The BDS movement is a legitimate form of nonviolent resistance
Views 21 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 10 - 24 - 2018 | By: Will Walker
Mason Garell made little sense last week as he wrote that economic efforts to resist Israel’s human rights violations, also called the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, are anti-Semitic because they single out the “Jewish state” and hold it to a different standard than other nations which commit other human rights violations.
The first and most obvious problem with his article is one of logic. If other countries commit more human rights violations than Israel, the obvious conclusion is that we should be expanding the BDS movement to combat additional human rights violations, not letting Israel off the hook by “wholeheartedly resisting” the BDS movement, as Garell demands we do.
Second, Garell’s assertion that efforts to hold the state of Israel accountable for its abuses are anti-Semitic presumes that the state of Israel is the embodiment of global Jewishness. In fact, out of the approximately 14.5 million Jews worldwide, only 6 million of them reside in Israel. Israel is just one part of the Jewish experience, which leads me to my third objection.
Garell’s article lacks an understanding of current power dynamics in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The state of Israel systematically discriminates against people of Arab descent in Israel, while Israeli Jews, with the help of their state, simultaneously occupy and settle the Palestinian West Bank and bombard and blockade the Palestinians unlucky enough to be stuck in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Jews are the powerful party in this situation. While Jewish people in the global sense are vulnerable to anti-Semitism, Jewish people with Israeli citizenship hold all the structural cards and therefore don’t need someone to call “anti-Semitism” on any effort to oppose their policies. Economic resistance to Israel is economic resistance to injustice, not aggression against the Jewish ethnicity.
Fourth, Garell’s article deals in sweeping generalizations. “Israel has and always will be committed to peaceful coexistence,” he writes, absurdly. He refuses to acknowledge that this is an entire nation with a 70-year history of doing its fair share and more to ensure that the conflict continues. Additionally, when Garell claims that “Palestine has never accepted a peace agreement,” one can’t help but wonder to what the word “Palestine” even refers. A Palestinian nation has never been recognized by Israel, so how could “Palestine” have rejected an offer from Israel? Garell’s confused terminology rules out any engagement with the multitude of factions within both sides. There is nothing wrong with not understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—it’s very complex. However, proclaiming an opinion on the conflict without understanding it is irresponsible.
I would like to return to Garell’s original topic, which is that of the BDS movement. I oppose terrorism in all its forms, which means I oppose Israeli military aggression as much as I as I am saddened by armed resistance to that aggression. But if we condemn Palestinians for choosing to resist their occupation with bullets, then what do we leave them? The BDS movement represents a creative and comprehensive attempt to mount an alternative, nonviolent resistance to Israel’s unjust policies. If we truly wish to see fewer missiles flying, we would do well to support this movement and fight for justice in the face of Israel’s power before more people resort to violent means.