The BDS movement: Why has it had some success among American youth?

The BDS movement claims that Israel is an apartheid state, like South Africa before the 1990s. The problem is that the youth don’t seem to be capable of realizing that this is simply not true.

People walking in Nazareth  (photo credit: REUTERS)
People walking in Nazareth
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has gained significant support in recent years, especially among American youth. Much of this support stems from a lack of historical and even common knowledge. Polls show that 70% of millennials don’t know what Aushchwitz was and 40% don’t know what the Holocaust was. The great majority of millennials have never visited Israel or read books or newspaper articles about it. Many of them see Israel as an authoritative repressive state. This has greatly enhanced the willingness of many BDS followers to believe a series of half- and quarter- truths.
The great majority of American youth are evidently unaware of key moments when top Arab and Iranian leaders have openly spoken the truth. American youth are largely unaware that the Arab grand mufti of Jerusalem at the time, Amir al-Husseini, visited Nazi Germany during World War II, holding a series of meetings with top Nazi leaders, including Adolph Hitler. Husseini wasn’t there to complain about the ongoing murder of millions of Jews.
They are unaware of or ignore the fact that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas only last week declared that the Jews got what they deserved in the Holocaust.
Similarly, they pay no attention to Tehran, where Iranian leaders every Friday in their services declare “Death to the United States” and “Death to Israel.”
Second, the BDS movement claims that Israel is an apartheid state, like South Africa before the 1990s. The problem is that the youth don’t seem to be capable of realizing that this is simply not true.
Take education: Before the creation of Israel in 1948, 156,000 Israeli Arabs had an average of two years of education, while today, as Israeli citizens, 1.7 million Israeli Arabs have an average of 11 years of education. Far from being isolated, 37,000 Israeli Arabs are attending Israeli universities. The government is working to increase the number in both universities and hi-tech companies. At the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel’s elite hi-tech university, 25% of graduates in electrical engineering are Arabs.
Perhaps though it is the Israeli Arabs themselves that have made it most clear: in a recent poll over 60% of Israeli Arabs said that Israel was the best place to live in the Middle East.
Third, BDS claims Israelis do not want a two-state resolution.
There is only one problem: the youth don’t seem to know that it is Arabs and their leaders who continually reject such a solution. By contrast, Israelis have been negotiating with the Arabs back to the mid-1930s, and since 1949 after statehood was achieved. But in the past several decades several Israeli efforts at a two-state solution have been rejected by the Arabs. By contrast, Israel has withdrawn from the Sinai (1982), Lebanon (2000) and Gaza Strip (2005) without even a final resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Fourth, the State of Israel was created by a vote at the United Nations on November 29, 1949. The Jews accepted the creation of an Israeli state while the Arabs rejected creating their own state and prepared for war, a war that killed thousands of people. Again the youth seem to be largely unaware of this critical UN vote and its subsequent impact.
Fifth, the BDS movement claims that Arab states and the Palestinians must return to their alleged motherland in a final settlement. Many youth see this as important.
They seem unaware that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman, just this last month said that Israel has a right to exist and the Palestinians should stop making life so hard. Egypt and Jordan have both in recent decades signed peace agreements with Israel and worked hard with it in a variety of ways. Now the United Arab Emirates is on board, in the same way.
Finally, the BDS movement claims that the Israelis are not representative of the country’s territory. Unfortunately for their argument Israel is one of only two countries out of over 100 new countries since World War II (India is the other) that has been a democracy ever since its beginning in 1948. And Arabs represent over 10% of the Knesset members.
Thus, in at least six major areas the BDS arguments simply don’t hold water as Israel is a modern democratic state with one of the highest GDP/capita (nearly $40,000) among the major states in the Middle East. The final point is also arresting: not only do 1.7 million Arabs want to stay in Israel, but 100,000 Palestinians from adjacent territory have worked legally in Israel in the past few decades. So much for the sad arguments of BDS. Even many Arabs now reject their arguments, not to speak of democratic Israel.
Overall then, one can say clearly that some alienated American youth badly need knowledge about Israel and even a visit to Israel to realize a simple truth: Israel is here to stay.