The skies are gray. There’s a deep chill in the air. Can’t hear the chirp of a single bird. And everyone’s moping.
Malady du jour? BDS! It’s as if everyone in Israel and the Diaspora just woke up from a deep, peaceful slumber (which is usually the way we stumble across our national predicaments).
A lot of breath and ink is suddenly being spent on the matter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. And they are indeed efforts, in the plural.
Some, like student unions and genteel mainline Protestant groups, warrant a news item on an inside page. But FIFA? Orange? Dammit, don’t mess with our soccer or cellphones! The point is, BDS is not a monolithic movement, although a lot of people here seem to think so. There is a core, of sorts, although it’s more amorphous than brick and mortar. It’s an idea, a notion, a cause that was thrown into the void by Palestinians some years back and which has gathered around it fellow travelers, much the way some fabrics gather lint.
Trouble is, we’ve only now come to appreciate how lint, when allowed to accumulate for so long, not only reduces the effectiveness of our clothes dryers, but can actually lead to a fire.
So now that BDS has wormed its way into two areas so dear to our hearts, it has grabbed our attention – and I mean grabbed – for all of a sudden we’re scrambling to come up with snappy-sounding diplomatic drives, appointing blue-ribbon panels, establishing entire ministries and even holding Las Vegas summits where the billionaires who gave us casinos and the Power Rangers now say they’re hitching their wealth wagons to what’s just the latest war against the Jews – and perhaps the most insidious war, because it’s just about the only direct-action venue that’s available short of martyrdom.
ONE MIGHT be forgiven if he or she is attracted to a non-violent way of getting Israel’s attention. It is we Israelis, after all, who have been saying we can’t be expected to make peace when unguided rockets still fly toward our cities and frenzied young drivers scream “Allahu akbar!” as they mow down our pedestrians.
We should also acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with boycotts per se.
We do it all the time. I know people who won’t buy anything German or Japanese because of terrible things that happened decades ago. I even heard someone say he’d never invest in a company that had George Soros’s money; it didn’t matter whether the company made a product that would save mankind – if Soros was aboard, this guy wouldn’t be.
Of course, Israel has a long, bitter history as a victim of boycotts. There were, and in some cases still are, corporations that stay away due to Arab pressure.
There are also people who remember the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses, and signs in American hotels and storefronts saying “No Jews or dogs.” All of this leaves a bitter taste, and rightfully so.
But if we’re going to fight back, we should take the time to analyze just who supports BDS.
A lot of those most closely identified with the campaign are haters – haters of Israel or perhaps of all Jews – or maybe just lovers of all things Arab or Muslim and therefore haters of what most Arabs and Muslims seem to hate. At the very least, they should be called out for denying the legitimacy of Israel and for singling out the Jewish people as having no right to a homeland, while they give a pass to so many other ethnic or religious groups whose behavior is far, far worse.
But there is every reason to believe that the vast majority of those who subscribe to the idea of BDS are not haters. Nor are they radicals. I’m not even going to call them useful idiots. (Useful, certainly. But idiots? I think not.) They are the lint.
This is not to belittle them, for these are people, often very smart and well intentioned, who are merely wafting around out there, minding their own business yet fed up with Israeli leaders who say they desperately want peace but do little to prove it. I read a lot of postings by these people on blogs and social media sites as they agonize over ways to make their dissatisfaction known.
Should they write their legislators and demand a choice word or two to AIPAC? Should they join the growing ranks of progressive groups that, inter alia, speak out against Israeli policies? Or should they go all the way and be counted as part of a loud, in-your-face phenomenon whose sole raison d’être is – or at least seems to be – to get Israel out of the West Bank? I think that more than a few well-meaning supporters of BDS lack the patience to read the campaign’s three bullet points (which follow below, verbatim) about what it is seeking from Israel: • Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall [security barrier]; • Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and • Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
The first seems pretty self-explanatory.
The second? It tends toward the Balfourian in its ambiguity – and right off I can think of a big snag: Do those equal rights extend to free immigration to what’s supposed to be a state for the Jews? As for the third, it sounds like it was slipped in when no one was looking – and worded accordingly – because it has to do directly with the continued viability of Israel as such a state, which is to say non-viability.
As for supporters who take the time to read, many probably can’t quite make the leap of logic as to what a mass influx of Palestinians would mean for Israel. For others, BDS is just the next hip thing, and they only intend to hitch a ride until Israel ends the occupation of lands it did not control prior to 1967.
IT’S TIME to fight the BDS phenomenon with smarts.
People on the Zionist Right can stop labeling everyone to the Left of them as BDSers. There are a whole lot of liberals and progressives who are Zionists in every respect and absolutely hate the way the Left, with its decency and humanistic values, has been hijacked by a bunch of anarchists and thugs on a fringe for which the French term extrême-gauche is not gauche enough.
On the Zionist Left, people can make their voices heard by calling out the haters, and also by presenting fellow leftists with alternatives to what is a tainted campaign. In so doing, they would remove some of the wind from the sails of the hard and not-so-hard Right, for which BDS has been a godsend in that it provides yet another reason to preach dread to the already petrified masses.
As for our government, instead of complaining that there’s no one to talk to, it should consider unilateral moves that will not only ameliorate some of the diplomatic pressure, but stop driving relative moderates into the arms of extremists.
There is definitely something to the claim made by Meretz MKs last week that BDS is just as much a product of pigheaded Israeli polices as it is the odious beliefs of lunkheads on the loony Left.
And one more thing: Tell Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who effectively can drop the deputy from her title, that when she goes to work in the morning, she should remind herself that her job is, first and foremost, to be the country’s top diplomat – not a Sunday school teacher telling her charges that our behavior has been mandated by God.
You can’t fight BDS like this.