Israel Cannot Win the Fight with BDS
30 May 2016
By Ramzy Baroud
Serious efforts are being galvanized in Israel and outside to slow down the
fast-moving momentum of the Palestine Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
Movement (BDS). The latest of these efforts was a large, angry conference in
occupied Jerusalem, which followed a series of conferences in the US. And more
are being planned.
This comes on the heels of massive efforts to criminalize BDS through clearly
coordinated efforts by several western countries. But will it work? Around a
thousand Israelis and their supporters gathered in occupied Jerusalem's
International Convention Centre on March 28 in a conference aimed at combating
The conference was a display of ''fear, paranoia, anger and determination'',
as described by journalist Antony Loewenstein, and featured top government
officials, members of the opposition and a strange conglomeration of guests,
including celebrity has-beens such as Roseanne Barr.
Statements made at the conference were predictably frightening, containing the
language of blood and vengeance that one grows accustomed to within the
Israeli political discourse.
One of the most alarming of the statements was that made by Israeli Minister
of Transportation, Yisrael Katz, who called for the ''focused civilian
elimination of the leadership of BDS''. Barr, on the other hand, called for
nuclear bombing of the University of California-Davis following its students'
support of BDS.
The Israeli event followed a foray of condemnations of BDS, calls from western
governments, originating from the UK, the US, Canada and others, to
criminalise the boycott of Israel. Yet, it all fell on deaf ears and hardly
slowed down the momentum of the Movement. On the contrary, the Movement has
But none of this should come as a surprise, for it is a repeat of a
not-too-distant history. Western governments took on the pro-South African
Anti-Apartheid Movement, fighting it at every corner and branding its leaders
Nelson Mandela and many of his comrades terrorists.
Once he passed away in 2013, top US politicians vied for the opportunity to
list the late African leader's great qualities in their many press
conferences, speaking of his commitment to justice and human rights. However,
Mandela's name was not removed from the US terrorism watch list until 2008.
The Reagan administration called the African National Congress the main
platform for the anti-apartheid struggle a terrorist group as well. The
ANC's strategy against the Apartheid government was ''calculated terror'', the
administration said in 1986.
Frame of Reference
The South African experience, which is still fresh in the memory of many
people, is now serving as a frame of reference in the struggle against Israeli
apartheid in Palestine, where Jews have been designated as a privileged race,
and Palestinian Muslims and Christians are poorly treated, oppressed and
While racism is, unfortunately, a part of life and is practiced, observed and
reported on in many parts of the world, institutionalized racism through
calculated governmental measures is only practiced at least openly in a
few countries around the world. However, no country is as adamant and open
about its racially-motivated laws and apartheid rules as the Israeli
government. Almost every measure taken by the Israeli Knesset that pertains to
Arabs is influenced by this mindset: Palestinians must remain inferior and
Jews must ensure their superiority at any cost. The outcome of Israel's racist
pipe dream has been a tremendous amount of violence, palpable inequality,
massive walls, trenches, Jews-only roads, military occupation and even laws
that forbid the very questioning of these practices.
Yet, the greater its failure to suppress Palestinian resistance and to slow
down the flow of solidarity from around the world with the oppressed people,
the more Israel labors to ensure its dominance and invest in racial
segregation. ''The whole world is against us,'' is quite a common
justification in Israel itself, of the international reaction to Israel's
apartheid practices. With time, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and
feeds on past notions that are no longer applicable. No matter how many
companies divest from Israel the latest being the world's largest security
corporation G4S and, no matter how many universities and churches vote to
boycott Israel, Israeli society remains entrenched behind the slogan and its
disconcerting sense of victimization.
Many Israelis believe that their country is a 'villa in a jungle' a notion
that is constantly enforced by top Israeli leaders. Right-wing Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu, is purposely advancing the crippling fear in his own
society. Unable to see the unmistakable crimes he has carried out against
Palestinians for years, he continues to perpetuate the idea of the purity of
Israel and the wickedness of everyone else.
In February, he spoke of the need to create yet more fences to keep his 'villa
in the jungle' safe, and, to quote, ''to defend ourselves against the wild
beasts'' in neighboring countries. The statement was made only a few weeks
before the launch of the annual Israel Apartheid Week in numerous cities
around the world. It is as if the Israeli leader wished to contribute to the
global campaign which is successfully making a case against Israel as being an
Apartheid state that ought to be boycotted.
Comforted by the notion that the US and other western governments are on their
side, most Israelis are not worried about exhibiting their racism and calling
for more violence against Palestinians. According to a recent survey conducted
by the Pew Research Center and revealed on March 8, nearly half of Israel's
Jewish population want to expel Palestinians to outside of their historic
The study was conducted between October 2014 and May 2015 months before the
current Intifada began in October 2015 and is described as a
first-of-its-kind survey as it reached out to over 5,600 Israeli adults and
touched on myriads of issues, including religion and politics. 48% of all
Israeli Jews want to exile Arabs. However, the number is significantly higher
71% among those who define themselves as 'religious'.
What options are then left for Palestinians, who have been victimized and
ethnically cleansed from their own historic homeland for 68 years, when they
are described and treated as 'beasts', killed at will and suffer under a
massive system of apartheid and racial discrimination that has never ceased
after all these years?
BDS has, thus far, been the most successful strategy and tactic to support
Palestinian resistance and steadfastness while at the same time holding Israel
accountable for its progressively worsening policies of apartheid. The main
objective behind BDS, an entirely non-violent movement that is championed by
civil society across the globe, is not to punish ordinary Israelis, but to
raise awareness of the suffering of Palestinians and to create a moral
threshold that must be achieved if a just peace is ever to be realized. That
moral threshold was delineated in the relationship between Palestinians and
South Africans when Mandela himself said, ''We know all too well that our
freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.''
He was not trying to be cordial or diplomatic. He meant every word. And,
finally, many around the world are making the same connection, and are
wholeheartedly in agreement.
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20
years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an
author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books
include Searching Jenin', The Second Palestinian Intifada' and his latest
'My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story'. His website is: