What the Left Gets Wrong About BDS

BDS Israel Palestine

As a half-hearted supporter of the BDS movement against Israel, I’ve written about how zionists wrongly portray the movement as anti-Semitic. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some legitimate grounds to criticize a swathe of leftists on this issue.

Having said that, most of the criticism the BDS receives from rightists is undeserved. Ben Shapiro, a transphobic Alan Dershowitz, recently gave a talk to an audience in Pittsburgh. This was only a week after the shooting on the Tree of Life Synagogue in which a white supremacist killed 11 Jews.

With such a backdrop, Ben Shapiro had the nerve to downplay the threat of anti-Semitism facing Jews from white supremacists. He said that the most serious sort of anti-Semitism was in the leftist circles at universities. Of course, he was talking about the support for human rights of the Palestinians. I’ll explain why anti-Israel initiatives on college campuses aren’t anti-Semitic in a minute.

But first, Ben Shapiro knows he is lying. BDS (with its’ offshoots) is a non-violent movement. As is obvious from his comments, Ben cares more about the state of Israel than the physical security of the Jewish people. Like most Zionists, he ignores real anti-Semitism on the right just because rightists don’t criticize Israel.

But he calls leftists, who engage in a non-violent movement, anti-Semites due to their vocal denunciation of the Israeli policies. Disingenuous criticism of the left along those lines is bogus. Ben Shapiro and Alan Dershowitz both know that but they just keep pushing the lie. Because like communists in the 1930s, ‘cause is bigger than the truth‘ and they see Israel as a cause.

The criticism that the left merits, which the Zionists never mention, is one that’s a prerequisite for lasting peace. One reason they ignore legitimate criticisms is that ‘lasting peace‘ is impossible without a Palestinian state. And the Zionists shun everything that leads to a Palestinian state. The only Palestinian state Zionists want comprises of disassociated cantons. They may pay lip service to the two-state solution but since 1967, they have undermined it every step of the way.

The goal of the BDS movement should not be to perpetually punish Israel. It should be to implement the two-state solution. By definition, that means acceptance of Israel as a state. From that point of view, anyone who is not willing to recognize Israel in return of having Israel recognize Palestine ought to be excluded from the BDS.

That is the only way BDS can win greater public support. As the Arab states realized in 1967; ignoring Israel is not a realistic option. Almost all countries support the two-state solution. So when BDS is not explicit about the recognition of Israel, it makes it harder to win over the general public.

Like other movements on college campuses, that should be the ultimate goal of BDS. My criticism is that BDS public relations strategy does not make it clear. The reason for that is the Jewish leadership of the anti-Israel initiatives on college campuses. For example, SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) has mainly Jewish leaders.

To the Jewish leaders on campuses, it is glaringly obvious that their support for the two-state solution explicitly means recognizing the state of Israel. From a very young age, Jewish households discuss Israel and its’ politics so by the time Jewish students get to college, they have a good understanding of the conflict and its’ history.

This alone undermines the Zionist argument that anti-Israel initiatives including the BDS on college campuses are anti-Semitic in nature.

But for non-Jewish students, that is not the case. Their understanding of the conflict is limited. They mainly support the BDS on human rights grounds, which is a fair stance. BDS says that it stands on human rights and international law. I don’t like its’ neutrality on the two-state solution.

But to many non-Jewish supporters of the BDS, the aim of the BDS is to punish Israel for human rights abuses and the perpetual occupation. Rather than seeing BDS as a movement that leads to an ultimate goal (two-state solution), they think BDS exists just to punish Israel.

It does not make BDS anti-Semitic but its’ unwillingness to endorse the two-state solution makes it harder to win greater support.

When BDS takes a neutral stance on the two-state solution, it is mirroring Israel’s lack of conviction to reach a peaceful resolution. There cannot be lasting peace with only one state even if that state is the state of Palestine.

If the BDS doesn’t explicitly take a stand against those who want a Palestinian state but won’t recognize the state of Israel, it will remain on the fringe. To win broader public support, it needs to explicitly support the recognition of Israel as well.

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