Palestinians and the BDS Movement

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Credit: Alex Chris via Flickr Creative Commons


For the uninitiated, BDS refers to boycott, divest and sanction Israel for…well, existing.  Their current leader and a co-founder, Omar Barghouti, recently expressed their goals thus:

We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.  I, for one, support euthanasia.

However, something strange recently happened in Israeli politics and it should be a wake-up call to the BDS movement here in the United States.  Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab bloc in the Israeli Knesset, recently announced he would recommend Benny Gantz as prime minister.  It is a historic declaration because the Arab bloc in the Knesset has never endorsed or recommended ANY Israeli prime minister.

Yet among the voices of the Israel-hating Left, there was nary a whisper.  Perhaps they were all asleep or failed to read Odeh’s op-ed in the New York Times.  Maybe they were preparing a table at some college’s club day or organizing some protest.  Whatever the reason, just the chirp of crickets.

There are three items on the agenda of the BDS movement: (1) ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza, (2) ensuring equality for Arabs in Israel, and (3) ensuring the right of return for all refugees of 1948 and their descendants.  Put them all together and it equals the end of the Jewish state.  And they aim to achieve success on their agenda by making Israel a pariah among nations.


The first rule of the BDS is non-engagement.  It does not matter if you are a liberal, conservative, or moderate.  You will never find Linda Sarsour debating Ben Shapiro or Jonathan Greenblatt.  They will not engage in a discussion about anti-Semitism unless it with a fellow anti-Semite.  They will never question a Jewish voice and prefer instead to block doors, close streets, or shout down those in attendance.

There can be no conversation whatsoever.  To converse, discuss, and debate is to normalize.  To normalize is to condone.  But here is the stickler for the BDS movement: Odeh has no problems with normalization.  In the most recent elections, Arabs in Israel came out in huge numbers with his call for engagement.  Arab turnout jumped from 49% in April to over 60% in September.  Odeh’s statement was a call for co-existence, not wiping Israel off the map as the BDS has its ultimate goal.

This commitment to a two-state solution, which Odeh explicitly endorsed, puts real Palestinians living “over there” at stark odds with BDS supporters “over here.”  BDS does not believe that a Palestinian state can live peacefully alongside Israel (if Gaza is any indication, they may be correct).  Since their founding, the BDS has equated Zionism with racism and Israel as a colonial illegitimate state.  The only solution, therefore, is undoing the founding of Israel in 1948.


It is doubtful that Odeh was motivated by a desire to poke the BDS movement in the eye.  Instead, it was a clear message against Benjamin Netanyahu and an indication that Palestinian voices must be heard.  He is a politician and pragmatist above all else.  Odeh’s statement was a clear wakeup call.  He showed the serious disconnect between the goals of BDS here and the reality there to promote Palestinian rights and self-determination.  While there may be support for the BDS movement in the West Bank and Gaza, from most reports that “support” is ambivalent at best.

The strong Palestinian and Arab turnout in the September elections in Israel indicates that they are pushing for a peaceful solution.  Odeh has announced that the Arab bloc will not join any government, even if Gantz becomes prime minister which has been their policy since forever.  But the mere fact he even waded into this area shows a willingness to start a peaceful dialogue.  That stands in stark contrast to the goals and agenda of the BDS movement.

No wonder there was silence on the Left.


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