The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is built upon the profound lie that Israel is a fundamentally unjust, apartheid state like the old South Africa.
While sometimes the propagandists of BDS seem to say that the movement is only seeking a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, the founders really believe that the Jewish state should be eliminated. They use this softer goal to gain entry for their more radical goals of destruction. “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free,” is spoken by the leaders.
This is one of the most pernicious movements today and has to be fought in prayer, speaking in churches, and by joining in Jewish organizational efforts to combat it. BDS is based on radical Islamic propaganda.
So how can you fight BDS?
Let’s look at the basic facts and afterwards some practical responses.
BDS proponents argue that the existence of Israel is a colonial project from Britain that supplanted the indigenous Arab culture. The Jewish people began to resettle Israel under Turkish Muslim rule. Though Britain passed the Balfour Declaration, that looked at all of Palestine (which then included Jordan) as the homeland of the Jewish people, in only a few short years, Britain changed its policy to favor the Arabs. As such, the Jewish settlements in the Land had to be attained by purchasing land from Arab landowners and then by the hard labor of building up farms and cities. No land was taken by force, and the Jewish people were mostly thwarted by colonial powers. Only in the 1948 War of Independence did Israel enlarge its territory in a defensive battle for survival after the Arab nations rejected a two-state solution.
Secondly, it is claimed that Israel is an apartheid society. I believe that intentionally, the proponents of this lie do not state clearly whether they mean the part of Israel that is west of the Green line and thus referring to the West Bank Arabs. Israeli Arabs have full citizenship and serve as doctors, nurses, lawyers, members of parliament (the Knesset), business owners, employs in hi-tech and even a Supreme Court justice. Israeli Arabs are catching up, and higher and higher percentages are in the universities and even Ph.D programs. Boycotting Israeli universities is a boycott against the very Arabs who also teach and attend such universities. Amazing! So there is no apartheid here as in South Africa, where the blacks did not have citizenship and were excluded from the larger society.
Thirdly, it is argued that Israel occupies the West Bank. Since the implementation of the Oslo agreements, the Palestinians are not occupied, but are ruled by their own leaders (the Palestinian Authority). Order is enforced by their own policy and security forces. Due to the struggle with Hamas, a terrorist organization, the Palestinian Authority under Mohammed Abbas has suspended elections and now rules as the leader of an oligarchy, not as a democracy. The one right that Palestinians on the West Bank do not have is the right to a state.
Fourthly, it is argued that Israel blockades Gaza, and it is like a Nazi concentration camp. What a gross libel. The only reason for the blockade on Gaza is that it was taken over in a coup against the Palestinian Authority by Hamas, which is committed to destroy Israel. Israel withdrew from Gaza and gave the Gazans freedom to be whatever they wanted if they would live in peace. Gaza only needs to do one thing, and then the blockade would be lifted. It is to give up their offensive missiles, and to declare an end of violence and war. BDS never mentions that Egypt is also enforcing the blockade, since they are at war with the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that give rise to Hamas. The blockade is legal under international law. The claim that this is somehow a genocide by Israel is almost insane. However, there is great suffering due to the oppressive and violent rule of Hamas. Israel does allow money and goods to transfer into Gaza to enable the survival of the people.
Fifthly, it is argued that there could be peace if only Israel would withdraw to the armistice lines from the end of the 1967 War (which were never an international border) and then allow the Palestinians to return to their homes. Israel cannot invite the descendants of those who became refugees in the ‘48 war to return since this would destroy the Jewish state. Such a solution for refugees anywhere has never been enjoined by international institutions. Israel is not the reason why there is not a solution. Israel offered the most generous two-state solution twice. When it was rejected the first time during the Barak government, then-US President Bill Clinton told Yasser Arafat, “You have made me a failure.” An intifada uprising against Israel then was engaged by Arafat! When an even more and very risky two-state solution was offered to Mahmoud Abbas by then-Prime Minister Olmert, he walked away. This is why Israelis in the great majority do not believe they have a real partner for peace negotiations. The idea that the reason there is not a final peace is all Israel’s fault is a profound lie, a gross lie. Dennis Ross, who was so involved in the negotiations, gives the true story. He was there! The whole BDS movement is built on lie upon lie.
What can you do?
Thankfully, you can connect to anti-BDS organizations in the United States and Europe. The first place for information and involvement is the organization Stop BDS. There is educational material and specific action points for involvement, especially in connection to universities. In Denver, pastors and congregational members have been mobilized and show up in protest at BDS campus events. This could happen in city after city.
Then there is the Maccabee Task Force, another worthy organization for your connection to fight BDS.
The America Israel Council represents Israelis in America and seeks to involve them as advocates to fight BDS. Encourage your Israeli friends to be part of this.
Shurat HaDin is involved in legal action and fights BDS as unlawful discrimination and as antisemitic. BDS accuses Israel of killing the innocent (which Israel never does intentionally) and they let the most abusive governments in the world off the hook. This double standard shows the antisemitic roots of BDS.
I would like to see every city have an organization to mobilize Christians and Jews, pastors and rabbis to protest BDS events, to bring literature to refute BDS lies and work on legislation to make their boycotts illegal. Already in 27 US states it is illegal for businesses to boycott Israel.
You can join a community of people fighting BDS by joining the Facebook page of Stop BDS. They have updates and instructions for continuing the fight. Your involvement in anti-BDS activities builds relationships with the Jewish people and is a positive witness of your love.
Dan Juster is Founding Director of the Tikkun America network of congregations. He has served in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972.