Thursday, December 19, 2013

Israel, BDS and bigotry

I try not to venture too much into the Sandbox these days, especially not related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I think I have to weigh in.  The big news was the recent decision by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academia as part of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign.

To be frank, I have no issue with the BDS movement.  I don't like it or agree with it, and if I was still doing Israeli PD I would be glad to fight against it.  But I have no problem with it.  It is a form of nonviolent protest against the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine, of which Israel is making no real steps to end.  I don't agree with it, but I take no issue with it as a tactic.  If you can't accept a nonviolent protest against Israel's behavior, then you don't allow the other side any sort of manner to protest the situation.

In short, BDS is a legitimate manner of fighting an illegitimate occupation. I don't especially see any bigotry or anti-Semitism in the tactic.  And I find a lot of disingenuous arguments from the pro-Israel side against the BDS strategy.  Writing in Ha'aretz, Henry Siegman offers some good points about why there is no bigotry in the boycott:
The charge that the BDS movement is guilty of applying a double standard to Israel is equally groundless. For the opponents of Israel’s half-a-century-long occupation of the Palestinians and its denial of the Palestinians’ individual and national rights would not be conducting BDS campaigns against Israel if, to begin with, Israel had not been singled out for special treatment that no other country with equal or even far better human rights records has received.
I challenge critics of the BDS movement to identify another democracy from among those that do not hold another people under near-permanent occupation (no other democracy does) that receives the massive economic, military and diplomatic support lavished on Israel. I challenge them to identify another country, no matter how spotless its human rights record, about which America’s leaders—its president, vice president and secretary of state—repeatedly declare “there is no daylight between our countries,” even as they warn—virtually in the same breath—that Israel’s policies are leading the Jewish state to apartheid.
Yes, there was a time when Israel needed and deserved that assistance because it was uniquely exposed to existential threats from its neighbors, but that time is long gone. Today, Israel is the regional hegemon, while its neighbors are in a state of radical upheaval or disintegration. Neither individually nor collectively, in the judgment of former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet, Mossad, and Military Intelligence, do these neighbors pose an existential threat to Israel. And every living former head of the Shin Bet, as well as former heads of Israel’s other security organizations, have insisted that Israel’s failure to strike a fair peace agreement with Palestinians constitutes a far greater existential threat to the country than do Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
As to Israel’s democratic credentials, there is no more egregious violation of elementary democratic norms than a predatory occupation that denies an entire people all individual and national rights, confiscates their properties, bulldozes their homes and dispossesses them from their internationally recognized patrimony east of the 1967-border.

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