It has been a few years in the making, but those who advocate for boycotts against Israel are today facing very tough times. BDS, a campaign to demonize and delegitimize Israel while making Israel’s supporters feel like outcasts and social pariahs, has hit a brick wall. While, at first blush, it may have seemed like a reasonable tactic to show displeasure for certain Israeli government policies, most well-intentioned people now recognize BDS for what it is: a discriminatory blacklist.
Many are also coming to understand that the BDS campaign has within it a significant number of people openly advocating for the destruction of the State of Israel. This is a reality that was recently outed by Norman Finkelstein – himself a one-time supporter of BDS and certainly no friend to Israel.
Finkelstein is reported saying the following:
I mean we have to be honest, and I loathe the disingenuous. They don’t want Israel. They think they are being very clever; they call it their three-tier. We want the end of the occupation, the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever because they know the result of implementing all three is what, what is the result? You know and I know what the result is. There’s no Israel!
It’s not an accidental and unwitting omission that BDS does not mention Israel. You know that and I know that. It’s not like they’re “oh we forgot to mention it.” They won’t mention it because they know it will split the movement. ‘Cause there’s a large segment of the movement that wants to eliminate Israel.
For all his failures, Finkelstein is correct on this one and the inherent hypocrisy of BDS activists explains in part why BDS has failed to appeal to the mainstream. Just this weekend, BDS was dealt two big blows – first in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then in London, Ontario.
In Philadelphia, the Modern Language Association (MLA) – an organization representing approximately 25,000 academics around the world – held its annual convention, where delegates rejected a resolution calling for boycott measures against Israeli academics. It went further to pass a second resolution stating that academic or cultural boycott of Israel “contradicts the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature.” This is the second time in two years that moderate voices within the MLA have come together to defeat efforts by a small group of anti-Israel activists pushing BDS.
Some 24 hours later, at Western University’s Kings College in London, Ontario, pro-Israel students won an important appeals decision that will prevent use of the term “BDS” in any future student referenda on divestment. This is a slap to local anti-Israel activists who sought to bring forward a BDS referendum this semester. This decision follows on the heels of other significant BDS defeats – at the Universities of Toronto, Waterloo, and British Columbia and, indeed, at Queen’s Park.
Attempts by BDS proponents to blacklist Israeli products, companies, and Israelis themselves are failing for two key reasons.
First, overwhelmingly Canadians want what Israelis have to offer, whether produce, technology, medical systems, or educational exchanges. It’s difficult to persuade consumers they should revamp their entire lifestyle for any cause, let alone for something as self-evidently complex as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s a proposition that simply fails to resonate with most Canadians.
Second, the inherent antisemitism within the BDS movement is increasingly being exposed. It is undeniably racist to deny legitimacy to the world’s only Jewish state. Moreover, targeting Israelis for collective punishment based solely on their place of origin is – by any objective measure – discrimination. Canadians demand better.