In the last few weeks, supporters of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement have tried to advance their cause by passing student resolutions to divest from Israeli companies, calling upon President Biden to stop the U.S. government and others from criticizing the movement, attacking a New York City mayoral candidate for releasing opinions critical of BDS, and acknowledging that they support the “dismantling of the Zionist project.”
BDS leaders have not acknowledged Israel’s right to exist as a state nor have they contributed toward building peace. Recent agreements normalizing relations between Israel and Arab states are putting an end to historic efforts to boycott Israel and accelerating economic growth. Instead of doubling down on a failed, anti-Israel strategy of the past, it’s time to envision a new future.
BDS bills itself as “a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice, and equality…that upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.” It goes on to emphasize that it stands with “all those struggling for a more dignified, just and beautiful world.” Sounds nice, but in reality, the movement does not help Palestinians nor advance the cause of peace.
Anyone willing to look at the statements of the movement’s founders and leaders can clearly see just how insidious its ideology is. The BDS campaign sees no freedom, justice nor equality for the Jewish people or the state of Israel. Rather, its primary mission is to isolate and ultimately dismantle Israel. It seeks to cut off Israelis from the rest of the world and explicitly denies Israel’s (and only Israel’s) right to exist. It repeatedly demonizes the state of Israel. While there are surely BDS supporters who are earnest in their efforts to encourage Israel to change policies with which they disagree, it is clear that the BDS movement’s prime motivation is far more dangerous. Tearing down Israel will not bring peace nor a better life for Palestinians.
While the BDS movement claims to be nonviolent, its leaders will not condemn violence, not even terrorism. The Palestinian founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, is very clear that the movement rejects a two-state solution, or any solution that involves self-determination by the Jewish people: the goal is to end Israel. He is also clear that he actively encourages violence. Here are just a few examples of Barghouti’s own words:
“Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”
“[Palestinians have a right to] resistance by any means, including armed resistance. [Jews] are not a people…the UN’s principle of the right to self-determination applies only to colonized people who want to acquire their rights.
– Omar Barghouti, Co-Founder, BDS Movement
By calling for the end of the world’s only Jewish state, BDS threatens Jews everywhere. On campuses, BDS has the effect of isolating and too often physically endangering pro-Israel Jewish students. They have been bullied and shunned, forcing some students to hide their Jewish identity. Without question, BDS has bred greater levels of antisemitism on campuses. Experts have noted that ideological attacks, bias and cyberbullying are continuing even during “remote campus” classes and activities during the pandemic.
BDS supporters attacked former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang recently for noting that BDS is “rooted in antisemitic thought and history, hearkening back to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses.” Yet, the truth is that the idea of boycotting “Zionist entities” dates back to pre-state Israel.
As Rabbi Avi S. Olitzky wrote, “In 1945, the Arab League sought to prevent further Jewish development of British-controlled Mandatory Palestine by boycotting against ‘Zionist products.’ In order to organize this new effort, a central boycott office was established. This date and history contain an important nuance — specifically because this takes place before the founding of the Israeli state.” The infamous Arab Boycott ensued as the Arab League voted to prevent any of its member states or their citizens from doing business with Israel or Israeli citizens, created a blacklist of companies doing business with Israel and even sought to boycott companies that did business with companies on the blacklist.
The United States opposed the Arab League’s anti-Israel boycott, ultimately passing legislation in 1977 that required U.S. firms to refuse to comply with it. Congress recognized that the Arab League boycott fails to advance the cause of peace. The same is true of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement. BDS does nothing to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and instead divides us into even more hostile factions. Nor does it do anything to help Palestinians suffering from the actions of their own leadership.
In the wake of the U.S. legislation and later peace agreements between Israel and neighboring states Egypt and Jordan, the Arab Boycott has withered on the vine over time. The normalization of relations last year between Israel and Arab states, including the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, is a giant leap forward toward a new era of improved relations and integration of Israel into the Middle East. As these normalization agreements between Israel and its neighbors demonstrate, the path to peace and shared economic prosperity lies in working together.
BDS advocates should take note and get on board with the emerging process of reconciliation. Time and time again, the Israeli government has sought to negotiate with the Palestinians — but a negotiation toward peace requires two willing participants, and the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected Israeli engagement. It is time for the Palestinian leaders to stop saying “no” and put the interests of their people ahead of their anti-Zionist ideology.