Hold the Pickle

by Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark

Unlike hamburgers, which are either kosher or not, some boycotts are apparently more kosher than others.

The state of Israel and its supporters in the US have launched a full court press against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) — even though they’ve often dismissed the campaign as inconsequential and ineffective. Go figure. Such fruitless efforts have inspired legislation in the Knesset, passed in the spring, that allows targets of BDS to sue its advocates without having to prove that they sustained any harm. And here in the U.S., Malcolm Hoenlein head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, recently announced plans for a major offensive against the BDS movement on college campuses. This drive will be joining a multi-million dollar anti-BDS effort from the Israel Action Network.

But at the end of June, when McDonald’s Israel franchise turned down an invitation to open a branch at a mall under construction in the West Bank’s sprawling Jewish settlement, Ariel, settlers immediately called for a boycott of the chain.

Given that this franchise has, as a matter of policy, long refused to operate beyond Israel’s internationally recognized 1967 borders, one has to ask these new-fangled boycotters: Where is the beef? The franchise owner, Dr. Omri Padan, a founding member of Peace Now, has, like some Israelis for many years, simply declined to do business beyond the Green Line. Only recently — as Israel ever more vigorously seeks to erase that line — have settlement supporters fulminated against that stance. Just as they denounced the Israeli artists who stated they would not perform in Ariel when the settlement was added as a stop on standard national theater tours in 2010, they are vilifying McDonald’s as having — in the words of settler movement leader Yigal Delmonti — an “anti-Israeli political agenda.”

And that is the point of this whole froth, as fake as a pareve milkshake: to reassert that the settlements (but not the Palestinians living around them) are part of Israel and that for an Israeli to hold faith with international law is tantamount to treason.

Obviously, Dr. Padan is under no obligation to open a store in any particular location, but aligning him with BDS serves a rhetorical agenda, one that seeks to silence dissent and the nonviolent action that supports it.