At an SJP meeting I attended two weeks ago, the group screened a video about “pervasive bus segregation” in the “occupied West Bank,” trying to draw a parallel between the civil rights movement in America and the “Palestinian civil rights movement.” I kept thinking about how wrong this was. The comparisons just don’t measure up. After all, I don’t recall Martin Luther King, Jr. telling his followers to strap bombs to their children’s backs and walk into pizzerias or buses. At this meeting one girl continually referred to Dr. King. I asked her if she knew that Dr. King was an ardent Zionist. Then I informed her that his writings closely identified the struggle of his people with the desire of the long-oppressed Jewish people for nationhood and equality. She shrugged and dismissed his Zionism weakly, attributing it to his background as a minister. I am reminded that the “Mountain” that Dr. King went to, metaphysically, was Zion, when he received his revelation about his mission.
The first SJP meeting I went to, which was last year, focused on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, something they explicitly endorse. What ran through my mind at the meeting was a variation of this: Have they even considered the ramifications of this movement? Have they considered applying the same moral and political criteria to other nations in the region? If they did, could they purchase Saudi oil? Watch a Manchester City football match? Stay in a hotel chain owned by Qatari or UAE royalty? If they actually looked at the conduct of the nations which most revile and threaten Israel, and have done so for half a century or more, a consistent application of their BDS ideology would seal them hermetically in a BDS jar, so to speak. Unless of course they single out Israel for special hatred for reasons unacknowledged.
Perhaps the greatest dividend in a negative campaign is the lack of ownership in the ultimate result. The BDS movement is the distillation of that principle: Instead of “you break it, you buy it,” BDS proposes simply to “break it and stand aside.” At its foundation, BDS is pure hypocrisy. Israel, a pluralistic, diverse, literate, and modern democracy, surrounded by nations which regularly finance terror and destabilization against it, is demonized. Neighbors like Egypt, which represses its citizens and owns half of Gaza’s border, are not. Saudi Arabia, which finances extremist Wahabist madrassas worldwide, enslaves foreign workers, oppresses women, stones gay citizens, and strictly forbids any form of religion except Islam within its borders, is not. Shall we describe life in Iran? Iraq? Syria? Libya? Kuwait? Bahrain? Yemen? Of course not: Those nations would not be responsive to extortion or even protest, because they are essentially closed systems. Ironically, Israel is a target because as a democracy with an open press and open media, it is reachable. No matter that it absorbed 800,000 citizens of Arab nations who were oppressed and threatened by Muslim majorities, at and after its inception. No matter that it is and remains the only stable democracy that guarantees freedom of worship and gender equality and choice in the entire region. Because it has not allowed itself to be erased and absorbed by a one-state “solution,” it must be a pariah.
In 1947 the newly sovereign land was invaded, and Palestinian organizations, seeking hegemony over all of the territory, lost. Not willing to pay the price of their decision, they relied upon their invading sponsors, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in 1967, and again they lost. The battle was fought again in 1973, when the Arabs invaded on the holiest day of the Israeli year, and the Palestinian factions lost. Jordan renounced their title to the West Bank. Egypt received the Sinai back when a fair peace was forged. BDS has managed to paint over sixty years of Israeli history, as if history is irrelevant to current policy, and it seems as though the SJP movement does not want you to know this, they never talk about it in their meetings! Past, however, is prologue.
The lessons of sixty years have not moderated Hamas’ demands, and make no mistake: Hamas’ agenda is the only relevant agenda, because they have the power to scuttle any solution. While the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority at least speaks of a more moderate agenda, and the hint is of a two-state solution, Hamas rejects that pretense: They have never agreed to give up one acre of what is now, and has been, Israel, not one acre of Jerusalem, and not one aspect of a fundamentalist, Wahabist, Shari’a future for the land.
The “narrative” the whole SJP movement promulgates omits the Palestinian narrative, from daily cartoons depicting Jews as sub-human, as pigs, to the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the families of homicide bombers, and murderers of innocents on buses and restaurants, which persist to this day. From the apartheid laws legislated by the PA, forbidding Jews from legally purchasing land in Samaria, to protection rings the extant minorities in the West Bank must pay into or face punishment. But why let facts get in the way of SJP’s polemic?
While Israelis go on with the business of building a nation and a life for a diverse people within the framework of democracy, Hamas-led Palestinians continue to use their resources, such as concrete, to build arms tunnels, to use their people as cannon-fodder for their hegemonic goal, and to pursue a cycle of provocation and destruction. They fire mortars at population centers in Israel, and seem genuinely surprised when a sovereign nation answers back. The more “moderate” West Bank leadership grows the economy in relative peace, dragged down by the Gaza radicals and their operatives in the West Bank, like the murderers of three teenaged hitch-hikers. Since the West Bank labor force is more integrated with Israel’s, a BDS movement would hurt Palestinian workers, investors, and innovators in the West Bank, while rewarding the extremists in the insular Gaza economy.
If the West Bank unilaterally disarmed and embraced a two-state solution, renounced violence, and accepted the inevitability of Israel’s existence, they would be rewarded with a thriving society across the entire educational, cultural, and political spectrum. If Israel did the same, they would be invaded by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and a host of their terroristic partners across the Levant. It’s in the very Charter of Hamas, the raison d’etre for Islamic Jihad, and the basic ideology of Hezbollah and ISIL. So what is the ultimate objective of a BDS movement? Will it somehow stop Islamic Jihad and Hamas from firing mortars across borders into populated towns in Israel? If it will not, then its sponsors are asking Israel to tolerate what no nation will tolerate. Will the BDS movement act to moderate Hamas’ demands for all of territorial Israel? If not, then BDS is a call for Israel’s suicide, and the collective suicide of its Jewish citizens. Its Muslim citizens are simply being asked to live in yet another Wahabist plutocracy. None of the brutal, repressive, sexist nations in the region whose borders were drawn by the French and British after World War I are called upon to justify their monarchies, their dictatorships, or their theocracies. Israel, a pluralistic democracy created by a vote of the United Nations, and invaded and threatened since its founding, somehow has to justify its existence to college students who say they are for “justice”.
Students for Justice in Palestine do not have to buy what their movement breaks, the perfect position for theorists. The non-theorists in Ra’nana, in Tel Aviv, and in Jerusalem, who simply want to live in relative peace, who have no daily agenda vis a vis Palestinians except to avoid being bombed or mortared, hold no brief for dehumanization. The average Israeli has Arab friends, Arab neighbors, Arab employees, Arab employers, Arab relatives, or is Arab himself. Despite SJP’s insistence that every Israeli is a terrorist, and every Israeli is a West Bank settler, nothing could be further from the truth. It is closer to true, however, that every BDS supporter is supporting Hamas and Islamic Jihad, at the expense of the potential progenitors of an ultimate solution to this conflict. This is what SJP does in supporting the BDS movement, and adopting a narrow view of a complex conflict: They are supporting regimes that, in the most recent conflict, rounded up civilians and lynched them in the street for supporting a peaceful agenda. Whatever SJP movement may advertise, the net effect of their actions hurts both Israelis and Palestinians. Marlon Brando, in the Godfather put it best, “that is not justice.”
So, Students for “Justice” in Palestine: We do not all have to pick a side in every conflict, or carefully index every global conflict or inequality in order to call ourselves caring human beings. I, for one, care about Palestinian children, and hope and call for their more extreme leadership to moderate their position so they can live in safety and prosperity. Although the movement seems so sure about the cure to fix to a difficult problem, solutions are seldom simple, seldom obvious, and seldom clean