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.