Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pro-Israel Means Anti-BDS

Over the past few years, various Jewish and non-Jewish individuals advocated, many in good faith, in support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as an effective tool for pressuring Israel's government and society to change policy on Palestinians and settlements. Some of these individuals were truly well-meaning. They saw in BDS - not the vile BDS of Ali Abunimah but the "soft" BDS of KFJ, of Jewschool fame - a low-friction option to influencing Israeli policy while remaining a pro-Israel Zionist in good standing.

Wasn't it perfectly foreseeable that instead of bending to such pressure, Israel's electorate would first see it as an infringement on the country's rights and sovereignty and instead respond with a government coalition to confront it? Let's keep that in mind the next time someone has a bright idea for pressuring Israel to change policy "for its own good".

With the passage of Israel's Boycott Ban, we are entering a new reality, where a plurality of Israel's citizens - living between the hammer of ongoing Palestinian violence and diplomatic aggression, the sickle of "human rights" groups and the anvil of international delegitimization efforts - have reached the conclusion that a form of war is being waged against them, a war to which they must begin to respond. Here are their new tools to do so:
The bill will allow citizens to sue individuals and groups that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts. It also prevents the government from doing business with companies that initiate or comply with such boycotts.
This law will probably be amended by court challenge, and will likely be better for it, but its essence, as an expression of popular will, should not be lost on us. Israel's society no longer considers BDS an acceptable venue for organized protest of government policy (the individual's right, of course, is reserved). You don't want to buy a bottle of wine because it was made by Jewish hands in the Shomron? It's every bigot's right. But launch a public campaign against the company and you've crossed the line from protest to predation. Furthermore, the blurry distinction between vile and "soft" BDS - in truth, the two enable one another - is sufficiently inconsequential as to be irrelevant. Those who consider themselves pro-Israel and pro-BDS are hereby put on notice - from now on, you've lost the right to be both.

The people who once advocated BDS as an attempt to make Israel a more open, pluralistic and liberal country, by their estimation, have now managed to fail, miserably and in the most counter-productive fashion imaginable. Perversely, if not predictably, their actions contributed to an inverse outcome than the one they sought. There is a mystical Jewish saying that "what comes from the heart, enters the heart". Whatever it was that pro-Israel BDS-supporters thought came from their hearts was received as an act of aggression, of rhetorical violence complementing and competing with actual violence for the same outcome. For the well-intentioned, perhaps some soul-searching is in order.

The international campaign of BDS, in all its forms, is no longer an outlet for legitimate dissent against Israeli policy, but a weapon in the hands of those at war for Israel's destruction. For those who truly care about Israel, this new law, no matter its fate, should serve as your wake up call: pro-Israel means anti-BDS. You want to change Israeli policy? Stop conspiring and confronting, and start convincing.

I've published a follow-up piece on the subject of BDS and Israel's Boycott Law. It delves more deeply into the issue, provides more context and insight and is recommended reading.
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