Debbie Hall

BDS Is Anti-Semitic: A Response to the 2005 “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS”

The BDS movement was started in 2005 by Omar Barghouti, ironically, while he was a student attending Tel Aviv University. Clearly the apartheid that is claimed by Barghouti did not exist for him since he attended the university amongst Jews, Arabs, and others.

As far as I’m aware, no organization or individual has ever issued a formal response to the July 9, 2005 Open Letter titled, “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS.”  Though long overdue, I am issuing this response to that letter on behalf of the majority of the global world Jewry.  I’m hopeful that the majority of the global world Jewry supports me in this endeavor and doesn’t mind me being their voice in this regard.

The call for BDS includes three demands:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

The problem with these demands is that they’re based on fiction and deny the right for Jews to have self-determination in our indigenous homeland. I’ll address them one by one:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall.”

RESPONSE: The term “Arab lands” is ambiguous, on purpose. What the BDS movement doesn’t explain is that their definition of “Arab lands” includes all of Israel. This isn’t just about the West Bank and Gaza, neither of which are technically “occupied” by Israel currently. Depicting Jews as “colonizing Arab lands” is disingenuous. Jews have had a continuous presence in the lower Levant for over 3,000 years. Jews were the majority population of Jerusalem from biblical times until June of 1948, when Jordan captured the Old City (located in East Jerusalem) and marched every Jew out at the end of a gun in a grotesque act of ethnic cleansing.

Additionally, Jews who ended up in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere as a result of various conquests and enduring persecution are indigenous to the Levant.  Jews were never considered European in Europe, which is part of why Jews were singled out as outsiders and genocided there.  Ashkenazi Jewish DNA is a distinct and separate category within every DNA test because Ashkenazi Jews did not originate in Europe.  Jews are no more “white” than our Arab cousins.  To claim that Jews are “white Europeans” because some ended up in Europe is no different than claiming Arabs living in Europe are “white Europeans.”  Both are ridiculous.

This demand insists on the destruction of Israel by claiming the entirety of Israel as “Arab lands.”

By the same token, even if the “occupation of Arab lands” were to refer solely to the West Bank and Gaza, the mutually signed Oslo Accords determined the current borders and governance distinctions in the West Bank. Signed by both Palestinians and Israel, the reality of the Oslo Accords means that everyone agreed on these borders and governance distinctions.  This is also why checkpoints exist.  Prior to Oslo, there were virtually no checkpoints in the West Bank.  The current checkpoints are border crossings based on the Oslo borders and are no different than the checkpoints at San Ysidro or Detroit from the US to Mexico and Canada, respectively.  Permanent borders are yet to be determined, but at the moment, the borders based on Oslo are still in effect.  Ergo, there is no occupation in a legal or realistic sense of the West Bank.

Additionally, Gaza is not occupied by Israel at all. Every Jew was forcibly removed from Gaza in 2005 by the Israeli government. It’s an independent, self-ruled entity with its own elected government, Hamas. The border between Israel and Gaza is based on the green line and recognized by the UN. Gaza also shares a border with Egypt, so depictions of Gaza as being completely controlled by Israel are false.

The Hamas government has declared war on Israel (and Jews pursuant to the Hamas Covenant) and as a result, Israel has had to institute a siege on Gaza from within Israel to protect its citizens, an obligation of every country to its citizens.  It has been up to the Hamas government in Gaza to provide for their citizens, an objective they have woefully failed in even attempting to achieve.  Any breach of this internationally-recognized border is a serious threat to Israel’s security and the safety of its citizens.

It is to Israel’s advantage to support a two-state solution with a self-ruling Palestinian state that exists next to Israel.  As soon as the Palestinian leadership gets serious about providing this to their citizens by eschewing terrorism and recognizing Israel’s right to exist, the process will continue.  Despite claims of a goal of achieving a “greater Israel,” an antisemitic trope that many supporters of BDS promote, Israel has voluntarily shrunk to accommodate the peace process.

The “Wall” that is referenced in this demand exists for security purposes as a border wall between Palestinian-ruled areas in the West Bank and Israel proper. The “Wall” was erected in response to a rash of suicide bombings conducted by Palestinian militants from the Palestinian-governed West Bank areas entering Israel through a porous border after the second Intifada.  Israel is not the governing authority of Palestinian-ruled areas, except for IDF oversight in Area B as provided by the mutually agreed upon Oslo Accords that have been previously explained.  The Palestinian leaders agreed that the IDF would have oversight in Area B, so IDF soldiers are there with Palestinian permission and approval pursuant to the Oslo Accords.

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.”

RESPONSE: Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel already have full equality in Israel. This is a non-issue.

This attempt to confuse people by demanding something that already exists is also purposeful.  When asked for examples of “apartheid” in Israel, responses given are consistently regarding Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza.  However, Arab-Palestinians in the West Bank are governed by the Palestinian Authority and Arab-Palestinians in Gaza are governed by Hamas, and neither are subjects of the Israeli government, as explained earlier. Depicting Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza as subjects of Israel is disingenuous.

A government cannot be “apartheid” if the existing separation is due to it being a completely different country from those which it is separated.  It’s like calling the US apartheid because of its separation from Mexico.  This is why when Israel arrests Arab-Palestinians in the West Bank for activities deemed terroristic, they are adjudicated through military court, not Israeli courts.  If an Arab-Palestinian citizen of Israel commits a crime, he or she is adjudicated through Israeli courts, just as any Jewish citizen of Israel who commits a crime is, even if that Jewish citizen happened to have served as Prime Minister.  Additionally, IDF arrests in the West Bank areas that are governed by the Palestinian Authority are coordinated with Palestinian Authority security forces, since, again, Israel is not the governing entity in those areas.

Arab-Palestinians in East Jerusalem, which was annexed upon its recapture in 1967, have the choice to become citizens of Israel or to remain residents of Israel without citizenship pending peace negotiations with the Palestinian leadership. Requirements for citizenship include a commitment to recognize Israel’s right to exist, which is basic.  Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the area ethnically cleansed of Jews in June of 1948, are given a choice as to how they wish to be governed.

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

RESPONSE: This is based on descendants of the original refugees, which is now in the millions, not actual refugees, which was in the hundreds of thousands. Israel proper (my term for the area of Israel that doesn’t include Area C of the West Bank) maintains a citizenry comprised of at least 20% Arab citizens who are equal to every other Israeli citizen in every way, with the exception of their ability to opt-out of IDF service.  These are the Palestinians who did not leave in 1948 and accepted the new State of Israel as their country.  To depict Israel as having removed Palestinians from the country upon its founding is another lie perpetrated by either those ignorant of the realities or those wishing to promote a false narrative for an agenda of destroying Israel.  Arabs were implored to stay by the government of Israel as demonstrated by the Declaration of Establishment of the State of Israel, which states:

WE APPEAL – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”

If someone has a property claim, they have the absolute right to put forth that claim in the court system. This has been rarely utilized.

Additionally, Resolution 194 was replaced by Resolution 242.

The call to “return” Palestinian refugees (not solely the original refugees, but all of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren) to Israel proper is a call to destroy Israel.

CONCLUSION: BDS is a call to destroy Israel.  Even one of Israel’s harshest critics, Norman Finkelstein, acknowledges this and condemns it.  BDS is a movement that is no different than the Nuremberg laws that called on Germans to boycott Jewish businesses. It’s not about Israel, it’s about Jews. BDS is sneaky.  It was originally advertised as a movement to boycott those doing business in the West Bank, nevermind this presentation completely contradicts the listed demands.  Naturally, based on the listed demands, it eventually removed the mask and graduated to a movement that boycotts all of Jewish Israel via business, culture and academics.  It’s about the denial of Jews to have self-determination in our indigenous homeland.

There is not a call by the BDS movement to boycott a single Arab-Israeli owned business, despite that fact that Arabs are part of the government, serve in the judicial system as attorneys, prosecutors and judges, and serve as police officers and soldiers.  The call for boycott is solely on Jewish-Israeli owned businesses, businesses from elsewhere that do business in Israel, or businesses that do business in the West Bank via Jewish operators (such as Ben and Jerry’s).

As previously mentioned, not every Palestinian who lived in Israel proper before 1948 left upon the creation of the State. Israel is a mostly liberal, pluralistic, diverse society with equal rights for all citizens and freedom of religion for all. Israel is filled with mosques, churches and synagogues.  Israel is the only country in the Middle East that protects the rights of atheists, the LGBTQIA, does not have blasphemy laws, and recognizes gay marriage.  Israel has freedom of speech for its citizens and protects the rights of those who disagree with the government to make their voices heard.  Israel leads the world in medical marijuana research and provides citizens the right to utilize medical cannabis.

While Israel is not without internal issues such as income inequality, racism, religious influence, illegal immigration, and how best to defend itself against an enemy that uses children as militants and terrorism as its tactics in the war they’ve declared upon it, it is also not a country that is any worse than any other Westernized nation.  To demonize it, single it out, magnify its issues, lie about its inception, be deceitful about how and who it governs, and depict it as existing illegally is based in the denial of Jews having the right to have self-determination.  Again, it’s not about Israel, it’s about Jews.

Additionally, as previously mentioned, there is no apartheid in Israel, despite the constant unsupported claims to the contrary. Israel does not separate its citizens based on ethnicity or race.  Israel does not deny access to places based on ethnicity or race.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs ride the Jerusalem light train on March 15, 2012 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The British Mandate for Palestine included Jordan, which was the first Arab partition of the Palestinian Mandate and a majority of the land.  Jews were removed from transJordan in light of this partition.  The Jews were supposed to get the remaining land, including the West Bank.  The Arabs fought this because they did not want Jews to have any sovereignty in the Middle East. The Jews relented and agreed to give up some of the land that was remaining via the UN Partition Plan of 1947, but this was rejected by the Arabs.  If the Arabs had accepted, there would have been a Palestinian state in 1947.  The consistent objective has been to destroy Israel and claim all the land.

There was no objection to Turkish “occupation” for 500 years by the Arabs who lived in the Levant. There was no objection to Jordanian “occupation” for 19 years by the Arabs who lived in the Levant. The only objection to Israeli “occupation” stems from the fact that Israel is a Jewish country.

Any reasonable person can see from these three listed demands of the BDS movement that BDS does not support a two-state solution. It is crystal clear that the goal of BDS is a one-state, Arab majority country. One cannot support the BDS movement and still support a two-state solution, as the goals are contrary.

Even if BDS did not have these stated demands, pressuring Israel as the entity that must make changes only empowers the parties that legitimately need to change if the goal is for a lasting peace via a two-state solution.  To demonize Israel emboldens those who seek to destroy Israel instead of holding the parties that are creating the obstacles to peace responsible.  To demonize Israel, which isn’t going anywhere, only perpetuates the conflict.  Holding Hamas and Fatah (Palestinian Authority) accountable for their actions that are antithetical to achieving peace with Israel must occur for negotiations to continue.  Until Israel has a legitimate peace partner, despite Israel’s willingness and desire for a two-state solution, they cannot move forward, through no fault of their own.  Anyone who sincerely wants peace for the Palestinians needs to compel the Palestinian leadership to cease making war against Israel and Jews.  BDS does the exact opposite.

The reality is that the BDS Movement does not recognize Israel’s right to exist as the Jewish homeland on any level and the denial of Jews to self-determination in our indigenous homeland is the epitome of anti-Semitism.  Consequently, it also makes anyone supporting BDS an anti-Semite.

About the Author
Debbie Hall is a writer and activist living in the diaspora.
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