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BDS is being used to stifle dissent in Israel

Israeli members of Knesset, along with journalists, commentators and others are taking advantage of the boycott movement in order to delegitimize Israeli human rights groups at home.

Police watch from above as solidarity activists hold a banner reading "Boycott Israel" during a protest in front of the Norwegian Parliament building, Stortinget, Oslo, March 30, 2015. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Police watch from above as solidarity activists hold a banner reading “Boycott Israel” during a protest in front of the Norwegian Parliament building, Stortinget, Oslo, March 30, 2015. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

As all eyes in Israel obsessively turned their attention to BDS, a subplot emerged that has gone by the wayside — one that I believe is the real story regarding the boycott movement’s current role within Israeli society.

Last week Israel’s Foreign Ministry called on Switzerland to pull its funding from an event put on by Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence, in an effort to force the organization to cancel its upcoming exhibit featuring soldiers’ testimonies of IDF human rights violations, which is supposed to open in Zurich this month. In response to the exhibit, newly-appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said: “The Foreign Ministry will continue its extensive actions against organizations that are acting against Israel, at home and abroad.” Gilad Erdan, the new minister for strategic affairs who has been tasked with combatting the Israel boycott, has called Breaking the Silence an organization that “leads the delegitimization campaign against Israeli soldiers.”

Also last week, in one of her first acts as new minister of culture and sport, Miri Regev pulled the ministry’s sponsorship from a solo dance show that incorporates footage taken by B’Tselem volunteers in the West Bank. Entitled “Archive,” Israeli artist and choreographer Arkadi Zaides mimics the physical expressions and movements of Israeli settlers and soldiers, projected onto a large screen behind him. The show highlights their violent and domineering body language, as seen from the perspective of Palestinians behind the camera. The show, which first launched in Europe and has already taken the stage in Israel, no longer bears the Culture Ministry logo. Now Regev is considering pulling its funding.

While the two incidents may seem minor and insignificant, they are a sharp indication of this government’s crackdown on dissent and independent art.

Likud MK Miri Regev (Photo by Activestills.org)

Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev. (Photo by Activestills.org)

It is, after all, no coincidence that this all happened on the same week as the eruption of the BDS debate here in Israel. This is the product of a concerted effort by the Right, which includes mainstream journalists and commentators, to conflate any boycott efforts — whether by FIFA, Orange, student unions or settlement product-labeling Europeans — with the work of Israeli human rights groups such as B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence (two organizations that have absolutely nothing to do with boycott of any kind).

The real victims of BDS

On Twitter, several Israeli journalists claimed that Breaking the Silence defames soldiers and spread lies about the IDF — and in doing so pour fuel on the BDS fire — and thus are one in the same. In a column on why BDS threatens Israel’s very existence, Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Ben-Dror Yemini wrote that “When a member of Breaking the Silence appears at events sponsored by BDS, that is not criticism. That is demonization. When Peter Beinart, one of the leaders of the Jewish left in the United States, who defines himself as a Zionist and Orthodox, claimed that on Lag BaOmer of 2014 Jews committed a pogrom against Palestinians, he was not working to criticize. He spread a blood libel.”

The lumping together of the various calls to boycott Israel with Israeli groups that criticize the country’s policies is yet another tactic used to shut down internal dissent. As Tomer Persico recently wrote on the site, the effect of rising international pressure in Israel leads to a situation in which “nationalism grows, internal dissent is silenced, and various democratic characteristics become weaker, or are weakened.”

While certain elements among BDS supporters do challenge Israel’s right to exist as the exclusive nation-state of the Jewish people, there are also Jewish Israelis who happen to agree — whether because they do not believe Israel can be both Jewish and democratic, or simply because they don’t want to live in a Jewish state.

Should they be barred from expressing their alternative view, no matter how unpopular it is? Does it make them, as Netanyahu has deemed, anti-Semitic? Does it mean they condone ISIS? Of course not. But the tactic of stifling dissent works, especially because Israelis are astonishingly ignorant of the actual BDS mission statement, not to mention the various approaches of boycott. As such, Israeli members of Knesset, journalists, commentators and others are able to use BDS to delegitimize Israeli human rights groups at home who have nothing to do with the movement.

While Orange is not pulling its business out of Israel anytime soon, the real victim of BDS — or more accurately, of Israel’s portrayal and manipulation of BDS — is dissent here at home.

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    1. BigCat

      “Boycott is act of hate, not peace”

      – Shimon Peres

      “The BDS movement is anti-Semitic terror of a new type.”

      – Yitzhak Herzog.

      The BDS-movement against Israel is a “CULT”, a “GHETTO”, “dishonest”, “silly”, “disingenuous” and “a whole lot of leftist posturing”, whose goal is to destroy Israel, says Norman G. Finkelstein.

      “They don’t want Israel. They think they are being very clever. They call their three-tier: we want the end of occupation, we want the right of return; we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever because they know the result of implementing all three is WHAT? What’s the result? YOU KNOW AND I KNOW – WHAT’S THE RESULT?! THERE IS NO ISRAEL. THERE IS NO ISRAEL – FULL STOP!”

      – Norman G. Finkelstein, who is also a virulent anti-Israel hater!

      Hate, Bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism that are inherent in the BDS-movement are crimes under International law. But, somehow the haters of Jews and Israel have convinced themselves that they have a free ticket to hate Jews and commit racist acts and acts of anti-Semitism against Jews, while masquerading as “human rights” activists, and that anyone who points out their acts of hate is somehow “stifling dissent”?! How so delusional!

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        It’s really, really bizarre to use Finkelstein, a scholar who finds in Israel a state drenched in colonialism and racism (has anyone read his “The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering” or “Old Wine, Broken Bottle: Ari Shavit’s Promised Land”?) as a point of reference. (btw, both Finkelstein’s parents were concentration camp survivors – he knows about anti-semitism).

        Finkelstein’s complaint about BDS – if you actually watch his talk – is that the official BDS demand would require the return of a million Palestinian refugees, which would indeed destroy Israel as a “Jewish State”. But most people who support BDS assume that, as with all social movements, the official demands are just starting points that can be negotiated. The proper response to Finkelstein on BDS can be found here: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/finkelstein-renews-attack-bds-cult-calls-palestinians-who-pursue-their-rights

        Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          Indeed, my good friend, Bruce, it is really really bizarre that Finkelstein and Naftali Bennett agree that the goal of BDS is the destruction of Israel! It is an earthquake! It seems I struck a nerve there. You suddenly sound distressed and ran to “electronic intifada” for guidance? Woof, Bruce! You really have to be extremely distressed and desperate to turn to “electronic intifada” for “analysis” and “perspectives”! Why not turn to Hezbollah, HAMAS, ISIS, etc. Bruce? I did not even bother clicking on your link to read their donkey-talk. Anyways, here are a few sound bites from what Finkelstein said:


          I am willing to post the entire clip containing the entire quote as I relay above. Just let me know what you want and I will kindly provide it for you; what are friends for…

          Reply to Comment
          • Y-Man

            What the fuck are you even talking about?

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            What the fuck are you asking about, “y-man”? Can’t express your thoughts in words, moron?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Hee hee! Y-Man, the rest of us have gotten so used to the meaningless blather that we just tune it out like radio static but here you come along and do the individual a favor by this fresh consultation and he rejects it outright, in his usual manner. He, or she, should appreciate it as a fresh eye, “a second opinion,” actually a 15th opinion, but s/he won’t.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Hee Hee the only meaningless blabbering being done here is by your kind, Benny dear.

            Which bit of “they [The Palestinian Arabs and their BDS buddies] want to destroy the only Jewish state and replace it by the 23rd Arab state”, don’t you understand? Which bit of it don’t you understand, Benny?

            Your SaintPalestinians are trying to use the international left (the extremist ones) to do what they could not do themselves. They want them to help to destroy our state and replace it by the 23rd Arab state. But hey Benny, you know that already. Your kind is part of the problem. Not part f the solution!

            Reply to Comment
    2. none

      an interesting article, yet either confusing – or am misreading something:
      the writer claims that palestine based (aka israeli) people and organisations who Support bds are also its victims?
      if these people/orgs support bds, surely, living in an extreme right-wing militaristically violent state, they kind of know a few retaliatory hits will come their way? yet despite that, decided to take a stance for bds?

      hope someone can point what am missing in the article because one of the elements am critical of bds for is that boycotting, as a violent action, has to generate unintended consequences. Am simply questioning here whether that suspicion is indeed visible in the retaliation against bds supporting elements within palestine.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        I’m interested in your thoughts as to how boycotting is “a violent action.” Please explain how it is violent. I know of no prior boycott in history where this rhetorical device of calling it “violent” was deployed as some Israelis deploy it. Why do some Israelis see themselves as unique in their being victims of “violence” if someone were to wage a campaign of choosing not to buy their products as a way of putting pressure on the country to end the occupation (which IS violent by the way)?

        Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          Brian alias “Ben” alias “MuslimJew” alias etc.

          Define “violence”. I assume you can do that, or don’t you know what “violence” means?

          Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            You can’t define “violence”, Benny? Ok, I will help you out >>>



            1. “Actions or words that are intended to hurt people”

            2. “Extreme force”

            Source: Cambridge English Dictionary.

            Got it, Benny?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Thank you for this latest of your many violent replies. An addict undergoing treatment might view that treatment as “violent” but those treating him or her will adopt a more objective, enlightened viewpoint:

            tough love
            The use of strict disciplinary measures and limitations on freedoms or privileges, as by a parent or guardian, as a means of fostering responsibility and expressing care or concern.

            tough love
            1. the practice of taking a stern attitude towards a relative or friend suffering from an addiction, etc, to help the addict overcome the problem

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            Brian alias “Ben” alias “MuslimJew” alias “David T.” alias “Dekkers” alias etc.

            a). you claimed that BDS is not “violence”. You were proven wrong as you yourself have acknowledged.

            Moving forward:

            b). you now call the Jewish State “addict”? that’s a very strong word that evinces irrational hate and rage. See, Benny, that’s just one of the reasons I told you that you are an anti-Semite. When you were posting as “Brian”, you also claimed that “Jewishness is a mafia cult”, etc.

            c). Instead of finding a job to support yourself, you are every single day on this and other sites, reading about- fixating on- obsessing with- and ranting against Jews and Israel. You even go as far as using multiple identities to do that! You are completely fixated on Jews and Israel, while neither knowing- nor caring about what goes on in YOUR OWN country (the USA). All these point to a person with serious mental illness. Moreover, you have a paid subscription for an online Jewish Newspaper (Haaretz) where you quench your daily thirst for anti-Jew-news, but you have no paid subscription for any newspaper/magazine from YOUR OWN country or any other country!

            You wanna know who is “an addict”, Benny? Look in the mirror, you psychotic moron!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Nay. That poster named Brian did not say “Jewishness is a mafia cult,” that poster said that EIS’S VERSION of Judaism resembled a kind of mafia. DIFFERENZA GRANDE IL MIO BUGIARDO E DIFFAMATORE.
            Remember Ms. Eis of “pppppppuhleaze Pedro give him to me! Just lemme slap him around a bit!”? LOL! We do! She and you and Oren Hazan e suo padre will get along famously. Thick as thieves. La vostra passione. RIDENDO FORTE!

            Mama Eis: My dear daughter, Merav (groans Mama Eis with a faint Italian accent à la Brando). This is your chance to restore dignity to my name and amend the wrongs done to me as a +972 member… Girly, I trust you to do the job.”

            GrandeGatto: “Mama, I’m making the people of +972 an offer they can’t refuse.”

            To Yeah Right’s famous inquiry, “honestly BigCat, do you have even two functioning brain cells” (or something like that) we can add this inquiry: honestly BigCat have you ever been honest for two minutes in your entire life? If I were Brian I’d be really amused.

            Ciao, il mio gattino disonesto

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Poor old pretentious Benny.

            Now he is attempting to babble in broken Italian to try to minimize the damage to his credibility inflicted on him by BIGCAT who demolished his lack of logic, hypocrisy and double standard, expertly.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            [*chortle*] Suuuure. The sheer nonsense value of the things you two post together boggles the mind. It’s synergistic.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            “Boggles the mind?”

            Certainly, not your’s Benny, you mindless little twerp.

            Reply to Comment
      • none

        A fab question! Thanks, indeed requires possible indication as to why “violent” and BDS is used in this context.
        1 – the consideration of violence here is not from the physical but operational point of view.
        2 – there isn’t a claim of moral equivalence between operational violence, and a physical one. These are different ways with different effects. (both of which I think are regrettable, however, not morally the same because physical violence is terminal in a more abrupt way.)
        3 – BDS is in effect saying that because the israeli state and institutions failed to move on with a peace process despite years of attempting to create dialogues for peaceful solutions – people have no choice but go via BDS. From that view, ie the view of BDS movement itself, and its thinking, am saying that there is a violent element.

        However, the reply, as far as it seems to me, does not imply in any shape or form that because BDS has this operational violence there can be a justification of israeli zionist oriented violent actions, reaction or indeed victimhood. All the claim is that once a violent sequence comes into operation, into being, there tend to be un intended consequences that complicate rather than help solve the initial problem.

        Its a very very sorry and complicated affair that the people of palestine found themselves in.. Both the colonial and the indigenous ones..

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Thank you for your civilized, honest, non-mafioso-style reply, None! Without resort to ad hominem attacks and without resort to lying. How refreshing. None! Your screen name is well chosen!

          “Operational violence” — I find in that term a rough equivalence to “any tactic that brings any pressure, rather than pleading, begging or coaxing, to bear on a party to a conflict.” It seems to me then that “violence” is too strong and loaded a term to suffice; it seems like an inherently distorting, prejudicial term. In regards to your characterizing the various boycott proposers as moved by “the israeli state and institutions fail[ing] to move on with a peace process despite years of attempting to create dialogues for peaceful solutions,” I think the boycott proposers at this point in history view the whole “peace process” as a charade, as being knowingly exploited by Israeli leaders such as Netanyahu in the service of the real aim: endless delay and “managing the conflict” including placating and duping the Americans. All done quite cynically as revealed by such things as that infamous videotape of Bibi:

          So what’s left? Boycott is a time-honored, democratic, peaceful protest mechanism, a form of free speech, in which large numbers of free participants must be persuaded by public discourse. And increasingly liberal Jews in America and elsewhere are seeing it as a necessary form of “tough love” it seems to me. Treating addictions has never been easy and rarely possible without a phase where the sufferer is forced to change by external consequences. Again thank you for your gracious and civilized reply, None. Time to batten down the hatches for the incoming terrorist mortars of “…yet another rambling mumbo jumbo job moron job welfare Jews psychotic moron…” Talk about operational violence!

          Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          Israel failed to move on with the peace process?

          Now, at the least, that statement is a partisan statement. But I would go further. I would say it is a blatant bare faced lie. That is why our Benny applauds it.

          For your information, [NONE]. After Oslo was signed by Rabin and Arafat, the number of terrorist acts against Israeli civilians increased significantly. What does that tell you about which side did not progressing the peace process…?

          And that’s not all. Two Israeli prime ministers came out with major peace initiatives…

          Ehud Barak in 2000/2001 which was lauded by Bill Clinton as a lost opportunity of a life time when Arafat rejected it. And it was rejected violently, by the 2nd Intifada.

          Ehud Olmert came out with another major peace initiative in 2008. Condi Rice lauded it as a very generous offer. Abbas sat on it for over 5 months and let that initiative falter.

          So much for your bed time story [NONE] about who rejected the peace process.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Bill Michtom

      Zionists always claim that any actions calling out Israel for its oppression of Palestinians is anti-Semitic/anti-Jewish.

      But, what I learned in the Seder puts the lie to this.

      The Seder tells us that Jews should think of ourselves as having come out of slavery, i.e., we should identify with what it means to be oppressed. Second, we learn that no one is free until everyone is free. Finally, the Seder tells us that Jews have an obligation to work toward that universal freedom.

      Since Zionists/the Israeli government and its supporters are overtly working against universal freedom, they are not Jews as defined in the Seder. So, until Zionism is ended, Israel can not be Jewish.

      Only a non-ethnocentric, non-theocratic state can live up to Jewish ethical requirements. A one-state solution is the only Jewish answer

      Reply to Comment
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