Over my last two weeks in the US on a Speaking Tour sponsored by the Friends of the IDF many people, asked me about my thoughts regarding BDS. So I have decided to respond by writing an article that I have wanted to write for a long time.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – Wrong for Everyone
August 17, 2014
BDS supporters justify the use of sanctions against Israel as a legitimate tool. The underlying concept is that ending any kind of Israeli presence (and on top of it Israeli settlements) in the Palestinian territories is the key for a peaceful solution. Thus, according to that line of thinking- Israeli settlements are the obstacle on that path.
Many people argue that BDS is in fact only a masque for anti-Semitism. I do not stand for that outlook. Indeed, some of Israel’s harshest critics are clearly motivated by blind hatred towards Israel and Jews, but I do believe that most of the BDS supporters are not necessarily so. Moreover, I believe that many of the BDS supporters are genuinely motivated by the belief that BDS is the right way to bring peace. These people are genuinely motivated by the belief that settlements and the Israeli presence in the Palestinian territories are the reason for the fact that there is no peace between the sides. But that is a wrong assumption, and BDS’ way is the wrong one.
There are two major reasons for BDS’ wrong assumption and their wrong way.
The first one is simply the outcome of a lack of knowledge of both history as well as the current facts.
And there is another reason – a more substantial reason – and that is the fact that BDS in its essence contains three major disturbingly moral inconsistencies.
Let me start with the first reason:
Lack of knowledge of historic and contemporary facts:
Settlements in the West Bank and The Gaza Strip are not the reason for the Israel -Palestinian conflict; the West Bank was ruled under Jordan for almost 20 years and The Gaza Strip was ruled by Egypt for the same period of time. There were no Israeli settlements at that time, yet Arab states continued their efforts to destroy Israel.
Israeli Settlements are also not the reason for the lack of a peaceful solution. In 2005 Israel totally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, completely dismantled 21 settlements and evacuated 9000 settlers. In 2007 Hamas took over the Gaza Strip increasing its rocket attacks on Israeli cities. According to Hamas’ official Covenant, Tel Aviv and Jewish Jerusalem are also illegitimate settlements. According to Hamas’s Official Covenant every single place in Israel is sacred Muslim soil and the very existence of Israel violates it. Other radical Palestinian groups such as Islamic Jihad, the Al-Tahrir Party or Salafi Jihadi groups view Israel the same way.
According to the Oslo accords, signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), in the beginning of the 1990’s, both sides adopted the concept that all controversial issues – and there are many – are to be solved only through a process of negotiation and mutual agreement.
The second reason is no less substantial. BDS’ three disturbingly moral inconsistencies are:
BDS deprives Israel of the right to negotiate – a right that event the PA itself has agreed to. Any kind of conflict resolution must be based upon the guiding line that each side has the legitimate and moral right to present its needs and arguments. Aside from the issues of Jerusalem, or the issue of Palestinian refugees, or Jewish refugees there are many other controversial issues related to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict such as the use of natural resources, the water, air and space control etc. Israel – like the Palestinians – has legitimate arguments, interests and needs on those issues; Do BDS supporters intend to apply sanctions on Israel and thus deprive Israel the right to negotiate on those issues as well? If so, one could very legitimately question how much BDS is really looking for a real peaceful solution rather than another opportunity to sanction Israel? If BDS does not apply sanctions on Israel because of its positions and interests on the other controversial topics, one may legitimately argue – what is the moral ground that BDS is basing its demands on to impose sanctions on Israel?
Many people in Israel will argue that rockets launched on Israeli cities by Palestinian groups (the biggest perpetrator being Hamas) who regard Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as illegitimate settlements as well, is no less of a reason for the fact peace is not achieved. Settlements are controversial issues, yet they do not kill. Rockets are not a controversial issue, rockets kill. Do BDS supporters argue that sanctions are to be applied because of an issue that does not kill (settlement) yet no sanctions should be applied in the case of an issue that does kill (rockets)? Does it mean that BDS views the value of life as relative?
Second, BDS’ guiding concepts and activity clearly puts an overwhelming share of the responsibility for the lack of peace on Israel’s shoulders. Doing so, perhaps unintentionally, BDS actually exempts Palestinians from the moral obligation to take responsibility and to ask themselves some tough questions. For example: are Palestinians willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist? Analyzing the Palestinian political map today gives very clear, discouraging answer: it would appear in a very modest calculation, that at least half of the Palestinians are not willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
And so, though perhaps inspired by good will and intention, BDS’s guiding concepts and activity is totally counter-productive to the noble objective of peace. Focusing on the issue of settlements, and putting sanctions on Israel as a legitimate measure is counterproductive because it does not addressing the core reasons for the sources and roots of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, as well as the fact that a peaceful solution was not achieved thus far. Moreover, BDS’ guiding concepts and way are distancing the prospects for a real constructive breakthrough that will pave the path to a lasting peace solution.
And finally – yet in my mind the most profound aspect- the moral inconsistencies within the BDS phenomenon disturbingly undermine some of the core values of democracy: the right to negotiate freely, the obligation of personal as well as governmental responsibility and, the value of life.