Is it wise to blacklist the boycotters?

Israel ratcheted up its battle this week against one of its most high-profile public enemies – not a hostile country or a terrorist organization, but a movement that seeks to isolate it internationally as part of a campaign for Palestinian rights.

Israel’s target: the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, known as BDS, which calls for an international boycott of Israeli companies and academic and cultural institutions, including professors and artists.

How to respond to BDS, which is widely reviled among Israeli Jews but attracts the support of some liberal Jewish groups, is debated both within Israel and among Jews abroad. For those who oppose BDS there is a nagging question: Which is worse for Israel and its stature, BDS or Israeli moves to defeat it?

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The movement arguably threatens neither Israel’s existence nor its security, but it does affect the Israelis’ yearning for acceptance. And it taps into fears, both existential and practical, that delegitimization could gain a serious foothold in public opinion internationally and make Israel into a pariah nation, causing deep economic damage.

This latest Israeli salvo came in the form of a blacklisting of 20 organizations at the vanguard of the BDS movement, declaring that their members, as of March 1st, will be barred entry from the country for security reasons.

The publication of the blacklist followed shortly after New Zealand pop star Lorde’s high-profile decision in December to cancel her scheduled June concert in Tel Aviv. She canceled after activists urged her to boycott the show, asking her to stand against what they called the occupation and the oppression of Palestinians.

The cancellation threw the spotlight back on BDS after a relative lull in international attention.

Israel’s blacklist move immediately drew fire, including from the targeted organizations themselves (among them a Jewish organization called Jewish Voice for Peace…

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