By: Rachel Zakharov and Rebecca Shiner  | 

BDS: Drop the "D"

The Boycott Divestment Sanctions Movement defines itself as a “Palestinian led movement for freedom, justice and equality...Uphold[ing] the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.” If this definition were true, then surely the movement would take issue with human rights violations worldwide, like the Black Lives Matter movement has. Israel is, after all, a  democracy with robust freedom of speech, religion and expression, and as much of a human rights violator as any other Western nation -- including the United States. There seems no reason to focus on Israel to the exclusion of known humans rights violators, like China and Saudi Arabia.

Some facts can help put this contention in a clearer light. On February 27th, The New York Times reported that China “expel[led] monks and nuns from major religious enclaves in a Tibetan region” as part of China’s continued oppression of Tibet. Tibet is a Buddhist state, whose religious leader, the Dalai Lama, declared independence from China in 1913. But Communist China, which considers Tibet to be a province in rebellion, invaded Tibet in 1950 for the region’s wealth of natural resources. The Chinese have been restricting Tibetan culture, religion and freedom ever since.

On January 3, 2016, The Independent published a list of Saudi Arabia’s 10 most egregious human rights violations. Among them: the incarceration of those who criticize the government, the arrest of women drivers and the deportation of migrants. The June 16, 2016 edition of The Washington Post also listed Saudi Arabia as a country where homosexuality is punishable by death. Has BDS ever concerned itself with any of this? No. And not just no, a resounding “NO.”

BDS’s vehement singling out of Israel for its human rights violations toward Palestinians is hypocrisy at best and anti-Semitism at worst. In fact, both sides of the aisle--and the green line--agree that the BDS movement amounts to the acronym created by the first and last initials of its name: B.S. In its party platform, updated as part of this past summer’s Republican National Convention, the Republican Party officially took the position that "We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier, and specifically recognize that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement ("BDS") is anti-Semitic in nature and seeks to destroy Israel." The Democratic Party in its party platform, also updated this past summer as part of the  Democratic National Convention, officially took a similar stance: “A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism. That is why we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself, including by retaining its qualitative military edge, and oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.”

Do these positions, with their judgement of the BDS movement, match the movement’s own definition where it claims to stand for “freedom, justice and equality?” No. On the contrary, both sides of the aisle agree that BDS stands for anti-Semitism.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uses harsh language to describe the reality of what it is that BDS truly stands for, as implied by both the Republican and Democratic parties: “B for bigotry, D for dishonesty, and S for shame. ” Does that constitute anti-Semitism? At its worst, absolutely. And is anti-Semitism, which is quite literally hatred, contrary to BDS’s claim that is stands for “freedom, justice and equality” and “the same rights as the rest of humanity?” At its best, yes.

Even Palestinian activist Bassem Eid, whose agenda is to promote a Palestinian, nationalist agenda, agrees that BDS is hypocritical, which is why he argues that the movement is counter-productive: “I’m opposed to the boycott because it only ends up harming the Palestinians themselves.” Take the SodaStream case, for example. In what was considered a victory for the BDS movement, SodaStream moved its factory from Mishor Adumim, which is in the West Bank, to Lehavim, which is in Israel proper, in 2014. The result was that over 500 hundred Palestinians lost their jobs, because they were denied permits to work in Israel proper. Did BDS really do those 500 Palestinians “justice?” No. Did this help the Palestinian cause? No.
Contrary to its definition that BDS is a “movement for freedom, justice and equality...Uphold[ing] the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity,” the movement has become a cover for and normalizing agent of anti-Semitism. As Republican Representative Ted Cruz said in response to David Friedman’s nomination as the US ambassador to Israel: “biased resolutions at the United Nations and the discriminatory Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement,” are an impediment to a strong Israel, whose alliance with America is critical as the Middle East grows increasingly unstable, and an impediment to peace.