Manipulation and Deception: The Anti-Israel “BDS” Campaign (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions)

, March 19, 2012

Vol. 12, No. 2    19 March 2012

  •  One of the weapons presently being used in the campaign to delegitimize Israel in the international community is the so-called “BDS movement,” targeting and manipulating social society and the general public at the grass-roots level to act against Israel in academic, commercial, social, and cultural fields.
  • This movement, inspired and generated by the infamous 2001 Durban UN Conference against Racism, bases itself on a number of very basic, general, and widely used political slogans, deliberately couched in terminology reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid regime and oft-repeated anti-Israel slogans prevalent in resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the Durban NGO Plan of Action. Such slogans include accusations that Israel is an “apartheid and colonizing state,” ” a “discriminatory occupation regime,” a violator of international law, a “repressive occupier,” and the like.
  • The nature of the campaign is such as to appeal to the genuine humanitarian sentiments of the grass-roots groups to whom they direct their efforts – whether these are students on campuses, members of the general public frequenting stores and supermarkets, attendees at cultural events, performers, or commercial entities trading with Israel. The aim is to manipulate these people, who are generally unfamiliar with the intricate details and history of the issues in the Middle East, by instilling into their minds an inherent bias against, and hostility towards, Israel. This targeted audience can easily and sincerely identify themselves with and support any movement that ostensibly opposes apartheid, discrimination, inequality, and colonialism.
  • This movement is composed of a relatively small number of full-time, well-financed, anti-Israel activists, who are inspired and encouraged by senior figures in the Palestinian public, including Omar Barghouti, Mustafa Barghouti, Nabil Sha’att, and others. They organize events mostly throughout Europe and in North America, raise funds, and arrange seminars, conferences, and demonstrations in support of isolating and boycotting Israel in every way possible. They claim to enjoy the support of hundreds of Arab, Palestinian, and other non-governmental organizations signatory to their basic documentation. However, upon examination, many of these NGOs appear to be either fictional, non-existent, and even, in some cases, front-organizations for Hamas and other terror groups.
  • Their mode of operation includes stalking members of the general public on the streets and arranging seminars intended to “brainwash” activists with factually inaccurate, misleading, and false information and accusations regarding Israel. It also includes threats of action against companies, suppliers, stores, academic institutions, as well as performers, unless they disassociate themselves from any Israel-related connection. In many cases this constitutes blatant harassment of the general public, and arbitrary denial of basic rights to freedom of choice, freedom to use public areas in shopping malls and streets, freedom to enter stores, freedom to purchase, freedom to conduct commercial relations, and freedom to choose cultural and artistic events. The BDS campaign thereby abuses democratic rights and freedoms in the social, cultural, commercial, and educational spheres of those countries in which it is conducted.
  • From the substantive point of view, the BDS campaign feeds on and demonstrates a blatant and deliberate ignorance and denial of the basic issues involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The oft-repeated use of such slogans as “apartheid” and “colonialism” and the like with respect to Israel demonstrates total ignorance of the significance of the terms used, and an acute lack of familiarity with the democratic character of Israel and the actual situation in the area.

A New Weapon to Delegitimize Israel

In an era where the tool of classical inter-state armed conflict has become impractical and even passé; where acts of terror to achieve political ends are increasingly viewed as self-defeating and counter-productive, the anti-Israel fixation has discovered a novel and imaginative tactic in waging its war against Israel. This tactic, termed “BDS,” is being employed in various quarters of civil society in order to harm Israel and question its legitimacy as a member of the international community.

 

The mainstream (and mostly Islamic fundamentalist) Arab terror groups such as Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and their ilk maintain their blatantly violent character and activities by planning and carrying out terror attacks on Israelis and others. However, the elements more closely connected to, or identified with, the PLO are in many respects restricted in the options that exist for them to operate against Israel, in light of the international commitments that the PLO has taken upon itself both as the universally acknowledged representative of the Palestinians in the United Nations, but also pursuant to their own obligations vis-à-vis Israel and the international community in the Oslo Accords, specifically to avoid acts of violence and terror.

 

Thus, the instigation, encouragement, and active support of a campaign directed toward delegitimization of Israel in the international community through use of legal, civil, and political tools is increasingly seen by those anti-Israel elements as a more appropriate and acceptable weapon, likely to generate wider support in the international community.

 

The Arab Boycott and UN Singling-Out of Israel

Economic boycott has always been considered to be and remains, an integral component of warfare. In this context, the so-called “Arab boycott” has existed as part of the ongoing Arab-Israel conflict, since before the beginning of the conflict.1

 

Similarly, attempts to isolate Israel within the United Nations and through United Nations resolutions have been, and still remain, a fixture and an annual ritual throughout the UN system of international organizations.

 

The Development of the BDS Campaign

 

However, over the last few years, in the context of attempts to harm Israel, the classical concept of international boycott as such has been both expanded and deepened from the original interstate, commercial type of boycott. It has taken on interesting and imaginative proportions among a far wider group of civil, social, and professional circles, the aim being to buttress the process of delegitimization of Israel through an orchestrated civil-society campaign aimed at reaching and influencing every level of civil society. Calls for divestment, sanctions, and economic boycott, whether directed against Israeli products sold in supermarkets or other stores, against Israeli artists and performers scheduled to appear, foreign groups or performers scheduled to appear in Israel, as well as against Israeli academics and academic or cultural institutions, have increasingly been issued by groups and individuals in Europe, North America, and elsewhere.

These calls base themselves on an assumption that the vast majority of Israelis, whether intellectuals, academics, the general public, as well as Israeli bodies and institutions, contribute directly to what they consider to be the “illegal Israeli occupation of the territories,” or at the very least are complicit and part-and-parcel of every aspect of Israel’s policies.

 

The Durban Conference

 

The roots of the BDS campaign can be traced principally to the infamous 2001 Durban UN Conference against Racism,2 and specifically to the NGO “Meeting in Solidarity with the Palestinian People” that accompanied it. Both these instances were characterized by blatant anti-Israel sentiment and activity by international activists – not only Palestinians – and an NGO plan of action that included such extreme anti-Israel slogans as the following: 3

 

423. …launch of an international anti-Israeli Apartheid movement as implemented against South African Apartheid through a global solidarity campaign network of international civil society, UN bodies and agencies, business communities and to end the conspiracy of silence among states, particularly the European Union and the United States.
424. …impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state as in the case of South Africa which means the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel.

 

Following these Durban calls, the campaign was conducted mostly through UN bodies, non-governmental organizations, and “civil society” or other renowned international frameworks, such as the World Social Forum,4 whenever possible, with a view to utilizing such platforms in order to provide the movement with much needed legitimacy.

 

The evolution of the boycott movement includes several dominant elements and relies on several platforms, mainly the academic establishment, the religious establishment, the cultural sphere, and professional unions. The idea of boycotting Israel in this modern context first arose when British academics Steven and Hillary Rose issued a call for a moratorium on European research and academic collaboration with Israeli institutions on 6 April 2002,5 in an article in the Guardian newspaper.

 

In December 2002, an appeal to the European Union not to renew its 1995 Association Agreement with Israel was issued in France by the University of Paris-VI (Pierre-et-Marie-Curie) and was endorsed by several other French universities.6 Similar calls were published in Italy and Australia, while in the United States, student and faculty groups at several universities including New York University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Princeton launched “divestment from Israel” campaigns. The Church of Sweden has called for a boycott of goods produced by Israeli “colonies” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.7 “Mainline” churches8 in the United States started publishing public condemnations of Israel as early as 2003, and by 2005 moved to “initiate a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel.”9 In April 2008 the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) called “on other Canadian unions to lobby against the apartheid-like practices of the Israeli state.” This was followed by a statement announcing that the CUPW will review all its investments and make sure that none of them go towards Israeli companies.10

 

Palestinian Authority

 

In an attempt to climb onto the bandwagon following Durban and institutionalize and lead the boycott and divestment campaign as part of the Palestinian struggle to enhance the delegitimization of Israel in the international community, the Palestinian Authority – the body entrusted by the PLO with the governance of the West Bank and Gaza areas under Palestinian control – called in 2002 for a comprehensive economic, cultural, and academic boycott of Israel.11 This was followed in October 2003 by a statement by Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the territories and abroad calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.12

 

While the overall inspiration for the BDS movement emanates from prominent personalities in the Palestinian leadership who consider the campaign as a major grass-roots component of their overall political strategy against Israel, they are by no means the sole source of energy behind the movement. While BDS has received several endorsements from within the Palestinian Authority, including from senior Palestinian officials such as Nabil Sha’att13 and Mustafa Barghouti (a key PA oppositionist with ties to European Muslim Brotherhood circles), or by NGOs connected with Fatah and Palestinian Authority figures such as Panorama – Palestinian Center for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, established by current Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki, the movement has in recent years only succeeded in mobilizing a motley international group of extreme left-wing and radical personalities and organizations, the orientation of which is, for whatever reason, to harm Israel.

 

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was officially launched in Ramallah on 6 April 2004. In July 2005, a document titled “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS” was released online. Its manifesto called for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until it complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights.14

 

This document sports a long list of over 100 endorsers of this call for BDS. However, a closer look reveals several reoccurring problems with this list:

 

  • Some of the endorsers are ambiguous at best. It is entirely unclear precisely where, who, or what the Consortium of Professional Associations15 or the Independent Federation of Unions16 are, as no reference or description is given.
  • Several of these BDS endorsers are evidently or virtually non-existent. There is no mention of the General Union of Palestinian Writers or the Jerusalem Cultural Association, to name just a few, anywhere other than the BDS website.
  • The list of endorsing organizations includes illegal associations, terror organizations, and their affiliates, such as the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine,17 which is a coordination forum for all Palestinian terror organizations in their ongoing fight against Israel. This forum includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestinian Liberation Front (acknowledged as a terrorist organization by the U.S., EU, and Canada) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (acknowledged as a terrorist organization by the U.S., EU, UK, Japan, Australia, and Canada).
  • Other endorsers include the Palestinian Return Center18 and El Huda,19 both illegal associations, and the Islah Charitable Society, connected to the Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Yemen, which mostly does overseas fundraising and money laundering for Muslim Brotherhood affiliates (such as Hamas) all over the Muslim world.20 The list also includes the Swiss-based Alkarama (Dignity) for Human Rights organization.In 2006Arab sources titledQatari professor Abdul Rahman bin Umair al-Nuaimi as Alkarama’s head. Nuaimi is also former general secretary of the Sheikh Eid bin Mahmoud Al-ThaniFoundation,21 which, according to PA officials, is one of the main charities funding Hamas.22 At least from early 2006, Nuaimi has also been general secretary of the Global Anti-Aggression Campaign, an international umbrella group that supports resistance and serves as a linkbetween Islamist, Salafi, and terrorist elements from around the world, including designated al-Qaeda figures.

 

Anti-Apartheid and UN Terminology

 

PACBI issued a statement of principles, addressed to the international community, deliberately utilizing standard UN terminology identified with specific situations, such as South Africa, former Yugoslavia, etc., urging to “struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid” inter alia through “comprehensively and consistently boycotting all Israeli academic and cultural institutions until Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its system of apartheid.”23

 

Within the global framework of the BDS movement, the Palestinian Civil Society National Committee issued a call on 9 July 2005 for a campaign of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel “until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights.”24 This committee claims to represent “Palestinian political parties, unions, associations, coalitions and organizations representing the three integral parts of the people of Palestine: refugees, Palestinians under occupation and Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

 

In November 2007 the campaign organized the first Palestinian BDS conference in Ramallah which established the BDS National Committee (BNC) as the Palestinian coordinating body for the campaign worldwide with the aim of “strengthening and spreading the culture of boycott as a central form of civil resistance to Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid,” formulate strategies and programs of action in accordance with the 9 July 2005 Palestinian Civil Society BDS Call, and facilitate coordination and provide support and encouragement to the various BDS campaign efforts in all locations.

 

International Activity

 

Social media and various online mass communication platforms have allowed the BDS movement to create the appearance of a mass movement. After due examination of the relevant documentation, the truth is in fact that there are only a handful of BDS activists performing repetitive actions that inflate the statistics of their online activity. Anyone following BDS activity will encounter several dominant names over and over again. The same method is used to enhance the list of endorsers. Many organizations are in fact a “one-person operation.” However, listing the organization rather than the person creates the appearance of mass support.

 

In a similar vein, at a February 2012 BDS conference held at the University of Pennsylvania, Prof. Sarah Schulman of City University of New York called for “Palestine…to become part of the American vocabulary in the way Americans learn about and digest information, like in the kinds of magazines you read in the laundromat.” “We have to brand BDS as something alive, progressive, increasingly available, with a human face, something Americans can relate to.”25

 

Cultural Boycott

 

A dominant and much publicized feature of the BDS movement is the cultural boycott. This activity has brought about the cancellation by several performers of concerts that were scheduled to take place in Israel. Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd), Elvis Costello, The Pixies, Coldplay, Gil Scott-Heron, and many others indeed cancelled their performances. Many of these artists released statements slandering Israel, based on BDS propaganda. American folk singer Pete Seeger went further than just making a statement and announced that he will donate half of all royalty proceedings from his song “Turn Turn Turn” to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.26

 

In this type of activity, BDS activists contact bands and performers scheduled to perform in Israel and advise/demand that they cancel their engagement. Several performers who refused to heed the BDS call faced direct threats to their persons and families. Some, such as Paul McCartney, nevertheless went through with their plans and performed in Israel as they intended,27 while others cancelled due to these threats. This intimidation and scare-tactics cast a shadow of doubt over the true reason for concert cancellations attributed to the BDS movement.

 

Commercial Boycott

 

The BDS movement is predominantly a public relations campaign, utilizing and manipulating people as its primary tool. It lacks the financial leverage needed to cause significant economic damage to the State of Israel. Efforts by BDS activists to harm Israel’s economic and commercial interests have met with partial success only.28 Despite expending considerable persuasive efforts at pushing through resolutions calling for boycotts and divestment in campus or professional union bodies, thereby giving the appearance of a public relations success, such calls have in most cases met with refusal and rejection by many such institutions in view of the inherent illegality of the boycott/divestment resolutions and their violation of social norms of equality and basic freedoms.

  • The UK National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) voted for a boycott of all Israeli academic institutions. While issuing this statement, NAFTHE was in the process of merging with another academic union to form the University and College Union (UCU). This new body announced to its members that such a “boycott call would be unlawful and cannot be implemented.”29

 

  • While the 2009 annual congress of the University and College Union passed a resolution to boycott Israeli academics and academic institutions, the leadership of UCU declared the resolution void, as the UCU’s legal advisors warned that “a boycott of that kind could trigger legal action against the union.”30

 

  • A regional chapter of the United Church of Canada(UCC) voted to boycott goods produced by Jewish settlements in the “occupied territories,” while a commission of the General Council of the UCC declined to support the boycott.31

 

  • The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) organized 150 Irish artists to issue a pledge to boycott Israel. However, it appears that these artists have neither been invited nor intended to appear in Israel.

 

Nevertheless, the actual ongoing harassment by BDS activists of the general public on the streets, as well as store-owners and neighbors, appears to have become a public irritant and subject for action within local municipal, provincial, and state legislatures.

 

An example is the 18-month-long picket – since October 2010, every Saturday afternoon -launched by the group called Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) in Montreal, Quebec, intended by BDS organizers “to make St. Denis an Israeli apartheid-free zone.” The focus of the demonstrators has been two shoe stores selling Israeli-made shoes.

 

Canadian businessman Jack Kincler calls this action by PAJU “economic terrorism” and believes Canada and Quebec must enact laws similar to those in the United States that limit boycotts, or in France where they are illegal. “Week after week these small businesses are being harassed,” he said. “Why is there no protection of their right to do business in peace?”32

 

Kincler has organized petitions to the Canadian and Quebec governments calling for a legislated ban against boycotts that harass or threaten any store or business selling products legally in Canada, as well as those that hinder any business activity involving goods from a country with which Canada or Quebec has a bilateral trade agreement.

 

A further petition to the Quebec National Assembly asks the Assembly to condemn boycott campaigns against products coming from countries with which a bilateral agreement exists, which includes Israel. “The boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] campaign against Israel threatens the freedom of commerce and incites hatred and intolerance,” the petition reads.

Academic Boycott

 

The academic arm of the BDS movement seeks to impose a distinct anathema to Israel on the student population of North American and European campuses in the hope that this will influence their opinions and actions after graduation, with their entry into professional, public, and social life. The major thrust of the BDS movement on campuses is “Israel Apartheid Week.” This infamous equation, that is so easily banded about without any real knowledge or awareness of its inaccurate and misleading nature, often takes on an extreme racist and even anti-Semitic nature. Thus, “Israel Apartheid Weeks” have become an accepted and harassing ritual during which a series of events staged by anti-Israel activists are held and Israel is equated with the racist regime of apartheid-era South Africa. All of these skewed programs teach an alternate reality rather than the authentic character of the modern State of Israel, which affords more rights to minority groups than any other country in the Middle East.33

 

Commenting on this curious but already ritualized equation, Asaf Romirowsky and John R. Cohn note:

 

Universities which should be bastions of critical thinking and opposition to fallacies of argument have become fertile ground for myth, fantasy, and lies about history. The “apartheid state” accusation is just one of many such fallacious rhetorical tropes used in the ongoing war of delegitimization that is being sponsored on campuses by those whose sole goal is to destroy Israel and its reputation for a generation of young Americans.
In fact, demonizing Israel through bogus charges of Apartheid has become common practice within pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist circles, but it is not borne out in fact.

 

Apartheid is an Afrikaans word that originally denoted the system of racial segregation and curtailment of rights of the non-white population of South Africa between 1948 and 1994. It is difficult to imagine a country more diverse and less segregated than Israel, where 15 religions have official status and where Muslims, Arabs, Christians, and others are represented in all professions, serve in the military and the Knesset (Israeli parliament), the Supreme Court and play leading roles in sports and the arts. Israel has welcomed and embraced Vietnamese “Boat People” and Cambodian refugees from genocide. Gay, lesbian and transgender people from all over the Middle East have found refuge in Israel. Israel’s Christian community is the only Christian community in any nation in the Middle East that has grown in number since 1948. But these facts have never gotten in the way of the mythic fantasies promoted by the BDSers whose sole goal is the destruction of the only functioning role model of human rights in the Middle East, Israel.34

 

In “The Campaign to Delegitimize Israel with the False Charge of Apartheid,” Prof. Robbie Sabel writes:

Israel is a multi-racial and multi-colored society and the Arab minority actively participates in the political process. There are Arab parliamentarians, Arab judges including on the Supreme Court, Arab cabinet ministers, Arab heads of hospital departments, Arab university professors, Arab diplomats in the Foreign Service, and very senior Arab police and army officers. Incitement to racism in Israel is a criminal offence, as is discrimination on the basis of race or religion.
The accusation is made that the very fact that Israel is considered a Jewish state proves an “Apartheid-like” situation. Yet the accusers have not a word of criticism against the tens of liberal democratic states that have Christian crosses incorporated in their flags, nor against the Muslim states with the half crescent symbol of Islam. For a Western state, with Jewish and Muslim minorities, to have Christmas as a national holiday is permissible, but for Israel to celebrate Passover as a national holiday is somehow racist. For various Arab states to denote themselves as Arab Republics is not objectionable.35

 

In an article in the New York Times on 31 October 2011, Judge Richard J. Goldstone, former justice of the South African Constitutional Court and chair of the 2009 UN Gaza fact-finding mission, stated:

 

In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts…committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Israeli Arabs – 20 percent of Israel’s population – vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.
…those who conflate the situations in Israel and the West Bank and liken both to the old South Africa do a disservice to all who hope for justice and peace.36

 

The Inherent Illegality of the BDS Campaign

 

The calls by the BDS movement and organizers to companies, individuals, and governments to boycott Israeli goods, whether produced in the territories or elsewhere, have no basis in law in Western democracies. Thus, it is not unlawful for democratic governments to purchase Israeli goods, including those produced in Israel’s towns and villages in the disputed areas. Similarly, private sector entities or persons bear no international legal responsibility for trading with Israel, performing in Israel, or purchasing Israeli-made products.

 

In those Arab countries (and the Palestinian Authority itself) that have obligated themselves in peace treaties and commercial agreements with Israel not to engage in any commercial boycott against Israel (“termination of economic boycotts and discriminatory barriers to the free movement of people and goods”), heeding such a BDS call is in effect a violation of those commitments and obligations.37

 

In this context, the European Court for Human Rights, in a judgment dated 16 July 2009, rejected the claim by a French mayor that his call for a boycott of Israeli food products in the municipal cafeteria represented a use of the freedom of expression. The court determined that such a boycott was nothing less than “incitement to an act of discrimination.”38

 

In a similar vein, British jurist Anthony Julius, in his study Trials of the Diaspora, described the boycott campaign as an act of violence:

 

What happens when people are boycotted? The ordinary courtesies of life are no longer extended to them. They are not acknowledged in the street; their goods are not bought; their services are not employed; invitations they hitherto could rely upon dry up; they find themselves isolated in company. The boycott is an act of violence, although of a paradoxical kind – one of recoil and exclusion rather than assault. The boycotted person is pushed away by the “general horror and common hate.” It is a denial amongst other things, of the boycotted person’s freedom of expression….To limit or deny self-expression is thus an attack at the root of what it is to be human. Of course, freedom of expression must incorporate freedom of address. It is not sufficient for the exercise of my freedom of expression simply to be free to speak. What matters to me is that people should also be free to hear me. There should at least be the possibility of dialogue. Boycotts put a barrier in front of the speaker. He can speak but he is prevented from communicating. When he addresses another, that other turns away. The boycott thus announces a certain moral distaste; it is always self-congratulatory….Boycotting is thus an activity especially susceptible to hypocrisy. It implies moral judgments both on the boycotter and boycotted.39

 

In Conclusion

 

  • Under the guise of advancing the cause of human rights, humanitarian law, peace, and justice, the BDS movement is, in effect, advocating the delegitimization of the State of Israel, with the support and leadership of elements within the Palestinian leadership, including elements connected with terror organizations.

 

  • The nature of the campaign is not the freedom of association and freedom of speech. It is the denial of the basic and inherent liberties of members of the general public to freely choose the products that they wish to purchase, the stores in which they choose to enter, the performances to which they choose to attend, and the companies with which they wish to trade.

 

  • It is a campaign based on false, misleading premises and a blatantly anti-Israel political platform. In most instances its calls to governments, companies, and individuals to institute boycotts and divestment are legally questionable.

 

  • It is aimed at manipulating members of the general public, people of conscience who have a bona fide, innocent, and genuine inclination to help the more unfortunate elements in international society, into supporting a cause of which they are generally ignorant and thus reliant on the propaganda disseminated by the BDS people.

 

  • It is organized by a small group of people, motivated by a genuine hatred of Israel and inspired by the infamous Durban NGO anti-Israel manifesto, intent on manipulating the grass-roots elements that they target, including, in some cases, by using threats to achieve their aims.

 

  • Generally speaking, the BDS campaign has no significant economic effect on Israel, and no political effect on Israel’s relations with other governments. Its influence is primarily in the public relations sphere. But a not-insignificant effect has been in implementing a cultural boycott to convince/coerce artists into canceling their scheduled performances in Israel.

 

  • Regrettably, the main influence of the BDS movement is vis-à-vis smaller bodies such as trade unions, academic and church bodies, and food supply stores where their incitement against Israel has succeeded in reaching elements in the general public.

 

  • The mode of action of the BDS campaign in harassing the general public and in impeding the enjoyment of basic liberties of freedom of choice and the rights to use public spaces and to access and purchase at places of choice – all in the name of harming Israel – is generating a counter-reaction against the BDS campaign.

 

It is inconceivable that small groups of politically motivated activists, intent on harming Israel, be permitted to abuse the rights and freedoms of the general public in democratic countries in order to harass members of the public in the conduct of their everyday lives, whether in stores, on the streets, on campuses, or at performances.

 

Clearly the solution to the issues between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors is not to sow further bitterness and hatred through acts of boycott, divestment and sanctions, but rather through the encouragement of dialogue, economic cooperation, bon-voisinage (good neighborliness), and close cultural relationships at all levels of society.

 

The BDS campaign runs directly against any genuine hope for, or concept of, peaceful co-existence. In the words of Richard Goldstone:

 

The mutual recognition and protection of the human dignity of all people is indispensable to bringing an end to hatred and anger. The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.40
It is high time that governmental, municipal, and city administrations, police authorities, and local communities wake up to this crude manipulation and abuse of the bona fides of their residents and take the necessary measures to curtail and terminate such abuse and manipulation.

 

*     *     *

 

Notes

 

1. The Arab League was founded in 1944, and in 1945 began a boycott of Zionist goods and services in the British-controlled Mandatory territory of Palestine. In 1948, following Israel’s War of Independence, the boycott was formalized against the State of Israel and broadened to include non-Israeli companies that maintain economic relations with Israel or that are perceived to support it. See http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33961.pdf

2. http://www.eyeontheun.org/assets/attachments/documents/durban_declaration.pdf

3. See paragraphs 423-425 0f 5h3 Durban NGO Program of Action, http://www.eyeontheun.org/assets/attachments/documents/durban_ngo_declaration_2001.pdf

4. http://www.worldsocialforum.info/news/palestine-world-education-forum-preparation-underway

5. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/apr/06/israel.guardianletters

6. http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=868

7. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1140438/posts

8. Protestant churches of different denominations, making up the majority of U.S. Christianity.

9.  http://www.umc.org/site/c.gjJTJbMUIuE/b.886089/k.A105/Two_United_Methodist_gatherings_urge_selective_divestment_from_Israel.htm

10. http://www.cupw.ca/index.cfm/ci_id/10664/la_id/1.htm

11. http://www.bdsmovement.net/activecamps/academic-boycott

12. http://boycottisrael.info/content/milestones-history-israeli-bds-movement-brief-chronology

13. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/more-up-our-sleeves-1.362000

14. http://www.bdsmovement.net/call#.T0DvIrHXDTg

15. Ibid.

16. http://www.bdsmovement.net/2008/palestinian-strategic-paper-222#.T0Ih6vHXDTh

17. http://www.adl.org/terrorism/symbols/palestinian_national_islamic_front.asp

18. http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/ipc_e171.htm

19. http://www.terrorfinance.org/the_terror_finance_blog/2006/08/an_australian_s.html

20. http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/html/final/eng/sib/2_05/funds.htm

21. http://www.alsaha.com/sahat/4/topics/70258

22. Consulate Jerusalem, 23/7/2007, Cable ID 07JERUSALEM1525, “Hamas money laundering scheme explained.”

23. http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869

24. http://www.bdsmovement.net/bdsintro; http://www.bdsmovement.net/call

25. Naomi Zeveloff, “BDS Movement Hopes to Go Mainstream,” Forward, February 29, 2012, http://spme.net/articles/8553/2/7/BDS-Movement-Hopes-To-Go-Mainstream.html

26. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/pete-seeger-officially-joins-anti-israel-boycott-1.346342

27. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2008/sep/16/mccartney.refuses.to.cancel.gig

28. One of the very few successes that the BDS movement attributes to itself is the French Veolia company that had been involved in the Jerusalem Light Railway’s maintenance work. The company sold part of its stock to an Israeli firm, thereby diminishing its involvement in the project.

29. http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=2829

30. http://www.jta.org/news/article/2009/06/01/1005531/british-union-votes-to-boycott-israeli-universities-academics

31. http://www.foundationsearch.ca/NewsArticles/1%5C108102435RR0003%5C108102435RR0003_20060822_Jerusalem%20Post,Israel_Canadian%20church%20group%20drops%20anti-Israel%20divestment%20program_THE%20UNITED%20CHURCH%20OF%20CANADA.pdf

32. http://www.cjnews.com/canada/st-denis-merchants-hurt-anti-israel-picketing

33. The fact that in many such cases prominent Arab members of Israel’s Parliament are invited by the organizers to participate in “Israel apartheid” events is perhaps indicative of the inherent contradiction in terms, especially since these members of the Knesset are proof of the democratic nature of Israel’s society and the full access given to all Israel’s citizens, Arabs included.

34. “Israel and Academia,” January 31, 2012, http://spme.net/articles/8493/2/6/BDS-and-Academia.html

35. http://www.jcpa.org/text/apartheid.pdf

36. Richard Goldstone, “Israel and the Apartheid Slander,” New York Times, October 31, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/opinion/israel-and-the-apartheid-slander.html?scp=1&sq=richard%20J%20Goldstone&st=cse

37. See Article III (3) of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Treaty of Peace, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/Israel-Egypt+Peace+Treaty.htm and Article 7(2) of the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/Israel-Jordan+Peace+Treaty.htm, in which the parties undertake “to remove all discriminatory barriers to normal economic relations, to terminate economic boycotts directed at each other, and to co-operate in terminating boycotts against either Party by third parties.” See also Annex IV (Economic Relations) to the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement that stresses in its preamble “mutual respect of each other’s economic interests, reciprocity, equity and fairness.”

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/THE+ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN+INTERIM+AGREEMENT+-+Annex+V.htm

38. European Court of Human Rights (cinquième section), Case No. 10883/05 en l’affaire Willem c. France, http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?item=1&portal=hbkm&action=html&highlight=10883/05%20%7C%2010883/05&sessionid=88203303&skin=hudoc-en

39. Anthony Julius, Trials of the Diaspora; A History of Anti-Semitism in England (Oxford: OUP, 2010), 482-483.

40. See footnote 36 above

About Amb. Alan Baker

Amb. Alan Baker, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel's ambassador to Canada.