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Ehud Barak acknowledges the impact of BDS

In an interview yesterday with the liberal daily Haaretz (Hebrew), Defense Minister Ehud Barak acknowledged the impact of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement on Israel and the unsustainable nature of Israeli Occupation.

Barak believes that a UN declaration of Palestinian statehood without a prior Israeli political initiative will paint Israel into a corner previously occupied by South Africa during the apartheid era. His admonition is pungent and scathing: “There are elements in the world, quite powerful, in various countries, including friendly ones, in trade unions, [among] academics, consumers, green political parties”, he warns, “and this impetus has culminated in a broad movement called BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) which is what was done with South Africa. This will not happen overnight. The day after September, people will say: ‘so now October has come, the sky hasn’t fallen, nothing has happened’. This is not true .

Will this happen in December or January?

It will start coming at us like a glacier, from all corners. There are people in the European Council that deal with export and import, and they are capable, without any government decision, of inflicting significant damage on the Israeli economy. We will see this taking place in academia, we will see this taking place in dockworker unions, consumer groups, and this will seep into governments. This is unwise [apparently referring to Israeli policies which will bring about this outcome]. To me, this uncontrollable process looks more dangerous than what the [Israeli] public perceives at the moment. We have been ruling over another nation for 43 years, this is unprecedented. Perhaps China can allow itself to control some small nations in various corners of its empire, and perhaps Russia can [failing to discern that Tibetans and Chechens have citizenship]. We cannot, there is no chance that the world will accept this. The far right is exposing Israel to dangerous and unwarranted isolation.

Looks like senior Israeli officials fully understand and are scared of the nonviolent movement as well as endless occupation.

Section translated by Ofer Neiman.

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    1. It comes back to the question of whether BDS is associated with a single state proposal or a two-state proposal.

      If a single state, then BDS represents a direct political assault on Israel as Israel. If a two-state, then BDS represents the reform of Israeli polity to enable it to exist in a healthy live and let live relationship with Palestine.

      The continuing confusion is NOT a good political approach. Stating ‘we are only affirming Palestinian human rights’ is incomplete and functionally grossly naive with the very plausible prospect of spin-out to warring scale of violence.

      The Barak quote does infer a critical potential shift in thinking from the reactive and ‘careful’ to the creative.

      My own impression is that the Abbas government has exhibited such good faith relative to Israel (in its political proposals), that Israel should just accept the latest sealed proposal submitted by the PA a few months ago (that it didn’t even bother to open).

      They could make it work, securely and effectively, and should move to that approach rather than 11:58 nickel and diming.

      In Israel, the shift in electoral thinking has to get to ‘yes, a healthy Palestine can be a good neighbor’.

      The political effort for a single-state (that is sadly quietly promoted by many leading BDS proponents), and the presence of any terror on civilians, both deter the likelihood of that shift.

      Reply to Comment
    2. David

      BDS is one state solution and r of r. They are propagating the end of Israel as a Jewish state. If you read the small print of the BDS people you will read and hear this all the time. Books are written on the one state solution by people who co-founded BDS.

      Reply to Comment
    3. BDS is about the implementation of international law. If you think that international law is wrong, biased or anti Zionist, that is wonderful. Then Israel should not be a part of the international community. In my opinion, it is all to simple. End the occupation, apply international standards which will include a version of the right of return and a dismantling of the illegal Israeli settlement and their infrastructure of control. I support this as a proud Israeli citizen who wants to see my country behave.

      Oh, by the way, the one state solution that you are both so afraid of…. it is exists right now. We live in one state. A state that features absolute discrimination and racism. Why anyone, Jew or Arab, would want to see this state continue in its present form is really beyond comprehension.

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    4. Jieriomka

      As far as I know, BDS calls for the respect of international law and human rights in all the territories administered by Israel. If you think that means the end of a theocratic/ethnocratic “jewish” State, then yes, BDS is for the dismantling of such a State.

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    5. The ‘current’ one-state exists and also entirely doesn’t.

      The question is on BDS though. If BDS advocates for a single state (in any format), then it is advocating for the elimination of Israel.

      It is not an avoidable component of the effort, as much as the ‘human rights’ component is promoted and insisted on relative to ‘international law’.

      ‘International law’ contains many more features than just the questions of occupation, and it as a whole is not as unequivocally inconsistent with Israeli policies as you present.

      In all cases, the ambiguity will feed the arguments of the Israeli right. If you wish to dismiss those arguments, in any effort to reform Israeli policies, then don’t participate in a vaguely stated BDS campaign.

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    6. directrob

      Richard, It is not vague it is very clear and easy to explain, Israel is a rogue state breaking universal human rights, the only rights that really count.
      I have no problem with the Israeli right or your obfuscation. The BDS may take some time to take effect but the Israeli will understand once it hits them. See for example: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/mar/27/dutch-bankers-bonuses-axed-by-people-power
      It might only take one viral video:

      Reply to Comment
    7. RichardNYC

      Many aspects of what you call “international law” simply aren’t. That you choose to frame anti-Zionist ideology in an intellectually dishonest way does not mean that anyone who opposes BDS has a problem with international law. To the contrary. It really is not that hard to explain why you’re wrong (I already have, and so have others, for decades), so I do not see how you expect this schtick to fool enough people in the long term. That a non-lawyer could even express an opinion such as yours on a subject for which there is no governing authority is ridiculous to start with.

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    8. aziada

      Here is the call put out by Palestinian civil society. There are 3 requirements that must be reached to end the boycott which are all based upon international law and principles of Human rights.

      The BDS movement does not advicate for a one state or two state or any state solution. We believe it is not up to us to decided what is best for Isreal/Palestine. I believe it is important to at least know what the BDS movement calls for before making false comments.

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    9. Danny

      Barak is a corrupt scoundrel and a borderline war criminal, but you have to admire his honesty. He doesn’t sugarcoat the occupation. The BDS movement is real and gaining strength and popularity. It is absolutely mind-boggling how Israel can continue to ignore this reality, as if by ignoring it it will just go away. No country, however powerful, can bend the will of the international community. Not South Africa, not the U.S.S.R. and certainly not Israel, which is almost completely dependent on the rest of the world for its economic survival. Time for Israel to wake up and smell the coffee.

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    10. Given how little actual boycott or divestment has taken place, despite a decade of BDS efforts, one of the strongest remaining arguments BDS activists have for the success of their “movement” are claims that the reaction they receive (particularly Jewish organizations and even the Israeli government) demonstrates their effectiveness.

      There are, however, alternative explanations for why Jewish groups and the Jewish state have put the fight against BDS high on their agenda which I discuss in detail here:


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    11. RichardNYC

      Really, I don’t see how you anti-Zionists expect this evasive nonsense to work. All we Zionists have to do is point out that you’re advocating a population redistribution that puts Jews in the minority, or at least close enough to lose security/self-determination. The “rights-based” approach to destroying Israel is a lot more transparent than you seem to think.

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    12. David

      Regarding the authors intellectual dishonesty, here are two links I have posted before at 972. One is a BDS organiser for the Pacific NorthWest and academic Nada Elia ( she and Judith Butler would make the BDS couple of the year ) http://vimeo.com/16874462 . Nada Elia very eloquently makes a case for BDS and clearly supports RoR and a one state solution. Ali Abunimah who wrote a book on the one state solution is also a fan of BDS. Listening to this man speak in public and his writings , I have sincere reservations wether this man has any interest in seeing Israel survive. The author of course appreciates Abunimah and quotes him at length in other posts.
      JVP can not bring itself on its website to clearly stand behind a two state solution. This strategic ambiguity serves BDS well.
      I think it goes without saying that most proPal, proBDS US organisations which are predominately Arab/Muslim-run are for a one state solution.
      The idea that the BDS and anti-Zionism are not bed fellows is naive. There may well be BDS people who purely follow a “clean” line and are actually for a two state solution, but by simply cross checking the key players in the BDS scene and reading what and where they write/speak the direction of the thrust is obvious.
      One of the main issues with the BDS movement is its proximity to the radical left which has always had fundamental problems with Zionism. That is why all sort of far left Jewish academics in the USA feel they have finally found a vehicle that will take them and their cause a little further. Often that discourse is the afterbirth of what communist Jewish thinking was doing in the 60s and 70s in regards to Israel
      The BDS movement is a catch basin for many, amongst them mingles part of the Palestinian Diaspora hard core bent on ending Israel. And if the author were honest, he’d admit that most Diaspora Palestinians in the West have no reason to vote for a two state solution. Why should they?
      Another proof are the vicious thread posts at mondoweiss and Ali Abunimah’s EI- at 972 they are censored – where the readers leave no doubt about what they want and how they see Israel.
      The left’s polemics of ” we already have one state” help nobody.
      The author may consider himself a proud Jew. But me thinks he is pretty much alone as an Israeli on this. Also as a proud Jew I would hope for a more nuanced approach to the topic at hand. Pasting ISM posts clearly leaves little room for debate.

      The pro BDS posts above are further proof of a misbelief about what it stands for.

      Reply to Comment
    13. directrob

      At the moment their is one state. A state where Gaza and West Bank Palestinians do not have their Universal Human Rights. The way BDS works is just as a grassroots non organization. It will stop when there is a just peace and the human rights of everyone are respected.
      Nobody knows how millions of people will behave. I

      Reply to Comment
    14. RichardNYC

      its a bit hard to argue that Gazans are entitled to civil rights in the Knesset based on “Universal Human Rights” (clumsyspeak for “international law” I presume?) whilst ignoring that Gaza is not part of Israel under international law. I am particularly amused by the “international law” advocates who claim that Israel is “occupying” Gaza though Gaza is already part of the “one state” (so not occupied), though Gaza is not Israel under international law (but international law dictates that they should have rights in Jerusalem). A fun puzzle of nonsense.

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    15. Leonid Levin

      From my personal experience, many if not most Europeans, well at least those who care a bit about what’s going on in the outside world, have long concluded that what Israel does to the Palestinians is basically unjust. Having said that, I must admit that they seldom get any alternative information about the occupation in the mainstream media, so they are sort of lulled into believing that things are getting better. I’d say 95% or more never even heard of the BDS campaign. If the BDS movement gets a lot of publicity in the European Union, my guess is that lots and lots of people will start taking heed and start questioning where those mangos and avocados are coming from and why major European companies cooperate in settlement activities. So I guess Ehud Barak is right to fear the international public opinion.

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    16. “The far right is exposing Israel to dangerous and unwarranted isolation.”

      Although this is great news, it seems like for Barak everything is just a toy soldier on his political board game. He’s identifying the “emerging threat” of BDS, which he understands to be what he will be dealing within the next election. Politics here don’t seem to have changed since biblical times: If you’re a prophet, you’ll get elected 😉

      Reply to Comment
    17. David

      Life as an activist is tough and at times confusing. You need to understand International Law, Judaism, Zionism, Arab History. It is occupied, it is one state already, sure gets confusing trying to make sense of it all.
      Same goes for the BDS scene where every chapter seems to have their own pov.
      I heard a left wing Tel Aviv lawyer saying that just because the UN declares a Palestinian state, this does not mean that the major settlement blocs will be in Palestine.
      I think upon looking at the matter in greater detail, the vast majority of people don’t really understand the situation. Or to quote the great Donald “…there are many known unknowns.”

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      • Perhaps your most reasonable and non attacking comment yet. I take my hat off to you David. Bravo!

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    18. yesspam

      I recently posted part of your excellent article and a link to this page on another site. I was told that I may well have been infringing copyright. Is this correct? Also do you have a link to the original, as the poster stated that this is the work of a ‘PAL proponent’.

      Many thanks.

      Reply to Comment
    19. […] Kobi Snitz: I think the most significant thing is that it’s a sign of desperation on the part of the Israeli government. They’re helpless in stopping the boycott movement. All that’s left for them is to try internal repression. I think that they recognize it themselves. Ehud Barak, the Minister of Defense, spoke about the [powerful] BDS movement. […]

      Reply to Comment
    20. good

      As an american citizen i support bds. I am horrified by the influence zionism has in the us and our laws. I hope zionism is completely irradicated and that they give back the land of the palestinian people. All of it. I wish for the palestinian people the same victory the indians and south africans had against their colonialists. The best thing a so called liberal israeli can do is just simply leave. Expat back to europe where most likely their famiily is actually from.
      Washington dc.

      Reply to Comment
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