Only BDS can Save Israel (from itself)

 Public Security minister Gilead Erdan has made it his goal to fight the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement with all means possible.

His latest idea was called a “Database of Israeli BDS Activists” in Haaretz, and even though this was dismissed by Erdan as inaccurate, it should be clear to all that, especially in 2017 Israel, activities with an organization like BDS, (which often take place on Facebook and other Social Media) is definitely monitored and while the word “Database” may be taking it too far, there is little doubt that activities are being critically watched.

Erdan is taking the lessons learned from his boss very seriously and the main line in his campaign against BDS is one of fear mongering. Scare the Israelis, and they will listen. Throw in some alleged anti-Semitic activity, some alleged connections to terror organizations, call BDS a ”Strategic Threat to the State of Israel” and everybody will be scared and looking behind their shoulders in fear of finding a BDS activist and Erdan will be their savior from all these terrible threats.

So is BDS really that dangerous? Or is it just dangerous to an expansionist, imperialist Israel that continues an occupation that has lasted 50 years? I must admit, I do not have the information that Minister Erdan has, but neither do I have the strong urge to spread misinformation about BDS to reach my goals. I will believe there are elements in BDS that do want to harm the State and even maybe are anti-Semitic, but many BDS activist are simply looking at the flip side of the situation, seeing an entire people with a bleak future, seeing against that, a beautiful country going to the dogs because some people cannot control their primitive urges and these activists simply are trying to turn things around. (Naive?  Maybe but I do have some belief in humanity left).

History has in at least one instance shown that outside (and inside) pressure may yield results (if you are persistent enough) and this is of course the successful fight against “Apartheid”.

No doubt the comparison between what is happening in Israel and the Occupied Territories and South Africa of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s is a painful one for Israel and Israelis, and we are not (yet) at the stage of Apartheid. But are we really that far off? And should we wait until we get there?

There are also differences between the Arab population in pre 67 Israel (who mostly do have citizenship) and the Arab population in the Occupied Territories but after 50 years of occupation and no end in sight, nobody believes that changes indeed will come soon and more and more talk is heard among Israeli politicians about annexation of the Occupied Territories but without granting basic rights to the Arab population.

Very few of the measures that create the similarities between Apartheid and the situation in Israel are anchored in law, but for the Israeli Arab who was not allowed to live in Qatzir, the Palestinian being thrown off his land by the army, the Palestinian not allowed to travel certain roads and many, many other instances whereby Arab and Palestinian rights are being trampled upon, it doesn’t matter if it is done by law, by decree or simply through bullying by settlers.

In Apartheid South Africa there were laws that would take away land from blacks to be sold cheaply to whites. In Israel, they first take the land away and afterwards try through laws to fix it.

In Apartheid South Africa, the Bantustans where the legally allowed areas where blacks could live, Israel is trying to put its Bedouin population into “permitted areas” (Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are not allowed at all into Israel proper except to work and with special permits that can be taken away at the whim of an army officer). Some Israeli politicians talk about “Autonomy” for the Palestinian population. Is that really so different from Bantustan?

Apartheid continued for many years notwithstanding increasing aversion and protest from all over the world. Finally, in the late 70’s and early 80’s the world decided to act. First the UN imposed sanctions later followed by most Western countries. These sanctions had disastrous consequences for S. Africa:

o   A total weapon embargo resulting in development of a (relatively primitive) local arms industry

o   Energy embargo resulting in them making gasoline from coal

o   Withdrawal of businesses and investments by Multinational companies

o   Banning of S. Africans from International Sports events

o   Travel restrictions including fly-over and landing rights

There were many more effects, some direct and many indirect, but two issues must be stressed: the sanctions and isolation by the world came about mainly through the immense pressure by anti-apartheid organizations on their governments and on the UN, and second, what caused the changes in the end and the demise of Apartheid, was economic hardship of the white population in South Africa which resulted from the sanctions and isolation.

It make take another 5 years, or 10 maybe, but in the end, if Israel continues with the occupation and the repression of 2.5 million people, BDS will gain strength and there will be nothing Erdan can do about it. In the end, Israel will be forced to relinquish the territories or to become a state for two peoples. And Israelis will benefit either way.

There is one more difference between Apartheid South Africa and imperialist Israel and this may be the biggest hurdle of them all. After 40 years of Apartheid, at least one leader in White South Africa was intelligent enough, courageous enough and charismatic enough, to recognize the situation for wat it was and decided to put an end to it. De Klerk, then prime minister of South Africa, repealed the Apartheid laws and released Mandela from the prison where he spent 27 years and together they guided the process of renewal and moved S. Africa forward to a better future, both for the white and the black population (and received the Nobel Prize for it).

Who will be the charismatic leader that will lead Israel to better times? An imprisoned Palestinian leader we already have, so all that is required is an Israeli who will stand up in the Knesset, and say to the people of Israel: no more. Unfortunately, I at least do not see such a leader get up any time soon. Maybe the Israeli public really needs the economic hardship to bring forth a real leader, not the Erdan’s, the Regev’s, the Hazan’s and the Zohar’s that we hear screaming today.