In an effort to delegitimize, isolate and ultimately destroy Israel, organizations around the world have called on universities, governments, labor unions and co-ops to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (termed the BDS movement). Supporters claim that international pressure through the BDS movement will help the Palestinian people achieve independence.
However, BDS advocates do not support a Palestinian state coexisting beside Israel, do not help individual Palestinian businesses and do not represent the views of the Palestinian Authority or even most Palestinians living in the territories.
Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, told South African journalists,
"We do not ask anyone to boycott Israel itself. We have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel."Palestinians actively engage in trade with the Israeli government.
The Palestinian Authority shares a variety of cooperative agreements with Israel in nearly 40 spheres of activity, from joint security measures to environmental protection and conservation. In 2008, Israel's Histadrut labor union signed an agreement with the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions to advance common goals and build fraternity. In August 2012, then-PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz signed a series of bilateral trade agreements that took effect January 2013 and marked an important step in bolstering economic ties between Israel and the PA.386 Overall, Israeli-Palestinian trade (import/export of goods & services) totals nearly $4 billion annually.
Palestinians also work with Israelis in business and industry.
In September 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to increase the number of work permits - to 40,000 - for Palestinians in the territories who work for various companies inside Israel proper. What is especially ironic is that while the PA's leaders constantly complain about Israeli settlements, at least 30,000 Palestinians work in those settlements, helped construct them or supplied some of the building materials. A survey conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics found that Palestinians working for Israeli businesses are paid more than twice the salary that their peers receive from Palestinian employers.
An article in the Palestinian Authority mouthpiece, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Israel was praised for its treatment of Palestinian workers. "whenever Palestinian workers have the opportunity to work for Israeli employers," the article noted, "they are quick to quit their jobs with their Palestinian employers" because "the salaries of workers employed by Palestinians amount to less than half the salaries of those who work for Israeli employers" in the West Bank. Furthermore, the paper reported "the work conditions are very good, and include transportation, medical insurance and pensions. These things do not exist with Palestinian employers."
An Arabic TV broadcast on Al-Hura also reported on the positive relations between Israeli employers and Palestinian workers. "There are 10 large industrial centers in Judea and Samaria, in which some 15,000 Palestinians work side by side with Israeli employees," according to Aryeh Savir of United With Israel. "At Barkan alone, 3,000 Palestinians are employed together with 3,000 Israeli employees. They work together, earning the same wages, enjoying the same social benefits, vacation days and pensions as prescribed by Israeli law. They go on trips together. Coexistence between the two peoples happens here, and all are awarded with a good and respectable livelihood."
Moreover, Palestinians invest in Israel.
Statistical data from 2011 shows that private Palestinian investment in Israeli companies - notably hi-tech and industry - amounted to roughly $2.5 billion, more than double the Palestinian investment within the West Bank. For example, Hani Alami, a leader in the Palestinian telecommunications industry, bought 30 percent of the Israeli company Alvarion. Israeli Arab Hisham Adnan Raya, a construction magnate, was an angel investor in the Israeli web design company Webydo.
Ironically, the founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, does not personally boycott Israel - he obtained a Master's Degree and, since 2009, has been pursuing a Doctorate at Israel's Tel Aviv University. He is just one of thousands of Palestinians who study at Israeli colleges and institutions.
While BDS advocates try to paint Israel as a demonic country practicing the type of discrimination associated with old South Africa, tens of thousands of Palestinians enjoy the benefits of working, studying and investing with Israelis. Their livelihoods and good relations with their Israeli neighbors are threatened by misguided European efforts to punish Israel for settlement construction and the broader BDS campaign, which begs the question: If Palestinians don't support BDS, who does the movement represent?