The strange world of BDS.


The BDS – Boycott Divestment Sanctions – website runs the tagline “Freedom Justice Equality“. A noble cause in the fight for Palestinian statehood, no doubt. Indeed, anyone with even a rudimentary belief in the universality of liberal principles, knows that natural liberty – whether black, white, religious, atheist, male, female, homosexual, heterosexual – precedes government, and must be protected before a government should be instituted. I was impressed to hear spokesman for The High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition Salem al-Meslet insist that any Syrian peace settlement must be:

“… founded upon liberty, equality, citizenship, & justice.”

– Similarly, A Palestinian state that does not protect the natural liberties of all Palestinians, is simply another oppressor, with an officially recognised flag.

Yet, it seems to be a growing tradition on the less-than-liberal left, to argue that criticism of Palestinian opposition movements like Hamas is invalid as it turns out they’re “democratically elected“. As if it’s a get out of criticism free card. Of course, the fact they were elected over ten years ago with no elections since, often goes unsaid. But let’s be clear, democracy without liberal protections, simply hands the natural liberty of minorities, over to a tyranny of the majority. Hamas’ treatment of the LGBT community is testament to that.

Right from its founding, the World of BDS is an interesting one. Their co-founder – Omar Barghouti – studied at Tel Aviv University in Israel whilst calling for academic boycotts of Israel. The same nation he accused “wilful acts of genocide” in the 2008 Gaza War, citing the UN Goldstone report – a report that Judge Goldstone himself backed away

from, insisting civilians were not targeted. Barghouti also referred to LGBT rights in Israel, as “pink-washing“. A flippant dismissal of basic human rights, something he and his movement care little for, in the sexuality-apartheid nations that surround Israel.

When BDS targeted the SodaStream factory in the West Bank, forcing its closure, and 500 Palestinians lost their jobs, Mahmoud Nawajaa, the BDS coordinator in the West Bank town of Ramallah told reporters that those lost jobs were:

“…part of the price that should be paid in the process of ending the occupation”

– Another price that must be worth paying, is the rare show of cooperation between Jews and Arabs, both of whom worked at the plant side by side. Instead of holding this to be an example of two warring communities putting aside their differences, and working together peacefully, BDS then released a statement on the closure of SodaStream, claiming that its proximity to a proposed settlement, was reason enough to throw 500 Palestinians out of work:

“Even if this announced closure goes ahead, SodaStream will remain implicated in the displacement of Palestinians. Its new Lehavim factory is close to Rahat, a planned township in the Naqab [Negev] desert, where Palestinian Bedouins are being forcefully transferred against their will. Sodastream, as a beneficiary of this plan, is complicit with this violation of human rights.”

– SodaStream was 9km away, on land no one lived on. And so, in the strange World of BDS, breaking up a factory of Jews and Arabs peacefully working together, was perfectly reasonable because if you drive for about five minutes down the road, there’s a proposed settlement.

And so given that it certainly isn’t just Israel at fault for poor treatment of the Palestinian people, & undermining peace, it’s odd to me – though less odd if you start from the premise that BDS is an anti-Semitic movement – that if you search ‘Israel‘ on BDS’ website, the results page goes on for days. But if you search ‘Hamas‘ – a group that daily violates the principles of “freedom, justice, equality“, and whose charter calls for the exact opposite, you get….. three results. None of which are critical. One can only deduce that BDS only cares for those three concepts, when violated by Israel, and not at all when violated daily by Hamas. Any analysis of the situation between Israel & Palestine is incomplete without critique of the forces within Palestine, as well as Israel. For BDS, the fault lies entirely with Israel, and not at all with the far-right theocrats who grew from the Brotherhood’s relationship with a European Fascist movement that tried to wipe out Jews…. who now happen to live next door to a Jewish state and want it gone. They’re free from critique, and blameless.

A big fan of BDS, is U2’s producer, Brian Eno. He’s so angry at human rights abuses, that he’s told an Israeli dance company that it’s unacceptable for them to use his music during their shows. Music that he is happy to play across the World, including all the dates he plays in human-rights abusing Mexico – a country that is far worse for human rights abuses, than Israel.

According to Amnesty, Mexico’s security forces:

“… have been implicated in repeated, serious human rights violations—including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture—in the course of efforts to combat organized crime.

…. More than 27,000 people remained missing or disappeared. Human rights defenders and journalists continued to be threatened, harassed or killed. The number of detentions, deportations and complaints of abuse of irregular migrants by the authorities increased significantly. Violence against women continued to be widespread. Large-scale development and resource exploitation projects were carried out without a legal framework regarding the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities they affected.

– Further, Human Rights Watch say:

“Torture is widely practiced in Mexico to obtain forced confessions and extract information. It is most frequently applied in the period between when victims are arbitrarily detained and when they are handed over to civilian prosecutors, a period in which they are often held incommunicado at military bases or illegal detention sites.”

– On top of this, Mexico has a child-labour problem, a violence against women problem, a massive corruption problem, and is one of the most dangerous places in the World for journalists. Eno plays in Mexico regularly, and I’ve yet to find his advocacy of the boycotting of Mexico.

If you cannot bring yourself to widen your sphere of blame to incorporate those groups in Palestine that seek the opposite of a state based on “freedom, Justice, & Equality“, and you’re willing to throw people out of work – people from both communities working peacefully together – you cannot be said to be a pro-Palestinian movement. If the target of your boycott is one nation, in a complex situation that involves surrounding nations, racist narratives from both sides, historical pressures, & religious supremacy, you are not pro-Palestinian. You are anti-Israel and nothing more. Palestinians – as noted with lack of regard for LGBT rights, and the response to the loss of jobs at SodaStreams – are simply used as a convenient and expendable vehicle to project that anti-Israel sentiment.

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