One of the Obama administration’s most ardent hopes is that President Obama’s anti-Semitic United Nations resolution, which declares Jerusalem non-Jewish territory, provides the groundwork for a vast international economic boycott of Israel. The Obama administration has been clearing that ground for years. In February 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry ripped the Israeli settlements, stating, “Today’s status quo, absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It is not sustainable. It is illusionary. You see for Israel there is an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it, there is talk of boycott and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?”
So, would an economic boycott of Israel actually work?
Probably not. While the international community flatters itself that concerted economic action drives reaction from the targeted country, that isn’t actually true, barring massive sanctions a la Iran. Divestment from South Africa achieved virtually nothing. As Professor Ivo Welch of UCLA’s Anderson School of Business stated, “we found that it had no impact whatsoever…it became fairly clear, fairly quickly that the boycott was never really fully enforced; that is, there were always easy ways to get around the boycotts.”
But that doesn’t mean that Israel’s enemies don’t have other methods in mind. Presumably, they’ll try to invoke the International Court of Justice and then force signatories to levy sanctions under those rulings. This was a concern for Israel in 2004 after the ICJ ruled against Israel’s security barrier. There could be problems for Israelis traveling outside of Israel if The Hague attempts to force signatories to arrest Israeli soldiers for “war crimes” – i.e. serving a government that allows Jews to build apartments on historically Jewish territory – or on Israeli companies and banks that do business outside Israel.
Or, alternatively, we could be watching the beginning of the end of international institutions.
Donald Trump has made clear his disdain for the United Nations. He called it a “club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.” He’s not the only one. Other opponents of the UN include Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders and French right-wing politician Marine Le Pen. The upsurge in right-wing sentiment among Europeans could spell the beginning of the end for both the UN and the ICJ. When Trump railed against globalism, these are the institutions that truly promote it. Breaking them apart in favor of institutions that actually favor democracy and human rights – that take genocide in Syria more seriously than Jews building a bathroom in Jerusalem – would be a worthwhile goal.
Trump has an opportunity to truly fight globalism. This is a perfect opportunity to seize it.