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Opinion: Don't boycott Israel just yet

Aaron B. Andrews
The Detroit News

Those calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel should consider putting a sock in it until the coronavirus blows over.

The novel virus has claimed the lives of over 3,000 and infected nearly 100,000 across the globe. And the fact that there’s not yet a vaccine has the U.S. and the world holding their breath — and thinking twice before shaking hands.

A doctor takes a swab from a woman to test for the COVID-19 virus at a fever clinic in Yinan county in eastern China's Shandong province on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. China on Wednesday reported another drop in the number of new cases of a viral infection and 97 more deaths, pushing the total dead past 1,100 as postal services worldwide said delivery was being affected by the cancellation of many flights to China.

Enter Israel. 

Earlier this week, reports circulated that an Israeli research institute is closing in on a vaccine for the disease.

Scientists at MIGAL Research Institute say they are eight to 10 weeks away from producing a vaccine and are currently working on getting approval for animal testing.

The president of the institute has said their goal is to get the vaccine safety approved in 90 days. 

That’s ambitious, and Dr. Asher Moser, director of the Israel's National Blood Bank, would be surprised if there was a vaccine before the end of 2020. But he's all for them trying.

"Sometimes, it’s very healthy to be optimistic,” Moser says.

A patient receiving a flu vaccination in Mesquite, Texas.

Optimism is the hallmark of Israeli tech industry. The small nation is on the forefront of a host of medical breakthroughs, including development for a Covid19 vaccine that will benefit the whole world.

But the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement would cut off such promising research from collaborators and investors in the United States, including universities and public pension funds that invest in companies with connections to Israel.

The movement, which percolated on progressive college campuses, has now creeped in to Congress, where last year 17 members voted against a public condemnation of boycotting the Jewish state for its treatment of Palestinians.

There's far more to Israel than the BDS narrative. People should think twice before they choose to support a boycott against an entrepreneurial state that is understandably known as the Start-Up Nation.

What's going on in Israel's laboratories is saving lives all over the world.  

For example, take Israel’s medical breakthrough in treatment for multiple sclerosis over a decade ago, or consider its advances in treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Israel has also pioneered advances in agriculture with drip irrigation and in conservation with desalination technology, both of which it has widely shared with Africa. 

Not to mention munitions and defense — the Iron Dome comes to mind. The U.S. Army bought two of these anti-missile systems last year.

Then there's the intelligence industry. “They created USB, instant messenger, cellphone technology," says Stephanie Hausner, deputy director of Israel Action Network. "There are huge intel plants in Israel creating new technology every day that most Americans use on a daily basis. Which is why the whole concept of BDS is ridiculous."

Particularly so with a frightening virus poised to sweep the world. 

It may be tough for some to swallow, but BDSers should be asking themselves if they would really say no to a vaccine just because it was created in Israel.

aandrews@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Aaron_B_Andrews

Aaron B. Andrews is an editorial fellow at The Detroit News.