A movement should not be judged solely by the motivations of its members. The pro-Palestinian movement known as BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) has a Janus face.
It includes a large number (the majority) of people animated by selfless, noble intentions, who are courageous and sincere believers that peaceful resistance methods are the only way to push Israel back/oppose its policies/make it “change its spots.” Some of them (members of ISM who also support BDS) have lost their lives for it and many of them place their lives at risk for this.
For organizations/churches/companies/unions to divest themselves of Israel-related interests is in fact a moral imperative, irrespective of whether their action does make a dent in Israeli interests or not. It is something they are morally obligated to do for themselves.
Despite the fact that some of the most ardent proponents of BDS (including a motley British mishpuchah kvetching on “greenie”‘s blog) pursue an agenda appropriately named by Gilad Atzmon “anti-zionist zionist (AZZ),” despite the clowning of one Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, superbly lampooned by David Holden, and famous for her efforts to make Israel change the labels on their oranges, despite all that …it does a soul good to see anti-Israel demonstrations in the West and protests and boycotts of Israeli emissaries, cultural or other, to see them booed.
It is definitely a selfish pleasure when you realize its lack of effect: that kind of humiliation has the opposite effect from the one intended, namely, instead of shaking the Israelis into awareness and shame, it strengthens their paranoia of eternal victims. Nevertheless, far from being an act of “vandalism” carried out by “hooligans,” it is a statement saying, “We know who you are and what you do and this is the welcome you deserve.” Such protests perhaps serve at least to educate others in the West who are ignorant of what their own governments are supporting, using their own money and perhaps to wake up some “diaspora” jews from their unquestioning support of Israel.
The other face of BDS is seen when the acronym is spelled out as “Beat your chest, Dissimulate and Sermonize, and is represented by a leadership that has shown itself to be a faithful follower of the script of Israeli interests by:
– the diligence with which they have become the helpers of Abe Foxman in “combatting anti-semitism,” declared a priority goal of pro-Palestinian activism, allegedly because of the movement’s dedicated fight against “all forms of racism and bigotry”;
– the promptness with which they condemn “violence” and “terrorism” perpetrated “by either side” (the ever present concern for “balance”) and sermonize on the nobility of “peaceful resistance”–expect quotes from Ghandi and MLK;
– their support of the “one state solution,” a goal to them, blind or willfully blind to see that one state is already a “fact on the ground”–the state for Jews, made up of three parts: the rich neighborhood (Jews) protected by one set of laws, the poor areas (Palestinians) oppressed by another set of laws, and the large prison called Gaza, the Gitmo of the ME –all one state.
It is hard to assume that the goals of these BDSers are pro-anything other than pro-themselves and their nests, which they have managed to feather with bits of straw thrown their way by pro-Israel individuals and organizations.
Yet I think that the motivations and the agendas are less relevant in judging a movement after several decades of existence, because what really counts are the results.
The results are non-existent. It is even possible that the only result is a negative one for Palestinians, feeding them false hope, encouraging them to resist “peacefully,” making them feel they “are not alone,” believing there are lots of people out there who will eventually persuade their own governments to influence the Israeli government, etc, etc. I find it amazing that in more than 60 years there have been no acts of terrorism carried out by Palestinians against the governments/interests of the big players in the West who feed and arm Israel.
BDSers often cite Rhodesia and South Africa as positive examples of apartheid regimes that fell supposedly because of the international boycotts. I used to think so too. Nothing could be further from the truth. They fell only because of the FEAR of the white minority regime of the enormous black majority who rose up in arms. Nothing but fear can make a bully back down.
Henning Mankell, who knows a thing or two about pro-Palestinian peaceful actions (he was on one of the boats trying to break the Gaza siege, was arrested, roughed up and robbed of all his possessions by the IDF) now has this to say about boycotts in his recent novel (The White Lioness, p.231):
“The Southern Rhodesia had cracked the sanctions [imposed on it by the West]. All politicians have dirty hands. Those vying for power set up and break rules according to the state of the game.
Despite the sanctions imposed by every country in the world apart from Portugal, Taiwan, Israel and South Africa, Southern Rhodesia had never run short of the goods it needed to import. Nor had their exports suffered any serious downturn. American and Soviet politicians both offered their services. The Americans, mostly senators for the South, considered it important to support the white minority government. Through an ingenious network of intermediaries, they had taken it upon themselves to lift the sanctions by backdoor methods. The Russians needed Rhodesian minerals for their industries. Soon there was nothing left but a mirage of isolation. Nevertheless, all over the world politicians continued to extol the success of their sanctions.”
Thirty years later “white South Africa, enriched by the lesson learned form its Rhodesian twin, also had many friends throughout the world, although their support was less conspicuous than what the blacks were getting.”
The fall of both regimes had nothing much to do with boycotts and everything to do with the only lever to move the white minority governments to cede power: FEAR of the black majority determined to topple them. The fear was caused by the realization that the ignorant blacks lacked schooling in peaceful resistance and did not even know the lyrics of Lennon’s ” All You Need is Love.”
“Not only have the whites been guilty of being on the offensive, but by some skilful manoeuvres, they have managed to control the responses of the blacks to the provocation. Not only have they kicked the black, but they have also told him how to react to the kick… He is now beginning to show signs that it is his right and duty to respond to the kick in the way he sees fit.“ — Steve Biko, freedom fighter against Apartheid, killed while under police arrest.
The tough lesson from this for Palestinians is this: You ARE alone. Due to ethnic cleansing over decades you are, unlike the blacks in South Africa, a minority in “Israel” but only if you forget the exiled Palestinians. Peaceful resistance only gives Israel more time to complete the job. Respond to the kick in the way you see fit.
The lesson from this to pro-Palestinian activists is this: the Palestinians do not need lectures about Ghandi. They only need material support. If a case is being made over and over about the need to give the Syrian “rebels” “humanitarian assistance” surely you, brave leaders of the pro-Palestinian movement, can make a case of the need to give Palestinians the same kind of “humanitarian materials” to defend themselves.
Leave the fight against “anti-semitism” to Abe Foxman: he needs no help. Stop being kappos in the pro-Palestinian movement and useless noise makers.