Embargos have taken place throughout history, but boycotts have been waged universally attempting to compel a person, entity or even an entire country to change a course of action. Since the term “boycott” was first coined in 1880 Ireland as a way to nonviolently coerce landowner Charles Cunningham Boycott to undo his eviction decree, they have since taken place .
In the history of boycotts, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the American boycott of British goods prior to the American Revolution, the anti-Nazi boycott waged during the Hitler regime, and the boycott of South African investments during the 1980s, to name a few successful ones, were meant to overturn offensive, oppressive rules. Yet, none of these was actually intended to destroy the entity, but to move it away from its current path.
The boycott of Jewish-owned businesses in Nazi Germany during the 1930s was very different, as the world discovered later. It was used by Hitler as a means of destroying the Jewish community and expelling them from Germany. Those pages from Hitler’s playbook appear to have been adopted by a group of pro-Palestinian activists (see video) who call themselves the “Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement" (BDS).
Most unassuming people who hear these eloquent advocates talk on college campuses across the United States and Europe believe that this is a movement to get Israel to submit to a set of demands, like “ending the occupation” of the Palestinian people. They convincingly argue to those who do not look further that their battle is about “quality, freedom and dignity,” a “democratic movement based on the struggle for human rights,” and “justice in Palestine.”
With these noble goals on the surface and believing the narrative the BDS movement portrays of Israel and the Palestinians, the cause sounds just and worth joining. The nonviolent, educated and eloquently presented messaging has been permeating the minds of young activists, while hiding a more nefarious goal that perhaps many within the ranks of the newly found followers do not recognize nor would want to believe.
The BDS group has attracted religious groups such as The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), labor and trade unions, such as Britain's UNITE, and even anti-Zionist Jewish groups like Independent Jewish Voices of Canada to its side. The Boycott National Committee, the organizers of BDS, have listed on its website stated goals that appeal to the socially minded such as “civil resistance to Israeli occupation and apartheid.” BDS claims that it is trying to do what was done in South Africa by trying to push the Israeli government into such economic instability that it will have to change its methods and ways of dealing with the Palestinians.
In a video expose available on YouTube, some truths become more evident as to the goals of BDS. The group’s leaders show a very different goal than to merely “end the occupation.” Just as the Nazi boycott of all things Jewish was intended to undermine a people and prepare them for genocide, the BDS movement has an ambition beyond their publicized pursuit.
The agenda brought forth through the words of the leadership as seen in the video is the end of Israel as a Jewish state, the end of any Palestinian leadership who “collaborate” with Israel for a two state solution, and a push for the right to return for millions of Palestinians living around the world to come to Israel and repopulate the Israeli lands.
Wherever there is some Israel-Palestinian partnership, whether in academia, trade, art or just basic governance, the leadership of the BDS has tried and, in many cases, succeeded in ending those associations through boycotts and pressure on their fellow Palestinians.
Omar Barghouti, founder of BDS, who attends Tel Aviv University, is interviewed on the video explaining how “it is extremely important, …an institutional boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions…” as we are shown Professor Steven Rose, founder of the British Committee for University for Palestine, arguing successfully for Al-Quds University Board to sever ties with Hebrew University, a relationship which Al-Quds president Sari Nusseibeh worked hard to establish.
Under the guidelines of a two-state solution, which has widespread support, both peoples can live together. Yet, Barghouti clearly states that “if the occupation ends” BDS will not end, because the right of return is its real cause. “I clearly do no buy into the two state solution,” Barghouti said. “This is something we cannot compromise on,” he said.
In his own words, Barghouti understands that “If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two state solution, you’d have a Palestine next to a Palestine.”
The movement to capture the minds of today’s youth under the cloak of academic expression of socially motivated values is the newest evolution of Palestinian protest. Whereas the stated goals of radicals and Islamic fundamentalists are the destruction of Israel, the BDS movement knows that it needs to sound and look moderate and reasonable even as its end game is the same as those who resort to extremism.
Cutting Edge Contributor Juda Engelmayer writes from New York.