The BDS movement represents that Shakespearean description of being “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. They have very good public relations since they have the sympathetic ear of much of the Western media, and have an “in” with academia, the arts, human rights organizations and other “progressive” liberal institutions. However in practice, they have not made much of a dent in relations with Israel on all levels.
In the past couple of weeks there have been some more significant BDS fails (I use the hashtag #BDSFail familiar from Twitter) (h/t DAP).
The most significant in my opinion comes from the French High Court which indicted BDS activists and found them guilty of discrimination, fining them thousands of Euros:
France’s highest court of appeals confirmed earlier rulings that found promoters of a boycott against Israel guilty of inciting hate or discrimination.
The rulings passed on Tuesday by the Paris-based Court of Cassation confirmed the convictions of 12 individuals by the Colmar Court of Appeals in connection with their 2009 and 2010 actions in supermarkets near the eastern city of Mulhouse.
The individuals arrived at the supermarket wearing shirts emblazoned with the words: “Long live Palestine, boycott Israel.” They also handed out flyers that said that “buying Israeli products means legitimizing crimes in Gaza.”
The court in Colmar imposed fines to the collective tune of $14,500 and court expenses on Laila Assakali, Yahya Assakali, Assya Ben Lakbir, Habiba Assakali, Sylviane Mure, Farida Sarr, Aline Parmentier, Mohammad Akbar, Jean-Michel Baldassi, Maxime Roll, Jacques Ballouey and Henry Eichholtzer.
They appealed the ruling citing their freedom to express their opinion.
In confirming the sentences, the Court of Cassation cited the French republic’s law on Freedom of the Press, which prescribes imprisonment or a fine of up to $50,000 for parties that “provoke discrimination, hatred or violence toward a person or group of people on grounds of their origin, their belonging or their not belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race or a certain religion.”
“BDS is illegal in France,” wrote Pascal Makowicz, head of the legal department of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, in a statement he published Tuesday on the group’s website. The actions of the people convicted, he added, “are completely illegal. If they say their freedom of expression has been violated, then now France’s highest legal instance ruled otherwise.”
Who would have thought I would write such a thing, but kol hakavod to the French judicial system which still upholds the principles of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.
Another important BDS Fail occurred in the ultra-liberal bastion of Berkeley – the town, not the university. Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers report that the Berkeley Human Welfare Commission rejected a resolution advocating divestment from companies that did business in Israel:
… Legendary UC Berkeley professor Ron Hassner , Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Rabbi James Brandt, community leaders and grass root community members joined together to ask the Commission to reject this hateful and divisive resolution.
The resolution was defeated, with 5 voting against it, 2 for it, and 1 abstaining.
An open letter to the commission, signed by Rabbi James Brandt of the Jewish Federation, Rabbi Yonatan Cohen of Beth Israel, Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Netivot Shalom and Rabbi Yoel Kahn of Beth El in the Berkeley, as well as many others expressed dissatisfaction with both the content of the resolution and the process involved in bringing it to the Commission.
From the letter:
We were deeply troubled, however to learn about the resolution before the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission recommending that the Berkeley City Council list Israel under the Oppressive States Business Policy” Not only is this resolution completely unbalanced in its representation of the heartbreaking and complex conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, it is also a major distraction from the vitally important work of the HWCAC. It is disturbing that so much time and resources are being spent by the HWCAC on a divisive international issue unrelated to its mission, at a time when we all need to work together to improve our beloved city….
Additionally, we were shocked to learn that the HWCAC has been discussing this issue for a year without consulting anyone outside the small circle of supporters of divestment. This represents a grave breach of process and diligence that should have been undertaken when considering such a sensitive and controversial issue…”
“BDS activists attempted to hijack the commission to further their narrow, political, extremist agenda but the commissioners refused to succumb to this pressure and defeated the resolution,” said Johanna Wilder, StandWithUs Northern California Associate Director, who spoke at the Commission meeting.
The HWCAC discussed this issue despite the Berkeley City Attorney’s clear stance that divestment is outside the scope of the commission, which is charged with tackling local poverty issues. Fortunately, numerous commissioners recognized this and rejected divestment so that the HWCAC could go back to fulfilling its crucial mission.
A concerted effort on the part of local synagogues, the Jewish Community Relations Council and pro-Israel activists to generate a high turnout paid off, with opponents of divestment outnumbering proponents – whereas the vote that was scheduled for Sept. 16 caught the Jewish community almost totally unaware.
Nearly 100 people spoke during 150 minutes of public comment, with some 36 supporting the measure and nearly 60 urging its defeat.
“If George Orwell were in this room, he would have put down his pen in utter amazement at what we are seeing here,” said Berkeley resident Bea Lieberman, who opposed the resolution. “This commission, a body concerned with the very real needs of Berkeley residents, is actually considering a resolution of divestment from Israel, one of the most progressive and democratic countries in the entire world.”
Kol hakavod to all the pro-Israel activists, and to all those city councillors who could distinguish right from wrong, in defeating this absurd and bigoted resolution.
On top of all this, an excellent #BDSFail was scored by Adv. Alan Dershowitz who defeated a boycott motion at the Oxford Union debating society of Oxford University (h/t Reality):
Lawyer, academic, and political commentator Professor Alan Dershowitz won over a packed debate on BDS at the Oxford Union, with the motion ‘Is the BDS movement against Israel wrong?’ being carried with 137 votes to 101.
The lively event on Sunday night pitted Dershowitz against British human rights activist Peter Tatchell, who has campaigned on various issues and notably attempted to commit a citizen’s arrest on Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe in 2001.
Adopting a strong line against the movement’s leadership, Dershowitz argued that “BDS will absolutely not bring peace. If the BDS movement is desirous of peace, then why will its leaders not debate me?” Asked about the lack of official representative from the BDS National Committee, Oxford University responded that “it is the Union’s policy never to comment on our invitation process.” The BDS National Committee were unavailable for comment.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Dershowitz made clear he came to the debate well aware that as somebody talking in favor of Israel he was by no means guaranteed to be successful.
“I was told in no uncertain terms that I wouldn’t win a debate in the Oxford Union because Israel generally loses,” said Dershowitz, who emphasized that the basis for his criticism of the movement stemmed from advocating neither for the Israeli government nor its policies, but the aims of the BDS movement.
In his view, “BDS is not an alternative to war as Tatchell said, but rather an alternative to negotiations for the Palestinians. The message to the Palestinian cause is clear, you don’t have to negotiate with Israel, you’ll get a state through external intervention.”
Tatchell’s response to the commonly touted accusation that BDS is a movement with an anti-Semitic element, was to state that “neither myself nor any of the people I know who support BDS are in any way anti-Semitic nor deny the right of Jewish people to live in peace with equality and security in the Middle East. Nearly all of us support a two-state solution that includes Israel.”
Firstly, of course a great kol hakavod and yasher koach to Alan Dershowitz on his robust defence of Israel and opposition to BDS. His very victory speaks volumes.
More importantly though, Tatchell’s response that BDS supports a two-state solution flies in the face of reality. In fact a rebuttal to his view (even if he genuinely believes that this is BDS’s standpoint, and even if he himself “only” wants to boycott the settlements) comes from an extreme-leftist Haaretz contributor (h/t Henry). Dan Rabinowitz explains why BDS can’t tolerate Israeli moderates:
Rabinowitz first describes his friendship with the notorious anti-Israel polemicist Edward Said, and then struggles to understand why Israeli universities are the targets of boycott motions when these institutions are strictly apolitical. He would “understand” an economic boycott of Israel because that would bring pressure to bear, but alienating academia is both fruitless and pointless. He explains how he comes to the conclusion that BDS is not actually interested in economic boycotts, but rather prefer the show-trial type of academic boycotts:
BDS’ insistence on Israel’s withdrawal from the territories it took in 1967 suggests a two-state solution.
But statements by BDS leaders and supporters over the years reflect vehement opposition to this formula and a consistent preference of a future with no Israel. They are aware of course that such an endgame, complete with the negation of the right of Jews to self-determination, is hard to sell. So they embellish it. The demands from Israel, designed to be interpreted by innocent bystanders as a call for a two-state solution, obfuscate a more sinister vision that has no place for Israel; and a call designed to ostracize Israeli universities indefinitely tries to pass as an effort to correct their moral fabric.
A vision of a future with no Israel explains BDS’ disinterest in economic sanctions. A stick-and-carrot ploy, economic sanctions nudge the target to do right under pressure now and enjoy benefits later. For example, economic sanctions of the type now contemplated by the European Union could force Israel to withdraw and to accept a Palestinian state, with the carrot coming later as renewed international support, so vital for Israel’s survival. Coy language on its website notwithstanding, BDS wants none of this. This is why economic sanctions, useless when the target is not assigned a future, are irrelevant for BDS.
I strongly disagree (to put it mildly!) with Rabinowitz’s view of Israel, the Palestinians, and the entire conflict. However I am glad to see his rising discomfort with BDS, especially the proposed boycotts of Israeli academic institutions, and his growing realization that the true aim of BDS is the elimination of Israel, and not just pressurizing it to “do the right thing’. It’s good to see that the eyes of even our most extreme home-grown critics are being opened.
I also cannot deny a good deal of schadenfreude at his dismay.
May the cause of #BDSFail continue and prosper! 🙂