26 thoughts on “BDS and Its Discontents – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. The issue with breaking the silence isn’t as much the fact they ‘hang the dirty laundry outside’ as much as they take isolated incidents and present them as the norm.

    Many of the testimonies aren’t even of seeing the ‘crimes’ but rather ‘I heard that…’ or ‘I was told…’

    I’m yet to hear about a case when they provided evidence for those stories so whoever violated the rules can be trailed. Their goal isn’t to fix moral failures but to blackwash the IDF.

  2. These is another major distinction that Hasbara usually omits: the BDS movement is a Palestinian initiative, the original document is signed by more than 170 organizations from Palestinian civil society (from the OPT, from the present State of Israel, the neighbouring countries and the larger diaspora) : trade unions, organizarions of farmers, social workers, lawyers, doctors, teachers (from primary to university) etc, religious organizations (Muslims and Christians) etc.
    The BDS manifest was a direct response to the July 2004 advisory opinion by the International Court in Hague; the Wall is illegal according to international law.
    By the way, the civil war in Syria has lasted less than five years, and sanctions are already imposed on the regime, so the Syria-blahblah is really shooting themselves in the foot.

  3. Richard nicely argued. You wrote: “ .. because that’s the way I see the arguments of the academic and chattering class against BDS.  They understand that BDS is a moral critique that needs to be rebutted in order to protect Israel’s claim to legitimacy.”

    Israeli anxiety about the state’s legitimacy is indeed conspicuous. And there are good reasons for that apart from its own undermining of its claim to “moral legitimacy”.

    The founding myths concerning the events of 1947/48 have been largely demolished by the “new historians”.

    The historical tales concerning a more remote past based on the Bible (in which apparently Ben Gurion, with his two weekly “bible seminar”, still firmly believed) have been undermined by recent archaeological/historical research.

    The idea of a Jewish “ethnos” comprising beside the early diaspora the descendants of the Jews who were allegedly expelled after the second destruction of the Temple is also under heavy fire:

    . “However, a close examination of the historical event that apparently engendered the “second exile” in the year 70 CE, and an analysis of the Hebrew term golah (exile) and its connotation in late Hebrew, indicate that the national historical consciousness was a patchwork of disparate events and traditional elements. Only in this way could it function as an effective myth that provided modern Jews with a pathway to ethnic identity. The ultra-paradigm of deportation was essential for the construction of a long- term memory wherein an imaginary, exiled people-race could be described as the direct descendants of the former “people of the Bible.” As we shall see, the myth of uprooting and exile was fostered by the Christian tradition, from which it flowed into Jewish tradition and grew to be the truth engraved in history, …”

    Shlomo Sand “The Invention of the Jewish People” p.130


    The only remaining foothold is to be found in mere legalities and then even the pre-1967 borders do not seem to have a firm basis in international law.:

    “the undeniable fact that the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact of 1928, as definitively interpreted by the International Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1948, has abolished forever the idea of acquisition of territory by military conquest. No matter who was the aggressor, international borders cannot change by the process of war. Resort to war is itself illegal, and while self-defense is of course legal, a successful campaign of self-defense cannot extend so far as to constitute a new war of aggression all its own. And if it does, the land taken may at best be temporarily occupied, but cannot be annexed. Thus after all the Middle East wars, the bloodshed, aggressions and counter-aggressions, acts of terror, reprisals, and attendant UN resolutions, nothing has changed the legal situation as it existed after Resolution 181 was passed in 1947. The legal boundaries of Israel and Palestine remain today exactly as they were delimited in Resolution 181.”

    “ Israel cannot obtain legal title to any territory by conquest. Thus Israel’s borders were legally established by the United Nations Partition Resolution of 1947, which ended Great Britain’s power as a trustee on condition that an Arab State and a Jewish State would be established with borders as demarkated in the text of the resolution. Those borders remain the legal boundary of the State of Israel.”

    Professor Anthony d’Amato ( Northwestern University School of Law) “Israel’s Borders under International Law”

    The principle that no state can legally obtain territory by acts of war has been repeated in the preamble to UNSC Resolution 242 (“”Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war “)

    “Michael Lynk says that article 2 of the Charter embodied a prevailing legal principle that there could be “no title by conquest”. He says that principle had been expressed through numerous international conferences, doctrines and treaties since the late 19th Century. Lynk cites the examples of the First International Conference of American States in 1890; the United States Stimson Doctrine of 1932; the 1932 League of Nations resolution on Japanese aggression in China; the Buenos Aires Declaration of 1936; and the Atlantic Charter of 1941”[19] Surya Sharma says that a war in self-defense cannot result in acquisition of title by conquest.” (Wikipedia)

    This was also the position of the Scottish lawyer McHugo who devoted an interesting essay to UNSC Resolution 242.

    Professor d’Amato contends that the acceptance of the armistice line as the legal border of Israel by the Palestinian negotiators at Oslo did not basically change this position. Only a fully fledged Arab Palestinian state would have the right to make such a concession.

    In short Israelis have good reasons indeed to worry about delegitimation. They have not much to go by.

  4. NATO member, Turkey, is as democratic and Westernized as Israel. Let’s equally apply a boycott against Turkey for her occupation and settlement of Northern Cyprus.
    Turkey and Morocco are both belligerent occupiers of territory they’re not entitled to. Both have a large tourist industries that can be easily boycotted.

    And what does being Western or democratic have to do with anything?
    China is a gross violator of human rights and has occupied Tibet and the Uigur Provinces since the 1940’s.
    China is a manufacturing giant and can be easily boycotted.

    We had Iran in an economic stranglehold, and we made a nuclear deal while turning our backs on Iranian human rights violations and the IRGC exporting violence.

    Are you serious about cleaning up the world, or aren’t you?
    It sounds like your not.

  5. Turkey does not receive more US foreign aid that the rest of the recipients put together (yet has the highest GDP of all recipients!) It does not have a well-funded political machine at work in the US, demanding political favors and making/breaking politicians. Israel is a major expense and a major political factor in the US and US taxpayers have every right to focus, even minutely, on its violations of law and its hypocrisy. The Zionist state reaches into my pocket every year for a nice piece of change and, of course, that is only a fraction of my real expense in supporting that morally blighted land.

  6. @David

    So Turkey, China, Morocco and Iran are free to violate human rights and international law because they don’t receive US foreign aid?
    Do the people that they are oppressing understand that?

    Egypt is the second largest receiver of US foreign aid and they violate human rights on an even greater scale than Israel. Boycott?

    And BTW, David, the EU donates as much foreign aid as the United States does, and guess who receives the most aid from the EU?
    Turkey, Palestine and Afghanistan. That’s who.


  7. The aid to Turkey is meant to help it preparing for EU membership. The EU is trying to put a future corner of its own house in order. The aid to the Palestinians is also meant to compensate not only for Israel’s scandalous neglect but downright sabotage of the area. Furthermore it helps to fund the activities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees in the Near East. No need to ask who brought about this stream of refugees.

    As to BDS: Is there a pro-Turkey lobby that has an iron grip on US foreign policy? Is there a persistent pro-Turkey bias in the US – and most western media? Is the list of pro-Turkey columnists as long as your arm while the Greek cypriots find very few defenders (cp. Eric Alterman’s list of pro-=Israel columnists he drew up quite a while ago – the names on it have changed somewhat but probably not its length)? Regard the BDS movement as a still weak attempt to counterbalance all this.

    And for the rest you are just applying the last step of Gabriel Ash’s hilarious hasbara manual (http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com/2008/07/how-to-make-case-for-israel-and-win.html)

    Try to come up with something a bit more original.

  8. Egypt is appalling, but it certainly doesn’t violate human rights on a greater scale that Israel. Egypt is not an apartheid state, and Egypt does not engage in the social genocide of a militarily defeated people. As for actual deaths and tortures, I think Israel would lead in those categories as well, on a much smaller population basis.

    But really, the comparisons are not necessary. Just fess up, what Israel does is immoral, and it is intended: it needs to be addressed.

  9. @Arie

    And the Dutch got fat over the exploitation and slavery of the indigenous peoples of North America. South America, the Caribbean and South East Asia.

    Arie. Is there room for dessert?

  10. BDS is a legitimate non-violent means to apply pressure. If it really is the alternative to terrorism and wars that would be great. RIght now its just the icing on the cake.

    Having said that all of you people overlook the great elephant in the room: The US, Asia, and Europe were all built on colonialism, occupation, military conquests and population transfers that became fact– due to a combination of power balances and “agreements” between unequals. Suddenly, when it comes to Israel, and only Israel, the anti-Zionists say, the process froze in pre-Israel Palestine, and any change after that is immoral, illegal, oppression and apartheid. When it comes to Jewish nationalism, you get all self-righteous, are post-nationalists, in which Zionism is racist, illegitimate and immoral. Not so with the Palestinian nationalism.
    To all of you living in the US and Europe– how about turning the clock back and reverting the land that you live on to its previous owners? How about sending the Muslim Turkish Cretians back to Crete, and letting the Christians go back to Turkey? How about liberating Iran from the Muslims and giving it back to the Zorastrians?
    Another perverted claim is that nations that are actually closer to you– culturally, politically,economically, what have you– you should judge them harsher than others. Why, as foreign policy, what you want to do that? treat your friends and allies worse than others? Why is the “sin” of occupation worse than any other human rights violation?
    To all of you who frame the conflict by seeing Jews in Israel as a foreign implant oppressing the native peoples, and hope to turn the clock back to the Ottoman Empire, well, that is not going to happen. Israel will not dismantle itself, and it will not be dismantled by others.
    If you frame the conflict as the struggle between 2 legitimate national movements, well then, maybe there is hope. I don’t have to apologize if I happen to be on the stronger side.

  11. Remember when in January 2006, the Palestinians elected Hamas? Israel responded to this upstart democracy by kidnapping elected Hamas representatives members and locking them up, and the West fell into line with its own sanctions on the Palestinians. As always, Israel wants to have its cake and eat it, too.

    I don’t understand why BDS so upsets Israel and its supporters. It’s just intended as a gentle nudge to Israel to allow it to become the democracy it falsely claims to be.

  12. @Yehuda

    You wrote:

    “Suddenly, when it comes to Israel, and only Israel, the anti-Zionists say, the process froze in pre-Israel Palestine, and any change after that is immoral, illegal, oppression and apartheid. When it comes to Jewish nationalism, you get all self-righteous, are post-nationalists, in which Zionism is racist, illegitimate and immoral. Not so with the Palestinian nationalism.”

    The UN acknowledged those two nationalist movements in UNSC Res. 181. The fact is that even with the Green Line as border Israel has transgressed far beyond the border indicated in that Resolution. This has been accepted by both “the world” and the Palestinian negotiators even though a strong principle of international law has thus been violated, viz. that territory gained by conquest cannot be retained. The trouble has arisen because Israel has, in its greed, transgressed even beyond this Green Line.

    “Another perverted claim is that nations that are actually closer to you– culturally, politically,economically, what have you– you should judge them harsher than others. Why, as foreign policy, what you want to do that? treat your friends and allies worse than others? Why is the “sin” of occupation worse than any other human rights violation?”

    The claim that you are closer to “us” comes from you and your fellow travellers. You are invited to live up to that claim.

  13. The problem with BDS is not the Palestinians who decide to boycott, or maybe a few others, it is the common public who follows this as the new, latest fashion. People with no connection to the ‘Palestinian struggle’ are joining in order to feel better about themselves or for other even less productive reasons. They do not understand the complexities of the conflict and do not care to learn about the Israeli side of the equation.
    When those people don’t give a damn about other governments whose misconducts are far worse and don’t have the regional complexities which Israel faces, it makes them into hypocritical idiots who follow the herd b/c they don’t bother to learn.

  14. @Arik

    You wrote:

    “They do not understand the complexities of the conflict and do not care to learn about the Israeli side of the equation.”

    We have heard quite enough about “the Israeli side of the equation” – thank you.

    And ah those complexities:

    From an interview with Norman Finkelstein:

    “Does Israel want peace with the Palestinians?

    Everybody wants peace. That’s a truism. There is no point in accomplishing through war what you can accomplish through peace. The question is: peace on what terms? Then you start getting to the heart of the problem. Israel and Palestine is probably the least complex problem in the world today. Everybody agrees what the final-status questions are – borders, Jerusalem, settlements and refugees”


    And you wrote:

    “When those people don’t give a damn about other governments whose misconducts are far worse “

    I wrote way back on this blog:

    “What happens in Darfur is terrible and so is the mess in Congo. The Singhalese army is poised to eradicate the last of the Tamil Tigers. But neither the Sudanese nor the Sri lankan government, or one of the warlords of Congo, has set up a string of PR offices around the world and has thousands of pens at their command to ‘explain’ to the world that what they are doing is entirely justified and that, in fact, black is white.”

    But let me quote Chemi Shalev:

    “ … disproportionate coverage of Israel is, in many ways, the flip side and the natural outgrowth of the disproportionate support that Israel enjoys, especially in America. And the “double standards” are but a consequence, aren’t they, of the “shared values” that Americans and Israelis love to boast about. And bias, you must admit, can cut both ways.

    After all, the very same people who detect no bias when Republican presidential hopefuls fall all over themselves swearing their undying love for Israel, who sense no double standards when Palestinians are suddenly cast as “invented people” and who see nothing disproportionate in the fact that the time and attention devoted to Israel in the Republican debates usually corresponds to two and a half Chinas, with a Europe and India thrown in for good measure – these are usually the very same people who go bananas over a random sentence in a Tom Friedman article, who man the battle stations when a critical Roger Cohen column is published, who cry Eureka! over each and every anti-Israeli citation, in the process drawing attention to often obscure publications that no one would have heard of otherwise.”

    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/west-of-eden/don-t-always-knock-the-media-s-bias-and-double-standards-on-israel-you-ll-miss-them-when-they-re-gone-1.410895

  15. To Barbar, who writes ” . . the EU donates as much foreign aid as the US . . and guess who receives the most: Turkey, Palestine, Afghanistan.”

    You forgot to mention that such aid, especially in the case of Palestine, is primarily humanitarian aid, meant to provide essential health, education and other social services which would otherwise be totally lacking, given the stranglehold on the economy imposed by the occupation. Unlike the US’ billions to Israel which are quite openly designated as ‘military aid’, in fact conditioned on being spent in arms purchasing. Huge difference.
    And I would put the yearly aid to Egypt in the same category, as it has been the price/bribe to maintain peaceful co-existence with Israel since Camp David, which in effect places it squarely on Israel’s tab.

  16. @italian expat

    The quality and quantity of foreign aid question was never my point.
    My point had been that aid should be disconnected from censure.
    States that receive aid and States that don’t receive aid should be equally censured for violating human rights, breaking international law or committing war crimes.

    If Israel is to be boycotted and sanctioned, than so should Turkey, Morocco, China and Egypt, etc.
    Do you agree?

  17. @Arie “The aid to Turkey is meant to help it preparing…” “The aid to the Palestinians is also meant to…”
    These rationalizing statements (none of which you think are applicable to Israel) prove that your arguments are motivated by emotion. Many Americans think that there are good reasons for foreign aid to Israel, you are just not one of them.
    I admit this about myself- I am a Zionist, part of the “tribe”, and support my people, and am not ashamed about it. I am convinced that many of the things that Israel does, even if unpleasant, are necessary for its survival, and pale in comparison to what other countries have had to do to in order to defend themselves.
    You, for deep seated psychological reasons known only to you (or not) feel that Zionism and Israel is despicable, and therefore anything that it does or does not do is wrong. Even self defense is illegitimate. Since the Palestinians are the victims of this hated Israel, not matter what they do, they aren’t responsible.
    This isn’t about logic it’s about emotions.
    As far as UN resolutions and international law, well, let’s say that it would be easy to find many hundreds of violations around the world. For some reason Israel’s bothers you the most. Perhaps talk to a therapist to find out why.
    So that Richard won’t accuse me of dominating the threads with hasbara, I won’t post again today.

    1. Many Americans think that there are good reasons for foreign aid to Israel

      That’s actually changing quite quickly. Many pro Israel Americans believe this. But your average American with no bone to pick in the conflict is gradually souring on these foreign/military aid boondoggles, & Israel as well. Support for Israel is gradually declining, esp. among the young, who will eventually replace the older, more pro-Israel crowd.

      many of the things that Israel does, even if unpleasant, are necessary

      I’ll bet I can go into the historical archives and find German liberals who said precisely the same thing as Hitler made his rise to power. Congratulations, you’re in good company.

      feel that Zionism and Israel is despicable

      I am deeply suspect of anyone, but especially hasbarists like you who say of their opponents: “You feel,” “You say,” “You believe.” Invariably, the other party believes nothing close to what you claim. Arie is quite capable of saying what he believes without you putting words in his mouth.

      “Self-defense?” When has Israel ever engaged in “self-defense?” You’d have to go back 50 years to 1973 to find a time when self defense was remotely applicable to Israel.

      Perhaps talk to a therapist to find out why.

      Try this crap again & you’re outa here. A rule of thumb for people like you: you invariably think your snark is witty & your ripostes cutting. They’re not. So lay off. Don’t test me.

    1. @ Barbar: I agree Israel needs to be “pared down” a bit. Perhaps a bit along the lines of that “diet” Dov Weisglass wanted to put Gazans on. Israel needs a diet of humility and humaneness. It would slim the country down considerably. No more Occupation. No more state sponsored thievery. And yes, territorial limitations as well. Return to 67 borders. Right now Israel is a bloated mess. Sorta like Robert DeNiro in his boxing classic when he’s an out of weight has-been.

      I have no idea how you connected Arie to a Mondoweiss post. But if he isn’t specifically & directly connected to that post then you put words in his mouth. Which is absolutely prohibited here. You put words or arguments in anyone else’s mouth here & you’ll be toast.

  18. @ Barbar:

    Not sure you are expecting an answer – but ok, I’ll bite.

    I most definitely do NOT agree that a country which benefits from the financial largesse and military support of the US should be exempt from scrutiny from its benefactor and should indeed, if necessary, be threatened with sanctions – which would essentially be a reduction or outright withdrawal of such financial and military benefits. Whereas, obviously, we cannot threaten to do the same to
    a country that owes us nothing. Seriously, China? They own trillions of our national debt – not exactly in the position of a supplicant.

    But you are confusing boycotts with sanctions. I cannot force my government to sanction a certain country because I find that country’s human rights abuses disgraceful. But, as an individual and a consumer, I can certainly boycott any product -including tourism- connected to that particular country. Just as I boycott foods and other products that I know to have come at the cost of human or animal suffering and exploitation. That’s how I see the BDS movement, a non-violent economic protest, and when enough people join in, perhaps the various governments will be forced to take notice and listen to the will of the taxpayers.

  19. @Yehuda

    You wrote:

    “You, for deep seated psychological reasons known only to you (or not) …”

    You are as usual short on arguments and long on this kind of silliness.

    “Philosophy 103: Introduction to Logic
    Argumentum Ad Hominem


    Argumentum ad Hominem :… the fallacy of attacking the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a statement or an argument instead of trying to disprove the truth of the statement or the soundness of the argument. “

    1. You are the first person in years who’s used the term ‘argumentum ad hominem’ correctly. This particular issue is one of the banes of my existence. Sloppy, lazy hasbarists misuse it all the time.

      Oh, & Yehuda: I frown on confusing arguments with thinly veiled personal insults & insinuations. Unless you’re in contact with mental health professionals who know anything about what you insinuated in your comment (which you aren’t).

  20. Arie – you might be familiar with the details and have a real, substantial opinion. But how many people go into these details? How many repeat BDS or apartheid as a mantra w/o knowing much of the conflict.

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