Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions: On Shunning Israel

The other day I attended a lecture by Josh Ruebner, who was promoting his book Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace. Ruebner, the national advocacy director for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, argues that Obama started his presidency as well meaning, with good knowledge of the conflict and sympathy for the Palestinian cause. But during his second term, Ruebner contends, Obama has followed the path of his recent predecessors, aligning his administration with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobbying organization. Ruebner compares AIPAC to the National Rifle Association, which blocks gun control legislation despite the desire of three-quarters of Americans for such measures; he accuses AIPAC of blocking an even-handed American approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ruebner supports a one-state solution to the conflict, and to achieve that, he advocates for an anti-Israel campaign utilizing boycotts, divestment and sanctions, similar to those applied against South Africa during the apartheid era. Israel, he says, must be de-legitimized; it must become a pariah state.

Under the one-state solution that Ruebner supports, there would be no “Palestinian government” and no “Israeli government,” but rather one government, pluralistic in nature, for the entire population.

One could argue that the one-state solution is the only truly democratic solution, and in a vacuum, that argument makes sense. However, any attempt to implement the one-state solution is seen by most Israelis as an attempt to destroy the state of Israel. From the Israeli government’s perspective, one state means the annihilation of everything Jews were finally able to accomplish by having their own homeland. And what about Ruebner’s call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel? Will they increase the chances of establishing that unified state?

To create a single, democratic, secular government for both Israelis and Palestinians, it will be necessary to dismantle the current Israeli government, including the Israeli army, as well as the Palestinian governments (both PLO and Hamas) and their security forces. Could BDS inflict enough economic and public relations pressure to cause Israel to unilaterally dismantle its government and its army? Could BDS cause Israel’s Jews to abandon their goal of having a Jewish state and to join with Palestinians in a secular democratic state under the same government? Any person who is slightly familiar with the history of Israel and the Jewish people will agree that the answer to both questions is a most decisive “no.” From the Israeli point of view, Jews suffered for thousands of years under BDS—an affliction commonly known as anti-Semitism—which is what necessitated the establishment of a Jewish state.

Boycotts will only cause the Israeli government to isolate itself and feel threatened. Divestment will tell Israel that it must protect itself from the world. Sanctions will cause Israel to feel that it needs to find its own ways to survive and find more reliable foreign partners, including the Russians and Chinese, if necessary. If BDS is successful, Israel will feel it has nothing to lose by expanding its settlements further. Israel will be less sensitive to the Palestinians and will not heed any calls to expand the latter’s human rights. Those who advocate BDS fail to see the possibility that BDS may achieve the opposite of their intended results.

Could BDS nevertheless, help the Palestinians achieve a better deal in their negotiation with Israel for a two-state solution? In my opinion, the answer is yes. If BDS is successful and Israel suffers economic harm and becomes a pariah state, Israeli leaders are likely to hasten negotiations with the Palestinians and give them a deal just to end the sanctions.


But is a two-state solution a better outcome? Is it more likely to bring long-lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians? In my opinion, no. A two-state solution is a real estate deal. It’s not about peace; it’s about separating the people of Israel and Palestine from each other. If Israelis and Palestinians are separated, they are more likely to be alienated from, and suspicious of, each other. They will develop further hatred and animosity, which will increase the incidence of violence between them. Israelis and Palestinians need to learn to live together in peace, without fearing that their existence, or what matters most to them, is at risk. A confederation provides such a solution. A confederation provides for independent and separate governments for the peoples of Israel and Palestine, and a third government for both of them together. An Israel Palestinian Confederation (IPC) government will not replace or override the separate Israeli or Palestinian governments. The Confederation would be a mechanism to resolve their larger disputes by dealing first with issues that are readily—and mutually—solvable.


For a free copy of the book Peace: A Case for an Israeli Palestinian Confederation (which explains in detail how the IPC will work), send an e-mail to:

To watch a video illustration of the IPC concept, go to:

To read the IPC Constitution go to:

About the Author
Josef Avesar is founder of the Israeli Palestinian Confederation, which advocates for a mutual third government for Israelis and Palestinians. An American-Israeli of Iraqi background, he practices law in the U.S., but travels frequently to Israel and Palestine.