Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The BDS movement is not anti-Semitic

By Rami Khouri


It is hard to think of two politicians in the world whose reputation for insincerity and political expediency is as great as American presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
So when they both read out of the same messaging book on international criticism of Israel’s policies and boycott, divestment and sanctions moves against its colonization and subjugation of Palestinians, it probably means we should pay attention, because this is going to become a major media theme in the months ahead.
Sadly, but predictably, they both distort the truth about precisely why and how people, organizations and governments around the world are increasingly criticizing the illegal practices of the Israeli state, such as colonizing Palestinian lands. They unfortunately lie and distort when they claim the world and the Arabs seek to vilifyIsrael simply because it represents Jewish people, when the truth is that the world and Arab governments are hard at work behind the scenes seeking a way to relaunch the 2002 Arab Peace Plan that aims to achieve a peace agreement with Israel and the millions of Jews it represents.
The Israeli government worked closely with major elements of the American political system in the past two years to try and block or significantly modify the current agreement being negotiated withIran on nuclear issues and sanctions. That attempt seems to have failed, as a nuclear agreement appears to be imminent, for which we should all give thanks. It is likely that Israel will now try to achieve the kinds of policy reversals with boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) moves around the world that it was not able to achieve on the Iran issue.
In most cases, the Israeli government and its parrot-like apologists and cheerleaders in the West, such as most American presidential candidates try to frame the BDS movement as an anti-Semitic hate movement that dislikes Jews simply for being Jews, and wants to delegitimize and discredit Israel simply because it is Israel.
Having failed to convince the world that Iran is as dangerous as Adolph Hitler, and that Hamas is as dangerous as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, their focus now will include an attempt to portray BDS as a new form of blind anti-Semitic hatred that only seeks to destroy Israel and deny Jews anywhere a normal life.
The measurable, tangible impact of the BDS movement on Israel’s economy and well-being is not immense, but it is a reality. More importantly, it seems to be picking up momentum around the world, including in Europe and North America. Clinton and Netanyahu both have spoken out forcefully on this issue. Clinton earlier this week wrote to Haim Saban, a leading Jewish supporter of political causes in the U.S., and criticized comparisons widely being made between Israel and the apartheid regime in South Africa. She sought to work with Saban and others to, “reverse this trend with information and advocacy, and fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”
Clinton framed this within the context of what she saw as anti-Semitism being on the rise around the world, and said that now is the time “to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.”
Hilary Clinton should stop lying. The BDS movement that includes divestment and boycott moves by leading American churches and European banks and even some governments is not trying to delegitimize Israel; it is trying to stop Israel’s criminal, exploitative and oppressive behavior in occupied Palestinian lands, and against Palestinians inside Israel proper and in exile.
The Arab world, through its governments, has come to terms with the reality of Israel in the form of the 2002 Arab Peace Plan, which offers Israel, Palestine and all Arab states the opportunity to coexist in peace and, more importantly, with equal rights. The BDS movement does not take a stand on these issues, but rather focuses on using legitimate, nonviolent political pressure to curtail Israeli practices, such as colonial settlements, that are widely seen around the world as being contrary to international law and convention. This is the same approach that Israel and Clinton and their pals have used for years to pressure Iran, for example, to comply with international conventions and United Nations resolutions.
When the same approach is applied to Israeli criminality, it is called anti-Semitism and an attempt to delegitimize Israel, which clearly it is not. The good news is that the Netanyahu-Clinton approach of using intimidation and accusations of anti-Semitism are not succeeding any more, because the global momentum is moving toward the reasonable position that should be applied to all countries: Support their right to exist in peace and security within their recognized borders, but oppose their criminal behavior against others that goes against prevailing global norms and laws. No country in the world, including Israel, should be exempt from this standard.
Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR. He can be followed on Twitter @RamiKhouri.

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