Myths, truths and lies about BDS

May 30, 2014
Sarah Benton

This posting is centred on two articles from Magnes Zionist discussing BDS and the 2-state solution; it is topped by extracts from sources very hostile to BDS and ends with an article by Ali Abuminah (referred to by Jerry Haber) setting out the limits of the BDS movement’s political aims.

Often reposted photo, no date, place, credit, to illustrate anti-boycott articles such as Why won’t liberals defend Israel?

Telling the Truth About BDS

By Professor Resnicoff, DePaul University College of Law, first posted by Israel’s Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest and reposted on the same day by StandWith Us

May 16, 2014

The international movement to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel (BDS) is rooted in a big lie. Through hypocritical double standards and outright lies and deceptive machinations, it falsely demonizes and defames Israel as a pretext to denying the Jews the right of self-determination, while covering up the hate-filled truth about itself and its most radical supporters. All members of the DePaul community who support human rights and peace in the Middle East must vote against the BDS resolution that’s on this year’s student government ballot.

The BDS movement is the latest incarnation of the 100-year-old Arab boycott of Israel. Before Israel declared independence in 1948, the Arab dictatorships enacted a boycott against the tiny Jewish state which they later tried to destroy through a series of failed wars and terror attacks. Today, these very dictatorships, like the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah, are crumbling under the weight of the people they oppressed, and over the past century have been guilty of attacking not only Israelis, but Jews throughout the world. In Israel, France, Bulgaria and elsewhere, they purposely target and kill young schoolchildren instead of targeting adults. They also despise and oppress Christians, Buddhists and, in fact, everyone who is not their type of Muslim. Consider, for instance, the persistent violence against the Coptic Catholics in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood and its allies like Hamas in Gaza think that women should be severely oppressed, not allowed to drive (or even to walk in public without being accompanied by a male relative), not permitted to dress as they like, and tragically presumed guilty even when they are raped. Gays are executed in the public square as in Gaza, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Where these extremists have power, they put these discriminatory policies into practice.

Anti-boycott protest outside AUT headquarters, London 2005

BDS Movement: Barbarians Inside the Gates – Part I

By Denis MacEoin, Gatestone Institute
May 07, 2014

The Nazis invented the Jewish boycott — and went on from there to the Holocaust.

This is the wrong boycott in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As you doubtless know, there has been, and continues to be, an international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Jewish state. This BDS campaign against Israel is dishonest — it tells less than half of a complex story, borrowing Palestinian lies and fables to bewitch unthinking Westerners whose only formula for peace lies in the destruction of the only national home for the Jews, possibly as well as the post-Nazi destruction of the Jews themselves.

Most interesting are remarks made in 2012 by Norman Finkelstein, an American academic who has made it his business to pursue hatred for Israel. He has expressed solidarity with Hezbollah and Hamas, and approved their policies of targeting Israeli civilians. In 2012, however, he declared that the BDS movement a “hypocritical, dishonest cult like the Munchkin cult in Oz” that tries to pose as human rights activists while in reality their goal is to destroy Israel. “I’m getting a little bit exasperated,” he said, “with what I think is a whole lot of nonsense. I’m not going to tolerate silliness, childishness and a lot of leftist posturing. I loathe the disingenuousness. We will never hear the solidarity movement [back a] two-state solution.” He also declared that the BDS movement has enjoyed few successes, and that, as in a cult, the leaders pretend they are hugely successful even though the general public rejects their extreme views.


Protest against a BDS event at Brooklyn College February 2013

BDS Movement: Barbarians Inside the Gates – Part II

By Denis MacEoin, Gatestone Institute
May 08, 2014

These politically correct activists are all supposed to be anti-racists and multiculturalists. Yet when artists are banned just because they happened to be born in Israel, it tears apart the very basis of both anti-racism and multiculturalism.

As you doubtless know, many in Europe loathe the United States. Their invective down the years has been an assault on reason and emotional stability, whether directed against the Vietnam war, the response to 9/11 or to the Iraq war. Yet there is no boycott of the United States.

So, despite a hatred for America — and a perverse love of Iran, Hezbollah, and the PLO — we come back to the Israeli exception, to the singling out of just one country. However charitable we may try to be, it is hard not to detect the reek of anti-Semitism. Am I being unfair? To people who marched through the streets of European cities chanting, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas,” (and here and here at Dutch football matches) was that just simple folly — or proof of intention?

The international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement [BDS] against Israel is so determined to hurt Israel abroad, that the boycotters also put pressure on performers who even consider holding concerts in Israel.

The pressure works. An endless stream of artists, mainly musicians, have cancelled concerts or simply turned down invitations to play in Tel Aviv or elsewhere in Israel.

Carlos Santana caved in to pressure from the BDS crowd, as did Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Annie Lennox, Stevie Wonder, and writers such as Iain Banks and Alice Walker, a crusader against racism who flies the flag of anti-Semitism as though Jews are suitable victims. Five hundred artists from Montreal, Canada have joined the campaign. Actors such as Vanessa Paradis and her husband Johnny Depp stayed at home in 2011 — under the threat that, if they turned up in Israel, they would face a boycott, too.

Roger Waters, former lead singer and lyricist for the rock band Pink Floyd, is a hardline anti-Israel activist who demands a boycott until Israel ends “the occupation” (presumably on Palestinian terms). He also demands that Israel grants full equality to Israel’s Arabs — notwithstanding that Israel’s Arabs already have full equality both in law and in practice. Waters would also give all Palestinians the “right of return” — a condition that guarantees the end of Israel should millions of Muslim non-refugees overrun it.

What Waters and his supporters fail to appreciate is that the exodus of Arabs in 1948 came about in the course of a defensive war: the Arab Higher Committee and the Arab Liberation Army ordered Arabs to leave the land to make it easier to kill the Jews. The Arabs who stayed now make up 20% of Israel’s population; they have their own political parties, their own Members of Knesset, their own Supreme Court judgeships, professorships in universities, and so on. Those Arabs who did choose to leave what is now Israel made their beds — or had them made for them — and should now lie in them.

This bit of history does not even include the large number of Jews — estimated at about 800,000, the same number as Arabs who left Israel — who were forced to leave all their homes and property behind while fleeing onslaughts in Arab countries.

But while Israel took all the Jews in, built housing for them, educated them, and made them citizens, the Arab countries effectively kept their Arab brethren out, often packing them in rancid warrens known as “refugee camps.”

Palestinian  demonstration for UN recognition of a Palestinian state, that is, the 2-state solution. The State of Palestine 194 has a Facebook page which supports BDS efforts.

Abunimah and Barghouti: The Global BDS Movement is Compatible With a Two-State Solution (Old News)

By Jerry Haber, Magnes Zionist
April 29, 2014

Some of the initial comments on the post below, in which I envisioned a two-state solution compatible with the three calls of the global BDS movement, were dismissive. The comments claimed that Omar Barghouti and Ali Abunimah (inter alia) are “spokespeople” or “leaders” of the global BDS movement, and they are one-staters. So that must mean that the global BDS movement is one-state (by the law of invalid reasoning.)

My initial response was that “the flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la, have nothing to do with the case.” Nobody is an official spokesman for the global BDS movement; the movement exists as a coalition of organizations that are bound by the three calls endorsed by Palestinian civil society organizations. One can be a one-stater, a two-stater, a no-stater, and sign up to the calls.

But then I read a post by Ali Abunimah from EI last year, and it turns out that both he and Barghout agree with me, at least to the extent that they believe that the global BDS movement is compatible with a two-state solution. In fact, this is no secret; Barghouti actually says this in the book he wrote on the subject. According to Abunimah

Omar Barghouti makes this point in his book BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights:

While individual BDS activists and advocates may support diverse political solutions, the BDS movement as such does not adopt any specific formula and steers away from the one-state-versus-two-states debate, focusing instead on universal rights and international law, which constitute the solid foundation of the Palestinian consensus around the campaign. Incidentally, most networks, unions, and political parties in the BNC still advocate a two-state solution outside the realm of the BDS movement (pages 51-52)

In other words, most of the Palestinian endorsers of BDS advocate a two-state solution, though not within the realm of the campaign, which does not take a stand either way. Surprise to some, not to me.

The issue is not whether the BDS movement is compatible with a Jewish state. The issue is what is the nature of Jewish state with which the BDS movement is compatible. Is it compatible with an Israeli state with a vibrant Israeli Jewish culture in the public and private spheres? Is it compatible with a state in which Israeli Jewish holidays are national holidays, Hebrew is an official language, and Jewish culture is taught in the schools? Absolutely.

Is is compatible with a Jewish state in which Jews are ethnically privileged by law over non-Jews? No, it is not.

And that is what makes most Zionists opposed to the global BDS movement, even many of the so-called liberal or progressive variety.

Anyway, I urge people to read Abunimah’s post, “Why do Zionists falsely claim [the] BDS movement opposes two-state solution?” Had I known of its existence when I wrote my post below, I would have simply pointed to it and saved myself a lot of time.

What if the Global BDS Movement Were to Achieve Its Goals?

By Jerry Haber, Magnes Zionist
April 28, 2014

What is the genius of the three calls of the global BDS movement, endorsed in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations?

Very simple: their moderation and eminent reasonableness.

Here are the calls, once again:

Ending [Israel’s] occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

As I have pointed out repeatedly, each one of these calls only makes sense under the assumption that the State of Israel exists. And this is what bedevils the opponents of the BDS movement. They would prefer that the BDS movement call for the demise of the Jewish state . They would prefer that the third call demand explicitly the return of all Palestinian refugees to Israel, and not merely “promoting the rights…as stipulated in UN Resolution 194,” which was overwhelmingly adopted in the UN, including by the United States, after it had recognized the Jewish state. Since there is still a consensus in the world for the legitimacy of a Jewish state (though no consensus for the particular sort of Jewish state that Israel has become), the opponents of BDS would love the movement to say that the goal is the elimination of the Jewish state, or replacement of the Israel by another state in which Jews would be an ethnic minority.

But it doesn’t. And that is not just a tactic. The truth is that there are Palestinians who don’t want’ to live in a secular state with millions of Israeli Jews. They would prefer their own state. But they also want dignity and equality for those Palestinian Arabs who are citizens of Israel as well as the right of the refugees to return to their homeland, as called for by international law and convention, and UN resolution.

These eminently moderate calls befuddle the defenders of the status-quo post 1948, forcing them to say – without a scrap of evidence – that all this is a trick, that there is “hidden agenda,” “implied by the goals,” or, at least, a “possible (negative) implication of the goals.”

Ask a liberal Zionist why she opposes the third call, and she may say, again without a scrap of evidence, that it would imply Israel being swamped by millions of hostile Palestinians. In other words, she would make an entirely nonsensical claim that has nothing to do with the third call.

Let’s make a thought experiment, shall we? Let’s imagine that the State of Israel is so negatively affected by the BDS movement that it ends the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967, dismantles the Wall, recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, and respects, promotes, and protects the rights of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. And let’s give a specific scenario: the Jewish settlers are resettled within the 1967 borders, the Law of Return and the Citizenship law are amended to allow for full equality between Israeli-Jews and Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel in citizenship and immigration, and all the legislation that discriminates against Arab-Palestinians is abolished. (Indeed, according to most liberal Zionists, there is very little discriminatory legislation to begin with. )

Moreover, let’s assume something really unlikely, that around a million Palestinians opt to return to their homes and properties, a number that far exceeds all current projections in polls of Palestinians. And remember that, according to resolution 194, they return after having declared that they are willing to live in peace with the Israelis and to abide by the laws of Israel.

Under those circumstances, the State of Israel would have a population that would be over 70% Jewish and under 30% non-Jewish. it would be a state of all its citizens. Its official languages and cultures would continue to be Hebrew and Arabic; Judaism, Islam, and Christianity would continue to play a role (too large a one, in my opinion!) in the public sphere. In many respects it would be indistinguishable from Israel today, only less racist and discriminatory.

Now what would be so bad about that? I mean, even from a Zionist point of view?

Yet this democratic Israel is the nightmare scenario that the opponents of BDS really fear. Because they are not interested in a liberal democracy with a a strong Jewish/Hebraic cultural content. They are interested in a state in which Jews qua Jews occupy a position of privilege, a state in which non-Jews are recognized as “citizen strangers.” to use Shira Robinson’s felicitous phrase. The anti-BDS folks want Israel to be for the Arabs like Poland was for the Jews, where Jews were citizens, but not really part of the Polish nation. This is what Israel has been since 1948, and this is what many liberal Zionists defend

And that brings me back to the brilliance of the BDS movement, and why it is gaining traction in the world: More and more people are beginning to understand that its aims are much more moderate and moral than the status quo within 1967 Israel.

And that what provokes many of the opponents of BDS to misrepresent the global BDS movement, or to give absurd arguments against it, such as that the Palestinians should be more concerned with the slaughter in Syria, or human rights violations in China, than their own suffering in Palestine.

After all, by that reasoning, those who protested the treatment of Soviet Jewry in the 1970s were moral hypocrites, since they should have been out protesting the genocide in Cambodia during the same years.

Why do Zionists falsely claim BDS movement opposes two-state solution?

By Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada
February 06, 2013

As Brooklyn College faces intense bullying and threats over its hosting of an event this week with Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler, Zionists are renewing their false claims that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement opposes a two-state solution.

Most Palestinian groups on Boycott National Committee support two-state solution

First, the facts. The 2005 Palestinian BDS call makes absolutely no mention of one state or two. It is not a call for a political “solution.” It is a rights-based call with three clear demands of Israel:

(1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
(2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
(3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Second, any informed person would know that the vast majority of organizations represented on the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC) – the movement’s steering group and collective leadership – explicitly support a two-state solution. You can see a list of organizations that currently make up the BNC.

Omar Barghouti makes this point in his book BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights:

While individual BDS activists and advocates may support diverse political solutions, the BDS movement as such does not adopt any specific formula and steers away from the one-state-versus-two-states debate, focusing instead on universal rights and international law, which constitute the solid foundation of the Palestinian consensus around the campaign. Incidentally, most networks, unions, and political parties in the BNC still advocate a two-state solution outside the realm of the BDS movement (pages 51-52)

Zionist claims

These facts are of no interest to Zionists intent on smearing the movement. The latest such attack appeared today [Feb. 6th, 2013] on the Tablet website where Yair Rosenberg claims that the third pillar of the BDS call – respecting the rights of refugees – is incompatible with a two-state solution:

This radical goal goes completely unmentioned by both Hayes and the Times, giving their audiences the false impression that the BDS movement merely seeks a non-violent way to end Israeli occupation and implement a two-state solution. But in fact, BDS’s own materials and proponents oppose the very existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and demand the return of 5 million Palestinians to the country, which would effectively abrogate its Jewish character.

This is antithetical to the two-state solution, the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict accepted by majorities on both sides and the international community.

To bolster his claim, Rosenberg cites Norman Finkelstein who last year famously attacked the BDS movement in similar terms and claimed that the call was tantamount to the destruction of Israel.

Rosenberg’s article has been enthusiastically circulated by ill-informed commentators such as Matthew Yglesias:

Matt Yglesias ✔ @mattyglesias

Brooklyn College should hold all the BDS panels it likes, but folks shouldn’t mislead people about BDS’ goals: …

Julie @NYCJulieNYC
Also sorry that you link to Dershowitz to explain BDS. AD generally an inaccurate reporter on views he disagrees with.
Matt Yglesias ✔ @mattyglesias

I’m sorry you didn’t like my choice of links. Point is that BDS is a binationalist movement not a two state movement.
4:57 PM – 6 Feb 2013

And it was also circulated by Israeli government propagandists:

Avi Mayer @AviMayer

This is a must-read: NY Times, MSNBC Whitewash #BDS – (@Yair_Rosenberg in @TabletMag)

It’s not a two-state solution they are after, it’s maintaining Jewish privilege

If you carefully read the quote from Rosenberg above, you’ll see that he did not really assert that the BDS call is incompatible with two states. He asserted that it is incompatible with a two-state solution that protects Israel’s “Jewish character” by keeping out Palestinian refugees just because they are not Jews. This is a crucial distinction.

It is well known that, while I fully support the BDS call, I also believe that a single democratic state is the most practical and ethical way to fulfil its demands.

But after Finkelstein made the same misguided criticisms as Rosenberg last year, I laid out in an article for Al Jazeera a clear model for a two-state solution that would fulfill all three demands of the BDS call, and I based it on the political settlement in Northern Ireland (the 1998 Belfast Agreement) which has the full support of the United States government and mainstream liberal opinion (See: “Finkelstein, BDS and the destruction of Israel,” 28 February 2012).

Here’s what is so interesting: Finkelstein never responded to it and Rosenberg never mentioned it. As far as I know, no Zionist commentator has tried to refute my arguments, which is strange, since almost everything I write, including my tweets, are usually studied and dissected.

My article laid out a two-state solution, fully compatible with the BDS call, based on the principles that

underpin the Belfast Agreement and [which] did not mean the “destruction of Northern Ireland”. What they rightly did away with is ethno-religious privileges for Protestants at the expense of Catholics.

I ended my article with this challenge:

So the question then for Norman Finkelstein and Zionists who are horrified by the idea of a one-state solution, is: could they accept two states on such terms? If the answer is yes, then it is clear that the BDS call is completely compatible with a two-state solution, and Finkelstein should withdraw his claim that this is mere deception.

If Finkelstein and Zionists cannot accept a two-state solution on these terms, then we know it is not the number of states that concerns them. Rather, their priority is to preserve racial and colonial privileges for Jews at the expense of fundamental Palestinian rights.

I am still waiting for an answer.

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