Three of the many problems with BDS

BDS advocates boycotting Israel, divesting from Israeli companies and sanctioning the Israeli government. It professes to support the Palestinian cause for independence by “pressuring” Israel.

December 12, 2018 21:26
4 minute read.
bds boycott

Activists from the BDS movement against Israel [File]. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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The student government of New York University (NYU) recently passed a resolution endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. NYU is now one of a handful of universities across the United States whose student government has approved a pro-BDS motion.

BDS advocates boycotting Israel, divesting from Israeli companies and sanctioning the Israeli government. It professes to support the Palestinian cause for independence by “pressuring” Israel. It claims to be part of a progressive movement to promote human rights and fight racism around the world – but nothing could be further from the truth. NYU and other campuses that have endorsed BDS should reassess their actions. There are myriad claims one can make against BDS, but I will suffice here with only three.

1) BDS is antisemitic. It imitates the blatantly antisemitic European and pre-state Palestine boycotts of Jewish businesses by targeting Israel and not countries like Russia or China, countries with truly egregious human rights records. BDS’s ultimate goal is a “one-state solution,” in essence, to replace Israel with a non-Jewish state. This would deny the Jewish people the right to self-determination.
Some BDS-inspired organizations give financial support to terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, groups that openly seek the destruction of Israel and killing of Jews. Moreover, BDS often employs antisemitic rhetoric that results in physical attacks against Jews on campuses. For example, a study by Brandeis University found that the passing of pro-BDS motions and presence of pro-BDS groups on campuses correlate with the number of antisemitic incidences (including harassment, intimidation, assault and vandalism) on such campuses.

Prominent BDS leaders such as Omar Barghouti and Hatem Bazian have called for “armed resistance” against Jews in both the United States and Israel. Bazian has even suggested that Jews control academia and stated that Jews “kill, rape, smuggle organs and steal the land of Palestinians.” These statements echo classic antisemitic tropes, including the slanders that Jews drink the blood of non-Jews and Jews are conspiring to take over the world.

2) BDS only does harm – to Jews, Arabs and others. This includes not only the physical harm BDS inflicts on Jewish university students, but also the economic harm it does to Jewish and American businesses operating in Israel and often employing Palestinians. In 2015, BDS forced a SodaStream factory in the West Bank to close down, causing hundreds of Palestinians employees to lose their jobs. Thousands more Palestinians depend on Israeli companies to make a living; BDS threatens their livelihoods. In June, US congressmen introduced legislation designed to protect American businesses from BDS pressure. To preempt BDS pressure, many US states have passed anti-BDS legislation, such as funding restrictions or bans.

3) BDS consistently mischaracterizes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a racial conflict. BDS claims Israel is an “apartheid state” and that “white” Jews conspire against “brown” Arabs. These statements are not only inaccurate, but also offensive and even antisemitic. “Apartheid” refers to a legal system that segregates populations based on race. This does not apply to Israel because Israel guarantees equality before the law to all its citizens, Arab, Jew, or other. Jews and Arabs generally do not view themselves as constituting “races,” but rather peoples in conflict over land.

In the West Bank, which Israel occupies and partially administers, use of some roads is restricted by citizenship for security reasons (BDS activists speciously point to these as “segregated roads”). The claim that white Jews are colonizing brown Arabs is an affront to the history of both peoples, which experienced brutal imperialism, colonization and persecution at the hands of white Europeans. It also echoes the antisemitic trope that Jews are inherently privileged over other groups. NYU alternate senator-at-large Leen Dweik himself promoted this misconception when he proclaimed his support for the pro-BDS motion to stop “our tuition money… being spent to kill brown people across the world.”

AND YET, it is somehow becoming fashionable for progressives to oppose Israel and support BDS. It is all too easy to portay BDS as an ally in the fight for racial equity in the United States when BDS seems to utter the progressive language of human rights and social justice. But make no mistake, BDS is far from an ally. It fans the flames of antisemitism, hinders US and Israeli businesses and maliciously spreads lies about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

So how can we contribute to peace in the Middle East positively? The best thing we can do is promote dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and support elements among both that genuinely seek peace through a two-state solution. Israel has had peace-loving leaders like Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak. Their efforts, and those of their Palestinian partners, although often flawed and incomplete, have improved the situation; BDS has only made it worse.

I call on NYU and all other campuses that have endorsed BDS to seriously reexamine their positions. Say no to BDS and its antisemitism, its deceptions, its opportunism. Organize trips to Israel and the Palestinian territories, see the situation for yourself and talk about it with your friends.

The writer is a Master of Public Policy candidate at Georgetown University and an editor at Georgetown Public Policy Review. He got his BA from IDC Herzliya and has done research at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).

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