With perverse genius, the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement against Israel has entangled its opponents in a quandary. The problem is this: One can only guess at the ultimate goals of BDS. Not one of the three words in its title spell them out or even hint at them. What does BDS want? To take down Israeli settlements? to dismantle the separation wall? to eliminate checkpoints? to allow unrestricted trade in and out of Gaza? These are the usual complaints about Israel from the Palestinian side, but “BDS”merely signals a non-specific, punitive intent. Yes, its tactics are quite clear — boycott, divest, sanction — but to what end?
One can trace the origins of BDS to 2005, when, according to The New York Times, some 170 Palestinian organizations signed a statement of principles. What has become only too well known since 2005 is, again, the b, d, s, but let us focus on the second of the three principles agreed upon. This was the demand to allow the return of all Palestinian refugees to Israel and to their property, with a “refugee” defined (uniquely among all other refugees the world over) as not only a resident of Palestine in 1948, but also all of the descendants of these original refuges.
This is estimated to be some five million people by now.
This includes children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of refugees from 1948.
This includes people who left Palestine in 1948 voluntarily, expecting to return in short order to a territory with no Jews — they would be killed in the Arab-initiated war in swift victory.
If five million Arabs from outside Israel became residents of Israel, there would be no more Jewish state. The bottom line of BDS is the destruction of the Jewish state. BDS is not merely punitive in intent. It does not only oppose various Israeli policies.
But this is nowhere spelled out in the term, “boycott, divest, sanction.” Hidden behind the term is the desire to destroy Israel as a Jewish state.
Put it this way: BDS does not only oppose Israeli settlements on the West Bank. BDS would not be satisfied for Israel to return to the 1949 armistice lines (the so-called pre-1967 borders). BDS objects to the original Zionist movement, long preceding Israel’s independence in 1948, because the internal logic (and eventual realization) of the original Zionist movement is a Jewish majority- population, an independent Jewish homeland, on the Land of Israel.
The BDS narrative is absolute: Palestine belongs to Arabs; Zionist Jews displaced them; all the displaced Arabs and their descendants have the right to return. The destructive impact on Zionism is, at the least, irrelevant and, at best, justice long overdue.
The BDS narrative is built on a long list of historical fabrications and selective truths. Among them:
• The original Zionists displaced the indigenous Arabs. This is wrong on two counts.
First, Jews are indigenous to Palestine. They lived and built their national and religious identity in Palestine long before Arabs or Islam existed. And the Jews, indeed, left Israel involuntarily (to put it mildly).
Second, the original Zionists did not displace the Arabs living there. Here is how this claim is refuted by BDS: Israel was established on territory that was close to 100% Arab when political Zionism began, in about 1881.
The facts are otherwise: In 1881, virtually all of the territory on which Israel was established was empty, uninhabited, unfarmed, unsettled, unused. To call this territory “Arab” simply means that the only population in Palestine before the modern emigration of Jews to Palestine was Arab. To say that political Zionists “displaced” the original Arab population really means: Merely by being Jewish, a person living in Palestine “displaced” an Arab. Merely by diversifying the local population of Palestine, Jews “displaced” Arabs. This, of course, is racism, and has nothing to do with territory on which Arabs lived. When Arabs in and out of Palestine rejected the UN partition plan of 1947, which would have created two independent states, one Israeli and one Arab, the rejection said: We don’t want any Jews on any land anywhere in Palestine, even if we get to keep all the land on which Arabs live. BDS supports this racist viewpoint.
• Israel is racist because it is only for a single ethnic group.
Forget, for a moment, that many Arab countries are indeed for a single ethnic group. Forget that BDS tolerates racism when it is within Arab countries, and it is only the alleged Jewish racism that exercises it. The question is: Is Israel, as BDS would have it, for a single ethnic group?
Go ask the Jewish black Ethiopians, the Arab Iraqis, the white South Africans, the Hispanic Argentinians and other ethnic groups that Israel is for. One would have to be blind to say that Israel is for a single ethnic group. To which BDS would reply: But they’re all the same religion! Israel is racist!
Really? Go ask the Israeli Jews, the Israeli Druze, the Israeli Christians, the Israeli Baha’i, the Israeli Muslims. One would have to be blind to say that Israel is for a single religion. Indeed, going all the way back to the Hebrew Bible, the vision is for a majority Jewish state with rights for minorities living on the same territory. To which BDS would reply: Still, Israel discriminates against Arabs! There is no equality for all the non-Jews in Israel! Israel is racist!
Really? Go ask the Arabs in the land of Israel, be they Israeli Arab citizens or residents of the West Bank or Gaza, whether they want to live within Israeli communities. The vast majority will say no. But what if some do? They do. It’s as simple as that. Witness the French Hill neighborhood in Jerusalem.
It is true that Israel has laws that seek to preserve Israel as a Jewish state, and to preserve Jewish communities as such. But if some Arabs wish to live among Jews, they do. Meanwhile, while BDS focuses on what it sees as discriminatory Israeli behavior, let BDS ask what happens to a Jew who wants to live in a Palestinian community. He is likely to be murdered. It is as simple as that. Everyone in Israel knows that every day countless thousands of Arabs walk the streets of Jewish Jerusalem without incident, while virtually no Israeli walks the streets of any Arab city or village in the West Bank without armed protection, if that. There is a reason.
Here we have a classic example of the double standard that animates the BDS crowd: what they demand of Israel, or criticize Israel for, they overlook in the West Bank, Gaza and Arab countries around the world. It’s called the double standard. It’s calledanti-Semitism.
Does all this mean that Israel is perfect? that every Israeli resident of the West Bank is an exemplary human being? that Israel’s Arab citizens have no valid complaints? that for all of the love and execution of terror against Jews by large numbers of Gaza and West Bank Arabs, there is also no Jewish terrorism? The answers to all of these questions are no. At the same time, the answers to all of these questions, while demanding better answers and better policies from Israel, do not alter the larger historical or moral picture.
As readers of this page know, we cry out against the unjustified, brutal, unJewish instances of Jewish terrorism — which remain extremely rare. On the Israeli-Palestinian question, balance is required. Which is precisely what is absent from BDS on historical, moral and factual grounds. This is because BDS’s intent is not only punitive, but destructive. It does not want to reform Israel, it wants to destroy the Jewish state.