|Charedim and settlers at a demonstration in 2011 - Photo Credit Times of Israel|
For those unfamiliar with the term – BDS stands for Boycott, Divest, and Sanction. This is a campaign started in 2005 by Palestinians and their sympathizers who claim that Israel is an oppressive occupier of innocent Palestinians on the West Bank. They have called for a boycott of all products and divestment of any businesses who have dealings with the West Bank. They have also called for sanctions against the State of Israel itself until they give in to all the Palestinian demands including but not limited to “returning” the West Bank to its “rightful owners” the Palestinian people.
Most of us thought that anyone who supports sanctions like these are either anti-Semites or seriously misguided if well intentioned people. Many of whom are Jews. Misguided because they fail to see the broader picture; do not factor in historical facts or security issues. Well intended because at least in some cases they see what appears to be injustices and want them to be corrected.
The Charedi world apparently feels the same way. They could not care less if Israel retains the West Bank - as long as their Mosdos (religious institutions) get funded. That is the reason for the boycott. From JTA - here is the way some Charedi media personalities put it:
“We need to think twice about supporting those who hate us. It’s about time we stop being suckers,” commentator Avi Bloom said, according to the Times of Israel. “When Bennett cries about mothers not being able to sleep at night, you can come and ask him by what right does he not allow Tel Aviv mothers, and now ultra-Orthodox mothers as well, to sleep at night because of the need to protect some random outpost."
Kol Baramah commentator Yaakov Rivlin echoed the sentiment. “It’s time to end all these relations with the real estate dealers in the West Bank territories,” he said.
A senior columnist for the Hamodia newspaper, Yisrael Hershkowitz, wrote, "The settlements will pay the price for the costly arrogance” of Bennett.
Hershkowitz said companies located in Jewish settlements in the West Bank or companies owned by settlers could go out of business if boycotted by haredim.
Now I am no supporter of settlements on the West Bank. Ceratinly not those ‘random outposts’ that are there for Religious Zionist reasons about settling all of Eretz Yisroel. Although I do believe in that religious principle I do not believe now is the time for that. In fact believe that Israel should do whatever it can to avoid conflict with Palestinians or exacerbate their enmity. Israel should bend over backwards to avoid oppressive measures to the extent that it is able to do so without compromising the safety of its citizens. I believe that Israel tires to do that to the best of their ability despite accusations to the contrary by the BDS people.
I believe that Charedim are on the same page with me on the issue of West Bank settlements. But where I part company with them is when they start boycotting people – not because they think Israel is being excessively harsh on the Palestinian people. But because they think it will pressure the government into continuing its financial support at previous levels. And also because of their opposition to the political right wing (that champions the cause West Bank settlements and includes Religious Zionists) that insist Charedim have to subject themselves to the draft equally with all citizens. Charedim want them to ‘pay a price’! for all of that, it seems.
So there you have it - BDS and Charedim uniting to boycott the Jewish State - even if not in common cause. Never in a million years would I have ever predicted this unholy coalition. And yet… there it is.
There is something not quite right when religious Jews unite with enemies of the Jewish people to undermine the Jewish State. Even if one does not support the settlements, to boycott them along with our enemies because of financial considerations or as a means to punish political opponents does not become people who claim to be the most religious and God fearing among us.
Although it is off-putting to see all of this happening, one can understand why they do it. The Charedi world in Israel exists financially to a great extent because of government largess. That is why the Charedi parties always join in coalition with the governing party regardless of whether it is a right wing or left wing one. It is their way of getting the most financial support by promising to vote with them on political matters.
Charedim are not political right wingers or left wingers. They are interested only in continuity. They know that much of their community depends on those government stipends just to survive at poverty level. As do their institutions. They believe that dedication to full time Torah study and nothing less is the true Derech HaShem. They therefore see all of this as Hishtadlus – putting forth maximum effort to see that their lifestyle continues unabated.
Desperate men do desperate things. If that means destroying the livelihoods of West Bank residents via a boycott of their products – so be it.