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December 03, 2015


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As I said, my issue is not with the principle of sanctions, but whether BDS is an appropriate policy response. First, the BDS movement itself is somewhat vague, it has a number of groups advancing the cause, each of which has somewhat differently stated objectives.

The mainstream states its objectives as:

"various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:

Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194."

All of this sounds perfectly reasonable - until you realise that Resolution 194 was adopted in 1948 and demands an array of things which, though certainly just in December 1948, are not wildly practicable today. And that is just the BDS advanced by one group - other groups insist that BDS be advanced and made conditional on other events happening or other actions by Israel - and you have a wild array of supporters ranging from fairly sober intellectuals to members of Black Block, etc.

Moreover, BDS is a non-governmental policy response (at least as it now stands) with the difficulties that such ad hoc policy creates - deciding what should be boycotted and why, and whether it is even a good idea. So you have those who simply want, they say, to boycott the products of Israeli settlements, which sounds straightforward, until you realise that many settlers are commuters to Israel proper, at businesses that numerous Israelis and Israeli Arabs who oppose the very policies at issue are employed. Should you boycott journalists from Haaretz for example? What about some of the Israeli Universities where the academics have been pretty open in their disdain for Netanyahu and Likud?

So leaving out the moral question (and Name Withheld by Request is childishly Likudnik while F BDS is - well, you know what I think) the bigger question is whether in this instance is BDS good policy - is it a strategy that will work - and if so work against what? some of what BDS movements want are clear and laudable goals (IMHO) but the whole list?

That said, BDS is scaring Israeli governments more than people realise. It is plausible to suggest that the BDS movement will start to prove a restraint on Israeli actions and policies. The most recent tantrum over EU labelling requirements for goods from settlements (requirements that the UK and several other member states of the EU have had for some time) was informative.

So in short, I am ambivalent - I do find much of Israeli policy and actions objectionable, but I am unconvinced that BDS is a wise policy response. That said F BDS and Name Withheld on Request are very persuasive...... a few more advocates like that and maybe I'll be convinced.


I'll add another point.

The recent +5 negotiations with Iran centred on the idea that if Iran would do certain things, primarily limit is nuclear program and open it to inspection, various sanctions on Iran would be rolled back. The response was the oafish tantrum that many of Israel's supporters, the Republican Party and Netanyahu engaged in. Now consider some of the advocates of BDS - and assume BDS is successful, both in getting various boycotts and sanctions in place, and indeed in getting Israel to make concessions. How do you think some of the BDS supporters are going to react when the response is a proposal to roll back BDS - well let me put it this way, you have seen a good example from Netanyahu et al of the behaviours that would ensue.

Some of those who want to advance BDS are absolutists, just like Netayahu and typical Likudnik - nothing will satisfy them short of the end of Israel, and if the BDS sanctions are put in place, then there will be no negotiating, they will just stay there, immutable.


I wasn't opining on the wisdom or efficacy of BDS, or the practicality of their goals, but simply responding to the characterization by Peter Friedman that their goals are somehow unclear. Some of their goals do seem impractical at this point, but so does Israel's apparent belief that it can run the clock out on the Palestinian issue and eventually something will change.

I think it's pretty well known that boycotts and embargoes oftentimes hurt the people they're intended to help; we've certainly seen that in Cuba, as well as previously in South Africa. I don't think the BDS movement, they just see it (like boycott/embargo actions before) that it's necessary pain for long-term gain.

The right of return is probably the least practical goal, but Israel has to do something there I think. Allowing a right of return of 5 million people to a nation of 8 million definitely seems impossibility, but I'm not sure what to do. Maybe some form of serious reparations.

What's always surprised me by the attacks on the right of return is the position taken by presumably otherwise rational, educated, 21st century citizens -- that Palestinians who fled in 1948 from a war zone lost the right to keep their homes simply by virtue of that flight. I have never heard any real defense of Israel's actions other than truly repellent arguments that Palestinians somehow had no collective cultural right to their homes, and therefore individual Palestinians could have their homes taken from them. Or, equally nonsensically, that because the fleeing Palestinians were "rooting" for the Arabs to beat Israel, that position justified having their homes taken from them.

Anyway, I agree that the BDS is scaring Israel, and its dwindling support in the US should scare them even more. I honestly don't think BDS supporters are in general the kind of radicals who insist on ideological purity, or at least few enough of them are that with a truly equitable compromise they won't be able to command any sort of non-fringe support.



Perhaps the Jews who fled Germany can go back and reclaim their homes.

Problem solved!

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