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Boycott about Palestinian rights, not destroying Israel

Noam Wiener’s post against the BDS movement once again fails to understand the movement and the general plight of Palestinians.

I am really not sure how I missed this guest post by Noam Wiener on the boycott movement, and the flurry of comments it generated, but I wanted to add a few of my own. There were way too many comments to read and I am sure that I am reiterating what many of our in-tuned readers certainly stated, but here it goes.

I have two central issues with this piece, starting with the following excerpt:

When I choose to boycott somebody, I am telling that somebody that they are, for me, a non-entity. They become transparent, not to be addressed, not to be dealt with, and not to be considered. Boycotting means denying not just an entity’s business, but its voice.

1. I don’t believe boycott means what he says it means. I may boycott Nike because it practices child labor in Malaysia, but that does not mean I view Nike as a “non-entity” with no right to exist. Boycott is about Israeli practices, not about Israel. Unfortunately, inherent Israeli exclusionary practices that privilege one people and disenfranchise another fit this bill, and may consequently force Israel to be a state for all its citizens: not such a terrible thing in my estimation.

2. No matter how many times people say it, there are those like Noam Wiener who fail time and again to understand or empathize with the refugee issue. They can say the occupation is the source of all evil till they run out of breath, but they must acknowledge that the refugees are also not a “non-entity” and that their existence and plight must be addressed.

To say that Palestinians must recognize Israel and Israeli self-determination is fine. But Israelis must then recognize Palestine and Palestinian self-determination, which includes the self-determination of refugees who were driven from their homes and desire either to return or be given compensation and resettled. Israeli self-determination does not trump its Palestinian counterpart, nor the rights that are essential to this conflict. Jewish nationalism’s desire for a state of its own, in which Jews constitute the majority, cannot justly come at the expense of another people – like white South African society’s (forgive the overuse of this comparison) desire to have an exclusionary state at the expense of the black South African population.


I am not a spokesperson for BDS but I am going to attempt to reconcile what some people, including Norman Finkelstein, view as a contradiction in the movement’s logic. The argument goes that although the three-tiered platform of BDS sounds benign, together it amounts to the “destruction of Israel.” In my opinion Israel was established at the expense and destruction of Palestinian society, because of the inherent consequences of creating a majority Jewish state on top of what was a country that was populated by a non-Jewish majority. This intrinsic obstacle was rectified by Zionists through the displacement of the majority of Palestinians, forbidding their return and erasing the traces of their society and legacy. What BDS, and the Palestinian cause in general, has always been about is recovering Palestinian rights. Of course this means ending the exclusionary nature of Israel that perpetuates their dispossession and violation of their rights.

WHAT IT DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN is that Israelis must lose the full scope of Zionist tenets, which include a return of Jews to their ancestral homeland and the rebirth of Judaism and Jewish life within the context of their origins and spiritual center. Thus many of the social and cultural aspects of Zionism can continue, just not those that come at the expense and oppression of the Palestinian people.

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    1. Linah

      so basically, you’re advocating for the destruction of Israel.

      and why should the Israelis recognize the Palestinian right to exist/self-determination when Palestinians are always ululating about driving the Jews into the sea?

      also, Palestinians voluntarily left their villages because the Arab armies told them to do so. so it’s their fault they’re “refugees.”

      plus, the land belongs to the Jews. God said so. Palestinians didn’t even exist 5000 years ago.

      Reply to Comment
    2. aristeides

      I assume that Linah’s post is snark. It does sum up most of the lies and idiocies that have activated the lowest common denominator of Zionist so-called thought.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      I tried arguing your point (1) with Noam. He replied that if you’re boycotting only to rectify specific wrongs, then you should boycott only those things connected with those wrongs.
      I didn’t continue with that because I felt sorry for him with all the other commenters beating up on him, but anyway, that answer doesn’t hold up. It’s like in war: If you go to war to rectify some specific wrong, say a border dispute, then you don’t just attack those areas connected to the specific wrong. You don’t just bomb those enemy troops located on the disputed territory, for instance. You fight a *war*, and then you stop fighting (theoretically, at least) when your limited objective is achieved.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Noam W

      Omar thank you for your response. As you said, there has been a very developed discussion following my post, and I do not wish to rehash all that was said there. I would, however like to clarify one point that does come up there.

      I am, by all means cognizant of the harm we have caused the Palestinian population in 1947-48. I do not at all think that ’67 was our first wrong. I do think however, that bringing back so many millions of Palestinians into Israel will just create another wrong. That is why I advocate for the two state solution.

      I understand that this leaves the refugees short of full vindication of their rights. But these rights are not absolute and though recompense needs to be made, bringing about another injustice would in my opinion not be right. I am certain we are not in agreement about this – but it is important to note that this is not due to my ignorance of Palestinian plight and mistreatment by Israel, before and after ’67.
      Aaron, I disagree with you on the war front – when you go to war, if you attack civilians and wantonly destroy propery you commit a war crime. And at any rate, do we really want to say that what we are doing is justified because it is just like war?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Bill Pearlman

      Too cute by half. In Omar’s mind the “injustice” that he feels has befallen the Palestinians can only be rectified by the destruction of Israel. Which is what one state/BDS would mean. On another note that also means the end of Jewish life in the States. Post Treblinka, Babi Yar, Israel is the whole ball game.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Palestinian

      @ Linah ,you comment is a cocktail of paranoia, lies , hasbara (more lies) and fairytales ,great job

      Reply to Comment
    7. @Noam W,
      Well then that is definitely where we disagree, I do not hold Palestinian rights cheaper than Israeli ones. And certainly, the right of a refugee to go home is not worth less (or constitute another injustice, in your words) than an Israeli Jew’s ‘right’ to live in a state founded on the land and property of another people, which in other words his ‘right’ to ethno-supremacy.
      I find it supremely ironic that the state of Israel is premised on the return of Jewry to their ancestral homeland after thousands of years in exile, but that the return of Palestinians after six decades constitutes a historical ‘wrong.’ And in the case of the return of Palestinian refugees, we are not talking about the displacement of Israeli Jews now living in the country, but simply equal rights. That is the difference.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Richard Witty

      EVERY event in Israeli and Palestinian history has simultaneously dual moral characteristics.

      For example, Israeli independence (a liberation for the European and then pan-Arab world diaspora) was accompanied by war and forced dispossession of many Palestinians.

      ANY response to that reality that declares that the needs of the late-40’s and early 50’s Jewish refugees should have been negated (including the fantasy that the Arab population welcomed Jewish residence at the time), is a reactionary one, a form of wishing genocide in ways.

      There is no undoing the past. There is no possible significant expression of “right of return” now, as the majority of displaced are no longer living. The assertion of a “right of return” to their children, grand-children and great-grand-children is of an entirely different nature than the right of return of original residents.

      There are property rights that are genuinely at a state of contested, rather than consented, but the right of return is not a descriptor of the current reality.

      The BDS movement is sadly vague. The three demands make moral sense, and not practical sense.

      They are accompanied by the intentional ambiguity as to whether occupation means all of the land, or whether equal rights in Israel means the end of expedited immigration process for diaspora Jewry, or whether right of return applies to third generation and of whom specifically from original prohibition from return.

      The ambiguity adds up to advocacy of a single state with unlimited right of return, to anywhere in the single state.

      And, that directly is the end of Israel.

      With clarification that the BDS movement clearly does NOT advocate for the end of the self-governing jurisdiction of Israel, then it would have a different character, but the proponents of BDS will not undertake that, as that in itself would affirm the acceptance of Israel as Israel, and thereby lose many proponents.

      Renounce the slogan “Zionism is racism”, in thought and practice, and then BDS can be confidently understood as dissent against policies and practices, in contrast to dissent against existence and self-governance.

      Reply to Comment
    9. A B

      A crucial point in Omar Rahman’s comments remains unclear to me, and I would sincerely appreciate a clarification. Mr. Rahman writes: “To say that Palestinians must recognize Israel and Israeli self-determination is fine”. Now, the right of peoples to self-determination, as it is known and practiced in international law and relations, necessarily involves a designated piece of land, a territory, in which a people can exercise this right.

      I would like to ask whether, in Mr. Rahman’s view, there is such a territory in which Israeli-Jews, who consider themselves a people, may legitimately exercise their right to self-determination. In my understanding, Mr. Rahman’s brief comments suggest that there is no such territory (due to the claims of Palestinian refugees), and what he proposes instead in the last part of his words is a form of cultural autonomy. Is this indeed the case, or have I misread?

      Reply to Comment
    10. Joe

      Omar – I think you are stretching the point if you think all those who support the tactic of boycott are trying to force millions of refugees to return to Israel, and therefore prevent it from continuing as a Jewish homeland.

      Many are simply using it as a device to try to get Israel to compromise – as Palestinians have been forced to compromise time-after-time.

      Reply to Comment
    11. @Joe – I understand the tactic or objective of BDS and its supporters very well. But still there is a platform and that platform must be understood in its implications or else it will never stand up to argument, which was the point of Finkelstein in his now famous interview with Frank Barat.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Jazzy

      Just like I predicted, Noam’s piece has been used to move the conversation away from Finkelstein’s argument about PRAGMATISM, and back toward the BDS word-twisting ideology zone. No matter what Omar says, he HASN’T responded to Finkelstein’s argument, which is that the public DOESN’T AGREE with the softball definition of ‘elimination’ that Omar specifically, and BDS generally, use to sell the idea that letting millions of Palestinians into Israel is a reasonable proposition. The point is, Omar, Noam, everyone – it doesn’t MATTER what Omar thinks, or what BDS thinks, because the public DOESN’T AGREE. The moral case for BDS is IRRELEVANT because people aren’t buying it – THAT’S THE POINT. So, just to be clear, not Omar, not Ali Abunimah, not Sean O’Neill – nobody has actually responded to Finkelstein’s argument.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Joe

      @Omar – so if all the refugees were properly compensated rather than allowed back to their houses inside the 1967 borders, that would still be unacceptable to you?

      I think Finkelstein is essentially right (although I disagree that the tactic is the correct one to use, because of the impact upon the weak Palestinian economy) that there are some things which are never going to happen, like the mass return of refugees inside the 1967 borders. Why hold out for the impossible?

      Surely the only alternative is a stalemate where either side is only satisfied by the complete destruction of the other.

      Reply to Comment
    14. yael

      yawn, another BDS piece. There’s so much emphasis on this one tactic — and I do mean tactic, not strategy — that it seems to dominate every conversation on Palestine and Israel. Some days it just feels like a big distraction. Is BDS really trying to “destroy” Israel? No. But if it were it doesn’t seem to have much success. In fact, outside of a few activist networks, it just isn’t all that much of a factor in, well, anything, from changing foreign or domestic policy to impacting Israel’s economy. The world pre-BDS looks a lot like the world post-BDS. So at which point can we stop obsessing over this one tactic, which doesn’t seem to be particularly impactful, and start talking about anything else?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Joel

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful response, Omar. There is, however, one aspect that I feel is getting constantly lost in translation with regards to BDS and unfortunately on this site at large (see for example Dahlia and Omar’s exchange about Abba’s speech on Jerusalem). And that is simply to consider what exactly a particular writer intended to say and how that will be perceived by the “other.” Even if we are saying the exact same thing, different audiences can hear diametrically opposed things.
      Sometimes this selective hearing, might be deliberate, trying to change the subject or focus to something closer to one’s own heart. But most of the time this seems to be unintended, out of ignorance or inconsideration for the hopes and fears of the Other. Without equating any situation, both Israeli Jews and Palestinians have good (yet different) reasons to fear the less than honest intentions of the other.
      This is why it is really not that surprising that most of the time when the logic behind the BDS movement is presented it is PERCEIVED exactly the way Noam perceived it. Most of the time, supporters of BDS DO NOT make the effort to point out the right of Jewish self-determination and/or possibilities for social/cultural Zionism. It is very hard for an outsider to know if this is because of the earlier mentioned lack of nuanced communication, or because that actually is the intended goal of the BDS. So, considering that the refusal to recognize Jewish self-determination has been in the heart of most European Jewish history, it is maybe not so hard to understand why this fear is so persistent (regardless of all political abuse this history also has resulted in)?
      On the other hand, given the consequences Jewish self-determination has had on the Palestinian population it should not be hard to understand why Palestinians are sceptical to say the least of any prospect that would involve that in the future. Hence language often used in the BDS movement and in relation to anything with the word Zionism in it. And this in turn is something that critics of the BDS movement, like Noam, would do well to consider in the language choices they make.
      Non of this is to say that criticism shouldn’t or couldn’t be directed in all direction, but rather to emphasice the importance considering the audience and adapting the language accordingly. After all, we need to talk to each other, not some third part referee. Unless, of course, the mentality is that of War; to impose ones will on the other and leave them to the mercy of whoever has political upperhand at the moment.
      So, it all boils down to the difference Dahlia talked about; are we working towards imposing our will and justice on the other, or are we interested in that indeed doesn’t ensure one group’s right’s at the expense of the other (as is the case now)? Inevitably this means that absolute justice cannot be achieved either way, as there are elements in this conflict which really are mutually conclusive. But in the majority of things, for example who Jerusalem belongs to or if BDS can be conducted in a way that doesn’t neglect Jewish rights to self determination it doesn’t have to be either or. We can talk about Jerusalem as belonging to all of us, we can engage in BDS and communicate clearly our goals and intentions and we can criticise those parts of (or individuals in) BDS or Zionism that want to ensure rights at the expense of the other.
      Yes, there are real differences and hard conflicts, but they are hard enough in themselves, without adding the strains of misscommunication and missunderstanding into the equation. That’s why I challenge everyone to take those two extra minutes to consider what others really mean and how I myself can communicate my point with the target audience in mind. It’s not about what we say, but about what we make others understand.

      Reply to Comment
    16. sh

      Jazzy the public didn’t originally agree to an independent Palestinian state either, if it’s the Israeli public you’re talking about. BDS is relevant if only because it is a non-violent tool for combating violence. Finkelstein’s argument as I understood it was that the elimination of Israel as a home for Jews should be clearly specified not to be the goal.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Jazzy

      SH: Of course I’m not talking about the Israeli public. I’m talking about the American public, who are basically ignorant about BDS and aren’t sympathetic to Muslim Arabs anyway.

      Reply to Comment
    18. @Joe. I dont think that is up for me to decide or anyone else for that matter besides the refugee him/herself. It is essentially a matter of choice. Not even a Palestinian leader has the right to dispossess a Palestinian refugee of the right to return, which is enshrined in international law. I think that is part of the problem of the negotiating process. If Abu Mazen gave up the right of return, do you think the millions of refugees are going to accept that? If you look at the Dayton accords and the return of Bosnian refugees, this was considered the most fundamental principle. If there was no right of return then it was considered the agreement would not stand. It is certainly the most difficult issue of the entire conflict and we are not going to get anywhere without at least acknowledgement of this.

      Reply to Comment
    19. sh

      @Joel – “So, considering that the refusal to recognize Jewish self-determination has been in the heart of most European Jewish history”
      Gulp! It has? How do you figure that out? I thought most of European Jewish history has been about oppression and marginalization.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      Noam, you misunderstood my comparison of boycotts to war. Read my example again: hypothetically bombing enemy troops only in territories under dispute, and not engaging enemy troops elsewhere. The alternative to that absurd example isn’t total war, it’s war as it’s fought in the real world. I do mean to compare boycott to war, because the comparison shows the absurdity of your superficial congruence of means and ends.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Joel

      @SH: Yes, of course it has been about oppression and marginalization, but it has been related self-determination and self-identification. The opression and marginalization was largely BECAUSE Jews kept their religion and traditions and refused to assimilate or convert; they defined themselves through the terms they chose and for that they where prosecuted.

      Reply to Comment
    22. sh

      Joel, where in Europe before the late 19th century has it been related to self-determination?

      Reply to Comment
    23. Jazzy

      “Not even a Palestinian leader has the right to dispossess a Palestinian refugee of the right to return, which is enshrined in international law”
      OMG – PPL don’t you understand at this point that Omar is just MESSAGING. He’s talking past you, not at you, repeating crap he knows isn’t true, trying to make some half-assed ‘state practice’ argument while ignoring 90% of state practice on the issue. All the BDS ppl have left is trying to repeat ad nauseum the same easily refuted nonsense that Finkelstein has already explained isn’t persuasive outside the cult. Individuals of good faith, just stop egging these people on. Its not helping anyone!

      Reply to Comment
    24. Joe

      @Omar – I don’t think any international law was expected to cope with a situation whereby generations of displaced people were turned out of their houses for 70 years.

      I don’t agree it is about choice. If it was, then everyone could (in theory) chose to rehabit their villages inside the 1967 borders, register to vote and then pass laws which disenfranchise all Jews (because they’d be in the majority).

      The idea that leaders are unable to make compromises on behalf of everyone is false – Gandhi did it all the time. The point is not whether or not an issue is difficult, but whether anyone is prepared to compromise their ideals for what is satisfactory. At present, this is academic because Israel does not appear to want to compromise on the important issues of justice, of course.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Joel

      SH, most of Europe starting from the middle-ages. Jews where discriminated as long as they kept to their Judaism, if they converted to converted to christianity or adopted christian habbits they where more accepted. It has always been related to Jews determining for themselves their religion and traditions in cultural and social sense. Only in the late 19th century did political self-determination emerge in the picture. But self-determination has a lot of other dimensions too and those are the ones I’m talking about.
      The progms in Russia for example where quite happy if 1/3 of the Jews would die, 1/3 would move away and 1/3 would assimilate. Good Jews in Europe where the one’s who where least Jewish. That’s why I think right self-determination and right to self-identification has figure quite prominently in European Jewish history.
      But you don’t think so? Or you would not call this self-determination?

      Reply to Comment
    26. Bill Pearlman

      BDS is the spiritual stepchild of the Nazis. And that’s all it is

      Reply to Comment
    27. aristeides

      Noam has shifted his emphasis to another hollow argument – that justice to Palestinians involves creating a “new injustice” for Jews, and of course no injustice to Jews can ever be allowed, regardless of the injustice Palestinians must pay for it.

      But this argument is founded on error. In this case, restoration is justice, not injustice. Taking the property of another is a crime. Possession of that stolen property is a crime, as well. Restoration of that stolen property to the rightful owner does not in any way cause an injustice to the unlawful holder. It might cause the unlawful holder sorrow or pain or hardship, but not injustice. People like Noam and Witty use this term to create a false parallel, but the truth is otherwise.

      Suppose that on my wall is a painting. I paid a lot of money for it. But one day I am served with a summons that says the painting is really the property of a Jew, stolen by a Nazi, then stolen by a GI, who left it to his son, who sold it to me. The heirs of the original owner have gone to court to get it back. Now imagine that Noam, should he actually get a law degree, comes before the court and says on my behalf, “Your honor, it’s true that the original owner of this painting was unjustly deprived of it, but returning it would cause a new injustice to the current holder, who wants to keep it.”

      The difference is in the tacit principle of Zionism: Justice is what is claimed by Jews, injustice is what is suffered by Jews, and whoever suffers injustice in Israel, it must never, ever be a Jew.

      Reply to Comment
    28. sh

      Joel – “But you don’t think so? Or you would not call this self-determination?”
      No. It’s confusing.

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    29. Joel

      Past injustices, gives us rights. But we receive justice in the future, not the past.
      And it is by no means a noble principle in many western justice systems that we are forced to settle with a situation, which is not the one prior to the injustice, because it is deemed the most just solution.
      Think how different the “just” solution to the question of refugees is if we consider just a few different theories of justice! Utilitarianism, retributive justice, restorative justice, distributive justice, etc.
      Of course, one theory of justice might give a certain party more gain or political power in a particular question than another, but the roles might be reversed in another question. And in any case, when our emphasis shifts too much to gains and power, they are no longer means of justice. Instead, they become goals in themselves, which in turn we try to achieve with several means, one of which might be theories of justice.
      Justice, must therefore be holistic. It can never be completely universal, but there are non the less better and worse claims on universal justice. And it is this holistic and universal ideal of justice, we must measure any inevitably lacking claim of Palestinian or Israeli justice against. That’s also we can’t look at neither Israeli or Palestinian justice alone, separated from the other; they re inevitably intervined.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Joel

      SH – Point taken. Ironic, consider the point of the rest of my message.
      But non the less, a central theme in European anti-semitism has been to define Judaism for the Jews and not allow them to determine themselves what it means. This right to self-identification is a form of self-determination. And I think this is at heart of the fear or skepticism many feel towards the BDS and its goals, when it doesn’t specify what kind of self-determination it is opposed to.

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    31. Joe

      @Aristeides – I think at some point, though, you have to realise that things just aren’t going to go back to the way there were.

      If you go back several hundred years, my family were refugees who left everything. A few generations ago, my family had everything stolen from them. And that is just my family – everyone must have these kinds of stories at some point in their past.

      At what point does a historical wrong become too old to put back to the way it was before?

      I am not claiming it was right what happened in the Nakbka, it was broken and messed up and wrong. But nobody in good conscience can expect things to go back to the way they were 4 or 5 generations ago.

      I can’t go back and prosecute those who stole my grandfather’s life savings years ago. I can’t go back and claim the land my great-grandparents left all those years ago.

      And if I tried to, I’d probably find that some generations before that, the land had been owned by others or some other complication I’m not aware of.

      The refugees are not going back. Not going to happen.

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    32. directrob

      Every year the UN general assemblee votes for a resolution that among others also stresses “the need for a just resolution of the problem of Palestine refugees in conformity with its resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948″
      In effect this assures that Palestinians still have ownership of their land and can still choose to return to their land if they wish to return.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Sinjim

      @Joe: Is this what you would have told the Jewish Zionists in the late 1800s, who had been absent from the land not decades but centuries? Or is it just the Palestinians who are lucky enough to benefit from this reasoning?
      Ultimately, at the root of Noam’s argument is a very ignorant notion that Palestinians will all behave alike. If they’re given the right to return, they will all (like lemmings, perhaps?) rush back to their homeland. Regardless of their own personal lives, their means, their established connections to other places, all the millions will return in one fell swoop in the footsteps of the Mongolian hordes themselves.
      But if we leave this Zionist fantasy land, we’d see very clearly that that isn’t going to happen. Many Palestinians have made a life for themselves elsewhere. Others simply don’t have the means to move back. There are countless other reasons as well. “Cultural differences” not withstanding, Palestinians are still human beings and do not operate in a hive mind.
      This is not about creating some new injustice, as Noam would have you believe Palestinians’ rights would be. Rather it is about giving Palestinians the choice to exercise their right to return to their homeland. To deny a person that choice is incredibly cruel.
      And if you want to restrict it, then Jews should be subject to the exact same restrictions. There can be no justification for treating Palestinians and Jews differently before the law in a liberal democracy.

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    34. aristeides

      Joe – we are still within the lifetimes of the dispossessed Palestinians. Aged Nazi officials are still being arrested throughout the world. Jews and their heirs are still making claims for restitution of property stolen in 1940, but Arab property stolen eight, nine, ten years later – it’s been too long?

      That’s what all the Zionist arguments come down to, every time, special pleading.

      Of course things aren’t going to be able to return to what they were before. You can’t sit under a tree that was cut down 50 years ago. But that’s not what restitution requires in all cases. Equivalent compensation can usually be agreed on. But not if people cling to the notion that it constitutes a “new injustice.”

      Reply to Comment
    35. Joe

      Sure, I’d have said the same to the 1800s Zionists, I have no theology of the land.

      I don’t think Noam’s argument (on this point) is as weak as you suppose. Many refugees continue living in camps when they could have moved out. It seems very likely (at the very least) that the handing-on of pain through the generations would make it almost impossible not to attempt to regain lost villages.

      It is true that many in Jordan and elsewhere have made lives for themselves. But also many live in poor conditions in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and in camps in the West Bank. Given that the situation for Palestinian refugees is particularly hard in some of these countries (with restrictions on the kinds of jobs they can have), I’d say the vast majority of those living in camps would want to return, and the host governments would most likely want them to return. If that isn’t the case, why are people still living in the camps?

      As I said above, the choice you’re looking for is never going to be one you can choose. Unfortunately for the refugees, a just resolution is not going to involve them going back to the situation pre 1948 (or any other date you want to pick).

      Justice doesn’t just mean things going-back-to-the-way-they-were. It doesn’t always work like that. I’m sorry, but that is the way it is.

      Reply to Comment
    36. Joe

      @Aristeides – stick to this issue, not some other issue. A whole bunch of people were moved against their will off their land. Generations of people have lived on the land in the meantime. The Palestinian diaspora numbers millions, even a fraction of those wanting to return would cause a massive social impact. Do you know of any other situation that has comparable numbers? I don’t think there is one.

      There is no mass movement of refugees back to the places where they came from which would lead to a peaceful outcome for everyone. The Jews would be angry with the returnees, the returnees would be angry with the Jews. How could that lead to anything but war?

      Reply to Comment
    37. directrob

      I see no reason why the refugees overtaken by the Israeli state in the West Bank and Gaza should not be allowed to return now.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Bill Pearlman

      You guys can spin this all you want but let me ask Aristedes this. What is the incentive to the average Israeli to go along with this. Under your plan several million Arabs show up to kill him and his family. What’s the carrot in that one? Serious question.

      Reply to Comment
    39. Sinjim

      @Joe: Yes, I’m sure you’d have said it.
      In any case, Israel continues to have a law on the books that gives all Jews and their relatives anywhere in the world the right of immediate citizenship coupled with a policy that encourages 1000s of them to move there every year. All while denying the indigenous Palestinian population that very same right. If that isn’t racist, I don’t know what is.
      Look whether you understand this or not, not all Palestinians have the intention to return, even ones who have it bad (there are polls to back this up). What you’re offering is uninformed speculation about what is in the hearts of Palestinians everywhere. As I said there are countless reasons for why the “millions returning all at once” scenario is a fantasy. Uprooting one’s life, even one mired in poverty and abuse, for the unknown isn’t an easy thing. There are Palestinians who would much rather receive compensation for their losses at the hands of Zionists and have the governments where they live treat them better than leave everything they know behind for a new, uncertain life.
      The right of return is about giving Palestinians that right to choose what’s best for them, the very same choice that Jews all over the world have.
      As for whether or not it’s been done before, who cares? Before the 1960s, racial equality had never been done before, and guess what? Opening up economic, social, and political opportunities for wider class of people in America had a massive social impact, too. That’s always what happens when a previously excluded people are brought within the system. It doesn’t mean that the social impact can’t be managed so as to avoid escalation of conflict.

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    40. Richard Witty

      If you’ve read my comments over time, including this time, you’d note that I always insist that Palestinians receive their day in court to assert their property rights to property that was expropriated.

      That is an entirely different assertion of right than the right of return, which is the right to return to a jurisdiction.

      The entire question of ambiguity of BDS is about whether BDS is undertaken to institute reforms, or to institute the end of Israel.

      Absent clarification that its effort is definitively oriented to reforms, it will always be understood by the majority of thinking people in the world as a retributive (not restorative) form of “justice”.

      Its not clear that “justice” is even sought anyway.

      The goal of BDS, for a moralist, for someone seeking justice, should be the health of the Palestinian community, and not some negative formulation towards Israel.

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    41. aristeides

      Bill Pearlman – it’s not possible to take seriously the paranoid ravings of someone who declares “several million Arabs (will) show up to kill him and his family.”

      I sometimes think the only solution involves putting some kind of sanity drug into Israel’s drinking water.

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    42. aristeides

      Joe – after the reunification of Germany, more than three million ethnic Germans migrated to W Germany from the east. In addition, many non-German refugees found asylum there.

      Despite all kinds of ominous predictions from, among others, the Israelis, Germany not only survived, it’s currently thriving, carrying the sick of Europe on its back while feeding the Israeli parasite.

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    43. Bill Pearlman

      The Israeli parasite. You sure picked up the lingo. And what do you do with parasite. You kill them of course.

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    44. Bill Pearlman

      You don’t think the Jews are dead meat in your utopia. Look at Syria. Oh, wait. If Jews aren’t the bad guys it didn’t happen, did it.

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    45. A. Shore

      Ummm, if ” … the land belongs to the Jews. God said so … ” then why are you discussing anything here? Doesn’t that simply end it?

      IMO we simply can’t take that view and ever hope for peace. Both peoples have legitimate claims to land, and it’s going to take some leaders with vision and true leadership on both sides to find a solution.

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    46. AIG

      The BDS supporter’s argument can be paraphrased in the following way: If we take an iron statue, melt it down and make a completely different statue out of it, it does not mean we destroyed the original statue, after all, the original iron is still there.

      Well, the Jews in Israel do not agree. The shape of the iron matters, and altering the shape mean destroying the statue. The changes BDS supporters request are tantamount to “melting” Israel. Of course, the people will be there, but Israel, like the statue, would have been destroyed.

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    47. Kibbutznik

      ” I am, by all means cognizant of the harm we have caused the Palestinian population in 1947-48. I do not at all think that ’67 was our first wrong. I do think however, that bringing back so many millions of Palestinians into Israel will just create another wrong. That is why I advocate for the two state solution.

      I understand that this leaves the refugees short of full vindication of their rights. But these rights are not absolute and though recompense needs to be made, bringing about another injustice would in my opinion not be right. I am certain we are not in agreement about this – but it is important to note that this is not due to my ignorance of Palestinian plight and mistreatment by Israel, before and after ’67. ”

      Omar, I’m with Noam all the way on this and he and I are both from the Israeli Left .
      I have no problem with borders that give you an enough land to build your own state and even East Jerusalem as your capital but no way are you ever going to get ANY Israeli Gov to agree to millions of refugees returning to Israel proper .
      So my question to you is , why cant your refugees return to a Palestinian state why do you think after we have built our own state we should hand it over to you on a platter ??

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    48. daniel

      Funny. Even in a piece dedicated to proving that BDS isn’t for destroying Israel, the wrtiter seems to re-prove the opposite.
      Good work, Omar!

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    49. DTA

      @Kibbutznik: How about the refugees to return as some sort of a “resident” with their voting rights (govenmental – not municipal) applied only in the Palestenian state, while they can have access to their properties and local municipal services?

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    50. Kibbutznik

      No DTA .
      I have always been for a TSS , one state for them and one for us .
      The Israeli Arabs can choose where they want to live , there or here .
      A one state solution will never work , maybe 100 years from now but not today .
      First we sort out our own balagan between us and the religious , I want to see a state for ALL of our citizens with equality for all within Israel proper, before any talk of taking anything else on .
      The Palestinians need to concentrate on building their own state and stop dreaming of returning home to ours , cos it aint going to happen .

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