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Israel's 'war on BDS' misses the point

Israel’s best-selling daily paper enlists in the war against international isolation and boycott. But ‘Yedioth,’ like many others in Israel, is ignoring the driving force behind boycott and international isolation — the occupation.

By Tomer Persico

A special graphic reading ‘fighting the boycott’ published by ‘Yedioth Aharonoth’ on its Facebook page to accompany its new public campaign against BDS, June 1, 2015.

A special graphic, reading ‘fighting the boycott,’ published by ‘Yedioth Ahronoth’ on its Facebook page to accompany its new public campaign against BDS, June 1, 2015.

Israel’s best-selling daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and its website, Ynet, launched a special project on Monday. Under the banner, “Fighting the Boycott,” the newspaper entered “trench warfare” against the boycott Israel movement. Star right-wing columnist Ben-Dror Yemini wrote a long article claiming that the boycott movement is borne of a desire to de-legitimize the entire State of Israel, and not just the settlements and the occupation.

There are some serious problems with that line of argument, and not just the fact that it is a gross generalization. True, significant parts of the BDS movement challenge the State of Israel’s right to exist as a nation state for the Jewish people. True, there are some in the radical Israeli left who see the 1948 war as Zionism’s original sin, the source of its unraveling. But the entire movement is certainly not convinced that the Israel has no right to exist. BDS is a coalition of organizations, intellectuals and activists that represent a wide range of positions.

And the BDS movement is not the premier international threat facing Israel. It is secondary to steps and processes being undertaken by the European Union, individual European states, and in various UN bodies. None of those threats challenge Israel’s right to exist. We need only to think back to the FIFA crisis this past week, where the attempt to boycott Israel pivoted on the occupation and not Israel’s very existence; if Israel was the problem it wouldn’t have been accepted into FIFA in the first place. Indeed, the international community is not in the habit of challenging the existence of states that have been recognized by the UN, and whose right to exist the UN has reaffirmed time and again.

What is taking place in Israel these days is reminiscent of what took place in South Africa in the 1980s and in Yugoslavia in the 1990s: international pressure that is focused on a specific problem is understood by those states’ citizens as an assault against the entire country, evidenced by the world’s irrational loathing and hatred of it. As a result, nationalism grows, internal dissent is silenced, and various democratic characteristics become weaker, or are weakened.

Take for example, in South Africa, the activist movement Black Sash, a group of white women who opposed apartheid. The activists organized protests and published reports that highlighted the injustices of apartheid. For that work they were ostracized, labeled as traitors, and even suffered physical violence. As apartheid became more repressive and international pressure increased, opposition to Black Sash intensified: its members were repeatedly arrested, their protests were banned, and the violence directed toward them got worse.

Members of Black Sash, a white women’s anti-apartheid movement, circa 1955-1960. (Illustrated Dictionary of South African History)

Members of Black Sash, a white women’s anti-apartheid movement, circa 1955-1960. (Illustrated Dictionary of South African History)

In Serbia it was a similar story. The Serbs saw themselves as the victims of the international media, which, they alleged, did not fairly portray their positions. In the period when Serbia was subjected to international criticism, support for Slobodan Milosevic only increased; hatred toward Albanians became stronger, democracy was weakened, and opposition activists were seen as traitors.

It is a dynamic that is as predictable as it is depressing: a country suffering from negative international treatment entrenches itself in self-righteousness and sees any criticism as illegitimate. National unity coalesces against external threats, but because there is no desire to resolve the problem causing the external pressure, anger and frustration are eventually directed toward the internal opposition, toward the media, or toward problematic but marginal actors — like Yedioth’s special project against BDS. This process is not a Jewish invention, as we can learn form what happened in South Africa and Yugoslavia.

That is not to say that there exists no anti-Semitism or unfair criticism of Israel. Both exist — but they always did. Today, the problem is only consolidating: the occupation, which is approaching its 50th year, does not allow Israel to present itself as having clean hands. Until we reach an agreement with the Palestinian people, criticism of Israel will be considered legitimate and deserved, along with the sanctions that will be placed on the country.

Of course we are still far from the type of sanctions that were imposed on South Africa, and certainly from the military intervention that took place in Serbia — and I hope – and believe – we will never get there. But we can learn from those examples that the international community’s harsh, negative treatment suffered by those two countries was not meant to destroy or wipe them off the map. Nobody today questions the existence of South Africa or the countries that emerged from Yugoslavia, which were recognized by the UN. That is because the moment the central problem was resolved, the entire affair was over as far as the international community was concerned. And the central problem facing Israel is the occupation.

Dr. Tomer Persico is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Elyachar Center in Ben Gurion University. He also teaches at the department for Comparative Religion in Tel-Aviv University and at the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. BigCat

      What Is The Goal Of BDS?

      I think that in this kind of situation, it is better to let very outspoken haters of Israel answer that question. An example of such haters is Norman G. Finkelstein: a virulent and eloquent critic of Israel who is celebrated widely among neo-Nazis! Norman G. Finkelstein has no reason to lie with regard to the BDS. Here is Norman G. Finkelstein answering that question. Let’s listen and hear Finkelstein speak:

      Part 1:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol8xhTySKfM

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

        Part 2

        Destruction Of the State of Israel – is the Goal of the BDS-movement. Here is part 2 of Norman G. Finkelstein telling YOU that in his own words and in no uncertain term.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONlacD6f1cg

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      When the history of this problem is written the historians researching the predictable tendencies and reactions in the Israeli version Persico describes should turn to the right wing comments on these pages. They will gain a rich documentary trove of classic examples.

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

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

        BDS is a symptom of a larger problem. Folks in the part of the United States where you live are either at work or going to work now. But YOU, you are on +972 twenty four hours a day (except when you are sleeping) and seven days a week clinically fixating on- and obsessing with Jews and Israel, while neither having a job to support yourself nor caring about- or even knowing what goes on in your own country. That’s a trait we see in all foreign supporters of BDS: obsession with Jews and Israel. BDS is not about “human rights”, it is driven by envy, jealousy and hatred of the Jewish State. And you have that hate in you, Benny.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Another comment for the trove! Your effort is appreciated. One troll biscuit and a pat on the head for you today, Schnauzer. Back to your cage now, girl. Attagirl. Good Schnauzer.

          Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

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

            LoL….

            Reply to Comment
        • dekkers

          Nothing wrong with decent people around the world peacefully stand up to the brutal occupation. Bigcat even wants to make these people believe they are anti-semites. Just insane! The mental hospital let you out of your straitjacket again to post your usual insults and boring lies? Your next post is probably about food stamps (again).

          Reply to Comment
          • Weis

            The extremists seek to identify their desires with “all Jews” both to force support and to hide behind them with accusations of antisemitism.

            This manipulation is fundamentally dishonest, and is therefore a form of antisemitism itself.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Insightful.

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            Brian alias “Ben” alias “David T” alias “Dekkers” alias etc., talking to himself and congratulating himself. Time to take your meds and let “David T”. or Brian talk….Lol!

            Check this out, Brian:

            “True, significant parts of the BDS movement challenge the State of Israel’s right to exist as a nation state for the Jewish people. True, there are some in the radical Israeli left who see the 1948 war as Zionism’s original sin, the source of its unraveling”.

            That’s a QUOTE from +972 – i.e. a Jewish far-leftist website! Need I say more, Brian alias “Ben” alias “David T.” alias Dekkers, alias etc.?

            Reply to Comment
    3. Jacob

      Ben Dror Yemini is a star-right-wing columnist? That is categorically false.
      Tomer never wrote those words in the Hebrew version either – why have his words been mistranslated by +972?

      Reply to Comment
    4. JOEL CANTOR

      BDS = Bigotry, Duplicity & Shame
      Its been around since 2005 but has failed totally. 2014 data show Israel’s GDP per head now on a par with Japan.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Barrie Guy

      I think the article generalizes and attempts to simplify the situation too much .
      I don’t think that ending the occupation would end the Palestinian opposition to the state of Israel , as we have seen in Gaza .
      I am against the occupation , but I believe a lot of trust building is necessary on both sides before any agreement can be reached .

      Reply to Comment
      • Eliza

        It all depends on the meaning you attach to the word ‘occupation’. All that happened in Gaza is that Israel unilaterally removed all Jewish settlers and withdrew IDF presence. However, Israel maintained its control over the airspace and over land/sea borders. It maintained its control over the movement of goods and people in and out (albeit with varying degrees of co-operation with Egypt).

        Gaza is still considered territory occupied by Israel by the international community. And it should be as the control Israel is still able to exert on it means that the people of Gaza are unable to leave without Israeli passport or permission. It cannot enter into normal commercial trade. it cannot even import goods without Israeli permission.

        Any attempt by Israel to remove some or all of its Jewish settlers from the W/B and do a Gaza, that is, to maintain control over borders and the movement of people and goods can be expected to give rise to similar resistance. Would you accept to live under the yoke of another state? Why should the Palestinians.

        BDS can reasonably be expected to grow whilst Israel controls the lives of millions of non-Jews. Simple as that.

        Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          1. “It all depends on the meaning you attach to the word ‘occupation’.”

          Not true. International law has a specific definition for “occupation”. Didn’t you know that?

          2. “All that happened in Gaza is that Israel unilaterally removed all Jewish settlers and withdrew IDF presence.”

          Right. Gaza has been ethnically cleansed of it Jewish population. There is no single Jew living there; Gaza is completely Judenrhein! Israel did all that for peace. But instead of peace, Israel got back terrorism and murder of hundreds of her citizens.

          3. “However, Israel maintained its control over the airspace and over land/sea borders.”

          Not true. (a) Israel does NOT control the Gaza-Egypt border; (b) Israel, like other countries, controls its own borders with Gaza and has the right to do so; (c) naval blockade is not “occupation” under international law and is a legitimate form of self-defense!

          4. “It maintained its control over the movement of goods and people in and out (albeit with varying degrees of co-operation with Egypt).”

          Israel will not allow missiles and rockets into Gaza that will be fired indiscriminate into Israeli civilian population to kill as many Jews as possible. No sane person arms a deadly lunatic or allows such lunatic to arm himself with the knowledge that the lunatic will start killing innocent people! Not too difficult to understand, is it?

          5. “Gaza is still considered territory occupied by Israel by the international community. And it should be as the control Israel is still able to exert on it means that the people of Gaza are unable to leave without Israeli passport or permission. It cannot enter into normal commercial trade. it cannot even import goods without Israeli permission.”

          Nonsense. Who told you that “the people of Gaza” need Israel’s “passport or permission” to go anywhere that is not under Israeli sovereign control (because that’s completely NOT true, jackass)? Btw: Who is this “international community” you rant about? And on what is the mumbo jumbo based re the “international community” considers Gaza “occupied” by Israel?

          6. “ Would you accept to live under the yoke of another state? Why should the Palestinians.”

          Because the Palestinians have continually rejected a State of their own offered to them by Israel. As long as they continue to reject the State Israel offers them, they will continue to live with the consequences of their rejection.

          7. “BDS can reasonably be expected to grow whilst Israel controls the lives of millions of non-Jews. Simple as that.”

          Another hallucinatory mumbo jumbo! BDS is a racist, anti-Semitic movement. BDS is already dying slow death before it even started. But hey, continue sticking your head in the sand and wallow in your fantasy. The fantasy of destroying Israel has not materialized so far since 1948, has it?

          Question

          what about the 7-million “refugees” and the “right” of return? Ya think the Arabs will give that up after “occupation” is ended and there will be peace, or is realizing that right part of BDS?

          Reply to Comment
    6. Pedro X

      BDS encourages Palestinians not to work with Israelis but to prevent cooperation on all levels. BDS permits Palestinians to think that by violence and non-normalization tactics somehow Israel will exit Judea and Samaria and all of the eastern part of Jerusalem and then all of Israel. Somehow it has escaped the leaders of the BDS movement that Jews survived two millenniums of such anti-Semitic boycotts, sanctions and demonization.

      The absurdity of BDS was displayed last week when a Jerusalem Hug In event of Israelis and Palestinians in favor of peace and co-existence was broken up by Palestinian non-normalization activists who violently attacked the small meeting trying to encourage communication among Israelis and Palestinians. A Palestinian Minister of the PA defended the actions of the BDSers saying that the Palestinians who were attending the event were hoodwinked by their Israeli counterparts to attend. He said they attended only to get entry permits to Jerusalem.

      BDS encourages such violence against peace and negotiation. It encourages extremism on the Palestinian side so that extremism is the majority position in Palestinian society.

      The message from both the thugs and the PA to Palestinians was that activities supportive of peace and co-existence was treason. The message to Israelis was that peace and cooperation cannot even be discussed in Palestinian society.

      BDS helps creates an atmosphere which pushes peace and co-existence even farther away.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “BDS encourages Palestinians not to work with Israelis but to prevent cooperation on all levels.”

        Ya gotta love that. The Shin Bet praises Abbas’ cooperation on security. And we’re in thrall, just in thrall, to that marvelous cooperation shown by Bibi and Yvette and the settlers. LOL! Maybe Eli Ben Dahan and Ayelet “They should all die…their mothers must go too” Shaked will be even more “cooperative.” The world is watching. Professor Sternhell is right. Israelis cannot end the occupation. Outside pressure is a sine qua non. Which is why Noam Sheizaf is right about internationalizing the conversation with the English language +972 directed at an 80% non-Israeli audience–at least that was the number in 2012. The English version of Haaretz is another precious resource. Noam Sheizaf, Lisa Goldman, Mairav Zonszein, Ami Kaufman, et al.–these are remarkable people. History will judge them well. Look at the picture of the members of Black Sash, above. Look at how brave and lonely and ahead of their time they were.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jello

          Should they fail in their mission to destroy Israel they will be forgotten. Should they succeed they will be remembered in the same vein as the Kapos.

          Reply to Comment
    7. Bruce Gould

      I’m mystified. BigCat posted an interview with Norman Finkelstein; about 4 minutes in he declares that he has “no problem with the boycotts, the divestment, the sanctions”….

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol8xhTySKfM

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

        Finkelstein says that boycott in general is a right tactic, but that with regard to Israel the BDS-movement is a “CULT”, a “GHETTO”, “dishonest”, “silly”, “disingenuous” and “a whole lot of leftist posturing”, whose goal is to destroy Israel. “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!
        And Finkelstein goes on and on and on, ferociously devastating the anti-Semitic BDS-movement in a way to – my enormous annoyance – NO Israeli Official has been able to articulate. What Finkelstein said about the BDS against the Jewish State is exactly what the world needs to hear.

        Thank you again my good friend, Bruce, for re-posting that video-link. I will continue to post and highlight it at every given opportunity. When it comes to defending Israel against the haters, sometime the haters are more effective in doing that job better for us than we could.

        Reply to Comment
    8. The people who repond to the BDS call are not monolithic. There are far too many of them for that! Sadly, many may only object to the occupation (or, worse, only to the manner of the occupation — the settlements in particular). Ending the occupation (even ending the settlement project by total withdrawal of all settlers) might end the enthusiasm for BDS of many present-day BDSers.

      But the BDS project has other goals as well. BDS wants a democratic and non-discriminatory Israel, and wants “return” of Israel’s should-be citizens: the people who would have been Israeli citizens had the Palestinian Jews and, later, the Israelis, not conducted the massive expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 (“Nakba”).

      And those goals, while not intended to destroy Israel, would (if achieved) make Israel a good deal less a “Jewish state” and a good deal more a normal democracy like the USA and many European states.

      If and when Israel becomes a non-discriminatory democracy for all its citizens and should-be citizens, then claims that Israel behaves illegitimately will be much reduced. But it seems that that time is a long way off, and that Israel will increasingly (and in my view properly) be seen as behaving in an illegitimate way for a long while.

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

        Another foolish mambadunga-mambadunga-talk from Pablemont. Somehow BDS is now a tool for making countries more democratic that they are? Well, look around the Middle East and around world, fool. Israel is as democratic as the United States and more democratic than most European countries! So, I guess you have a lot of work to do before Israel could even start to remotely appear on your radar, or is there a special reason why fixate on Israel?

        Israel is a Jewish State – just like Germany is a German State (Germany = “Deutschland”, you jackass!), The Czech Republic is a Czech State, Denmark is a Danish State, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, etc. are all Arab States. Is there a special reason why you think that Jews aren’t entitled to a Jewish State, you little closet anti-Semite?

        And why exactly do you on the one hand completely forget the over one million Jewish people who were expelled from Arab countries and resettled in Israel and elsewhere, and on the other hand demand the return to Israel of several millions of Arabs to Israel who are the descendants of about the 750.000. who, also upon instruction by the Arab leadership, fled to create space for the advancing Arab armies to move in, destroy Israel and “throw the Jews into the sea”/commit another genocide against Jews? In your idiocy, do you ever factor in: the fact that the Arabs occupy 99% of the entire landmass of the Middle East while Israel occupies less than one-tenth of 1%?!

        You inane bunch of thugs come here masquerading as “human rights” activists, but in truth, you are driven by hate, envy, jealousy and anti-Semitism.

        Reply to Comment
        • Big-Cat: I was trying to elucidate the goals (and perhaps the prospects) of BDS. I was not trying to make them palatable to you or anyone else. Sadly I felt obmiged to “tip my hand” as to my own opinions. I guess I should be wary of that! Thanks for pointing up the inutility of “tipping ones hand” when mere elucidation was possible (and probably preferable).

          Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

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

            – Yitzhak Herzog.

            Racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism should and must be fought, not “elucidated”. If you are an honest and decent man who is for human rights, start unequivocally condemning the BDS-movement against Israel and spare us your “tipping hands” that actually offer us a mirror into your heart.

            Reply to Comment
    9. RudyM

      As people involved with the BDS movement become more radicalized, many will realize it’s not just about the occupation. It’s something more basic. It’s Zionism itself. It’s the bloody imposition of a Jewish state on an ethnically cleansed Palestine. You do not deserve to be rewarded for your aggression by the continuation of a Jewish state in Palestine any more than white South Africans deserved to be rewarded by preserving Apartheid.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Ben

      See? They say “Oh, horror! We’re not anything like those awful apartheid people, we’re not really anything like an apartheid state!” And then they give the game away completely by turning right around and making fun of brave people who battled apartheid when it was hard thing to do.

      Reply to Comment
    11. OLIVIER GEBUHRER

      Very good paper ; however it should be insisted upon the fact that , whatever criticisms ( and they are sharp ) against BDS movement , what endangers Israêl as a State ( not a “jewish” State) is nothing but the actual policy which breaks any kind of satements made in Israêl’s declaraton of Independance by which it abides to UNO resolutions ; the fact that this policy is by itself a danger is clear : this policy is opening the way to deligitimize Israêl ; I with other people in France , cooperating in ANOTHER JEWISH VOICE (http://uneautrevoixjuive.free.fr) ama fihghting against any attempt to deligitimize Israêl ; but our task becomes , one has to say more and more difficult. Israelian left oriented and other pacifists should understand that they must STOP occupation and fight firmly for opening true negociations in order to recognize the fundamental rights of the palestinian people; this is the only way to avoid endangering the State as such ; let not divert with “federative state” “solution” which is a no-go road or anything of the kind “one state with 2 people ” ; this will lead nowhere ; stop colonization , stop discriminations , prepare for the peace if you realy want peace

      Reply to Comment
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