BDS Founder Omar Barghouti calls for an end to Israel in The Nation

August 4, 2019 • 11:15 am

Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, has a new piece in The Nation, and that surprises me.  It surprises me because it’s full of distortions, because it doesn’t say anything new, and because I thought The Nation, a progressive magazine, was better than this. But read for yourself.

Barghouti has a history of anti-Semitic actions (founding BDS was one of them, of course), but this article is curiously full of self-pity and grievances: he was banned from the U.S., has his travel restricted by Israel, unfairly vilified, and so on. In other words, it’s full of victimization tropes, which, as we know, seem to work. But victimization is not an argument.

And although Barghouti claims he’s a “human rights defender”, anyone who’s followed him knows that the only right he cares about is the right of Palestinians to take over Israel, wiping out that country. He favors, as does BDS itself, the “right of return” of all Arabs expelled from Israel in 1948 during the war—not just the right of return of those expelled, but of all of their descendants as well. As I wrote before, the consequences of this are obvious if you have more than two neurons. I’ve put the BDS demand (one of three demands; see here) in bold below, and my previous take below that. Further, the word “expelled” isn’t exactly correct. As I’ve emphasized before, the vast majority of “displaced” Arabs escaped because Arab leaders ask them to leave to make space for invading Arab armies or because they feared battles. In fact, only a minority of Arabs were really “expelled”.

  • 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.

Barghouti, of course, doesn’t mention the “right of return” of the 800,000-1 million Jews expelled from Arab lands between 1948 and 1970. Why do BDS supporters not mention those as well? You know: it’s because BDS is a selectively “anti-Zionist” organization, which means anti-Semitic as well. For if it’s not anti-Semitic, why don’t they even mention the “right of return” of expelled Jews? This is just part of Barghouti’s history of anti-Jewish activities and of his dissimulation, documented here (yes, it’s “Canary Mission”, but if you don’t like that site—as many Leftists don’t because it exposes anti-Semitism on the Left—you have to show me what it gets wrong).

In the end, Barghouti argues that Americans should support BDS because it is opposed to the “ugly apartheid regime” of Israel. That’s a stupid and erroneous characterization if ever there was one, for nearly every Arab state, as well as the Palestinian territories, is far more “apartheid-ish” than Israel. Israel, says Barghouti, also practices “ethnic cleansing against Palestinians” (yes, that’s why Israel let them have Gaza. . . ). If there is ethnic cleansing, it is the repeated attacks on Jewish civilians by Palestinians, and the desire of people like Barghouti to eliminate the Jewish state. As everyone knows, a “one state” solution, as favored by Barghouti, is a recipe for genocide against the Jews.

Here is Barghouti in a 15-minute talk about Israel and Palestine from 2013. At 5:32 you can here his assertion that the Jewish state does not have a right to exist anywhere.  Like BDS, he’s not only unsatisfied with a two-state solution, but he wants Israel gone, and clearly the Jews to go with it.

Israeli policy, especially under the Netanyahu government, isn’t perfect—not by any means. For one thing, it’s time for them to consider surrendering a chuck of the West Bank to achieve a two-state solution. (In defense of Israel, however, Palestine has always scuppered every peace talk. As Abba Eban quipped, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”)

But it’s time for the Left to admit that the Palestinian territories are far worse. The silence about this comes from one thing, and one thing only: the view that Palestinians are oppressed “people of color” and thus not expected to conform to the same standards as does Israel—or any liberal and progressive state. So it’s okay that there is discrimination against gays, against members of any religion other than Islam, and against women. It’s okay that there is no freedom of the press. It’s peachy that sweets are passed out in Gaza when Israeli civilians are slaughtered by terrorists. Let’s just forget about those things! The knee-jerk admiration for Palestine, the demonization of Israel, and the deliberate failure to recognize and call out the perfidies of Palestine and established Arab countries—all of this forms a metastasizing cancer on the body of the Left.



33 thoughts on “BDS Founder Omar Barghouti calls for an end to Israel in The Nation

  1. It makes perfect sense for Arab political leaders to promote the idea that Israel is responsible for all the problems of the Palestinian people. It diverts attention, of course, from their own horrendous maltreatment of Palestinians, anti-democratic leadership, corrupt control of massive amounts of international aid, and in Gaza control of smuggling as well.

    It means that Palestinians can never organise any effective political opposition to their overlords, and those condemned to live for ever in refugee camps in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon (due to their unique inheritance of refugee status and thus exclusion from the host society) have no one to speak for their rights either.

    So while thousands of Palestinian ‘refugees’ get killed in camps in Syria, the world media is focusing on Palestinians ‘protesting’ (actually rioting) on the border at Gaza, or some such.

    The biggest success of BDS was, famously, the closing of a Soda Stream factory, which put 500 Palestinians (who were paid the same rate as Israelis), out of work. Did BDS ask them if they were prepared to lose their jobs?

    As far as I can see, the campaign has achieved nothing good whatsoever for the Palestinians, and is not in their interests. It serves the interests of Arab dictators, wannabe dictators and populists, who use Jew-baiting to gain popular support, but it hasn’t changed a single thing for the better for Palestinians in the 15 years or more that it’s been going.

    It has, however, kept the dream alive in the west that Israel is to blame for the problems of Palestinians. It’s easy to motivate people for a quick fix, especially if it means they can get angry and scream at Jews everywhere whom they see as ‘white, privileged and rich’, and for some reason, bizarrely considered to be complicit by virtue of their purported morally unclean racial identity.

  2. The two-state solution will never happen. Why? Because any Palestinian leader who would entertain such a solution would be assassinated by the extreme elements within his own society. Can you imagine being a person in Gaza advocating for peace with Israel right now? It’s not tenable.

    Even if, somehow, the PA and Hamas agreed to a two-state solution, how long would it take before more missiles were launched into Israel. The extremists in Palestine (not a small number) will never settle for less than a full “right of return”, and an “end to apartheid” and a “one state solution” which are all coded ways of saying the destruction of Israel.

    Barghouti has called for “euthanasia” of the Jews. And yet BDS is still promoted on college campuses as a reasonable organization, and members of the US Congress speak of BDS as if it carries some kind of moral virtue. SMH.

  3. > the vast majority of “displaced” Arabs escaped because Arab leaders ask them to leave to make space for invading Arab armies or because they feared battles. In fact, only a minority of Arabs were really “expelled”.

    Is it really necessary to accuse and doubt people who fleed from bloody ethnic conflict 70 years ago when you’re defending Israel?

      1. I still think that people who flee violent ethnic conflict, which led to quite a number of massacres, *are* expelled refugees. Even if there were some criminal “leaders” who spoke the same language as the refugees, who started the war and so on. Refugees aren’t responsible for crimes of these leaders.

        1. If you use the word “expelled” is means that the enemy’s army/state forcibly made them to leave their homes. This really happened in Israel when the Israeli army forcibly expelled some hostile and fighting Palestinian Arabs. Vast majority however escaped from fighting after being urged to do so by their own leaders. Such people are “displaced”. Of course, they are still refugees but the responsibility for their plight does not rest on – in this case – Israelis.

          1. I don’t see much difference between people who were forcibly made to leave their homes and people who left their homes before enemy came, because they feared for their lives, especially when massacres of civilians happened. The leaders who urged Arabs to leave their homes do not make any difference.

          2. Even if you don’t see the difference there definitively is a significant one. The more so that, of course, during the war horrible things happened from both sides, but to much lesser degree than Arab propaganda then and now presented it. There are Arab testimonies (by high ranking officials) about their regrets that they exaggerated the events in Der Jassin, invented rapes there which didn’t take place, and scared Arab population to such a degree that they escaped. And even Deir Jassin was an exception and not the rule. Jews left peaceful Arabs in peace, and fought and expelled only those who fought with them.

          3. Returning is really not an option any more. For the descendants of those who fled or were expelled, it is a disaster that they are effectively being held hostage by other Arab states, refused integration into those societies as would normally happen, purely for political purposes.

            See for example this account published today of the plight of Palestinians in Lebanon.

            Children of refugees should, and usually do have the chance of a new start in a new country. Most cultures are prepared to accept the losses of previous generations and start again, even if they see them as unjust.

            Palestinians today would have been far better off if their leaders had accepted the statehood offered them in 1948 (and several times after that as well).

  4. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes. It is possible to defend BOTH the Israel’s right to exist and to acknowledge the terrible historical price the local Arabs had to pay for it. Minimizing the latter doesn’t make the former any stronger, I think.

    1. So it’s stated correctly by Jerry that a minority was expelled. The number of Palestinian Arab refugees 1948 was somewhere between 600-750,000 people. “Tens of thousands” is a minority of refugees.

    2. “Tens of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes.”

      Were they? What I have read paints a very different picture.

      Far from “expelling” Arabs, Israel begged them to stay. They even sent cars with megaphones to plead with Arabs to stay, and hopefully to defend the new state of Israel.

      Meanwhile, the Arab armies were broadcasting for months that Arabs should leave Israel so they would not be bystander victims as the Arab armies advanced, slaughtering anyone on sight, as their goal was the extermination of all Jews in Palestine via genocide. Many Arabs did leave, in the hopes that the Arabs would indeed ethnically cleanse Palestine.

      At the same time, Arabs had been engaging in guerilla warfare against the Israeli military and Jewish civilians, ambushing and killing many. A significant proportion of the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who left were irregulars retreating as guerilla fighters.

      And lest we not forget, there were thousands of Arabs who did stay. They are the Arab Israelis, who have enjoyed full citizenship for more than half a century.

      If anybody is responsible for any financial losses incurred by fleeing Arabs, it would seem to me to be either those Arabs themselves, or the the Arab League nations who launched a war of aggression with their invading armies.

      I find it absolutely astounding that Israel is the entity that people blame for this mess. Seems to me you can only come to such a conclusion through ignorance of the historical record.

      1. A person has to ask themselves if they are looking at thing objectively or being roped in by personal bias. I try, but I do see bias in myself, strong bias on this issue. Nevertheless, I think Roger is 100% here in his recounting of the facts.

      2. In her autobiography Golda Meir writes of her attempts to persuade Arabs to stay put in Israel, even going to the port of Haifa at the last minute when some Arabs were fleeing by boat. “We won’t hurt you,” she told them, and they answered [paraphrasing] “We know that, but if the Arab armies catch us they will kill us as collaborators and traitors.” By no stretch were these Arabs “expelled”.

      3. Let’s also not forget that (1) hundreds of thousands more Jews were expelled from Arab countries upon Israel’s founding, and (2) Jordan promised Arabs who left that they’d become part of Jordan, but then said “sorry, we don’t really feel doing that anymore. You guys will figure something out, right?”

      4. “Seems to me you can only come to such a conclusion through ignorance of the historical record.” –
        Have you actually read my post? What conclusion of mine are you talking about?
        As far as my supposed ignorance is concerned, every book dealing with the Israel Independence War discusses the expulsions of tens of thousands Arabs.
        Keep reading.

        1. The conclusion I was speaking of is ” that Israel is the entity that people blame for this mess”, not anything that you said.

          Sorry if that wasn’t clear. 🙂

    3. It’s just strange when these people only blame Israel. No responsibility for the Arab armies that invaded and encourage Arabs to leave, no mention of the far more Jews that were expelled from Arab countries, no mention of Jordan’s offer and then reneging on the offer of citizenship.

      And it’s weird when these same people are constantly harping on Israel, but never seem to give even 1/10 as much (if any) attention to the many wars happening at any moment in the world that have killed more civilians in a month than Israel has killed in their entire existence. That’s particularly odd. I can only see one difference between Israel and a country like, say, Saudi Arabia (which has killed nearly 600,000 Yemenis and displaced nearly 3 million since just 2015 in a pure war of aggression, rather than an occasional offensive for protection like Israel), besides the differences of the scale, scope, and reasoning behind their military actions: religion. Israel is the only Jewish nation.

      Israel, the only Jewish nation, always gets this attention. Over half of the resolutions passed by the UN Human Rights Council since 2004 have been against Israel. We have BDS. We have people like Jeremy Corbyn and his acolytes. But they always seem to care so much about Israel and so much less about far deadlier and far more hate and/or colonial-driven military campaigns. Strange.

  5. This dreadful situation has been going on since 1948, in spite of numerous US and other leaders working hard to sort it out. It does not bode well for any new attempts at resolution. Perhaps most have given up trying. ‘Tis a pity.

    1. It’s hard not to give up when, on multiple occasions, the Israeli government agreed to every demand by Palestinian negotiators, only to have the Palestinian negotiators pull out at the last second or make further demands. Multiple times Israel has agreed to all the conditions set by the negotiators on the other side of the table for a two-state solution, and each time they were rebuffed anyway. It certainly gives one the sense that those negotiators never really wanted a two-state solution in the first place.

      1. The Palenstinians could not have signed any of the proposed settlement offers. Just as Rabin paid with his life on the Israeli side, any PA or Hamas leader accepting any deal (short of a deal whereby the Jews all throw themselves into the sea), would be murdered or at least stripped of power and the deal rescinded. There are simply too many Palestinians who believe that the “right of return” is non-negotiable and any deal which does not include it is no deal at all.

        These PA leaders know this, and therefore never sign a deal and instead keep the status quo, which thereby keeps millions of ordinary Palestinians suffering (which is very useful as props in a PR offensive against Israel… and which works pretty well among leftists and the UN).

        1. Yup, and those negotiations would always buy them time to restock their caches and coffers, all while putting on the face of good faith to the world so supporters like those in the BDS movement could point to them and say what good people they were. It’s the same way they try to get as many children killed as possible by hiding their weapons in schools and using children as human shields. It’s all for show on the media and in the UN. When even killing the children of your own people is just a tool for optics, what possible moral quandary could there be in simple bad faith negotiations?

  6. Has there ever been a campaign with as high a profile as BDS — supported by rock stars, actors, politicians, religious groups — which has achieved so little for the people it claims to support?

    Either they are not really trying to achieve what they claim they are, or their analysis of the problem is flawed. Or both.

    1. Furthermore, has there ever been a campaign against a nation with so high a ratio of support/attention to actual harm caused directly by that state’s actions?

  7. “Led by communities of color, progressive Jewish groups, mainline churches, trade unions, academic associations, LGBTQI groups, indigenous justice movements, and university students, many Americans are abandoning the ethically untenable “progressive except on Palestine” stance.”

    So we will abolish the state of israel and create “The State of LGBTQI”!

    1. “So we will abolish the state of israel and create ‘The State of LGBTQI’!”

      Heh, good luck doing that if the Palestinians are in charge. That’s another thing that shocks me about the progressive take on Israel: it’s the only country in the entire damn Middle East that’s LGBT-friendly. If you’re part of that crowd and are living in Palestine, you better hope you don’t get discovered, as you’ll be put to death.

  8. From the point of view of Israel, BDS is just a minor nuisance. Israel is strong and thriving economically and culturally, its gets a lot of support from everywhere in the world (military, financial, political etc). It is not surprising that BDS is a complete fiasco. Look at the comments on this post: of them are clearly pro-Israeli (except from a certain Alex Zukerman whose position is unclear). It is true that Palestinians get a lot of support as well, especially in the media, but on balance, the picture on the ground is clear.
    Cheers from Israel

    1. You would be right if BDS was really about the boycott and economic damage to Israel But it’s not. The leaders of BDS know that very well and they have a different aim: they want to make Israel a pariah state and here they are very successful. It may not be so visible inside Israel but it’s very visible in Europe and more and more in U.S. as well. Every discussion about BDS inclusive discussions about states’ legislation against BDS gives them the opportunity to accuse Israel of all possible, most vile crimes, until people start to believe this accusations.

      1. Maybe you are right, I live in Israel, far away from the center of the universe, what do I know about the bigger world? Perhaps BDS is really successful in making Israel a pariah country and the isolation of Israel on the international scene is just a matter of time… Anyway, what I know for sure is that since 1948 until today the situation in Israel is steadily improving while that of the Palestinians is getting worse and worse. Maybe this tendency will reverse in the future due to the anti-Israeli propaganda, while I am living in the bubble of my blissful ignorance.

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