Is the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement just?

Overview

There are four core reasons that would motivate any fair person to oppose the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement.

  1. The ultimate objective of BDS is to destroy the state of Israel
  2. BDS it is the latest manifestation of centuries of economic boycotts against Jews
  3. BDS hurts the Palestinian people
  4. At its heart BDS is antisemitic

What is Boycott Divest and Sanctions (BDS)?

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement) is a global campaign attempting to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with the stated goals of the movement: 2

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

Now the first two objectives are fluff, they mean nothing. Israeli-Arabs have complete equality, they serve as judges, generals in the IDF, politicians, in fact the third largest political party in Israel is an Arab party. As for the wall, the wall only exists as result of decades of Palestinian terror waged against a civilian population. Since its construction terror attacks on Israel have almost entirely ceased. In relation to “returning land”, the borders of Israel (and a future Palestinian state) have never been agreed – however in the Camp David / Taba talks Israel did offer the Palestinians 95% of the land they wanted… Israel has no issue exchanging land for peace – it has already given away 95% of land it captured in 1967 (to Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan)… all it asks is that the other party agree to live peacefully – no BDS required.

Oppose BDS because its leading objective is the destruction of the Jewish State.

It is the third objective that gives away the true objective. From the inception of Zionism its founders expected Israel to house a significant Arab population, but it was imagined these Arabs would coexist peacefully.3 During the War of Independence the Arabs inhabitants of Israel were promised that if they remained neutral they would be granted total equality in the fledgling state, but if they fought or fled they’d be considered a potential threat. After the war 160,000 Arabs remained, while 600,000 4 left. It is impossible to determine how many of these were fighters and in the words of the 1948 Israeli Foreign Minister, to re-admit such a hostile bloc back into the state would be a “suicidal folly”. 5

In the Arab world, the refugees were viewed as a potential fifth-column that if repatriated could attack Israel from within.

The return of the refugees should create a large Arab majority that would serve as the most effective means of reviving the Arab character of Palestine, while forming a powerful fifth-column for the day of revenge and reckoning.

– Al Said, Lebanon, 6 April 1950

The Arab world believed that the return of the refugees would assure the destruction of Israel, a sentiment expressed by the Egyptian Foreign Minister:

It is well-known and understood that the Arabs, in demanding the return of the refugees to Palestine, mean their return as masters of the Homeland and not as slaves. With a greater clarity, they mean the liquidation of the State of Israel.

– Muhammad Salah al-Din, Egyptian Foreign Minister, Al-Misri, 11 October 1949

Fully aware of this danger the Israeli position was summarised in the same year by Golda Meir “The Jews should treat the remaining Arabs ‘with civil and human equality’, but ‘it is not our job to worry about the return [of those who have left]”. 6 Her strategy appears to have been appropriate as it has become increasingly obvious that the call for the “right to return” is a cloaked way of calling for the destruction of Israel.

If the refugees return to Israel – Israel will cease to exist.

– Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt, Zuercher Woche, West Germany, 1 September 1961

The day on which the Arab hope for the return of the refugees to Palestine is realized will be the day of Israel’s extermination.

– Abdallah al-Yafi, Prime Minister of Lebanon, Al-Hayat, April 29, 1966;

So that was the historical context of what it meant for the right of return for Palestinian refugees, but what of today? Perhaps the BDS Movement have nobler intentions. Unsurprisingly this is not the case and the BDS leadership has consistently stated that they wish to destroy the two-state solution and establish one state (Palestine):

The two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is really dead. Good riddance! But someone has to issue an official death certificate before the rotting corpse is given a proper burial and we can all move on and explore the more just, moral and therefore enduring alternative for peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Mandate Palestine: the one-state solution…

The current phase has all the emblematic properties of what may be considered the final chapter of the Zionist project. We are witnessing the rapid demise of Zionism, and nothing can be done to save it, for Zionism is intent on killing itself. I, for one, support euthanasia.

Going back to the two-state solution, besides having passed its expiry date, it was never a moral solution to start with.

– Omar Barghouti the year before he launched the BDS campaign 7

Incidentally Barghouti, the founder of BDS, is Qatari born PhD student at Tel Aviv University. Yes, you read that right: Tel Aviv, Israel, home of “apartheid” and what he claims are the worst human rights abuses.

That is the big white elephant in the room and people are ignoring it — a return for refugees would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. The right of return is a basic right that cannot be given away; it’s inalienable. A two-state solution was never moral and it’s no longer working — it’s impossible with all the Israeli settlements and so on.

– Omar Barghouti four years after he launched the BDS campaign 8

Finkelstein rightly asks whether the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel. Here, I agree with him that it is. That should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.

– As’ad AbuKhali, prominent BDS activist 9

Ending the occupation does not solve the problem. The Jews do not view all human beings as equal. The 1948 borders were calculated to harm Christians, Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims.

– Ali Abunimah, prominent BDS activist (2011) 10

OK, fine. So BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state… I view the BDS movement as a long-term project with radically transformative potential… In other words, BDS is not another step on the way to the final showdown; BDS is The Final Showdown.

– Ahmed Moor, prominent BDS activist 11

Oppose BDS because it is the latest of centuries of economic boycotts against Jews

nazi-jewish-boycott

BDS is old wine in new bottles, Jews have been the subject of economic boycotts for centuries. In the 1930s Nazis and Arabs boycotted Jewish businesses, the Arab League went on to declare a trade boycott of Israel and BDS is the latest manifestation of this hatred. The fundamental injustice of the BDS position becomes crystal clear if you consider that 51% of Israeli Jews are in Israel because the Jewish State gave them refuge from Arab and Muslim antisemitism.

  • Medieval Europe
    Jews were expelled from most European countries (such as England, Germany, France, Spain and Portugal), but those that were granted residence were subject to a wide range of legal disabilities and restrictions throughout the Middle Ages, some of which lasted until the end of the 19th century. Jews were excluded from many trades, the occupations varying with place and time. Often Jews were barred from all occupations but money-lending and peddling, with even these at times forbidden.
  • 19th century
    Although now emancipated anti-Jewish boycott became one of the basic weapons used for victimizing the Jewish population. Antisemites in Germany, Austria, Bohemia and Moravia successfully launched boycotts against Jewish businesses.
  • Beginning of 20th century
    In Ukraine and Russia boycotts were launched by merchants against the Jews. While in Russia state imposed restrictions on Jews was far more effective at economically restricting the Jewish residents. Similar policies existed in Romania were denied citizenship and categorised as foreigners, who were regularly boycotted.
  • Pre-war Europe
    After the Nazi rise to power in Germany the government publicly announced a general anti-Jewish boycott. Nazi agitators urged boycotting the Jews at mass meetings. On Sunday, April 1, 1933, uniformed Nazi pickets appeared in front of Jewish shops, attacked their clients, and wrote anti-Jewish slogans on their windows. The anti-Jewish boycott in Poland gathered strength in imitation of the Nazi example, and Polish antisemitic groups began to adopt active boycott pressure. Pickets appeared in front of Jewish shops and stalls and terrorized the Jewish merchants as well as their non-Jewish clients. In 1937 this boycott was endorsed by the Polish Prime Minister.
  • Today
    We live in an age of gross human rights violations (Mauritania slavery, the Islamic State’s genocide against religious minorities, Iran’s execution of homosexuals, Afghanistan’s forced child marriages, etc.), ferocious battles are being fought where millions of people are being slaughtered. It is in this generation that the international community launched the BDS, a boycott on the first Jewish State in two thousand years.

Oppose BDS because it hurts the Palestinians

Some of the strongest opposition to the BDS movement surprisingly comes from the ranks of the Palestinians. One of the most concerning aspects for them is the economic impact which to date has cost thousands of Palestinians their livelihood. These Palestinians were either working or trading with Israeli businesses impacted by the boycott (in some cases, Palestinian businesses have even been boycotted). The RAND Corporation studied the long term economic impact and forecast that by the year 2024 BDS could cost the Palestinian economy $2.4 billion – which is around 10% of its GDP (compared to Israel which could lose $15 billion – which is around 3%).12

It doesn’t just hurt Palestinians economically, there is also a real risk to it derailing the peace process. This has lead to the leaders of the Palestinians to completely condemn and distance themselves from the initiative as its founding objective is the destruction of Israel.

No, we do not support the boycott of Israel… But we ask everyone to boycott the products of the settlements. Because the settlements are in our territories. It is illegal. And the Israelis should first of all stop building in our territories, should stop everything in our territories, But we do not ask anyone to boycott Israel itself, We have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel.

– Mahmoud Abbas 13

This desire to destroy Israel and the devious way in which the BDS attempts to do so, has lead many activists to utterly condemn the movement. Such as long-standing pro-Palestinian activist and political scientist Norman Finkelstein who labelled the BDS movement a “cult”.

I’ve earned my right to speak my mind, and I’m not going to tolerate what I think is silliness, childishness, and a lot of leftist posturing.

I mean we have to be honest, and I loathe the disingenuous. They don’t want Israel. They think they are being very clever; they call it their three-tier. We want the end of the occupation, the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever because they know the result of implementing all three is what, what is the result?

You know and I know what the result is. There’s no Israel!

– Norman Finkelstein 14

It’s a cult. You make up numbers, you fantasize and all the followers are supposed to nod their heads. Well you know what? I’m 58 years old, I’ve been involved in this 30 years … I gave my life to the cause, and I’m not going to be anybody’s fool. I’m not wasting time anymore. I’m tired of it, I really am. I’ve lost patience with it. I’m tired of gurus and I’m tired of cults.

– Norman Finkelstein 14

You know and I know exactly what we’re talking about because if we end the occupation, and we bring back 6 million Palestinians and we have equal rights for Arabs and Jews, there’s no Israel. That’s what it’s really about. And you think you’re fooling anybody? You think you’re so clever? That people can’t figure that out for themselves? No, they understand the arithmetic perfectly well. Are you going to reach a broad public which is going to hear the Israeli side “they want to destroy us?” No, you’re not. And frankly you know what? You shouldn’t. You shouldn’t reach a broad public. because you’re dishonest … it’s dishonesty, and I don’t want that kind of leadership. At least be honest with what you want: “We want to abolish Israel, and this is our strategy for doing it.” Ok, be straight forward about it. But this kind of duplicity and disingenuousness “Oh we’re agnostic about Israel.” No, you’re not agnostic, you don’t want it. Then just say it! But they know full well that if you say it, you don’t have a prayer of reaching a broad public. That’s where the public is now. You’re not going to reach them, and it’s a waste of time.

– Norman Finkelstein 14

Oppose BDS because at its heart it is antisemitic

Finally the “double-standards” that the BDS campaign applies to Israel has lead many to believe that at its heart the movement is antisemitic. There are many conflicts being waged around the world which are far bloodier than the Israel / Palestine conflict.

middle-east-death-tolls-by-conflict

There are many nations where human rights are violated on an unimaginable scale. While Israel remains a beacon of liberal values in the Middle East. For example, being gay is a crime in Gaza under the Islamist dictatorship of Hamas, so hundreds of gay Gazans have fled to Israel where they are free to love whomever they please without fear of persecution. Similarly proportionally Israel exports more humanitarian aid than most countries (often dwarfing countries that are much larger).

israeli-medical-personnel-to-nepal-earthquake

Despite all that Israel does to promote peace and liberal values in the Middle East and beyond, it is singled out by the BDS movement as the sole state that should be boycotted. The is no BDS for the the Central African Republic, Saudi Arabia (which practices real apartheid), Mauritania, etc. and it is because the single focus on the Jewish State that had lead many to attribute the double standard applied to Israel as being rooted in antisemitism.

Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. To apply to the state of the Jews a double standard that you apply to none other, to judge one people in a way you judge no other, to single out that one people for condemnation and isolation – is to engage in a gross act of discrimination.

– Charles Krauthammer 15

Summary

  1. The leaders of the BDS movement have declared they believe in a one state solution (the destruction of Israel), they hope to achieve this by returning the “refugees” that fled in 48. This would give the Palestinians a demographic majority in the land as well as potential fifth column to attack Israel from within.
  2. Boycotting Jewish businesses isn’t new, Christians and Muslims have done this for centuries. The only difference is this time they are boycotting the Jewish state
  3. The BDS campaign has hurt Palestinians who are dependent upon trade with Israel (Palestine’s largest trade partner).
  4. The BDS is at its heart antisemitic as it focuses on boycotting one nation over any other. Despite this conflict being one of the most humane conflicts waged for a long period of time and despite Israel having a very good human right’s record in comparison to many nations the BDS movement ignores

Expose more lies of Israeli discrimination:

Sources

2. Palestinian Civil Society call for BDS
3. Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel, Trial and Error, Page 566 – written in December 1947
4. Palestine Betrayed, Efraim Karsh, p272
5. Moshe Sharett, “Israel’s Position and Problems,” Middle Eastern Affairs, (May 1952), p. 136.
6. Benny Morris, Benny Morris, 2003, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949, p.311
7. Relative Humanity: The Fundamental Obstacle to a One-State Solution in Historic Palestine, Omar Bargouhti, The Electronic Intifada, 6 January 2004
8. “Boycotts work”: An interview with Omar Barghouti, Ali Mustafa, The Electronic Intifada, 31 May 2009
9. A Critique of Norman Finkelstein on BDS, As’ad AbuKhalil, al-Akhbar, 17 February 2012
10. STANDWITHUS WELCOMES ALI ABUNIMAH’S RETRACTION, Stand With Us, reporting on the
Chicago Sabeel Conference, October 7, 2005
11. BDS is a long term project with radically transformative potential, Ahmed Moor, Mondoweiss, 22 April 2010
12. The Costs of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, C. Ross Anthony, Daniel Egel, Charles P. Ries, Craig Bond, Andrew Liepman, Jeffrey Martini, Steven Simon, Shira Efron, Bradley D. Stein, Lynsay Ayer, Mary E. Vaiana, Rand Corporation
13. Abbas: Don’t boycott Israel, Yoel Goldman, The Times of Israel, 13 December 2013
14. Video of Finkeltein’s comments can be found here: Finkelstein Exposes BDS Movement as Dishonest, a Cult
15. Krauthammer: Poison of anti-Semitism continues to proliferate, Charles Krauthammer, Houston Chronicle, 9 January 2014