BDS: unnecessary, unhelpful and unjust

In recent years, there has been an overwhelming trend amongst the ‘pro-Palestinian’ left towards the BDS movement; a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel. In short, BDS-ers advocate “respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinians”. However, they fail to comprehend that BDS actually has limited economic impact on Israel – instead, it inadvertently fiscally injures its intended beneficiaries; those residing in the Palestinian Territories. But not only is it a void movement in its execution, it also often reeks of antisemitism.

In a day and age when the world is witnessing a disturbing rise in antisemitism predominantly across Europe, it would be negligent to ignore that some of the support for the BDS movement coincides with an irrational and learned hatred for those of Jewish backgrounds. BDS is a movement borne from antisemitism and nurtured by ignorance. Advocates insist that they are absolutely not antisemitic and that they merely operate to “oppose the occupation” and support the extension of human rights. Let us, for a moment, overlook the fact that these are the very same vigilantes who do approximately nada for civilians suffering under despotic Arab regimes. Attempts to punish an entire people for perceivably disagreeable actions taken by their government are not only discriminatory, they are downright racist. And pretty ironic too, considering the outcries against the Israeli government’s ‘collective punishment’ of Palestinians.

My problem lies within the fact that this movement appears to single out Israel and, more broadly, Israelis themselves as the sole perpetrators of all things bad in the Holy Land. One only has to look at the utter lack of condemnation against not only the widespread Hamas rocket attacks, but the recent influx of Palestinian knife-wielders, to realise that BDS-ers care not about human rights – their only mission is to cause even more division and conflict. If advocates of the BDS movement really held dear the rights of Palestinians, exactly where was the outcry during both the Egyptian and the Jordanian occupation and annexation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank? Speaking of Egypt, bearing in mind the constant BDS rhetoric regarding the Israeli blockade of Gaza, it is interesting to cognise that there have been zero attempts to hold the Egyptians accountable for exactly the same. I wonder why that is.

Moving away from the immoralities of the movement to its technicalities, it must be noted that BDS, as it stands, has no discernible impact on Israeli trade nor the Israeli economy. In fact, on a comparative scale, the sanctions run the risk of harming the Palestinians far more than their Israeli counterparts. The broader Israeli economy is effectively shielded from the effects of BDS, unlike the Palestinian economy, which is relatively poorer and thus far more susceptible and vulnerable to the consequences that BDS motions may have in this area of the region. The Palestinian Territories (population 4.1m) has a GDP of $11.3bn; meanwhile, despite having only double the population, Israel has a GDP of $291bn.

Figures show that Israel, contrary to what is popularly recounted, actually invests heavily in Palestine – whilst the vast majority of the Middle East invariably ignores it. BDS impairs these economic ties between Israel and Palestine, demonstrating a blatant disregard for trade as a tool of lessening the outbreak of war. According to the Bank of Israel, in 2012, Palestinian sales to Israel accounted for approximately 81% of Palestinian exports and Israeli sales to the PA were $4.3bn. These purchases from Israel made up about two thirds of total Palestinian imports and comprised 27% of their GDP. Such fiscal trends and trade dynamics dictate, at the very least in an economic sense, that Palestine needs Israel. Proponents of BDS advocate obliterating this vast trade surplus extended to Palestine by Israel yet neglect to offer anything in its place.

Moreover, it is not just the Palestinian economy that is detrimentally affected by BDS, but Palestinians themselves too. This has, perhaps most notably, been exemplified in the case of SodaStream, an Israeli company manufacturing DIY soda. Amid calls for boycotts of the business, in addition to various other factors, its West Bank factory was closed down and relocated to southern Israel instead – as a result, hundreds of jobs that Palestinians had previously enjoyed were cut; jobs which reportedly paid between three and five times the local prevailing wage and which many relied on to guarantee their livelihood and those of their families. Although the CEO of SodaStream denied that the move was due to the pressures of the BDS movement, it is clear to see from its financial figures that the factory’s profits plunged after BDS activists targeted the soft drinks business. Indeed, Daniel Birnbaum was quoted as saying that if it were up to him, they would have stayed; they showed the world that Arabs and Jews can work together.

Additionally, the anecdotal claims espoused by BDS rhetoricians regarding the exploitation of Palestinian workers by Israeli employers is exhausted and oftentimes exaggerated. Even the Palestinian Authority’s own official newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, noted that “whenever Palestinian workers have the opportunity to work for Israeli employers, they are quick to quit their jobs with their Palestinian employers – for reasons pertaining to salaries and other rights.” These other rights refer to basics such as a fair salary; Israeli employers are required by law to pay Palestinian workers Israeli minimum wage, whereas the Palestinian Authority, by contrast, does not enforce its own minimum wage law. Furthermore, stipends for transportation are usually paid by Israeli employers, as well as the provision of medical insurance, which au contraire is not even mandated by Palestinian law, along with annual holiday, sick leave and overtime pay. The BDS movement thus resultantly strips Palestinian workers of these privileges, all in the name of furthering their own agenda.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is incredibly complex, and sustained discourse is important now more than ever. However, this movement advocating the cultural, academic and economic boycott of Israel does nothing but inflame rather than enlighten dialogue surrounding the peace process. In order to arrive at a feasible solution, we must first work to eradicate both political and popular stubbornness. The BDS movement, in its entirety, is unnecessary, unhelpful and unjust. It makes no moral or economic sense – and standing up to it is protecting the mutual prosperity of both Israel and Palestine.

About the Author
Ainee Khan is a British Muslim student of International Relations who is interested in Middle Eastern politics, diplomacy and religion.
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