Non-violent BDS Should Be Welcomed, Not Condemned
03 June 2016
By Ramzy Baroud
A thousand Israelis and their supporters gathered in Jerusalem's International
Convention Center on March 28 at a conference aimed at combating the Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).
The conference was a display of ''fear, paranoia, anger and determination,''
as described by Antony Loewenstein, and featured top government officials,
members of the oppositions and a strange conglomerate of guests, including
celebrity has-beens like Roseanne Barr.
Statements made at the conference were predictably frightening and
antagonistic – they amounted to nothing more than a display of the language of
blood and vengeance that people have grown accustomed to within the Israeli
One of the most alarming of the statements was made by Israeli Minister of
Transportation, Israel Katz, who called for the ''focused civilian elimination
of the leadership of BDS.''
We need to know how ''to act against them, how to isolate them, also to
transfer information to intelligence agents around the world, and other
agents. We have to understand that there is a battle here. It is wrapped in
many covers,'' Katz said.
Barr on the other hand, called for nuclear bombing the University of
California-Davis following its students' support of BDS.
One must certainly have no illusions regarding the ferocity of the fight ahead
– this is the nature of conflict between any popular movement, the objective
of which is to put pressure on a state that violates international law with
impunity, and a government that sees itself above and in no way bound by the
The impetus behind the antagonism faced by the BDS movement is that it has in
fact matured in its message and grown in size with its primary objective
clear-cut – Israel, sooner or later would see BDS as a threat, and would move
decisively to combat it.
However, one can certainly not be oblivious to the internal challenges faced
by BDS itself. While the movement is largely de-centralized, and local
decisions are left to the numerous branches located throughout the world,
speaking in one voice is a certain challenge. Of course, there are the guiding
principles, but it remains essential to overcome the practical hindrances to
an honest and transparent democratic dialogue in order to keep the movement
strong and forward thinking.
BDS was initiated after repeated calls from Palestinian civil society,
especially in 2004 and2005 to boycott Israel for its crimes against
Palestinians, its violations of international law, its illegal occupation and
its discriminatory, racially-motivated policies. The call found receptive
audiences across the world, and over the last decade it became the primary
platform, if not rally-cry for pro-Palestine activists confronting Israel.
BDS did not expand so significantly in recent years only because of its own
organization and successful branding. One cannot ignore the multiple crimes
carried out by the Israeli army and armed Jewish settlers since then. One
cannot overlook the many racist laws passed by the Israeli Knesset, targeting
the country's minorities. With every killing, every additional day of siege on
Gaza, every war, and every abhorrent statement made by an Israeli official,
BDS grew – significantly.
BDS owes much of its success to an effective strategy that is predicated on
harnessing the energy of civil society, but also to the fact that Israel is
relentless in demonstrating the need for global action, to end the occupation,
the discrimination and the impunity of an army that killed much too many
Yet, not until recently did Israelis and their supporters begin viewing BDS
with alarm, if not real concern. In the past, that job was left to Zionist
student groupings in Western campuses. But they failed, and terribly so, to
stem the flow of the pro-Palestine sentiments in US-Western campuses. As of
last year, a large anti-BDS movement began forming with the sole purpose of
crushing the budding BDS movement, but to no avail.
The 'big guns' were summoned by two massively rich Zionists, casino mogul
Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban. They invited fellow millionaires to a June
2015 conference in Las Vegas in order to raise funds for an anti-BDS movement.
Those invited, mostly rightwing zealots, went to the Venetian hotel, (also
owned by Adelson) with the understanding that a minimal acceptable donation is
one million dollars.
Anti-BDS activists and government officials who travelled to Las Vegas for the
event werepromised by an Israeli-American businessmen, Adam Milstein that they
''no longer have to worry about financing and fundraising. You just need to be
Galvanizing on the momentum, Hillary Clinton, who is now leading in her
party's primaries as a precursor for presidential elections in November, sent
Saban a letter that could serve as a glaring example of a politician groveling
to a rich funder with no regard for morality or self-respect:
Under the letter heading, 'Hilary for America,' she wrote to ''express her
alarm'' over BDS, insisting that countering the movement must become a
'priority'. ''I am seeking your advice on how we can work together to reverse
this trend,'' she wrote.
''As a Senator and a Secretary of State, I saw how crucial it is for America
to defend Israel at every turn. I have opposed dozens of anti-Israel
resolutions at the UN, the Human Rights Council and other international
organizations,'' she boasted, going as far as condemning the Goldstone Report
which accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza.
Clinton is not alone. In June 2015, soon after the anti-BDS millionaires' club
concluded its gathering in Las Vegas, President Barack Obama signed into law a
measure specifically designed to combat BDS.
''The Trade Promotion Authority legislation .. contained the anti-BDS
provisions, which make rejection of the phenomenon a top priority for US
negotiators as they work on a more distant free trade agreement with the
European Union,'' the Times of Israel reported.
Within months, the flood-gates had opened, and a foray of BDS condemnations
followed. Yet, this was largely a farce. The calls from Western governments,
originating from the UK, the US, Canada and others to criminalize the boycott
of Israel have hardly slowed down the momentum of the movement. On the
contrary, it has accelerated it.
History has taught us that criminalizing civil society and outlawing ideas,
especially those that are guided by moral principles, is never a good idea.
Nor is calling for 'eliminating' civilian society activists and bombing their
The only sensible strategy to combat BDS is one that not a single speaker in
the anti-BDS gatherings had raised: ending the very criminal and racist
policies that inspired BDS in the first place.
BDS has, thus far, been the most successful strategy and tactic to support
Palestinian steadfastness while, at the same time, holding Israel accountable
for its progressively worsening policies of apartheid.
International pressure is building up, placing the ball firmly in the Israeli
court, and no amount of bombs or firepower can ever solve Israel's quandary
– 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: