The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel is supported by a few New Zealand activists and has made headlines recently because of the pressure put on Lorde to cancel her Tel Aviv concert. It may be tempting to hear the BDS arguments and feel they are legitimate. However, the BDS campaign is inherently against, and deeply damaging to, the cause of peace, justice, equality, democracy, and human rights for all peoples in the Middle East. BDS is seriously flawed for seven major reasons:
- BDS seeks to destroy the Jewish state
- BDS is racist and discriminatory
- BDS distorts the truth to support its claims
- BDS wants rights but no responsibilities
- BDS fails to address the real concerns of Palestinians
- BDS is hypocritical and conveniently selective
- BDS selectively ignores International law
1. BDS seeks to destroy the Jewish state
BDS is a campaign to completely delegitimize the Jewish state through misinformation (see point 2) and meeting its demands would mean the destruction of Israel. BDS opposes the “two-state solution”, in which both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs would have self-determination and a secure society. The “two state solution” is preferred by the international community, and is favoured in polls of Israelis and Palestinians.
Norman Finklestein, a prominent Jewish critic of Israel, is quoted as saying that he “loathes the disingenuousness [of BDS] – they don’t want Israel (to exist)… they are a cult”. BDS leaders have publicly stated the true goals of their campaign is to wipe out the Jewish State rather than see a two-state solution 1 . New Zealand based BDS activists have also openly said they don’t think there should be two states for two people, denying the rights of both peoples to self-determination 2 .
Furthermore, a two state solution can only be achieved through dialogue, engagement and investing in peace. By pressuring only Israel, the Palestinian leaders have even fewer incentives to negotiate or seriously consider the Israeli peace offers (see point 4). Similarly, BDS activists oppose dialogue and ‘normalisation’ projects which bring Jews and Palestinians together for better understanding.
2. BDS is racist and discriminatory
BDS claims to be similar to the boycott of South Africa in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s but it is more akin to the German boycott of Jewish businesses in the 1930s or the Arab boycott of Jews in British Mandate Palestine that started in 1945. Despite claiming “BDS does not call for a boycott of individuals because she or he happens to be Israeli or because they express certain views” 3 , BDS has targeted individuals for being Jewish or Israeli or because they have certain views. BDS has been outlawed in some democratic countries because it is discriminatory and anti-semitic 4 .
3. BDS distorts the truth to support its claims
BDS draws a false equivalence between Israel and Apartheid South Africa or Nazi Germany. In reality, 20% of Israel’s population are Arabs with full civil and religious rights, the third largest political party is an Arab party with representation in parliament and Arabs can be found at all levels of society, including supreme court judges. BDS also publishes other lies 5 , easily countered with fact; and omits historic facts that are not kind to the Palestinian cause; as well as falsely claiming ‘wins’ in order to inflate their limited successes.
4. BDS wants rights but no responsibilities
BDS asserts itself to be peaceful and to favor “nonviolent punitive measures,” while refusing to denounce anti-Israel, anti-Jewish violence. There is no mention of Palestinian Authority incitement and reward for terror, no condemnation of corruption or lack of democracy for the Palestinians, or of their human rights abuses. And BDS does not mention the Palestinian leadership’s failure to counter the Israeli peace offers of 2000 and 2008 (the latter included East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state) or the partition plan of 1947.
5. BDS fails to address the real concerns of Palestinians
A core principle of human rights is known as “the worst first”. Rather than attending to the worst human rights abusers, BDS targets Israel, which has one of the very best human rights records in the Middle East and elsewhere. BDS only promotes a boycott of Israeli companies, cultural figures, and academics and ignores the rights of Arab Palestinians outside the West Bank and Gaza (not to mention the rights of other minorities in other places treated much worse than Arab Palestinians). There is no mention of the Arab Palestinians who have been left in refugee camps in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, or anywhere else for 70 years – where their standards of living are worse than Arab Palestinians under the governance of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. Furthermore, Egypt shares a border with Gaza and allows far less movement across that border than does Israel, yet this is ignored by BDS supporters.
BDS has also hurt Palestinians living in the West Bank. One of the “wins” that BDS claimed was the closure of a SodaStream factory in Mishor Adumim. Palestinians who had been employed by the Israeli company were laid off when the factory closed, losing their good-paying jobs and the opportunity to work alongside Jews and Israeli Arabs. The financial burden of losing a job has devastated families but BDS celebrates.
6. BDS is hypocritical and conveniently selective
BDS activists say they support freedom of expression for those people who refuse to perform in or deal with Israel yet eschew that same freedom when the ideologies are not aligned. BDS activists have harassed and intimidated artists, sportspeople, business owners, and scholars who do not share their ideology; including in New Zealand 6 . Similarly, activists are happy to use Israeli-developed technology 7 and make use of Israeli academic institutions (Omar Bargouti, founder of BDS, studied at Tel Aviv University). This selectiveness affirms that the campaign is not really about a boycott, but about publicity and attention to spread lies (see point 3).
7. BDS selectively ignores International law
The BDS campaign appeals to international law when it suits. Activists claim all Arab Palestinians have a “right of return” based on UN General Assembly resolution 194. However, even if a UN resolution were to constitute legislation, which it doesn’t, there is nothing in Resolution 194 which would grant Arab Palestinian refugees any “right to return” to Israeli territory. Furthermore, BDS advocates generally do not recognise Israel as legitimate (see point 1), and so selectively ignore the international law that establishes Israel as a State 8.