If you don’t know about B.D.S. (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement, the New York Times article below, from Saturday, will give you the basics. As for the title question, well, it’s not answered; the article gives the views of both supporters and detractors of BDS.
I’ve always thought the movement was anti-Semitic, but even if you don’t agree, it’s clearly aimed not just at pressuring Israel to arrive at a land settlement with Palestine—an aim, if not a tactic, that I agree with—but to eliminate the state of Israel completely, at least as a Jewish state. In the end, the movement’s aims will result in a big “Israel” with an Arab majority, and that would be the finish, not just of a Jewish state, but of the Jews themselves. And that is the movement’s aim.
Here are the aims of BDS as the Times shows them:
Modeled on the fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa, it calls for countries, businesses and universities to sever ties with Israel unless it meets three demands. Parts of them are reasonable, but full acceptance of each is untenable (bolded bullet points from the NYT; my comments flush left).
• Ending its occupation of all land captured in 1967 and dismantling the wall and fence that separate Israel from much of the West Bank, dividing many Palestinian neighborhoods.
If you mean all the territory, that won’t do because it would mean returning the Old Town of Jerusalem, the Jewish quarter, the Western Wall, and Temple Mount, now under “sovereignty security” of Israel. Israel would never put up with giving all of this back to Palestine, which would mean giving up Jewish access to important holy sites. The other territories are, to my mind, negotiable, and should be part of a two-state solution.
As for removing the wall and fence, that’s a non-starter given that it was built to prevent terrorism and deaths of Israeli civilians—which have dropped precipitiously since the wall was constructed. Removing it is allowing a huge increase in terrorism. This is not equivalent to Trump’s fence, which is simply meant to keep out migrants, not prevent terrorism against U.S. citizens.
• Granting “full equality” to Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Palestinian Arabs who are citizens of Israel already have full rights (equal education, health care, voting rights, right to elected office). There is only one right denied to Israeli Arabs: they cannot alter the “Jewish character” of the nation by changing the national language, the national anthem, the national holidays, the flag, and other such symbols.
• Assuring the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to the homes and properties from which they or their ancestors were displaced in the wars that led to the establishment of Israel in 1948.
To me this is the real sticking point, and an insupportable demand of BDS, which knows very well what accepting this would accomplish. The living Palestinian refugees from 1948 number about 30,000-40,000, which could be accepted back into Israel. But consider also that there were 800,000 Jews expelled from Arab lands, so a “population exchange” would be difficult—and what Arab state would take back the Jews?
No, the real difficulty is that BDS demands that the descendants of those who were refugees (many of the original refugees ordered to leave by other Arab states) should also be allowed the right of return. These are estimated at about 5-7 million, compared to a population of about 6.5 million Jews in Israel and about 1-1.5 million Arabs). Such a right of return would turn Israel into a Muslim-majority state—and that’s the end of Israel.
BDS supporters know very well that this right of return for ancestors and descendants would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state, and lead to immense terrorism if not outright warfare. It is a foolish and insupportable demand. Witness what Omar Barghouti says in the NYT piece:
But many Israelis say the movement’s real goal is the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. Full equality for Arab citizens of Israel would require overturning or amending Israeli laws that grant Jews automatic citizenship and define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Granting a right of return to the Palestinians classified as refugees — the original refugees and their millions of descendants — would spell the end of a Jewish majority.
In an interview, Omar Barghouti, a top B.D.S. spokesman, called the Israeli laws racist and exclusionary. A democratic state could still provide asylum for Jewish refugees, showing “some sensitivity to the Jewish experience,” he said, “but it cannot be a racist law that says only Jews benefit.” Asked if that means Jews cannot have their own state, he said, “Not in Palestine.”
What he means is that Jews cannot have their own state in the Middle East. I wonder where he thinks it should be.
And as for BDS accusations that Israel is an “apartheid state,” there is no greater apartheid state than the Palestinian Territory itself, where Jews aren’t allowed to live, and where women, gays, and those of other religions—including a small number of Christians—are oppressed. It is the height of hypocrisy to accuse Israel of being an “apartheid state” when those of other faiths, as well as gays and women, are given immense freedom in Israel but virtually no freedom in the Palestinian territories. How did the Left arrive at such hypocrisy?
At any rate, do read the article and perhaps have a look at this piece that lays out the aims and tactics of the BDS by some opponents. And then on to what was my main topic: the vote in the House this week on a bill to condemn BDS.
The NYT piece on the recent vote is below.
This is a rare instance of bipartisan agreement (you can see the motion to “fast-track” the bill, and the link to the bill, here). The Times reports:
The House, brushing aside Democratic voices of dissent over American policy in the Middle East, on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan resolution condemning the boycott-Israel movement as one that “promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment and group isolation, which are destructive of prospects for progress towards peace.”
The 398-to-17 vote, with five members voting present, came after a debate that was equally lopsided; no one in either party spoke against the measure. The House’s two most vocal backers of the boycott movement — Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, freshman Democrats and the first two Muslim women in Congress — did not participate in the floor debate.
However, earlier in the day, Ms. Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, delivered an impassioned speech in defense of the boycott movement. She branded Israel’s policies toward Palestinians “racist” and invoked American boycotts of Nazi Germany, among others, as an example of what she described as a legitimate economic protest to advance human rights around the world. [JAC: Of course she doesn’t recognize the Palestinian treatment of Jews as racist in the least.]
“I stand before you as the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, parents who experienced being stripped of their human rights, the right to freedom of travel, equal treatment,” Ms. Tlaib said. “So I can’t stand by and watch this attack on our freedom of speech and the right to boycott the racist policies of the government and the state of Israel.”
. . .At a hearing last week, Ms. Omar spoke out forcefully against Israel, and the resolution.
“We should condemn in the strongest terms violence that perpetuates the occupation, whether it is perpetuated by Israel, Hamas or individuals,” she said. “But if we are going to condemn violent means of resisting the occupation, we cannot also condemn nonviolent means.”
In other words, those who opposed it (one Republican and 16 Democrats) didn’t have the moxie to speak against the bill during the debate period on the house floor, though Omar and Tlaib they did speak earlier in the House, as noted above. (I can excuse that, under the “fast-track” provision, the entire debate period was 40 minutes). And the opponents included, besides most “progressive” Democrats, the three most vociferous members of the “squad”: Justice Democrats Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Ayanna Presley voted “aye”). See the breakdown of the votes below. We now know where Ocasio-Cortez stands, although she’s tried very hard to avoid giving her opinion on boycotts or on the Israel-Palestine situation as a whole. But we all knew where she stood, and she’s now made that clear.
There was one difference between the message passed by the House and the one approved previously by the Senate: the House bill is weaker, as it does not have a provision for state and local governments to “break ties with companies that participate in the boycott movement.” I don’t support that provision anyway, as it appears to be a violation of freedom of speech (by the companies), and has been deemed as such by several courts.
This vote, then, was largely ceremonial: a statement of opposition to the BDS movement and, in effect, of support for Israel. By making this post, I must hasten to add—lest I be accused of being 100% pro-Israel—that I do favor a two-state solution in which either land or reparations must be given to Arabs displaced from much of the West Bank. But I reject those who proclaim a moral superiority of Palestine over Israel, or who demonize Israel as an “apartheid state” while giving the Palestinian Territories a complete pass. Those include Tlaib, Omar, and Ocasio-Cortez, whose agenda of advancing Islam and demonizing Judaism is becoming increasingly clearer.