January 6th, 2019, 38 pro-Israel students and I ventured into Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). The Barkan factory — a symbol of coexistence between Jews and Palestinians — exposed us to the peaceful workplace environment shared by both Jews and Palestinians. Unfortunately, the factory is most recently known for the Palestinian terror attack which took place on October 7, 2018, when a Palestinian worker murdered two of his Jewish co-workers, Kim Levengrond Yehezkel (29), a mother, and Ziv Hajbi (35), a father of three. Despite this tragic attack, the factory continues to operate and serve as a beacon of hope, but is now facing a consequential barrier, the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement, better known as the BDS movement. A manager at the factory mentioned that “there’s an additional tax from European countries because we are [a factory] in Judea and Samaria […] with a 7% tax above the minimum [due to BDS pressure].” He went on to say that, “if BDS is successful, it affects the Palestinian workers and they’re out of jobs.”
With the success of BDS, dozens of Palestinians would lose their jobs in the Barkan factory, and thousands more around Israel. Around 32% of Palestinians are unemployed in Palestinian villages controlled by the PA, earning less than half if not more of what Palestinians in Israel earn. With the closure of the Barkan factory and many others, Palestinians who formerly worked in Israeli companies will be another number in a statistical poll on unemployment and poverty.
Palestinians spoke candidly with us, but requested anonymity, fearing that their own government, the Palestinian Authority (PA), will take intolerable measures against them. One Palestinian said, “the message is we have to make peace here and live together. It’s not difficult to make the peace.” BDS would destroy the reality of Palestinians and Jews working alongside each other. My group and I asked a few other Palestinian women and men about their experiences in the Israeli factory in Israel and they were delighted to share how amazing it has been. How can we hope for a peaceful future if BDS severs the ties between Palestinians and Israelis?
One of BDS’ main goals is to bring “freedom, justice, and equality” to Palestinians. Not only do they fail to bring justice and equality for Palestinians, but the poisonous roots of the movement stem from anti-Semitic aspirations. In their charter, BDS calls for the opposition of “a Jewish state in any part of Palestine,” in other words, an ethnic cleansing of the Jewish people from the river to the sea. The phrase “from the river to the sea,” which calls for a genocide against the Jewish people, may sound familiar because it is an anti-Semitic chant often used by various Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters and many others who claim they are pro-Palestinian.
Criticism of Israel is fair, but isolating the Jewish State and continuously attempting to destroy it economically is another anti-Semitic aspiration of the BDS movement. The conflict is not as black and white as the BDS movement likes to paint it — it is parallel with an infinite Rubik’s Cube. Around 100,000 Palestinians hold work permits to work in Israel and on Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria where they work alongside Jews in Israeli companies. Palestinians working within Israel earn a salary two to three times higher than what a Palestinian earns under the Palestinian leadership. BDS does not only dehumanize and detract from the livelihoods of Palestinians and Israelis, whether they are Muslim, Druze, Christian, Arab, LGBTQ, or Jewish, but it also furthers the bridge between peace and coexistence.
One may argue that, at the very least, BDS will serve some “justice” for the Palestinian people, but this impression is false. If the BDS movement is truly in the best interest of the Palestinian people, then why do they not protest against the PA who has tortured gay Palestinians based on their sexual orientation? Even worse, where was the BDS movement when the PA murdered an innocent Palestinian who merely sold land to Jews? Many Palestinians in countries such as Jordan and Lebanon live in far worse conditions than Palestinians in Israel. Where is BDS’ criticism of those countries? Where are the boycotts against those countries?
Alan Dershowitz once said, “You may have sympathy for the Palestinians and wish to help them. I share that sympathy. But by aligning yourself with the BDS Movement, you are aligning yourself with people who don’t want to see both sides thrive. They want to see one side, Israel, destroyed. They don’t merely want to see a change in policy, they want to see an end to the nation-state of the Jewish people. Do you want to spend your time and moral energy supporting such a cause? For decent people, the answer is no.”
If you claim to stand for human rights, justice, and equality, then you should stand against an anti-Semitic movement such as BDS. Peace can only be obtained by working and living together, not by spreading a culture of hate and isolating one side, Israel.