This article originally appeared in the New York Daily News and appears by permission of the author.
This Tuesday night, proponents of a movement called Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) bring their campaign to Brooklyn. They are urging members of the Park Slope Food Coop to vote “yes” on a measure that would force a referendum on whether the neighborhood’s famously liberal market should stop carrying goods made in Israel.
The claim is that such economic pressure will help force Israel to stop settlers from claiming disputed territory and change the government’s approach to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
But is that what the BDS movement is really about?
Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that this campaign is actually arguing for something much more ambitious, insidious and destructive: delegitimizing and undermining Israel’s very right to exist.
If the true goal of BDS were simply to end Israel’s occupation and create a Palestinian state side by side with Israel, then a boycott would be the wrong tactic. A far better approach would be to join the hundreds of thousands of people in Israel and elsewhere who are calling on the Israeli government to change its strategy.
But that’s not what it aims to accomplish.
For months now, I have been dissecting communications and articles by BDS activists. The language they use is almost uniformly against “Israeli apartheid.” Not once have I seen a narrow critique of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank or the onerous conditions still partly under the domain of Israel regarding border crossings and closures in Gaza.
In fact, the messaging of boycott proponents includes zero distinction between the occupied territories and what I consider to be Israel proper — meaning, Israel within the 1967 borders with some negotiated changes.
There is a reason for this. BDS’ prime motivation, if their messaging is to be believed, is to end Israel and to promote a one-state solution.
Liberals must understand: The BDS movement plays directly into the very hands of those who have an interest in maintaining the occupation as it currently exists.
Indeed, the BDS activists on the left, seeking to blur the borders in favor of a future single state of Palestine, are the mirror image of hard-core Jewish settlers and their advocates on the right. A campaign by the settlers’ lobby and their advocates in the current Israeli Knesset passed a law last summer that intentionally fudges this distinction between inside Israel pre-1967, and outside Israel in the West Bank.
But peace activists like those in Peace Now and many Palestinian businesspeople inside the West Bank don’t accept this — and instead have announced that they will purchase Israeli goods and products produced inside Israel’s 1967 borders, while openly refusing to purchase goods made in the occupied areas as recognized by the majority of the world.
Why isn’t the BDS movement promoting this point of view? It has to be because they don’t make a distinction between Israel as a nation and the occupation itself.
If they did, they would have a more nuanced, targeted approach.
Joining peace activists like myself and others in the Zionist peace camp are prominent artists like novelist Amos Oz. These activists have said that they won’t perform in a cultural center in the Israeli settlement town of Ariel.
These sentiments come from a deep and profound love for Israel and a desire to strengthen the nation’s democratic ideals. These efforts are specifically aimed at the economic and infrastructural underpinnings of the occupation and the settlement enterprise. They are not aimed at the country of Israel.
Those who love Israel and want to preserve it — while also urging it to change its policies toward the Palestinians — should pursue another approach. They should push the Israeli government to end tax subsidies to businesses outside of Israel in the territories — and increase support for economic development inside the borders. This would help Israeli citizens, both Jewish and Arab.
Notice here that I use terminology that the BDS movement almost never uses. I am talking about what’s “inside” and “outside” of Israel based on a still-to-be-negotiated border. There are honestly only two choices here: to fight to end the occupation and create two states for two people, or to do what the BDS movement seems to want to accomplish, to advocate for just one state.
Let us be honest about what we’re debating here.