The joy of giving


In this just concluded season of gift giving, we all know that the joy of gifts isn’t limited to those who receive. There is also real pleasure in the act of giving.
One man who clearly enjoyed the gifts he gave this season is Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, who tweeted out a picture of official Israeli Embassy gift boxes containing products such as wine, olive oil, halva and Dead Sea beauty products — all made in the Golan Heights and the West Bank, an area the international community considers illegally occupied by Israel and which the European Union wants to stigmatize by requiring labels of origin on its produce.
In an effort to score political points against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, Dermer explained the reasons behind the assorted items on official government stationery. “This holiday season, I decided to send a gift that would also help combat the latest effort by Israel’s enemies to destroy the one and only Jewish state,” he explained. “To cast a beacon of freedom, tolerance and decency as a pariah state, I have decided this holiday season to send you products that were made in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. I hope you will enjoy them.”
Was this a good idea? While clearly getting Dermer’s name in the papers and throughout the social media world — his tweets went viral, and the story was picked up in The Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz and the Huffington Post — what exactly did Dermer (or Israel) gain by this stunt? Probably nothing.
Recipients of the gifts and the accompanying message probably included the White House, members of Congress and others of the ruling class in Washington, few of whom — if any at all — support BDS or have been railing against Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and Golan Heights. To be sure, the Obama administration has raised concerns over Israel’s continued construction in some settlements, arguing that they will impede the final outcome of peace negotiations, but what do apartment blocks have to do with olives, wine and halva? Absolutely nothing.
Dermer did, of course, make a point. And we agree with his point. But the audience of actual gift recipients was likely a small one, and his tweets largely preached to the choir. So, rather than having his anti-BDS message obscured by the inevitable politics of “occupation” that surrounded his gift giving, we wonder whether the ambassador could have been more effective by some other means of delivering his cogent anti-BDS message.
Both the credibility of Israel and the effectiveness of her ambassador require careful political planning and polished message execution. This move came up a bit short because it tried to do and say too much.

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