The true nature of the BDS movement

BDS is not primarily a pro-Palestinian movement, but an anti-Jewish one. Denying one group, and one group only, the right to homestead land is unjust.

AN ANTI-ISRAEL protester demonstrates against the Eurovision Song Contest. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AN ANTI-ISRAEL protester demonstrates against the Eurovision Song Contest.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
All peaceful boycotts should be legal. Laws attempting to squelch any such initiative are unjustified because free association is a universal principle of civilization. Forcing someone to associate economically with an entity he deems unworthy is unjust. Boycotts are anywhere and everywhere an expression of human freedom, whether or not they are justified in any given case.
If the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) were peaceful, this would apply to them as well, even though we detest their goals. However, this undertaking resorts to violence against pro-Israel speakers on campus, against public personalities, artists and many others in order to shut down their voices.
What is their case against the State of Israel? It is based upon blatant lies. People of good will should abjure this initiative.
Boycotting the State of Israel has been a mainstay of Arab states in trying to destroy the Jewish one. The novelty here is that BDS is fueled by Western organizations and countries, particularly on university campuses.
Anti-Zionism is fundamentally based upon two myths: First, the massive expropriation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs by Israel. This assumes that Israel was built on stolen land and property. Second, that the Jews expelled the Arabs following a systematic premeditated plan.
In the Lockean tradition, legitimate property is the outcome of mixing one’s labor with any virgin resource; this is known as “homesteading.” If a land is not homesteaded, it is unowned by natural law. In Israel, most of the land labeled as “owned” by Arabs under the British mandate was uncultivated, consisting of swamp or desert; regarded as uncultivable, hence not homesteaded. Titles to such “property” were illegitimate by natural law, since no homesteading took place to acquire such supposed ownership.
Anti-Zionists try to refute this fact by saying that most of the land bought by Jews and Jewish organizations was owned by and large by absentee landowners, who sold them and displaced Arab farmers who were actually working the land. However, most of the land sold to Jews was swampy and uninhabitable. Further, if one claims that the Arab-owned titles to this land were legitimate in the first place, then so was the sale of these titles.
The truth is that most of the land said to be the property of Arabs was uncultivated, and owned only in a legal sense by the government in charge (the Ottoman Empire or the British Mandate, depending upon the date). For instance, most of what is now Israel is comprised of the Negev Desert. Apart from Jews, who are now growing many different fruits and vegetables in the area, no homesteading ever took place there.
Jews did not buy land from Arab owners because they thought the titles were morally legitimate, but rather because this was the only way to attain land at the time without being harassed by government.
THE SECOND myth of ethnic cleansing is refuted both by historical fact and direct observation. Even the father of the revisionist “New Historians” movement, Benny Morris, recognized that no such thing took place, and that the Arabs, for the most part, fled Israel voluntarily as the result of ongoing fighting and fear during the War of Independence in 1948 (a war the Arab states started).
No Arab who remained in Israel lost his property and these people, to this day, are citizens of the state. Some 20% of Israel’s population is Arab, which makes this a strange case of ethnic cleansing indeed.
BDS focuses on the “settlements.” By this term, BDS supporters refer to Judea and Samaria Jewish towns, which they blame for the lack of “peace.” However, there was no peace before these “settlements” existed.
Why are Jews not to be allowed to live in Judea and Samaria? Jewish settlements in this area were based on virgin lands where no previous Arab homesteading took place. The idea that as Jews multiply, Palestinian Arabs “lose” more land is absurd. The truth is that there should not be any problem with Jewish towns, irrespective of where the Palestinian Arab state could in theory exist, in the same way there is no problem with Arab towns in Israel proper.
“Settlements” are not the cause of the lack of peace. Instead, this is due to the rejection of any Jewish presence at all in the area. BDS supporters do not care that Palestinian Arabs are second-class citizens in many Arab countries. For example, Kuwait expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs after the First Gulf War. Many Palestinian Arabs are now living under the brutal Islamist dictatorship by the Hamas in Gaza, or under the tyranny of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, whose “democratic” term ended a decade ago. Why is BDS not protesting these injustices against Palestinians?
Do Jews have a right to live, build and create on un-homesteaded land? Yes, because they are human beings, and as such they are entitled to homestead any virgin resource. The fact that they chose Israel is due to the millennia-old connection between Jews and Judea.
According to UNESCO, the Temple Mount is actually Al-Haram Al-Sharif. Jerusalem is now Al-Quds, and the Western Wall is Al-Buraq Wall. This nomenclature constitutes a systematic attempt to erase the connection between Jewish history and the Jewish holy of holies. It would be offensive if it was not so transparently inane, even in terms of denying Christian history, and by extension that of the Muslim.
BDS supporters may very well stop buying Israeli products if they want to, and are free to persuade others to do so. However, they cannot legitimately lobby governments to use force against their own citizens who wish to trade with Israelis on a voluntary and mutually beneficial basis.
BDS is not primarily a pro-Palestinian movement, but an anti-Jewish one. Denying one group, and one group only, the right to homestead land is unjust.
Alan Futerman is adjunct professor of institutional economics at the University of the Latin American Educational Center (Rosario, Argentina). Walter E. Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans. Rafi Farber is an independent scholar living in Israel.