I had a teacher at university who used to describe the Palestinians’ decision process as “a radar that pops up each time they face huge decisions that need to be taken”. This radar scans a full option of possibilities, then eventually tracks and chooses the worst option. Obviously this is a simplistic and panoramic view that is possibly an unfair description of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, but it has stood the test of time.
In 2005, Omar Barghouti established the BDS, or Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement. This movement called for a “new approach” in the “battle” against Israel. The latest main message was to eliminate violent struggle, but rather to fight a “civil legitimate” fight, with a rights-based approach. Most of the people who have joined the BDS movement are frustrated by the current situation and are looking for a way to express their support for the Palestinian side and a peaceful solution. But, is it really what this campaign will accomplish?! I am not really sure.
The BDS movement demands three key elements:
Firstly, the “right of return” of the Palestinian refugees from the Israel Independent War of 1948. President Abbas in 2014 said that “Six million refugees are waiting to come back home”. In addition, he hinted that the crisis of the Palestinians in 1948 is compared to the Holocaust of the Jewish people during WWII. The Israeli population is nearly the same size as the Palestinian group of refugees, which means that Israel will never agree to this demand.
The second demand is the ending of Israeli occupation in the West Bank and the dismantling of the Security Fence between Israel and Palestine. The resulting horrendous and cruel takeover by Hamas after the one-sided disengagement from Gaza in 2005 by the Israeli Government should reflect how badly this could go. It is obvious that the disengagement from the West Bank will need to be well thought out and processed carefully.
The final demand is recognizing the rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel with full equality. This sounds quite legitimate except for the fact that the Israeli Arabs already have full equality. Barghouti explained that in his view, the current situation is “apartheid by law” which will end when Israel banishes its Jewish identity, which includes the flag and anthem. On another occasion he has stated, “Not a bi-national state, I am completely against bi-nationalism. A secular, democratic state, yes, but not bi-national. There is a big difference”.
So if a secular, democratic state is the main goal for these three demands and a reason for a boycott, then it clearly means that the “End Game” is the end of a Jewish state in the Middle East. It will also be more likely it could result in another civil war in the Middle East, in addition to what is presently occurring in Syria and Iraq.
The BDS campaign is the worst approach the Palestinians could have chosen. Furthermore, it exposes them for what their true goals are and explains why the peace process has failed so far. Additionally, the Campaign rejects the idea of Israel conducting trade and business with the Palestinians, which is a natural market. Ignoring natural commerce would lead to a bigger barrier between people and would negatively affect the Palestinian’s economy. Lastly, the campaign is “educating” a culture of hate. This will eventually lead to an increase in anti-Semitism around the world and especially among the Palestinian people. Any kind of peaceful coexistence would end. Trade and land swap is reversible; education is almost impossible to amend.
In addition to the BDS campaign, the Palestinian’s goals have been negatively affected by the normalization agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. The “Abraham Accords” signed in September of this year, establishes diplomatic relations between these countries and opens the gate for travel and trade. Palestinian leaders have rejected the agreement. Jared Kushner, one of the President Trump’s primary negotiators of the agreement, has said, “The Arab countries want to focus on their citizens. They are tired of waiting for the Palestinians to not be practical and make a deal”. There are also no change of plans for Israel to suspend plans for annexing parts of the West Bank, they are just “on hold” for the time being.
The Palestinians have again chosen the wrong approach with the BDS campaign and their inability to make concessions that would be favorable to both Palestine and Israel. It is expressly clear what their end game is, as reflected by this campaign and other agreements taking place on the world stage. Coexistence may occur, but direct talks, compromise, and negotiation are the only means to a true and sustainable peace.