Making BDS kosher: The new morality

Boycotting products of Israeli settlements supports the eviction of Jews from all settlements and the establishment of a Palestinian state instead.

April 3, 2017 22:01
3 minute read.
Kiryat Arba

Near the entrance to Kiryat Arba.. (photo credit: EE911)


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The Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement has two aspects. One applies to Israel and Israelis; the elimination of the state and genocide. The other applies to Jews who live in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), eastern Jerusalem and Golan – “the settlements.” The first calls for ending the “occupation” that began when Israel was established (the “Nakba”); the second calls for ending the “occupation” that began in 1967.

The first type is prohibited by law in a number of US states, and now in Israel, which recently passed a law banning entry to supporters of BDS. The second, however, is not prohibited and in fact is supported by many “progressive” Jews and Israelis.

The distinction between the two parts of the BDS movement has raised questions among Jews who support Israel but oppose settlements. Will they be welcome to visit Israel? A prominent Jewish scholar who teaches at the Reconstructionist College and the Hebrew College wrote: “I refuse to recite kiddush over wine that is labeled as made in Kiryat Arba... I am concerned about the violation of Jewish law regarding theft, oppression and other interpersonal transgressions that are involved in agricultural products created by Jews in the West Bank territories... I need to know whether that means I am included among those who will no longer be permitted into the country because I support this degree of boycott on a product of Israel’s West Bank settlements.”

I asked him to explain, and he responded: “I do not have the time or heshek [desire] to continue to engage with you on this. I will not be able to respond to further communications. My aim was at the law enacted by the Knesset, not at the grapes or even the wine. The residents of Kiryat Arba (although I confess to knowing nothing of the winemakers in particular) have shown their disdain for their Palestinian neighbors by any number of highly public actions and statements.”

If “settlers” are guilty of crimes and offenses, why not also blame the State of Israel, which promotes and protects them? If the state is complicit, why not boycott it? Is there a connection between boycotting a product and those who produce it, and those who facilitate its production?

Aside from his ignorance of the law, which applies only to those who oppose Israel’s existence, and the fact that he ignores that some Israeli politicians and cultural figures oppose the settlement movement, his boycott of products produced by Jews without any evidence of what he considers wrongful acts violates the Ninth Commandment: Thou shall not bear false witness.

Boycotting products produced by Jews living in Judea, Samaria and the Golan, moreover, is not only a “moral” issue.

Many in the international community oppose what they consider Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory (OPT). As the UN has stated, OPT includes “eastern Jerusalem,” that is, the neighborhoods which were built after the Six Day War, and the Golan Heights. Even recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there is controversial. The link, therefore, between boycotting Israel and boycotting settlements is critical.

Opposing Israel’s existence is different from opposing settlements, ostensibly, because of the concept of “the two-state solution,” meaning a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and Gaza, and the return of the Golan to Syria.

Where, however, does this lead? Boycotting products of Israeli settlements supports the eviction of Jews from all settlements and the establishment of a Palestinian state instead. Such boycotts support the goals of those who demand that Israel withdraw from all areas conquered in 1967, at least.

If it is a “moral” issue, moreover, why limit oneself to the armistice lines of 1949? Why doesn’t this also apply to areas which were conquered in 1948/9 and became part of the State of Israel? The success and appeal of the BDS movement is its focus on products produced in “settlements.”

It is the movement’s leverage against the state itself.

That Jews support such boycotts must be very encouraging to those who seek Israel’s demise.

The question is not whether wine from Hebron/Kiryat Arba or any other winery in Judea and Samaria is kosher, but whether a blessing made by someone whose heart is filled with baseless hatred for other Jews is valid.

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