Boycotting Israel is Wrong

Boycotting Israel is Wrong

by Philip Mendes and Nick Dyrenfurth

This academic overview of the boycott against Israel argues that the BDS campaign is “bad For Israelis, bad for Palestinians, and is corrosive of progressive movements and civil society”.

The authors believe the campaign plays on the lack of understanding about the complexity of the Israel-Palestine conflict and is ambiguous on many key issues in order to form a united front of those opposed to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Is the campaign designed to bring Israel to the negotiating table or to negate Jews’ right to national self-determination? Does it want to go back to 1967 or to 1948? Does “occupied territory” mean the West Bank or pre-1967 Israel? BDS formally takes no position on a two-state solution and there is a lack of clarity on its stand on the Palestinian right of return. This grey political mist benefits those who wish to delegitimise Israel.

The polarisation of the situation into simplistic categories – bad Israel, good Palestine – means that BDS prefers to oppose communal organisations rather than left-wing Jews who criticise the policies of the Israeli government yet do not disavow Zionism. There is a profound difference between left-wing Jews and the Jewish faction of the British left: the difference between British Jews and Jewish Britons.

The advocates of BDS prefer to bury any mention of the Geneva initiative – a structured partition of the land into two sovereign states, formulated by leading Israelis and Palestinians. It is also significant that the Palestinian National Boycott Committee denounced the Palestinian Peace Coalition in November 2014.

Unfortunately for BDS, a majority of Israelis just happen to be Jews – and occasionally anti-Zionism tips over into anti-Semitism. The authors cite a spin on the anti-apartheid song ‘Shoot the Boer’, changed by BDS supporters into ‘Dubula e judo’ (Shoot the Jew). There is selective outrage – directed only at Israel. The demand to the Jewish American musician Matisyahu to state his views at a recent Spanish music festival is also a sign of the growing authoritarian nature of BDS.

This short book describes the closing of the progressive mind from the era of decolonisation until the present day. It relates the ease with which the British left responds to the reactionaries instead of to the issue. It is a long way from the days of Aneurin Bevan, who castigated Arab nationalism for its inability to promulgate change. He, too, would be harshly criticised today for his stand on Israel by his self-proclaimed heirs.

Jewish Renaissance October 2015

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