The fact that there are human rights abusers worse than Israel should not obscure the fact that the Palestinian-led BDS movement is asking for one thing: solidarity.
One of the most common claims one hears against the BDS movement is that it is hypocritical. “Why don’t they boycott Iran/Syria/Hamas/ISIS?” is a question that comes up quite often.
The answer? We actually do boycott other countries and groups. Iran and Syria are facing a harsh sanctions regime. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization across Europe and the United States, and the Gaza Strip is under siege by Israel and Egypt. Nearly every country in the West, the Mediterranean and the Arab world are fighting against the Islamic State. There are sanctions and boycotts on North Korea and Sudan, Cuba was under a U.S. embargo for decades, Russia is now being placed under sanctions, the list goes on.
Israel, on the other hand, is considered a Western, democratic country that is a signatory to major trade agreements, enjoys the status of a European country (in trade, academic relationships, Eurovision, etc.), received enormous, unprecedented sums of money and weapons from the United States, is a member of the OECD, etc.
Boycott activists claim that the same country that contravenes international law and holds millions of people under a military regime with no civil rights should not enjoy all the privileges of belonging to the developed world.
If Israel’s starting point was akin to that of Sudan, Syria, Iran or Somalia’s, it would have been impossible to launch a boycott campaign like BDS, simply because the country would have already been boycotted, its goods would not be sold in the West, artists would not come perform here, foreign banks would not invest in its economy, tourists would not come visit, etc.
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“But what about the U.S.? It sends its soldiers to occupy countries across the world, kills many more citizens than Israel, and maintains its rule on at least half of the world. So why don’t we boycott the U.S.?”
Why? Because it is the U.S. Because political activism ought to strive to be practical and realistic. Since there is no practical way to boycott the U.S., there is no way to win enough support for this kind of project — whether by citizens or by states who would sanction the U.S. — in order for it to succeed. The United States may be responsible for heinous crimes, but realistically, neither sanctions nor boycotts are going to change that.
All these comparisons ignore one simple truth: the BDS movement is Palestinian-based. The Palestinians, who have tried pretty much every way to cause Israel to end the occupation — from stone-throwing to the murder of civilians to popular protests to diplomacy — have decided to use the tool of boycott, and now they are the ones asking the world for help. Palestinians, who are struggling for their freedom, are not required to be objective. They do not need to prove that they are boycotting ISIS or the U.S.
The Palestinians are asking for solidarity in their struggle — people around the world will choose whether or not to support them. That is all there is to it. You can agree or disagree with the boycott movement, but these are the reasons Israel is being targeted.
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.