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Op-Ed: The BDS movement explained



George Washington University


Op-Ed: The BDS movement explained

A subversive effort to substitute dialogue and dissent

Max Skidelsky


Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) leaders often claim that their goals are limited to opposing Israeli settlements and economically pressuring Israel to negotiate for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Undeniably, this is not the case.

The Arab boycott against Jewish products was formally declared in 1945, with the express objective of denying Israelis economic vitality to weaken them ahead of the 1948 War.

After 1948, the Arab League broadened the boycott to include not only trade between Arab states and Israel, but all companies across the globe that do business with Israel, as well as their business partners. The objective was to isolate the Jewish state from the international community and inflict economic harm.

Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Arafat signed a historic free trade agreement with Israel during the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s, abandoning the boycott. The current PA President has also opposed a boycott on Israel proper. This movement has done real harm to Palestinians.

For many, work for Israel is the only paid work they can find. Overall, some 100,000 Palestinians currently either work in Israeli settlements or Israel proper, and the number is increasing by approximately 10 percent each year. These taxpayers account for 12 percent of the PA’s yearly revenue. Moreover, an estimated 10 percent of the Palestinian GDP is generated from workers who earn their incomes outside of Palestinian cities.

BDS has not convinced a lot of U.S. companies to join the movement, so there hasn't been any economic pressure as a result; therefore, the movement has little effect here with many cities legislating against BDS activities. Overall, Israeli exports have grown from $5 million in 1948 to over $47 billion in 2014. Israel’s largest single trade partner remains the U.S., and Israel has extensive trade with the EU and other nations the world over.

The boycott was primarily conducted by Arab states until 2001, when peace talks broke down and the Second Intifada, Palestinian uprising, broke out. Since then, the BDS movement has been adopted largely by non-Palestinians in other parts of the world.

The BDS movement seeks to link Israeli policies with racial segregation practices in South Africa during apartheid. The movement also rejects the peace process, the idea of a two-state solution. and ignores human rights violations in any other country. BDS leaders believe Israelis and Palestinians are incapable of coexisting in peace and have thus denied Jewish-self determination and have called for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

John Spritzler, a pro-BDS author, has stated “there should not be a Jewish state,” and that the boycott should continue until Israel “dissolves.” He has also said the BDS movement “will gain strength from forthrightly explaining why Israel has no right to exist.”

Paul Larudee, Cofounder of the Free Palestine Movement, stressed the need to “wipe out Israel.”

California professor As’ad AbuKhalil has articulated that “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.”

BDS rhetoric frequently defends acts of terror against Israeli civilians as “resistance” or “struggle” to better appeal to liberal sympathizers, particularly on college campuses, who are relatively unfamiliar with the history of the conflict.

At the national level, many BDS members are members of other groups supported by Hamas, such as the Holy Land Foundation and the Islamic Association for Palestine.

Multiple NGOs associated with BDS have accused Israel of genocide, war crimes, often comparing Israeli officials to Nazis, and denouncing Zionism as dehumanizing.

BDS campaigns garner negative public perceptions of Israel and are increasingly used by anti-Israel activists to attract attention, particularly on college campuses to foster highly politicized and public debate.

BDS campaigns often give rise to tensions that can result in harassment or intimidation of Jews and Israel supporters, including overt anti-Semitic acts. All too often, BDS advocates employ anti-Semitic rhetoric and narratives to isolate and demonize Israel.

High courts in France have found BDS activists guilty of inciting hate and/or discrimination against Jews and Israelis on multiple occasions, and the Paris City Council has adopted resolutions against the BDS movement specifically. Similar legislation has been adopted or proposed in multiple U.S. cities as well.

This article is opinion in nature. It was update with this disclaimer as The Rival does not take a stance on political issues.