Supporting a two-state solution is reasonable, however it is not reasonable to believe that the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement aims for a peaceful two-state solution in any form. A simple glance at their demands – ending the “colonization” of all Arab lands and allowing Palestinians to return to “their” (read: grandparents) homes, among others – makes it clear that their real goal is a single-state solution.
Leaders within the BDS movement are clever enough to realize that if they proclaim that their movement isn’t truly in favor of a two-state solution, they would lose a lot of support. Hence, their real goals lie hidden in plain sight, between the lines and within the implications of their demands.
Looking closely at BDS leadership, it is obvious that they as individuals support a one-state solution in place of the State of Israel. To think that the goals of their movement stand apart from their individual agendas is naive at best.
Vocal BDS activist Ahmed Moor’s writing brings to light the reason for the BDS doublespeak: “Ok fine. So BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state…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. Likewise, I’d work with a liberal Zionist to break the Zionist siege of Gaza, whose people really have no use for protracted ideological jockeying. There is an immediacy there that demands action from any quarter.”
There are many well-meaning liberal Zionists who believe in using some form of BDS to attain their political goals. Many with this perspective oppose the existence of and growth within areas Israel obtained in the Six Day War in 1967, and while I don’t agree, I can understand. They believe that joining the movement will help bring an end to the “occupation”. However, perhaps they don’t realize that the mainstream BDS movement doesn’t care about the nuances or spectrum within liberal Zionist support. They are willing to take the support in service of their larger goals, regardless of the intentions of the supporters in question.
Omar Barghouti, cofounder and outspoken leader of BDS, writes in his book on the subject, “While coalescing with diverse political forces is necessary…caution should be exercised in alliances with “soft” Zionists lest they assume the leadership of the BDS movement in the West, lowering the ceiling of its demands beyond recognition.” He continues on to say that Jewish voices help “shield the nascent boycott movement from charges of anti-Semitism and the intellectual terror associated with them.” Do not think for a moment this is a minority or divergent view; Barghouti most assuredly represents the mainstream BDS mentality, as he played a key role in forming the movement.
Beyond the disturbing mentality with regard to “soft” Zionists, Barghouti’s take on Jewish voices in the movement is even worse. I do not believe being anti-Israel is inherently anti-Semitic, however this sentiment only confirms for me that the two are highly correlated. The anti-Semitic turn many anti-Israel protests have taken is a deeply disturbing trend, and one that should not be combated within the movement by touting Jewish voices. Instead of dealing with anti-Semitism in an intellectually honest and comprehensive way, BDS leadership is content to rely on Jews in their movement to shield them from scrutiny. The movement itself defends against the accusation of anti-Semitism by pointing to “many Jewish organizations and prominent Jewish academics and cultural figures around the world” who are part of the movement. This is not enough, and it makes me question on a visceral level whether or not a general hatred of Jewish people lies in the tangled web of motivations within many BDS activists. When it comes to other minority groups, claiming you have a friend within the group doesn’t help your case in defending against accusations of bigotry. I don’t see why when it comes to Jewish people we see it any differently.
But I digress; let us return to the conflicting goals of liberal Zionists within the BDS movement and the mainstream BDS movement. In 2010, many BDS leaders and activists signed an open-letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which reads, “During a 9 June meeting with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, you reportedly said: “I would never deny [the] Jewish right to the land of Israel,” a statement that you have yet to retract. We regard this announcement, which adopts a central tenet of Zionism, as a grave betrayal of the collective rights of the Palestinian people.” They continue, “No Palestinian institution or leader has ever accepted an exclusive Jewish claim to Palestine, which is irreconcilable with the internationally recognized rights of the Palestinian people.” President Abbas believes that Israel’s agreement to the 1967 border should be a precondition for talks, and has stood by this claim for many years. In this statement that BDS activists and leaders condemn, Abbas is not denying the right to a Palestinian country alongside Israel, and yet his words are indefensible to them.
If you believe Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state, even in the context of a two-state solution, you may want to reconsider connecting or aligning yourself with the larger BDS movement. If the mainstream movement believes that “soft” Zionists, or even Jews in general, can be used in service of their larger goals…well, that is not a reality to take lightly.