I read with interest your letter about The BDS Debate in Our House, between you and your secular Israeli husband. You are clearly passionate about the Palestinian cause, and while I may disagree about your analysis of the Israel-Palestinian situation, I greatly respect your dedication and commitment. Would that all people of conscience stood up and took action to right the wrongs of injustice. For that alone, you have my respect.
At the same time, however, your defense of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement left me with more questions than answers. I know you view the Israel-Palestinian situation as the 21st century version of South African apartheid, and the Palestinian Authority as little more than a bantustan – a quasi-free political entity, surrounded on all sides by the Israeli “occupation” and possessing little ability to function due to Israel’s numerous laws and regulations.
For many reasons, however, you are simply wrong.
To begin with, you claim that “BDS is nonviolent resistance,” the result of years of “lecturing” by the international community about non-violence. In theory, you’re right.
But where are the Palestinian leaders who back up your BDS movement with strong, singular, unequivocal statements about the value of non-violence? Where are the leaders who draw inspiration and guidance from true disciples of non-violence such as Mohandas K. Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr? Currently, Israel security forces (often in conjunction with Palestinian police in Judea and Samaria) scuttle approximately 10,000 terror attacks a month, in addition to roadside stonings, Temple Mount riots and other incidents. How come your BDS campaign has failed to influence the Palestinian street in this way?
This question is even more potent in the context of your beloved apartheid claim. In your view, Israel plays the part of the minority Afrikaner government, while the Palestinians play the role of the oppressed black majority (let’s forget, for a moment, that Jews are a clear majority in the Land of Israel. That fact alone distinguishes Israel from South Africa. But I digress).
Who, then, is the Palestinian Mandela, the man who fought and suffered for his country and his people, but yet emerged from prison with his moral compass unscathed? Who is the Palestinian leader who speaks passionately about Jewish rights in the Land of Israel, no less than Palestinian rights? You will agree that there are many examples in the other direction; i.e. Israeli officials and public figures who speak out strongly for Palestinian rights and against what I would describe as Israel’s defensive actions.
Secondly, you say (rightly) that Idi Amin’s appalling human rights record in Uganda did not, and should not have excused human rights activists from acting strongly against South Africa. Similarly, you feel it is appropriate to boycott Israel, despite the fact that Israel’s record on human and civil rights – even in Judea and Samaria- is far superior to other nations both in the Middle East and farther afield.
But is the Israeli situation really akin to the South African one, or to other nations that you could plan to boycott? Perhaps the best way to answer this question (in good Jewish fashion) is with another question: Were Israel to pull out of Judea and Samaria, would that satisfy Palestinian claims? Would the children and grandchildren of 1948 refugees, second and third generation Jordanians, Syrians and Lebanese, accept the deal, immigrate to the nascent Palestinian state and forego claims to their ancestors homes in Jaffa and Haifa? Would you and the BDS brigades make that demand?
The answer here is clearly “no.” As in Lebanon and Gaza, an Israel pullout would merely whet the appetite of the Palestinian political class, and their violent supporters in places like Gaza south Lebanon. Thus, the situation here cannot be compared to the South African one: In the best case scenario, Palestinians seek to flood Israel with refugees (from a war started by the Arab world, it should be noted) to displace the Jewish majority. South African blacks always represented an enormous majority, and sought to exercise equal rights as a majority population in their own country while respecting the rights of the white minority. The two situations are simply not compatible.