Defeating the lies of BDS (On their own terms) – Part I

As the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement becomes more popular with both the Hard Left and Hard Right in America (spurred on by both rabid anti-Semites as well as anti-Zionist Jews who somehow are fine to be in alliance) it is important that we who support the Zionist dream of Israel have the right answers and tools necessary to argue our cause in a rational and easily understood manner. Before we start however it is important to recognize that the goal of BDS is the elimination of the State of Israel. Nothing more, nothing less. They want Israel as it was conceived gone. Even Dr. Norman Finkelstein a noted anti-Zionist and supporter of BDS (by his own words), recognizes this and discusses this here:

To that end, here are some ways to combat BDS using facts as well as illustrating the true goals of BDS supporters. Let’s identify the arguments made by supporters of BDS and then debunk them one at a time:

Deception #1: “BDS is a “human rights” based movement focused on the Palestinians.”

To be more accurate it should be termed as a Palestinian Rights Movement that is ONLY about Palestinian Rights and Privileges. The goal of course is for Palestinians to achieve Statehood where they are the majority and rule in any way they see fit. It has nothing to do with overall “human rights” since it ignores the legitimate rights of the Jews for self determination in any part of their ancestral homeland. Really it is only about Palestinian Rights and no one else.

Deception #2: “BUT BDS supports the principle of Total Equality”.

Well interestingly enough apparently the folks who support BDS didn’t ask the Palestinians themselves what they think. Why do I say that? I say that due to the fact that the Palestinian Polity according to polls does not support that concept. Here from a poll from Dec. 2013 taken by Palestinian Center for POLICY and SURVEY in question 38 it states: “Talk has recently increased about the inevitable failure of the two state solution and the need to demand the formulation of a solution based on the establishment of one state in all Palestinian areas and Israel, one in which Arabs and Jews enjoy equality. Do you support or oppose this view?”

Only 31.4% of respondents support that principle. Now that is up from polls past by 2-3% but still it is a pretty large majority of the Palestinian polity that is AGAINST equal rights. NOW, if BDS is pushing for a purely Democratic solution how does that work when the Palestinians themselves don’t support equal rights for all citizens?

But more than this, BDS is seen as a tool to use by those who have no interest in Democracy or Equal Rights. For instance, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the PRC, and other groups are more than happy to sign on to the BDS Movement (and the BDS Movement is happy to have them as supporters) despite their very much anti-Democratic tendencies.

IF BDS were truly about Equal Rights, it would take into account the various authoritarian strains that run throughout the Palestinian Polity and would fix those BEFORE even trying to create a state which would immediately veer against equality (given the Polity AND Leaderships wishes).

Deception #3 “BDS is only about ending the Occupation”

Well, this is a two part deception. The first deception is that the movement never defines what it means by the word “Occupation”. I mean most Westerners consider “Occupation” to mean the lands gained by Israel during the Six Day War. But that is not necessarily what the Palestinians consider Occupation. For instance, according to Hamas, the “Occupation” is ALL of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan that Israel controls. So how does BDS founder Omar Barghouti feel about the word “Occupation”:

“During a visit to Lebanon in 2000, I asked Amal, a Palestinian child in the Ain Al Hilweh refugee camp, “What do you wish the most?”


Without hesitation, she said: “To slip into your suitcase when you head back to Palestine, to go home.”


Her sense of deep nostalgia for a place she’d never visited except in her dreams and her grandparents’ tales was quite pervasive among her peers. But Amal’s fertile imagination about how to overcome barriers to go home was a piercing reminder that the 1948 Nakba, the planned and systematic ethnic cleansing of the majority of the indigenous Palestinians to create a Jewish majority state in Palestine, is not forgotten. Nor will it be forgiven until the Palestinian people can exercise their inalienable right to self determination, with the refugees’ right to return at its core.”


“Since convincing a colonial power to heed moral pleas for justice is, at best, delusional, many around the world now understand the need to “besiege” Israel’s occupation and apartheid through BDS, raising the price of its oppression and paving the way for freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.


Only thus can Amal in Ain Al Hilweh and all Palestinian children cling on to the hope of finally realising their rights, after which they can commemorate the Nakba as a distant memory of an injustice that once was.”

Look at the Terminology used… “colonial power”, “return to Palestine to go home” NOT “return to my home in Israel”

This is important. Until the movement defines what it means by the term “Occupation”, how can people of good will really know what BDS stands for?

Also, of course the phrase “BDS is about the Occupation” is deceptive for those in the West where the Movement clearly states that its goals are the Return of ALL of the UN designated Refugees to Pre-1967 Israel. Something that would in effect (as Norman Finkelstein points out) would absolutely mean the end of Israel.

Deception #4: BDS is “ambivalent” about One State or Two States.

Well that is only true in a very literal sense. The BDS movement claims that they don’t care if there are Two States, BUT what they leave out is that those “Two States” would be Palestine and an Israel that featured a Palestinian majority ruled by Palestinians. Of course as everyone who has more brains than a sack of hammers knows, that means that Israel would cease to exist.

Can anyone seriously see a Palestinian majority in Israel retaining the Magen David as its flag, or keeping Hebrew as its official language, or celebrating Jewish holidays as its national holidays or maintaining the ever so important Law of Return for those that might suffer in the diaspora or being a State that supports and encourages Jewish Cultural Institutions. It would be nonsensical to believe that, but worse it’s an outright lie to maintain that this would indeed be the case.

Deception # 5: Israel is a Jewish SUPREMICIST State and doesn’t allow for true democracy for all.

First of all, Israel is NOT based on the concept of Jewish superiority. Certainly there are a few crackpots that believe this within our own community but, the founding of the State was NOT based on the premise of the superiority of the Jewish people. Israel and Zionism were founded on the premise that after 2000 + plus years of suffering and wandering, that the Jewish people of the world had a legitimate right to self determination in their ancestral homelands.

However, Israel was also not created as “United States of Israel”. It has a specific ethnic and national orientation. It was not created under the same principles as the U.S. and therefore should not and cannot be viewed through the same lens. They are two very different nations with two very different reasons for creation. Of course, Israel’s Declaration of Establishment is a fairly egalitarian document. But it is worth reading and getting others to read it just so that they understand what Israel is about.

The fact that the Palestinians do not have a “Right of Return” to Israel does NOT make Israel any less of a Democracy than anywhere else. Israel was founded as the National Homeland and State of the Jewish People. That is what it is. Most Palestinians do not want to live in a State based on that principle. They want to live in a State that has their own heritage and cultural institutions at its core. A favorable immigration policy for Jewish people does not mean that Arabs are “second class citizens”, and to claim otherwise is simply ridiculous given the context of the creation of Israel as a nation.

Deception # 6: Israel is an Apartheid State.

This is a straight out lie. The term Apartheid is a specific term with a specific use. It is an attempt to tie Israel to the former racist South African regime which treated and believed that Blacks were inferior to Whites. To that end a White Minority (12% of the population) which had minimal historic roots in South Africa (beyond what they created) subjugated a vast majority of the population and kept them politically disenfranchised and publicly discriminated against.

This is an analogy that completely FAILS when applied to Israel. First of all, Israel’s population is mostly Jewish (about 77%). Second of all, Israeli Arabs have full rights to vote and do hold offices in both the Parliament and in Social Institutions throughout the nation. There are no separate public swimming pools or beaches, or drinking fountains, or hospitals or anything.

Of course when pressed Palestinian supporters will say “Ummm well it’s not exactly like South Africa but what about the people in the West Bank… They don’t have equal rights”. But that is also a foolish analogy since those people are not Israeli citizens and most of them don’t want to be Israeli citizens, so the analogy breaks down. For more on that please see my article: Why the “A” word is simply inappropriate.

Deception #7 – BDS is not anti-Semitic

Nope… that is another outright lie. BDS is a cornerstone of anti-Semitic action against Israel. Why? Because BDS stands for a State for Palestinians but not for Jews. All the things that they insist on as “rights” for Palestinians they deny to Jews. They will support “liberation” movements around the world but when it comes to the “liberation” of Jews (and only Jews), nope… nothing there. There is nothing in BDS or amongst its supporters regarding any other religion or ethnicity – there is just a boycott to end the existence of the Jewish State. Its followers don’t boycott the religious tyranny of Hamas. They don’t boycott products from horrible regions of Africa or Asia. No boycott of goods or aid from Human Rights disasters that are Russia or China. Nope. Just Israel. That’s it. What would you call that?

What is interesting regarding this is that supporters of the Palestinian Polity absolutely refuse to discuss anything concerning opinions of either the Palestinian Polity or stated positions of its leadership. They simply don’t care what anyone has to say. They claim to stand for Democracy, but where are the democratic traditions in this polity? Where is the leadership practicing human rights due to free, and equal citizens? There is nothing there, but, for some reason supporters of the Palestinians want to tell us all that somehow, someway, a Palestinian State will be one based on total equality and when you try to discuss that or actual Palestinian civil rights with them, they mostly just ignore those questions. Or worse, these activists simply don’t care.

Anyway, this is just part I. Please stay tuned for more in Part II


About the Author
Jon Segall is creator of the blog The Progressive Zionist. Jon has lived in Israel and studied Israeli and American Policy in the region. Currently Jon, is re-learning Hebrew, and is an active practitioner of the Israel Self Defense Martial Art Krav Maga.