The Middle East is full of contradictions. It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s bluff. If you call the wrong bluff, you can end up blown to pieces. And if you miss a real opportunity, you can end up a real sucker.
“Peace activists” attack with knives and rocks. “Human Rights” groups willfully ignore the persecution of Christians. “War crimes” are attributed to self defense, but not to shooting children or pregnant mothers at point blank range. Judges condemn protection of civilian populations while ignoring the use of private homes, mosques, schools and hospitals as shields for military operations. Israel is accused of being an apartheid state, even though its minorities can live anywhere, are entitled to all the rights of the mainstream population, and are represented in parliament, in the judiciary and all walks of life. But when Palestinian President Abbas territories says "I will never allow a single Israeli to live among us on Palestinian land" and when selling land to a Jew is punishable by death, no-one even blinks.
But what about the hypocrisy of the tidal wave of delegitimization tactics aimed at Israel, by people who want to fully exploit the benefit of their contact with the Jewish state?
We are asked to shun Israeli academics and universities by a boycott movement headed by Omar Barghouti - who studies for his doctorate at Tel Aviv University. The same Palestinian Authority that asks the world not to buy produce from "settlements" approves tens of thousands of its citizens to work in those communities. Building them is an obstruction to the peace process - while the PA sends the construction workers to do the work.
So while you are being asked to deprive yourself of the unique know-how and innovation that has brought so many Israeli inventions in every field to the world, and won Israelis and Jews such a disproportionate number of Nobel and other prizes, consider the following.
In March of this year, the hugely innovative Israeli agricultural industry will hold its annual showcase event - the AgroMashov - at which hundreds of Israeli companies will present their unique achievements. Israel has long been known as an agricultural innovator. A well known example is drip irrigation systems, which were developed here, and are now exported everywhere. The organizers invited me to join a preview tour to some of the exhibitors, where I saw
- a farm which had developed a unique strain of pitaya fruit,
- leading edge bull sperm collection techniques (did you know that 98% of cattle were born via artificial insemination?),
- the way the Hebrew University researches the best vegetation to plant in hot climate with little water,
- a bee farm developing new (and surprisingly tasty!) health products,
- a nursery applying modern inventory management techniques to factories around the globe supplying fresh spices, flowers and other plants to supermarkets and other outlets,
- new packaging techniques for vegetables,
- and more.
From this little taste, I could understand why visitors would come from all around the globe to learn, to share, to form relationships and to shop. But farmers are not the only ones who ignore anti-Israel boycott attempts. The Palestinians won't deprive themselves of the opportunity. As in every year, Palestinian farmers and industry representatives will be there in force. Around 200 have already registered. Not only that, but a large pavilion will hold exhibits specifically of Palestinian produce and farm machinery produced in the West Bank. And the delegation will be led by Palestinian Agriculture Minister, Dr. Ismail Daak.
This spirit of mutual dialogue, cooperation and trade, which is so essential if we are ever to see peace, is happening outside the spotlight of politics, and without the destructive grandstanding and double-talk of the boycott nonsense. It is not just happening in agriculture. The jewelry industry is another example of co-existence. In July, the annual Jovella jewelery exhibition will be held in Tel Aviv. For the last four years, the Peres Center for Peace has organized delegations from the West Bank to come and visit Jovella. Last year they brought 44 delegates - and another 20 Palestinians just turned up under their own steam.
So is it a bluff? And if you are a farmer or in the jewelery industry, will you lose out by listening to the anti-Israel "human rights activists" who urge you to boycott Israeli products and exhibitions, while the Palestinians are attending? Confused? Welcome to the Middle East, where real life is rarely as reported in the main stream media.