B***ocks, Distortion and Slander: Why the NUS is Dead Wrong

According to reports from the UK’s Jewish Chronicle, Britain’s National Union of Students (NUS) has approved a policy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Although, the specific context for his move is the conflict in Gaza and accusations of Israeli war crimes, the essential argument positions those in favour of of BDS as advocating a legitimate tactic in order to express solidarity with Palestinian suffering and force Israel to end alleged violations of international law.. The campaign is presented as an anti-racist, pro human rights position.

This is a rhetorical device which serves two purposes. In claiming anti-racist and pro-human rights credentials, the argument automatically places those opposed to BDS as racist and anti-human rights, whilst simultaneously masking the true nature of the BDS campaign.

BDS is a racist argument which unjustly discriminates against Israelis and Jews. If this alone was insufficient, the agenda itself pays no regard for human rights. Rather, the intention is to deprive the Jewish nation of their human rights enshrined in international law; the right to self-defence, self-determination of nations and equality before the law.

A general principle in moral thinking is that punishing George on account of Jack’s crimes is morally wrong. Punishing the innocent alongside or in place of the guilty is nearly always seen as working contrary to the principles of justice, which is understood to be served by holding each individual responsible for their actions and either rewarding or punishing them accordingly,

The first thing to note is that BDS contradicts this position. It is an act of collective punishment, excluding Israelis from the economic, sporting and cultural life of the nations not because of crimes that they as individuals may have committed but rather on account of their nationality. BDS institutes a punitive exclusion of all Israelis because of crimes- both real and alleged- for which they are not individually responsible.

Whilst it doesn’t follow from this BDS is automatically unjust, it does place the burden of proof onto BDS proponents, Boycotting an entire nation doesn’t flow seamlessly from established notions of justice, rather it contradicts our natural understanding and therefore requires a unique set of circumstances that warrants the abandonment of usually accepted principles.

Advocates of BDS do attempt to make the argument that Israel is a special case. In essence, Israel is falsely charged with several breaches of international law; apartheid, war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing, colonialism, etc. However, the assertions put forward in each case, ignore accepted legal definitions and documented history choosing instead to rely on hyperbolic distortions and outright lies.

Professor Eugene Kontorovitch,,an expert in international law,.shows  the accusation of “Israeli apartheid” for the utter nonsense it is. Whilst accusations of genocide project the desires of Palestinian terrorists onto Israelis.

Similarly, allegations of Israeli war crimes, either ignore the accepted understanding of the notion of proportionality or pay no heed to the fact that Israel conducts its military operations at a standard above and beyond that required by international humanitarian law and certainly well in advance of any other nation on the planet. Contrary to the claims of BDS advocates, rather than being uniquely evil and deserving of punishment, Israel is uniquely virtuous, risking the lives of its soldiers and warning in advance of areas to be attacked.

Those historians who assert that israel is guilty of ethnic cleansing, dispense with established historiography, preferring supposition, and demonstrably fabricated allegations over solid archival evidence.

Finally, Zionism is in no way a colonial enterprise. Jews are indigenous to the land of Israel and the Jewish people possess national rights to the land of Israel which are firmly established in binding international treaties.

What we see is that contrary to the claims of BDS proponents, the state of Israel is neither uniquely evil, nor is it the world’s worst human rights violator. Rather, Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and the wider Arab world is in truth a low-level territorial dispute, in which Israel’s antagonists have challenged not the borders of Israel but the Jewish people’s right to exist in any borders.

the assertion that Israel uniquely merits special treatment does not pass muster. All that remains is a policy of collective punishment without the requisite justification. However, given the absence of a proven special case, BDS is not only an unjust collective punishment, it is also a racist exclusion.

BDS goes way beyond mere criticism of a government’s policies. It is a punishment. An economic cultural and sporting boycott does not say “I don’t like policy x”, rather it excludes all members of one nation until their government changes course.

The moral problem with BDS is that by any standard you can imagine there are no grounds for boycotting (i.e. punishing) Israel and no other nation. The factor in selecting for punishment is not the action but the nationality of the actor. Punishing people based on their nationality is called racism. Is this controversial? Not in the slightest.

Other nations practice occupation, other nations practice administrative detention and other nations build settlements in occupied territory. One of these countries is the second largest trading partner of both the US and the EU but there is neither righteous indignation nor a movement to initiate a boycott of China on ethical grounds. BDS relies on a racist double standard, demanding opposition, not support.

BDS is a campaign that claims to be anti-racist but actually endorses a racist double-standard, whilst the charges against Israel are egregiously false. Added to the mix is the fact that the majority of Israelis belong to a nation (the Jewish people) who have been libeled and persecuted throughout history, in all the lands of their exile,

Given this, is such a stretch to imagine that a two-thousand year old hatred, one that has followed Jews to all corners of the world might explain the hurry to address Jewish crimes whilst allowing worse human rights abusers to evade ostracism?

One last point is that BDS is also wholly self-defeating which will almost certainly fail to achieve it (as of now unclear) objectives because BDS will be perceived by those who it purports to influence as a racist attack.

I don’t wish to dismiss or downplay Palestinian suffering. I hope that its end comes speedily and in our days. Yet most of it is inflicted by their dysfunctional leadership or perpetrated by Arab states, neither of which Israel has any control over or responsibility for. To suggest otherwise infantilises Arabs and is the racism of low expectations.

BDS will not bring peace to this land. It only sews division and hatred. Furthermore, BDS has no connection to justice. It’s a racist exclusion of the Jewish people from the laws and life of nations which should be vigorously opposed, not endorsed.

About the Author
Born and raised in London, Stephen Duke worked as a lecturer in philosophy and religious studies before making aliyah in 2006. A lot has changed since then. I've learned a totally different skill set and now work with my hands, renovating homes. For good reasons I ended up back in the UK.
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