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June 29, 2015 2:23 am

Why Doesn’t BDS Care About Expelled Jews and Arab Human Rights Abuses?

avatar by Lyn Julius

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Omar Barghouti. Photo: usacbi.org

Omar Barghouti. Photo: usacbi.org

The man behind the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, Omar Barghouti, is a PhD student at Tel Aviv University. Yes, you read that right: Tel Aviv, Israel, home of “apartheid” and what he claims are the worst human rights abuses.

In an interview explaining the aims of the BDS movement, Qatar-born Barghouti stated: “Israel’s deepest injustice is the denial of the right of return to Palestinian refugees.”

The BDS campaign seems to have gathered steam in recent times.

Using the language of human rights, Barghouti goes beyond urging Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. He is advocating, in no uncertain terms, the destruction of Israel, by overwhelming it demographically with millions of returning Palestinian Arab refugees.

BDS is old wine in new bottles: some Arabs joined Nazis in boycotting Jewish businesses in the 1930s, the Arab League declared a trade boycott of Israel, etc. The reason why the movement has appeared to gain traction this time is the support of “human-rights” NGOs, churches, and university groups.

The fundamental injustice of the BDS position becomes crystal clear if you consider that 51% of Israeli Jews are in Israel because the Jewish State gave them refuge from Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism – persecution and pogroms such as the 1941 Farhud in Iraq.

This Arab-Muslim anti-Semitism was not a consequence of the establishment of the State of Israel; it predated it. And this anti-Semitism created the need for a country where Jews, a vulnerable but indigenous minority, could exercise a right of self-defense. Together with native Christian communities such as Copts and Assyrians, Jews in the Arab and Muslim world had to submit, as “dhimmis,” to humiliations and exactions. Although the “dhimmi” status was not always rigorously applied, Jews were at the mercy of their Muslim rulers for 14 centuries.

Moreover, in the 20th century, the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was complicit with the Nazis in a genocidal project that would have destroyed not only the Jews of Palestine, but Jews of the Arab world – before Israel’s creation. Today these racist aims are enshrined in the Hamas Charter. Hamas was until recently in a unity government with the Palestinian Authority.

After failing to annihilate the young state of Israel, Arab states created 870,000 Jewish refugees, driven from their homes in Arab states and dispossessed of their property. There were more Jewish refugees than Palestinian.

But these Jewish refugees are invisible, as far as the BDS movement is concerned. Indeed, the Arab world has never been called to account for its violations of Jewish rights.

A “right of return” for Palestinian refugees cannot be contemplated without also considering the same right for the 870,000 Jewish refugees. But returning to hostile states, where anti-Semitism is endemic, is hardly a solution for Jews. Peace should instead be founded on the concept of an irrevocable exchange of refugee populations.

For a genuine peace based on truth and justice, the Palestinians, and Arab states generally, need to acknowledge the fundamental injustice done to Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Jewish refugees do not want a right of return to Arab states, but an apology for their suffering and compensation for their losses.

The rest of the world needs to call to account the Arab and Muslim world for the injustices perpetrated against their Jewish and non-Muslim minorities, and both need to recognize the rights of non-Arab peoples in the Middle East and North Africa to self-determination.

A version of this article also appeared in The Jerusalem Post. 

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