Recently a law has been proposed in The State of Missouri, which will prohibit the state from granting contracts to entities involved in a boycott movement against Israel. Similar laws have already passed in roughly 20 states. Efforts to pass this bill are in response to a movement calling for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of Israeli products. So why are people calling for the boycott of Israeli products? I will attempt to answer that question, as well as to explain why a bill that prevents granting state contracts to BDS-supporting entities is needed.
The bill is sometimes called, the Anti-BDS Bill, or the Anti-Discrimination Against Israel Act. In Missouri, the titles are Senate Bill 849 and identical House Bill 2179. The bills have passed through the Committees in both the House and the Senate. However, Representative Peter Merideth (Dem) did not support the bill. Merideth wrote, “We heard testimony from the Speaker and others arguing that the international movement to boycott Israel is a concerted effort to destroy the economy and existence of the state of Israel… but the reality of this boycott is that most participants do not share that goal, and nowhere is there any sort of ‘official’ goal of the boycott movement toward that end. We heard from countless folks that participate for sincere humanitarian reasons and objections to Israeli government’s policies.”
It appears that some people claim that the goal of the boycott movement is to destroy Israel, while others argue that the boycott is designed merely to pressure Israel to change its policies towards the Palestinians. So where does this idea come from that the BDS movement is designed to destroy Israel?
The first source is from quotes by leaders in the BDS movement. For example, Omar Barghouti is a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. He stated, “We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. Ending the occupation does not mean anything if it doesn’t mean upending the Jewish state.”
The second source is from an official document published by a network of Palestinian activists. The boycott movement of Israel is not new. The Arab states have used economic warfare against the Jews for decades. In 1945, even before the creation of Israel, the Arab states organized a boycott against the Jewish settlements in the territory of the Mandate of Palestine to prevent them from creating a Jewish state. The declaration read, “Products of Palestinian Jews are to be considered undesirable in Arab countries.”
After the establishment of Israel the Arab League continued to boycott Israel. For example, in 1955, Israel attempted to join the Badung Conference, in which 29 African and Asian countries participated. The Arab states threatened to boycott the conference if Israel was invited, and they succeeded in preventing Israel from attending the conference. In The 1973 War, the Arab states invaded Israel, but failed to destroy it, so they formed an oil embargo against any countries which were perceived as helping Israel.
In 2005, there was an attempt to re-package the old boycotts of Israel in new wrapping paper, by calling for a boycott of Israel based on its alleged mistreatment of the Palestinians. A network of Palestinian organizations issued a document titled, “Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights.” The document issued three demands: 1. The end of the occupation. 2. Equal rights for Arabs in Israel. 3.The Palestinian Right of Return. The third demand refers to The 1948 War of Israeli independence, which was started by the surrounding Arab countries immediately upon the creation of the lone Jewish state, in an attempt to prevent the Jewish people from keeping a state. A by-product of the war was the creation of an Arab refugee problem. After the creation of Israel, the Arab states refused to recognize Israel, which made it impossible to resolve the refugee problem.
The “Palestinian Right of Return” refers to the Arab refugees of The 1948 War. The idea is that Israel should be boycotted until,“the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes,” is implemented inside Israel. But the demand goes beyond the original refugees and asserts that anyone who is the descendant of Palestinians refugees has the right to citizenship in Israel. The principle of the Palestinian Right of Return was created as a mirror image of Israel’s Law of Return. The Israeli Law of Return grants descendants of Jewish people citizenship in Israel based on Jewish ancestry. The Palestinian Right of Return demands that descendants of Palestinians worldwide should be granted citizenship in Israel based on Palestinian ancestry.
On the surface, this demand sounds like an innocent demand. However, the principle behind the right of return is that Palestinians should have the right to decide who becomes a citizen of Israel, instead of the Jewish people. Or, in reality, that Palestinian self-determination should replace Jewish self-determination in the territory of Israel. The end goal of The Palestinian Right of Return is to create an Arab majority in Israel. If Palestinian self-determination supersedes Jewish self-determination, then the end result would be the creation of the twenty-third Arab state, and the removal of the sole Jewish state. In other words, The Palestinian Right of Return is a euphemistic way of calling for the destruction of Israel without sounding violent. Even President Obama stated, “the right of return would extinguish Israel as a Jewish state.”
Norman Finkelstein is a Jewish professor who is famous for his brutal criticism of Israel and for his work with Pro-Palestinian activists. Finkelstein gave an interview in which he explained the end goal of BDS movement, “they think they are very clever because they know the result of implementing all three is what, what is the result?… There’s no Israel!” Shortly after the interview, Lebanese American Professor, As’ad AbuKhalil, published an article in which he wrote, “Finkelstein rightly asks whether the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel. Here, I agree with him that it is. That should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”
Unfortunately, Merideth is incorrect when he asserts that, “nowhere is there any sort of ‘official’ goal of the boycott movement toward” the destruction of Israel. But Merideth shouldn’t be blamed for his ignorance. The demands of the BDS movement are intentionally coded with double-meaning to make them socially acceptable. The average person is unfamiliar with the background and can easily be fooled. However, there is one way in which Merideth is at fault. Merideth wrote, “the reality of this boycott is that most participants do not share that goal.” With that statement, Meredith confirms that he is fully aware that many people engaged in this boycott movement are trying to destroy Israel. Yet he argues that because not everyone wants to destroy Israel, he can’t support the bill. But, here is the problem for Merideth – his comments also indirectly acknowledge that boycotts can be done for racist purposes.
Boycotts can be done for humanitarian reasons, such as in the case of the boycott of South African Apartheid. Boycotts can also be done solely for racists reasons, such as the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses. This bill clarifies that a boycott is not automatically done for moral reasons. This bill also clarifies that movements which utilize the language of human rights, can in reality be deceptive movements aimed at denying certain groups of people their basic human rights.
If there were two separate BDS movements, and one stated clearly that its primary goal wasn’t to destroy Israel, then perhaps we could support them. But there are not two boycott movements, and since they won’t make any attempt to separate themselves from people who have racist goals, then it corrupts the whole movement. Missourians do not want to give state money to people who are involved in a movement which cannot be troubled to make a clear statement that they don’t want to annihilate countries. It is not the responsibility of the state of Missouri to go around and ask every individual person why he or she is boycotting Israel. Once you partner with a contaminated movement, then you lose your credibility. This bill will make a statement that Missourians won’t give money to anyone who partners with people who want to destroy Israel. In the end, this bill will protect Missourians from funding racism.