to "continue
an official association with any Israeli under the present circumstances."
Foreign businesses, trade unions and European states also have
begun pressure campaigns.
In April, 34 Swedish personalities signed an article in a national
newspaper urging a boycott of Israel and calling on the European
Union to suspend its trade agreement with Israel until "there
is respect for life, freedom of moment and property."
Norway's second-largest food chain, Coop Norge, also called for
a boycott of Israeli goods.
ARABS FIRMLY ENDORSE BOYCOTT
More predictably, similar calls are resounding throughout the Arab
Ahmed Khazaa, head of the Arab League's central boycott office
in Damascus, recently told member states that an Arab ban on business
with companies that trade with Israel was a "noble, peaceful"
way to express support for Palestinians.
Advertisements for Marlboro cigarettes have disappeared from many
public places in Syria, while Uncle Ben's rice and Mazola oil are
on a 50-item list compiled by a government panel organizing a boycott
of American goods.
Israelis who have traveled abroad have also felt the sting of anti-Israeli
Pop singer Achinoam Nini, better known as Noa, had just completed
singing the peace song "Hawks and Sparrows" in June when
two protesters mounted the stage at London's Barbican Theater, seized
her microphone and proclaimed that they were obstructing her concert
to "make a political point."