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  • Writer's pictureJewish Examiner

BDS — The Left’s Cross to Bear

When the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement states their three goals:

  1. Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall.

  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

It is easy to see why any normal thinking person would find these not only appropriate, but necessary and rightful for a group of people who have been without country or national sovereignty for decades. However, discussing each and every demand, will lead one into the depth of corruption, abuse, and blatantly antisemitic meaning behind those demands. Attempting to summarize those in a short form, will undoubtedly end up in in an even longer debate of the region’s history, what constitutes Arab land, what will the new one state’s demographics will be, will it remain the state of Israel as we know it, the U.N.’s treatment of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA methods in collecting and maintaining data, the difference between UNRWA and UNHCR definition of refugee, and how we get there.

BDS was co-founded on July 9th, 2005 by Omar Barghouti. Barghouti was born in Qatar and later on moved to Egypt. In 1982, he moved to the United States, and attended Columbia University. In 1993, Omar married an Israeli and moved to Israel. He holds Israeli permanent residency status and lives in Acre. Although Barghouti actively lobbies for worldwide economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel, Barghouti himself was studying at Tel Aviv University as of 2009. He holds a master’s degree in philosophy, and is pursuing a PhD. When asked about his attendance at an Israeli university in a 2015 interview with the Associated Press, Barghouti said Palestinians “cannot possibly observe the same boycott guidelines as asked of internationals” and that “indigenous population” is entitled to all services they can get from the system”. In March 2017, Barghouti was arrested in Israel on suspicion of tax evasion of about $700,000 assumed to be collected from his movement’s various donations.

To understand what BDS’s three stated goals mean, one must listen to the words of their originators. supporters, and notable activists.

Ending the Occupation:

Barghouti believes the entire land of Israel is Palestinian land and that it must all be returned to their rightful owner. “[Israel] was Palestine, and there is no reason why it should not be renamed Palestine.” “A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically….Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”

As’ad AbuKhalil, a notable supporter of BDS and an author of many articles on the aims and goals of the movement, describes himself as an anti-Zionist, and supports a secular Palestinian state. AbuKhalil claims that “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel….That should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”

Ahmed Moor, a BDS author also clarifies that ending the occupation means the end of the Jewish State: “Ending the occupation doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t mean upending the Jewish state itself…BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state. But can’t I see the value in reaching across the aisle, so to speak? The movement may be burgeoning but remains too small. Why shouldn’t we indulge in ad hoc partnerships to get things done? Richard Silverstein, Richard Goldstone, and many other self-proclaimed Zionists have done an immeasurably positive amount of work in skinning the Zionist cat (That’s a deliberate analogy. I don’t kid myself about how difficult it must be for a Jewish person to criticize the Zionist state), shouldn’t they be asked to join the BDS movement? To be sure, I’m not dogmatically against cooperating with people whose views I find objectionable. If it came down to it, I’d be happy to work with the racist up the street to get the city to fix a neighborhood pothole.”

Even notable and well respected thinker amongst the anti zionist

circles, Norman Finkelstein, has come to disagree with BDS’s intentions and rehtoric: “I mean we have to be honest, and I loathe the disingenuousness. They don’t want Israel. They think they are being very clever; they call it their three tier. We want the end of the occupation, the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever because they know the result of implementing all three is what, what is the result? You know and I know what the result is. There’s no Israel! “They say no they’re not really talking about rights. They’re talking about they want to destroy Israel. And in fact I think they’re right I think that’s true. I’m not going to lie. But this kind of duplicity and disingenuous, “oh we’re agnostic about Israel.” No you’re not agnostic! You don’t want it! Then just say it! “The moment you go out there Israel will start to say ‘What about us?’ and ‘They won’t recognize our right’ and in fact that’s correct. You can’t answer the Israelis on that because they’re making a statement that’s factually correct. It’s not an accidental and unwitting omission that BDS does not mention Israel. You know that and I know that. It’s not like they’re ‘oh we forgot to mention it.’ They won’t mention it because they know it will split the movement. Cause there’s a large segment of the movement that wants to eliminate Israel.”

Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality:

This demand is impossible to argue with and one should not, in principle, do so. All citizens of a state, must have the exact same laws and rights applied to them. What the BDS movement claims is that Israel has over 60 laws that are applied unequally to Arab citizens. This claim was examined and dismissed as untrue and inflated. Omar Barghouti himself made those claims to never substantiate them. Ironically, the only law that applies to Jews only in Israel, is mandatory service in the IDF. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look to see if some laws inadvertently affect minorities in Israel and disenfranchise them. Those should be examined, reformed, or scrapped all together.

Palestinians’ Right of Return:

Palestinians refugees have their own unique UN agency outside of UNHCR which services all refugees worldwide. The perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem and the inflation of its scale by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has been a major obstacle to peace, writes Dr. Einat Wilf, ex-Labor member of Knesset. Whereas the actual number of Arabs who could still claim to be refugees as a result of the Arab-Israeli war of 1947–1949 is today no more than several tens of thousands, the number of those registered as refugees is reaching 5 million, with millions more claiming to have that status. “The War of Return,” is her new book, co-authored with former Haaretz journalist Adi Schwartz, and provides an in-depth analysis of the Palestinian refugee problem. It notes that immediately after the 1948 War of Independence, Arab leaders were opposed to the return of those who had left their homes in what had become the State of Israel, as this was considered a tacit recognition of Israeli sovereignty. The book is yet to be translated to English but I was lucky enough to have read it and would highly recommend getting your hands on a copy as soon as it is. It is heavily researched, profoundly grounded in an honest search for not just a pragmatic but just and inclusive solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The importance of understanding the inflated claims of over 5 million Palestinian refugees having a right of return to settle in Israel, is inline with understanding the initial demand of BDS to create a Palestinian state with a Palestinian majority and a Jewish minority in the land of Israel. It is within their interest to inflate and deceive the public and their own people to hold a hope and a struggle for Palestinian sovereignty in current Israel. In reality, there are less than 200,000 refugees in the West Bank under Israeli occupation, and less than 1 million in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon; Arab nations yet to provide proper citizenship as customary in western and even South American nations who have welcomed refugees.

As Omar Burghati puts it: “If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two-state solution, you’d have a Palestine next to a Palestine.” “You cannot reconcile the right of return for refugees with a two state solution….a return for refugees would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. A two-state solution was never moral and it’s no longer working.”

Suffice it to say that the BDS movement has no interest in a two state solution, co-existence, or the welfare of Jewish citizens of Israel. They do not believe in Israel’s right to exist and have repeated so on multiple occasions and literature available for their readers and the general crowd. BDS has claimed to be a non-violent movement, yet was reported to have ties with Hamas, as well as staunch supporters of the very violent resistance/Intifada. They object to any collaboration between Jews and Palestinians and have invested countless efforts to shut down debates, cultural exchanges, jewish businesses who employed Palestinians, and even internal dissent from Jewish supporters of the movement.

BDS claims to want to pressure the Israeli government to accept their demands, but employ their boycott tactics against academics, artists, and individuals, many on the left. They have enacted many successful campaigns to pressure artists from other countries in canceling their appearance in Israel, yet don’t seem to mind these same artists performing in other countries not known for their stellar human rights records. BDS financial boycotts are estimated to have cost the state of Israel only about 1% of GDP, but a grave cost to individuals, academics, artists, and regular citizens of the country as well as Jews around the world. They have fanned the flames of antisemitism through their propaganda and a successful infiltration of the left’s social justice consciousness. One would be hard pressed to disagree that an entire state not having the right to exist would constitute a form of vile bigotry, yet in this current atmosphere, it is more than acceptable, it is the correct position if one is fighting injustice and minority rights.

Barghuti was asked if BDS was an antisemitic organization. He replied that the mere asking of this question is antisemitic since we dare to conflate Judaism and Israel, Zionism and Judaism. BDS activists will often turn this around and ask- why would you claim all criticism of Israel is antisemitic? Perhaps the wish to wipe out the only Jewish state isn’t so much a criticsm of Bibi as it is a genocidal mindset? They have perpetually clung to their right to free expression and speech instead of addressing those claims and providing clarity to their end goals. They celebrate and declare their Palestinian identity and right to the entire land of Israel while insisting on separating Zionism from Jewish Identity and a claim to an ancestral land.

Barghouti, who wasn’t born in Israel, advocates for others like him to return to Israel and take over the land and governance from Jews who escaped or expelled from Arab and European nations. Those same Jews who have made a life and built a country where 20% of the citizens are of Muslim background and co-exist peacefully. They have perpetuated the lies of apartheid to invoke those same feelings of rightful animosity the west has harbored for South Africa, to be directed at Israel and Jews. They have compared zionism to Nazism, all while demanding that all Jews leave Gaza and the West Bank, and allow for a true ethno state in Palestine. They have normalized these attitudes and notions we are slowly seeing growing stronger in Europe and the US particularly amongst the far left segments of local and international politics.

This isn’t a question of allowing criticism of the Jewish State. These are statement on the existence of a Jewish State and a genocide free future for 6 million Jews currently living in Israel, along with the millions of Jews in Diaspora, who historically, where never fully safe or immune to persecution. The BDS movement is to be opposed and stoped and replaced with a movement that strives for peaceful coexistence of both nations. Even if we never get there, at the very least, a movement that does not lie to its own people while pocketing millions of dollars for the sales of a pipe dream to another generation lost to a bloody, endless cycle of self inflicted false desires for other’s destruction.

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