Friday, June 19, 2015

Why The Anti-Israel BDS Movement Is Simply BS

Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. It's a global movement that tries to put economic and political pressure on the state of Israel in order to a) end the so-called occupation that has been going on since 1967 and tear down the Wall, b) recognize the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, and c) promote the right of return of Palestinian refugees under U.N. Resolution 194. These three goals are the underpinning of the BDS movement "playing an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice." Sounds like a just cause, but let's go through each of the three goals to see if they can withstand scrutiny.

Ending the "occupation": First of all, let's stop calling them occupied territories. This implies that Israel was infringing upon some pre-existing Palestinian sovereignty when it wasn't. Forget that Transjordan, which included the West Bank, was initially part of the Jewish homeland under the Balfour Declaration in the hopes that "land for peace" would work. Jordan was the country illegally occupying the West Bank from 1948 to 1967. There was no Palestinian outcry during that actual occupation because Palestinians did not exist until after the Six Day War in 1967. Israel annexed the West Bank in a defensive war as an act of self-defense because Jordan, Egypt, and Syria were hellbent on destroying Israel. Acquisition of the West Bank was more than justifiable, which is all the more so under the Oslo Peace Accords and U.N. Resolution 242, the latter of which is an underlying component for the former per Article I of the Oslo Peace Accords. Combine U.N Resolution 242 with U.N. Resolution 338, and you'll find that negotiations are the determinant of who owns the land, not some supposed "inherent right." Much like the Western Sahara, Zubarah, or Kashmir, the correct term to describe the West Bank or Gaza is "disputed territory," not "occupied territory." And if any country has a founding well-established in legality, it's Israel (see video below).

Stopping the gross human rights violation: While talking about recognizing fundamental rights of Arab-Israeli citizens, the BDS movement mud-slings and calls Israel an apartheid state. As I have pointed out in the past, Israel is not an apartheid stateIs Israel perfect? No nation-state is. What nation-state has perfect interracial relations? Looking at Ferguson and Baltimore, that doesn't exist in the United States. The supposed enlightened European nations are doing less than a stellar job at handling their Muslim immigrants. It's one thing to rightfully criticize someone for doing something wrong. A healthy dose of criticism is fine. It's when people like those over at the BDS disproportionately demonize Israel while ignoring human rights violations that are significantly worse than anything Israel has ever done.

Let's take a look at Israel and compare it to other nations. Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to developing freedom worldwide, ranks Israel as a free country. Israel is still the only democracy in the Middle East that has a respect for rule of law, freedom of the press, protects peoples' rights, and has some of the leading innovators in science and technology. Israeli Arabs live more freely than Arabs in any other Muslim country. Where else in the Middle East can Jews, Muslims, and Christians live in as much harmony as humanly possible? Palestine, on the other hand, is ranked by Freedom House as "Not Free." While it's not a Pollyanniash living scenario for Arab citizens in Israel, Palestinians are much freer in Israel than they are in Palestine. By this logic, we should be boycotting Palestine because Palestinians are treated much worse under Palestinian governance than Israeli governance. But who said logic was part of any of this? To think this doesn't even get into how Palestinians are treated in other Arab countries. Furthermore, Maplecroft, a global analytics firm, produces a Human Rights Risk Atlas every year. You want to know who is on their Top 10 List? Hint: It's not Israel. If you want to send a message about human rights abuses, go after the most heinous offenders first. Since there are countries with human rights records that are simply atrocious, why single out Israel when there are far worse offenders? It makes me question BDS' motives when Israel is one of the farthest things of being the world's worst human rights offender.

"Right of return": Why is this still an issue? The Greek-Turkish War of 1923, WWII, and the dispute with Kashmir caused larger refugee issues than the Palestinian refugee issue. Plus, Israel had to deal with taking in Jewish refugees took in a comparable amount of refugees after the Israeli War for Independence in 1948 because Arab nations kicked their Jews out of their countries in retaliation of the creation of a Jewish state. Interesting how this Palestinian refugee issue has been taking place in perpetuity. You would think that their Arab brothers and sisters, who have so much land, would lend a helping hand. With the exception of Jordan, none of the Arab nations have granted these Palestinian refugees citizenship. It's almost as if they wanted the refugee issue to be a wedge in the peace process. And before invoking U.N. Resolution 194, let's not forget that it's a non-binding resolution that a) only recommends that Palestinians be permitted to return, and b) living "at peace with their neighbors" was a prerequisite. None of the Arab countries voted for U.N. Resolution 194 because it would have implicitly recognized Israel's existence. This doesn't even get into the fact that actually allowing for a "'right' of return" would essentially be a demographic abolition of the Jewish state. Making a "right of return" a precondition of peace negotiations is a non-starter because Israel will never enter a zero-sum game by making a concession in which Israel ultimately doesn't exist. Plus, many people throughout history have fled their homeland. Palestinians have no right to return to Israel, much like I don't have a right to return to my ancestral homeland in Europe simply because my ancestors decided to leave Europe for the United States.

Postscript: And that's the real issue for the BDS movement: Israel's existence. You know it's bad when even JStreet can't even condone the BDS movement or if anti-Israel activist Norman Finkelstein calls the BDS movement a cult. If this were about merely criticizing Israel and its policies, you know what? Israeli citizens do it all the time. It's practically a national pastime over there. If this were about Palestinian oppression, there are much more egregious cases of oppression than what goes on within the Green Line. If this were about human rights, there are far more heinous crimes against humanity.  As the video by former Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz points out below, BDS is not about peace; it's about coercion. BDS' goal is about economically strangling Israel until it caves in. Israel is not opposed to peace. It has offered peace to its Arab neighbors multiple times, but has been rejected every single time. If you need to browbeat anyone into peace, it's Israel's Arab neighbors.

As I have illustrated in previous paragraphs, the BDS movement is misguided. If you want to target someone for either mistreating Palestinians or humanity, singling out Israel while ignoring all other atrocities within the greater context is just morally wrong and intellectually dishonest. The BDS movement is also nonsensical in what it targets. Not only does BDS target Israeli companies that develop technologies to better mankind, but it also targets Israeli academics. Israeli academics are progressive Israeli citizens that usually are most critical of the Israeli government, and you want to boycott themI also find that boycotts tend to be non-productive because they have very little economic impact. Look at Israel's GDP growth. I don't think there is much impact on the Israeli economy. It might be picking up some more momentum on college campuses, but it's still nowhere close to where it needs to be in order to actually work. Even if it worked, it would be counter-productive. It sends Palestine the wrong message that they can let the "international community" beat Israel into submission while taking no responsibility for its actions or provide no incentive towards peace. And if they marginally succeed, all it does is embolden Israelis opposed to the peace process. If the BDS movement cared about Palestinians, human rights, or peace in the Middle East, it would take a different approach. However, this is about hatred for Israel and exploiting ignorance to slander and malign Israel more than anything else.

It makes me happy that my home state of Illinois has actually passed an anti-BDS law that divests pension funds from any foreign company that boycotts Israel. This is but one fight to counter the BDS movement and its propaganda. Another fight is to win the minds and hearts of those who are undecided about how they feel about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It's about showing the good Israel does in the world and how it has contributed. We simply can't counter the BDS movements with facts about Middle East history or politics, but show that Israel is still an overall force of good in this world. May peace in the Middle East come soon!

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