Bethlehem, West Bank (Photo taken by Justin Kron, July 13, 2018)
Wait long enough and it will just be a matter of time before you hear about the next university, Christian denomination, celebrity or political pundit that is pushing the agenda of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel.
According to their website
, “Dozens of local authorities across Ireland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, France, the UK, Italy, Belgium and Australia have passed resolutions that support BDS or that pledge not to deal with specific companies targeted by the BDS movement.”
Just in September 2020, according to Jewish Week
, students at the prestigious ivy league Columbia University in New York (home to approximately 11,000 international students) voted 61% in favor of a non-binding referendum calling on the university to “divest its stocks, funds and endowment from companies that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s acts towards Palestinians.”
If you’re not yet familiar with the BDS movement, it purports itself to be “a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality” for the Palestinians.
But is that what it’s really about?
WHAT IS BDS?
Unofficially, BDS was birthed in the midst of the 2nd Intifada at the 2001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, also known as Durban I. It was there that the NGO Forum, influenced by Palestinian activists, made a declaration that branded Israel a “racist apartheid state” and guilty of “ethnic cleansing.”
The inference was that anyone who supports Zionism (the right of the Jewish people to self-determination within their ancestral homeland) is responsible for supporting the systematic oppression of the Palestinian people.
Although many in attendance at Durban I distanced themselves from the statement, the apartheid claims against Israel gained momentum, which then became a part of the official call of the BDS movement in 2005.
WHAT DOES BDS REALLY WANT?
One of the core demands of their call is the oft-debated “right of return” to the state of Israel for over 7 million Palestinian “refugees,” as classified by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
Critics understand that the return of that many Palestinians, if added to the nearly 2 million Arabs who already call Israel their home, would eventually overwhelm the 6 million Jews who live there, effectively eliminating the Jewish state.
In a forthcoming documentary I produced about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict called HOPE IN THE HOLY LAND, Israeli civil rights lawyer, Calev Myers, further explains the objectives of BDS in his own words:
What they say is until Israel gives full citizenship to 7.25 million descendants of Palestinian refugees from 1948, which obviously means that Arab Muslims become the majority, Jews become the minority, and the Jewish state ceases to exist. Until that happens, we need to boycott Israeli professors…divest from Israeli companies…sanction them in every way possible, and have absolutely no dialogue.
Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the BDS movement, has confessed himself
that their ultimate goal is the elimination of the Jewish state (May 26, 2014):
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.
So while proponents of BDS contend that they are merely fighting for the civil rights and nationalistic aspirations of the Palestinian people, in actuality it is a zero-sum proposition, where the one and only Jewish state on the global map will eventually be eliminated and replaced by another Muslim-majority state, of which there are currently 57.
DOES BDS HELP PALESTINIANS?
Although there is no doubt that proponents of BDS believe that they are fighting a just cause on behalf of the Palestinians, similar to those who fought against South African apartheid, it would be wise for them to reconsider just how noble and righteous their aspirations really are.
Myer’s contends that the BDS movement does not help the Palestinian people, but actually hurts them:
[BDS doesn’t] care about the 100,000 Palestinians who work in Israeli-owned businesses every day that put food on the table for about a million people a day.
Avi Zimmerman, President of the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says that 70-80% of the workers in Israeli-owned businesses in the disputed territories (aka, the West Bank) are Palestinians.
During the production of HOPE IN THE HOLY LAND, Zimmerman introduced us to several Palestinian factory workers. One of them informed us that his salary is 5 times more than the average Palestinian. He also acknowledged that he loves working with Israeli Jews, and expressed gratitude that he was able to put his 2 daughters through college thanks to his job at the factory.
Another worker at a different factory was proud to show us pictures of the new home he built after having only worked there for just 4 years.
Unfortunately, however, these aren’t the Palestinian voices that the BDS movement promotes. To the leaders of BDS, they are not legitimate Palestinians. According to Barghouti, they’re “sell-outs.”
The only voice he and proponents of BDS listen to are the ones that criticize Israel and condemn normal interaction between Israelis and their Arab neighbors.
This is why it was of little surprise that BDS (along with the Palestinian Authority) condemned the historic Abraham Accords peace agreement signed by Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in September 2020. Ari Ingel and Karys R. Oschin in their op-ed
in the Jerusalem Post
, rightly observed:
The movement’s core principle of ‘anti-normalization’ works to restrict any interaction between Israelis and Arabs, and considers any form of cooperation treasonous. “Strongly condemning'” the Abraham Accords, the BDS movement is now calling for a full boycott of United Arab Emirates-sponsored activities, festivals and projects. Sadly, the greatest victims of anti-normalization are Palestinians themselves, who are prevented from exercising free speech and artistic freedom and earning a livelihood (October 12, 2020).
It is very sad, and once again proves, that the BDS movement is not in favor of supporting peaceful relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, but rather in Israel’s isolation and eventual destruction.
BE AWARE OF THEIR TACTICS
Followers of Jesus, and anyone for that matter, who support Israel’s right to exist, need to be aware of the insidious and destructive agenda of the BDS movement, which often promotes disinformation, revisionist history, and half-truths in its effort to defame and delegitimize the Jewish state. The BDS movement works hard to disseminate its ideology through social media and university student sponsored organizations to mischaracterize who and what Israel is.
Unfortunately, many Christians who rightly put a high value on the biblical imperative to defend the powerless and oppressed (Psalm 82:3
), have wrongly bought the lie that Palestinians are the helpless victims of Israeli aggression, when in fact they are far greater actors of their own fate then people give them credit for.
This is not to dismiss that there are racists and agitators within Israeli society who need to be condemned and confronted, as the overwhelming majority of Israelis do.
But the same denunciation must also be made of the numerous anti-Semites that exist within Palestinian society who teach their children to chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free (of Jews)!”
Or the ones who concur with Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the highest official religious leader within the Palestinian Authority, who recently referred to Jewish presence in the land as a “colonialist cancer.”
Mein Kampf by Adolf HItler being sold in downtown Ramallah (Photo taken by Justin Kron, July 16, 2018)
Or the ones who don’t find it disturbing to see Mein Kampf (My Struggle) by Adolf Hitler being sold on the street in the heart of Ramallah, as I observed when there in 2018.
WHAT SHOULD CHRISTIANS DO?
Christians who have a heart for peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in this hallowed region, as we should, must be mindful that not every organized entity that claims to be advocating for peace and justice is truly doing so.
Thankfully many Christians in democratic countries have come to see what the BDS movement and its sympathizers are really about, and they are working effectively to alarm government, business, university, and church leaders to oppose it. This work must continue, especially if Christians want to demonstrate God’s love to both Jews and Arabs who live in the Holy Land.
For further information and resources on how you can fight the BDS movement, I recommend visiting bds.jij.org (sponsored by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice). And for those who enjoy films, I do hope you will consider watching and sharing HOPE IN THE HOLY LAND (scheduled for release in May 2021). For more info, go to hopeintheholyland.com.