Guest Column | BDS can enhance the condition of the people of Gaza and the West Bank by investing in them
Published: February 1, 2012
Dear BDS conference participants and supporters,
The West Bank and Gaza economies are inextricably linked to that of Israel’s. Since Israel’s economy has a growth rate of nearly double the United States’ and nearly half the unemployment, Penn would be well advised to overweight its investment portfolio in companies in and associated with Israel.
Before Hamas took over Gaza and subsequently shot more than 10,000 rockets into Israel, there were tens of thousands of Palestinians who worked in Israel every day. Unfortunately, today those workers are unemployed and Israel instead imports workers from Thailand and Africa, while Egypt effectively closed its Gaza border crossings to the Palestinian workers.
If divesting from Israel would truly help the Palestinian cause, BDS supporters should stand by their convictions and stop using computers with Intel processors, which are made in Israel. Intel has invested $5 billion in Israel — including a $2.7 billion commitment last year.
So perhaps it might make sense to change the BDS mindset to one of investment and genuine nation-building activities. If BDS’s conviction remain one of divestment; one of burning your neighbor’s house despite the fact you live in connected structures and all-the-more linked economies then to be most effective conference goers should stop using Microsoft and Google products as well; both companies have several research and development centers in Israel, as do most cellular handset manufacturers. And please throw out your iPhones — Apple just bought an Israeli company.
Also boycott any association with Penn alumnus Warren Buffet and his company Berkshire Hathaway whose first ever non-U.S. investment was a multi-billion purchase of Iscar, an Israeli company. Yes, Warren Buffet invested more in Israel than all Arab aid to the West Bank over the past five years. If the Middle East peace genie gave BDS one wish to compel Warren Buffet to do anything would it be divest in Israel or invest in the West Bank? Tanks or Banks?
BDS conferences goers might call Palestinian Penn alumni Nabil Shaath (a senior Palestinian official, former Acting Prime Minister and Palestinian cabinet minister) to ask him what they can do to help the Palestinian economy. He is an extremely bright person and I am sure a boycott of Israel is not the first thing on his wish-list. BDS’s boycotting of Israel is comparable to Mexican-Americans demanding the US to close its borders, cancel NAFTA and reject US aid to fight drug cartels.
BDS can enhance the condition of the people of Gaza and the West Bank by personally coming and investing in them, instead of threatening one of the stalwart pillars of their economy. As a board member of the Penn Jewish Alumni Network, I invite BDS to take a page out of the American Jewish playbook for building a vibrant economy in a barren slice of Mideast land. First, come and visit – tourism is the fastest form of direct foreign investment the economy can enjoy; then, make financial investments. Remember the “Asian Tigers” of the 1980s — in a successful developing economy, stock markets will render great returns to investors and the local economy.
Come and live in the West Bank and Gaza, joining the 5000 Ivy League alumni living in Israel and the tens of thousands of U.S.-educated Americans who moved to Israel and contribute richly to the economy. This includes people like the current Governor of the Bank of Israel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Stanley Fisher, who was Ben Bernanke’s (Chairman of the United State’s Federal Reserve System) thesis adviser at MIT, who throughout the global economic crisis maintained Israel’s currency (effectively the Palestinian currency) as the strongest in the industrialized Western World.
I’ve conducted business in the Arab world since the time of the Oslo Accords (between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993). I met with Yasser Arafat at PLO headquarters in Tunis, where he asked me to join him on his private plane to the signing ceremony of the Oslo Accords in Washington.
I built an Israeli-led media consortium with 12 Arab publishers — including the Palestinian (formerly PLO owned) Jerusalem Times. The project I am most proud of is having facilitated Siemens (a $100 billion German company) building an R&D center in the West Bank that sub-contracted software development from Siemen’s Data Communications unit in Israel. The project provided tier-1 jobs to under-employed Palestinian engineers, and 15 years later the company still exists with some of the same engineers, a colossal success for any high tech company, anywhere in the world
Israel has the highest per capita number of people working in R&D in the world. The Siemen’s venture is a model through which Palestinian’s quality of life was uplifted – BDS conference goers might leverage their access to US companies to conceptualize similar win-win-win ventures. The US government’s Agency for International Development actively seeks American businesses to contribute to the West Banks’s economy.
When I recently met with a Chinese delegation to Israel cultivating academic ties between the two countries a senior policy adviser to the Chinese government asked me to help facilitate a delegation to the West Bank to explore investing there.
I invite BDS to do the same.
Dov Hoch, a 1986 College graduate, is the President of the Penn Club of Israel and board member of the Penn Jewish Alumni Network. He studied political theory at Penn.