Peace hijacked by boycotts: Redefining the Israel narrative

The main contributor to the misguided debate on Israel is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

AN EL AL plane carrying Israeli and US delegations to Abu Dhabi departs from Ben-Gurion Airport on August 31. (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
AN EL AL plane carrying Israeli and US delegations to Abu Dhabi departs from Ben-Gurion Airport on August 31.
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
El Al Flight 971 landed in Abu Dhabi and consequently became the first direct passenger flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The plane had the word “peace” written on it in English, Hebrew and Arabic, and its historic route was made over Saudi Arabia. It was the first time an Israeli plane was given permission by the kingdom to use its airspace.
The three-hour journey was made possible thanks to the peace deal the two countries announced last month, with the UAE becoming the third Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel. Just two weeks after the historic landing, Bahrain followed and became the fourth country to sign a peace deal with Israel. These are truly significant developments and a big step toward what Israelis have been aspiring toward for over 70 years: living peacefully with their neighbors.
These events, however, also shed a light on how out-of-date the debate on Israel is. While Arabs and Israelis are making historic progress beneficial to both, the debate in the UK and in international forums is hijacked by movements whose objectives are far from peace.
The main contributor to the misguided debate on Israel is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, whose popularity has been growing rapidly in the political arena as well as on campuses. The global BDS movement does not recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state, or the right of Israel’s existence. These goals not only undermine the fundamental right of the Jewish people to self-determination but also any attempts for peace deals in the region, which is why BDS supporters are strongly opposing the recent peace deal between Israel and the UAE.
Rather than advocating for coexistence, the BDS movement is deeply rooted in antisemitism. While it was the Nazis who introduced a boycott of Jewish businesses in the lead-up to the Holocaust, today a boycott is advocated by the BDS movement. It is not surprising that the movement is backed by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and by neo-Nazi groups across the United States and Europe.
THE BDS movement also has strong links to recognized terrorist organizations. Numerous financial accounts linked to BDS having been shut down in the United States and the European Union in the past few years due to those ties.
Britain is one of the major outposts for the BDS movement, with campuses being their main ground for activity. Student bodies across the UK have endorsed the BDS movement, resulting in a hostile environment for Jewish students. The situation became so bad that Jewish students reported avoiding applying to certain universities due to recurrent antisemitic harassment.
Although the BDS movement claims to only advocate for non-violent action, the result is often the opposite. As an example, at King’s College, BDS protesters smashed windows and assaulted attendees at an Israel Society lecture. The co-founder of the BDS movement has himself spoken in support of violent attacks on “settlers” (i.e. civilians), calling them “legitimate targets”.
Not by coincidence, last year a record number of antisemitic incidents were recorded in the UK. It is impossible to ignore the relationship between BDS activity and growing antisemitic incidents on campuses.
Despite the unquestionable facts in regard to the violent and antisemitic nature of the BDS movement, it is still being welcomed on campuses across the UK. As an example, earlier this year, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a BDS student group held a protest at King’s College in London. “Israeli Apartheid Week” has been taking place on campuses across the UK since 2005.
Not only is BDS welcomed, the movement still receives funding from governmental bodies. Records from NGO Monitor show that 29 of 100 EU grants administered through EU regional funding programs designated for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza funnel funds to organizations that actively promote BDS, totaling some €16.7 million.
The BDS movement is simply indefensible and its violent antisemitic nature and conduct should disqualify it from any participation in campus life and as a legitimate receiver of taxpayers’ money.
We can be hopeful that the plane landing in Abu Dhabi was the first of many journeys to come, and a new chapter for Israeli relationships with the Gulf countries based on prosperity and peace.
This should also be the time for voices of reason in Europe to reclaim the narrative on Israel, in which we no longer allow extremists to lead the way.
The writer is a UK-based businessman.