A few minutes ago I got the following appeal for funds to combat yet another movement that threatens the very existence of the Jewish State. Here was the "scare" quote:
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions is a loose international network waging a campaign to delegitimize Israel's very existence, comprised of Arab and Islamic groups, so-called post-Zionist Jews and Israelis and elements of the radical European political left. Their call has even been adopted by some elements of the Christian Church. Using language that sounds liberal and claiming to seek justice they negate Israel's right to exist and call for a combination of actions to cripple Israel. Pretending to be rooted in the movement that ended apartheid in South Africa they oppose the two-state solution hiding their ultimate goal, the destruction of the state of Israel.
Who was behind this? ZOA? Or maybe AIPAC? Or even Hillel because of college campuses? I was aware that the Jewish Council for Public Affairs was taking aim at the BDS movement, as reported here.
But then I saw that the folks raising money were….Ameinu, which calls itself liberal and progressive! I mean these are the same guys who had a gushing interview with Sarah Beninga, one of the Sheikh Jarrah Activists here.
It's a pity they didn't ask Sarah and other Israeli activists where they stand on BDS. (Or maybe they did…)
It's also a pity that Ameinu can't raise money by talking about Sheikh Jarrah. I guess what brings in the money today is not countering Israeli injustice against the Palestinians, but saving Israel from imminent destruction
Look, there are reasonable people who oppose, on various grounds, the BDS movement. J-Street issued a sharply word-condemnation of the movement here and elsewhere. It has also has begun an innocuous campaign on campus called, "Invest, Don't Divest," which asks student to fork over two bucks (one for each of the two-states) to promote Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. It sure beats the Keren Ami money I forked over when I was in Hebrew school.
But there is a difference between opposing BDS on principled grounds and lying about it to raise money. And it's about time that both liberal Zionist orgs realize the following things about BDS:
First, BDS is a non-violent, mainly Palestinian movement. It brings together a lot of groups and is a big tent – including those who call for selective divestment from the companies that support the Occupation, or a partial boycott of Settlement products, to those who want a full-court international press against Israel. It has little real effect against an economic giant like Israel, but its symbolic importance is vital. It says that a price, even a symbolic one, must be paid for continuing injustice. And stopping injustice is its real goal, not a cover for the destruction of Israel. As the global movement website says here
BDS are the most effective non-violent, morally consistent means for achieving justice and genuine peace in the region through concerted international pressure similar to that applied on South African apartheid.
Second, while many of the BDS'ers are one-staters, many are two-staters. There is no inconsistency between calling for boycott and sanctions of Israel and being a Zionist. There is no inconsistency between divestment in some areas and investment in others. The BDS movement against South Africa did not hurt a single South African. Nor did it destroy South Africa. It set it on a progressive path. Just like Sarah Beninga and her fellow activists want to do with Israel.
Instead of demonizing the BDS movement, liberal Zionist organizations that call themselves progressive should offer reasoned and respectful arguments against it, if they like. They can stake out their opposition (both on principled grounds, and as a tactic to keep their place at the table) but they should also understand that true progressives must link arms in a broad-based coalition to focus on the real prize, which is the end of the Occupation, and the creation of just and decent societies in the Land of Israel/Palestine.
Most of all they should focus on the common enemy of the liberal Zionists and the progressive Palestinians the Status Quo-ers on the left and the right. I am convinced, for example, that on many campuses, liberal Zionists and Palestinians BDS'ers are on the same street.
And it is not J-Street.