BDS incites panic in Israel

BDS incites panic in Israel
Comment: As the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement gathers international momentum, attempts by Israel to delegitimise it, are akin to McCarthyism in 1950s America, writes Said Arikat.
5 min read
06 Jun, 2015
The BDS movement is modelled on the South African anti-apartheid campaigns [Anadolu]

A few days ago, Wednesday 3 June to be exact, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and members of his government turned on the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The Israeli prime minister - always echoed in the Halls of US Congress as in AIPAC - used language normally reserved for Hamas, or the Iranian nuclear program. 

Describing BDS as a "strategic threat" Netanyahu was reacting to the a vote by the national leadership of the United Kingdom's "National Union of Students" on Tuesday 2 June 2015 to align themselves with the BDS movement. This prompted him to tweet: "A national student group in Britain that voted to boycott Israel - refused to boycott ISIS. This is BDS."

Of course Netanyahu was smearing BDS by articulately spewing lies. What he did not mention is that the NUS national executive council adopted a resolution on 3 December 2015 condemning the Islamic State group "as a reactionary terrorist organisation that carries out atrocities" against people in the areas it operates in.

     BDS has steadily picked up momentum because it is a moral movement.

On the same day - Wednesday - Israeli president Reuven Rivlin echoed the same sentiment about how BDS poses a strategic threat to Israel. He told a group of Israeli academics: "I didn't think Israeli academia would face any real danger, but the atmosphere around the world is changing, and creating a situation in which it is impossible to deal with the issue as anything but a first-rate strategic threat."

However, it seems Netanyahu, Rivlin and Israel's supporters in the US have good reasons to worry.

First, with the Iranian nuclear deal looming at the end of this month, Netanyahu and apologists for the continued Israeli occupation and the crazy level of settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories, will likely lose the world's trumped-up preoccupation with Iran's potential for a nuclear bomb. It is probable there will be closer scrutiny by an otherwise complacent world of Israel's horrific occupation and apartheid policies against the Palestinians.

Second, BDS has steadily picked up momentum because it is a moral movement. It shows what the illegal and racist Israeli occupation is actually doing to Palestinians. It highlights the crimes against humanity Israel has systematically carried out against the Palestinians for over 67 years. It gives people around the world with moral fiber  a clear choice, either to stand up for human values or be aligned with a racist military occupation.

Netanyahu and Rivlin know this. Academically, where BDS is making a real difference relates to international academia withholding Israeli academic promotions. This would significantly decrease cooperation with Israeli enterprises and could lead to academic journals rejecting submissions by Israelis. This looming reckoning is among the wide-ranging list of ramifications that Israeli researchers already face, and brings back echoes of South Africa under apartheid.

In fact the non-violent grassroots movement founded by the Palestinians almost ten years ago in July 2005, is modelled on the South African anti-apartheid campaigns. It calls for an end to the occupation, equality for Palestinian citizens in Israel, and a resolution for Palestinian refugees of 1948.

One of its founders, Omar Barghouti, explains that BDS was launched by much of Palestinian civil society, "as a qualitatively new phase in the global struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice, and self-determination". 

Barghouti says more than 170 leading Palestinian political parties, trade union federations, women's unions, refugee rights groups, NGOs, and grassroots organisations called for "a boycott against Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law".

After years in which Israeli officials and commentators have loftily dismissed the impact of BDS, it seems that Netanyahu, Rivlin, AIPAC and the US Congress have taken notice.

Congress is erratically tying the passage of legislation that impacts on the lives of Americans across the US to banning BDS. At the same time, Netanyahu and AIPAC are redundantly and explicitly seeking to link the boycott movement to historic "anti-semitism". The Israeli prime minister made remarks in his keynote address to AIPAC predicting that BDS would fail because it was "on wrong side of the moral divide".

They ceaselessly point to those who call for the Palestinians' right of return to their homeland, or those who have given up on the moribund two-state option (euthanised by Israel's greed for Palestinian land), as evidence that BDS is equal to anti-semitism.

This panic is beginning to spread among Israel's settler colonialism on a level only seen in the final years of apartheid in South Africa.

Recent comments by senior Israeli politicians and their amplification in the Israeli media have given this assessment added credibility.

     BDS is all about Palestinians' rights, human rights, civil rights and national rights.
One only needs to look at the front page of the mass-circulated Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahoronth, which pressed the panic button a few days ago by allying itself with those "Fighting the boycott" and others sounding the alarm. Its main columnist, rightwing writer Ben-Dror Yemeni warned: "The success of BDS is particularly impressive because it's a movement that uses the language of rights."

Indeed, BDS is all about Palestinians' rights, human rights, civil rights and national rights.

But of course the fight remains uphill. Israel and its many lobbies in the US are using their bottomless financial resources and arm-twisting tactics to blackmail BDS supporters on US college campuses into submission.

A website called Canary Mission has been launched to create a "blacklist" of pro-Palestinian students and academics. Its homepage says: "The Canary Mission database was created to expose individuals and groups that are anti-Freedom, anti-American and anti-Semitic in order to protect the public and our democratic values."

The sites aims to damage the future economic prospects of the groups and individuals it profiles: "It is your duty to ensure that today's radicals are not tomorrow's employees," a narrator says on a video on the site.

No matter how you size-it up, this harkens back to McCarthyism in the 1950s when making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence was the trend for being a "Good American". It is Israel and its supporters that harangue everyone with their claims of occupying the high moral ground that are in the thick of this twisted blackmailing logic.

For years, under the cover of the phony peace process that was aided by a complacent Palestinian Authority, and the equally phony Iranian nuclear threat, Israel and its apologists have managed to conflate BDS with separate initiatives by the Palestinians to garner international support to end the occupation. That cover is slowly but surely is blown away.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.