Larry Snider

BDS and Peace

It’s easy to lose ones way in the pursuit of a dream that took some 2000 years to realize. On May 14, 1948 David Ben-Gurion declared “the establishment of a Jewish State, to be known as the State of Israel.” [1] That declaration set in motion a battle for the land between the newly declared State of Israel and the Arab States of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq as well as Palestinian forces who did not agree to the United Nation Partition Plan approved by the United Nations General Assembly on November 29, 1947. That battle has taken many forms and resulted in the deaths of thousands with Israel growing into a modern society even as the native born Palestinians have been divided into those who left under force of war or otherwise during the War of Independence/The Nakba, (some 750, 000 that still reside in refugee camps), [2] and those who remained to make up the Arab/Israeli population, (159, 100 within the borders of the State of Israel), [3]. The 750,000 Palestinian refugees are the only refugees in the world that are counted by a special United Nations organization; the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine along with their children and grandchildren making up a refugee contingent to be served by UNRWA of over five million Palestinians many who never left the Camps established in 1949 in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

The Palestinian population according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in the West Bank in 2013 was 2, 719,112 and in Gaza it was 1,701,437 totaling 4,420,549. [4]
Demography has driven many decisions from the very beginning of the modern State of Israel delineating policies, philosophy and/or direct military orders for expulsion that helps to explain the enormous disparity between viewing the outcome of 1948 as Yom Ha’atzmaut; Independence Day or Yawm an-Nakba: Day of the Catastrophe. Beginning in the late 1980’s a group of so-called “New Historians,” from Benny Morris who is said to have coined the phrase to Ilan Papp’e, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev and others challenged the official history with information that proved that many Palestinians did not leave their homes of their own free will.

The Six Day War in June 1967 brought the West Bank, the Sinai, Gaza and the Golan Heights under the control of the State of Israel. This war enlarged both Israel’s control and responsibility for the Palestinian population. In 1979 in part as a result of the 1973 Yom Kippur War Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for a peace treaty that is still largely in effect in 2014. The Oslo Accords, signed on the White House lawn by Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton on September 18, 1993 formally started a peace process that promised the achievement of two independent states within five years but still remains an unresolved source of pain, anger and fear that continues to divide not only Israelis and Palestinians but the Middle East and the whole world in a conflict that increasingly appears to be without end.

“In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights, [including the Right of Return]. A truly global movement against Israeli Apartheid is rapidly emerging in response to this call.” [5]

Palestinians, Europeans and increasing numbers of Americans have grown tired of a peace process that many believe is rigged not to deliver and has fallen to the United States to reinvigorate each time it tries to lead two reluctant suitors to the negotiating table to actually take the risks and make the serious concessions necessary to realize peace. BDS is growing as a non-violent method to economically, politically and socially require the State of Israel to respond to Palestinian demands for “justice.” For Israel the international campaign represents a threat that it will increasingly become a Pariah State that is compared to South Africa during its outlawed Apartheid regime as peacemakers continue to lose faith in the political process begun so long ago in Oslo and turn to a campaign of delegitimization of the State of Israel. On June 20, 2014 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA passed a resolution for divestment from three US companies, (Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions), 310 to 303. The decade long crusade to move the Presbyterian Church USA with its important position in American culture to vote in favor of divestment and join the ranks of others, irrespective of how it defines and delimits the nature of its action represents a high water mark for the International BDS Movement.

While major American and international Jewish organizations from J Street to ADL and the four American Jewish denominations all came out against divestment a call for human rights for the long suffering Palestinian people living under an oppressive Occupation regime for the past 47 years is leading peace activists around the globe to equate the BDS Campaign with a non-violent movement for justice that they must support. An organization, that was considered an upstart and clearly outside mainstream Judaism in America, the Jewish Voice for Peace, [6], was able to lead the fight for divestment in Detroit, while making its allies stronger and opening the door to a whole new level of American angst about the Occupation, US funding and popular support for Israel. The underlying problem with this fight that is hypothetically in favor of an end to oppression and the transmittal of justice and peace is that the next phase in the war of attrition will only heighten the distance as the twin campaigns of delegitimization/Hasbara will pull the sides even further apart and provide lots of new opportunities for violence instead of productive dialogue. Peace with two independent states becomes an even greater chimera as extremists will promote annexation and the right of return in its place.


About the Author
Larry Snider was President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace a non-profit based in suburban Philadelphia. Today he lives in New Jersey and is a Board Member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey.