I was told recently that businesses don’t make decisions based on morality. This statement depressed me. It depressed me because I know it’s true, although Maurice Lévy, the CEO of Publicis Groupe, would probably disagree.
To businesses, Israel is just another market. Another source of income and profit. Never mind Palestinian dispossession, suffering and poverty (as I’ve said before). Never mind the destruction of their homes, the theft of their land, the ghettoization of their existence and the normalisation of their own humiliation. Never mind the blockade of Gaza, the paralysis of the Palestinian economy and the inhumanity of the West Bank barrier. None of that matters. Only business does.
Agencies may not operate in illegal settlements or even run fully-owned offices, but they are supporting the Israeli economy. An economy that is booming, despite the best efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. It is booming whilst Palestinian farmers whose land now lies behind the West Bank barrier have to apply for permits just to see their own land. Whilst Israeli restrictions in the West Bank cost the Palestinian economy $3.4 billion a year, according to the World Bank, and where 800,000 olive trees have been uprooted by Israeli authorities since 1967. With a West Bank unemployment rate of 27.1 per cent, the list could go on and on.
But the majority of people don’t care, or are simply preoccupied. There’s an amusing scene in the film Lila Says, when 19-year-old Chimo, an Algerian resident of Marseille, admits to abandoning the Palestinian cause for a blonde, beautiful French girl. It’s as easy as that.
Should Israel be isolated completely from the international community? To do anything less is to legitimise its occupation of Palestinian land. As Palestinian film director Hany Abu-Assad says in this week’s issue of Campaign, Israel has spent the past 60 odd years trying to expel the Palestinian people from life. It cannot be allowed to continue to do so for another 60.
In an ideal world, Israel would be boycotted completely, but this is unlikely to happen. Only when, or if, the BDS initiative reaches critical mass will the majority of businesses begin to pay any attention, and only then because their profit margins are endangered.
However, it is shameful that those within the regional advertising industry who wish to discuss the topic of boycotts and sanctions – or even question their agency’s presence in the country – feel they cannot speak freely for fear of losing their jobs. Surely it is the responsibility of those with influence to lobby agencies that are complicit in Israel’s occupation to cease that complicity? Because if you don’t stand for justice and humanity, what do you stand for?