BDS is hurting Palestinians as well as Diaspora Jews - opinion

Thousands of Palestinians taking part in the workforce of mainland Israel are unduly punished by some of the consequences of BDS

 PALESTINIAN WORKERS wait at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, hoping to enter Israel to work. Gaza residents prefer working for employers in Israel rather than for businesses in the territories.  (photo credit: ATTIA MUHAMMED/FLASH90)
PALESTINIAN WORKERS wait at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, hoping to enter Israel to work. Gaza residents prefer working for employers in Israel rather than for businesses in the territories.
(photo credit: ATTIA MUHAMMED/FLASH90)

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a campaign popular across the Western world, aims to instill political and economic pressure on the Israeli government in order to encourage the state to amend its policies and alleged crimes against Palestinians. Throughout the past decade, this movement has gained enormous traction across academic campuses.

However, the common trend that can be observed is that most people do not take the time to properly analyze the consequences of widespread BDS support, blindly endorsing it in the belief that they are fighting for social justice. In reality, the BDS movement is nowhere near accomplishing its goals and is ultimately worsening the livelihood of Arab-Israelis and Palestinians.

As a result, the BDS movement victimizes the very object of the movement, as well as Jews in the Diaspora. More importantly, as the BDS movement only singles out Israel for censure and opprobrium, it is antisemitic at its core, and its efforts that seek the Jewish state’s dismantlement are replete with Jew hatred.

BDS primarily aims to place economic pressure on Israel by encouraging Western institutions, such as universities, to ban all Israeli products and goods, including textbooks and guest speakers. However, Israel has a diverse and resilient economy that can resist external pressure.

Moreover, Israel is one of the only functioning democracies in the Middle East that affords fundamental rights, such as freedom of religion and expression, to its citizens. For these reasons, other nations and companies maintain their economic alliances with Israel and its industry, looking past the viral and deeply false narratives that paint Israel as an “apartheid” and “colonial” state.

 BDS ACTIVISTS in action (credit: GALI TIBBON / AFP) BDS ACTIVISTS in action (credit: GALI TIBBON / AFP)

BDS has a counterproductive effect

Likewise, BDS has a counterproductive effect, since it further disaffects Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories by over-simplifying an extremely nuanced issue that goes back hundreds of years into a mere binary conflict.

In doing so, the thousands of Palestinians taking part in the workforce of mainland Israel are unduly punished by some of the consequences of BDS, in spite of being the very focus of the movement’s goals. Specifically, Palestinians living across the West Bank and Gaza yearn for stable income, in order to respond to their basic needs. 

Israel affords Palestinians with well-paying jobs, allowing them to make a living; however, increased support of the BDS movement can lead to economic hardship across Israel and the downsizing of companies. Therefore, the likelihood of layoffs (both for Israelis and Palestinians) is potentially increased, fueled by the BDS movement.

This is especially the case in Israeli settlements in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) which, despite being the object of intense demonization by BDS activists, actually provide important employment opportunities for Palestinians. BDS, therefore, has the undesired effect of increasing unemployment for Palestinians working in Israel. 

As I learned this past winter on a trip to Israel, where I had the opportunity to converse directly with Palestinians, those living in Gaza who work in Israel prefer working for an Israeli employer to one in their hometown. This phenomenon is rooted in their leaders’ (the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza) failure to respond to their nations’ desire for adequate salaries.

Working in Israel vs. in the West Bank and Gaza

Notably, Palestinians who work in Israel, and are employed by Israelis, make an average of $95.49 CAD a day. On the other side, Palestinians who work in the West Bank and are employed by Palestinians earn $45.14 CAD, on average, and those working in Gaza make an average amount of $38.47 CAD a day.

Working for an Israeli company in Israel is therefore more than two times more profitable, which is why Palestinians often prefer leaving their hometowns for work. BDS exposes Palestinians to a decreased chance of maintaining these jobs with much higher salaries, by aspiring to trigger an economic crisis in Israel.

Nonetheless, Diaspora Jews are without a doubt the biggest victims of the BDS movement. Despite the BDS movement’s claim that they are not antisemitic and that Jews are not their object, most BDS activists create an undue parallel between Jews and the actions of the Israeli government. Indeed, most Jews do feel a sense of connection to the State of Israel. 

The boycotting of Israel on campuses instills a growing sense of tension and hostility at these institutions. While BDS claims to not be antisemitic, in reality, many BDS supporters use the pursuit of social justice for Palestinians as a cloak for their antisemitic tendencies.

The demonizing language employed by BDS supporters regarding Israel, and its Jewish supporters in the Diaspora, contributes to this undertone. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said: “In Canada, we have to recognize that there are things that aren’t acceptable, not because of foreign policy concerns, but because of Canadian values... It’s not right to discriminate or to make someone feel unsafe on campus because of their religion, and unfortunately, the BDS movement is often linked to those kinds of frames.”

The complete lack of acknowledgment of the Palestinian leadership’s role in both creating and perpetuating the Palestinian people’s current situation further exemplifies this movement’s biased and unethical nature. As a result, Jews who do not support the BDS movement and support the right for the Jewish nation to self-determination in their indigenous homeland, feel ostracized from the culture of their university that has adopted BDS.

Concerningly, it is often observed that BDS campaigns hinder Jewish students’ capacity to take part in their campus social life. Specifically, BDS protests often target Jewish events and guest speakers. 

An effective way to achieve peace and reconciliation in the Middle East is by encouraging dialogue and unity with nonviolent activism. BDS is clearly an ineffective movement that does not have the desired impact.

Rather, its consequences are inflicted on the Palestinian people as well as Diaspora Jews. This flaw goes down to the very roots of this movement, which attempts to disguise its malevolent goal of destroying the Jewish state as a fight for Palestinian rights.

The writer is a first-year law student at the University of Montreal and an HonestReporting Canada Campus Media Fellow.