BDS Is a Bust in the Middle East, but It’s Alive in America
JNS.org – BDS activists who think they are succeeding in isolating the State of Israel aren’t paying attention to the news. On Sunday, reports surfaced that negotiations about building a gas pipeline that connects Israel’s natural-gas resources to Cyprus, Greece, and Italy have finally succeeded. The pipeline network will reportedly be the longest and deepest ever built. Initial estimates of the cost to build it start at $7 billion.
And the good news for friends of Israel doesn’t stop there. And that should influence the way we think about BDS and its purpose.
Part of the background to this deal is the fact that the European Union invested $100 million in a feasibility study on importing Israeli natural gas to the continent. That’s why the plan, dubbed the EastMed Pipeline Project, will give both Cyprus and Israel preference over other potential importers of gas into Europe.
The project, which will hopefully be completed over the next five years, will provide Israel’s already prosperous economy with another boost. But the preference for Israeli imports also signals that Arab influence over Europe that is rooted in its ability to export oil and gas is waning. With Europeans wanting alternatives to both Arab and Iranian oil, as well as Russian natural gas, Israel will not only profit from the transaction; its standing as an important economic and military power will also grow.
The fact that Italy, Greece, and Cyprus are now prepared to join Israel and Egypt in joint military and civil exercises to protect both the pipeline and regional security is equally important. Despite continued threats from Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, the notion that the Jewish state stands alone can no longer be sustained.
Nor was that the only good diplomatic news for Israel in the past week.
As part of Israel’s continuing efforts to foster better relations with Africa, Idriss Déby, the president of Chad, arrived in the country for a state visit. Though in some ways a typical Third World authoritarian — Déby is a graduate of the late Libyan dictator and terror funder Moammar Qaddafi’s World Revolutionary Center — he now looks to the West and Israel for aid in the fight against the Boko Haram Islamist terrorists who threaten his country.
The visit is part of what appears to be a successful effort to normalize relations with the nations of Sudan, Niger, Mali, and Chad — all of whom have populations that are predominantly Muslim. During the press conference with the Chadian leader, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that he would again travel to unspecified Arab countries — he was recently in Oman for an official visit — a step that would again indicate that talk of Israel being isolated is a fantasy.
Just as important were reports emanating from the MED 2018 Conference held in Rome last week that Arab countries who usually used such international forums for Israel-bashing were no longer doing so. Arab indifference to Palestinian efforts to revive interest in their cause is painfully obvious. This trend stems more from antipathy to Palestinian rejectionism and the recognition that Israel is the best ally the Arab world has against the threat from Iran than any affection for Zionism. But it’s also the latest proof that Arab nations are as wary of schemes to create a Palestinian state that is likely to be dominated by radicals as most Israelis.
All that is bitter news indeed for supporters of BDS. They blithely talk about how disdain for Israel is widespread. Even many friends of Israel sometimes succumb to the councils of despair. Some on the right exaggerate the strength of its enemies. Similarly, many on the left assume that their criticisms of the Netanyahu government’s policies about settlements or the peace process are so widely shared that it is only a matter of time before it faces total isolation as an “apartheid” state.
Both are wrong.
Israel’s enemies haven’t given up, and their hatred — rooted, as it is, in the powerful virus of antisemitism that continues to fester and grow around the world — isn’t going away. It’s also true that the hostility of academic elites and many in the media remain a powerful force seeking to delegitimize Zionism. Yet neither trend can erase the fact that Israel is more powerful and accepted today than it has ever been.
But all the good news about Israel gaining acceptance in ways that its leaders could only dream about a few decades ago should also remind us of what is at stake in the battle over BDS.
BDS advocates have had a few successes, such as the decision of the Airbnb home-rental company to single out Jews living in the West Bank for discrimination. They’ve also managed to get an in to American Jewish community with the ability of groups like Jewish Voice for Peace to mainstream their anti-Zionist and even antisemitic views about Israel and its supporters.
But while such victories have been far fewer than their defeats, they have still managed to create an atmosphere on many campuses that makes it difficult for Jewish students to speak openly of their support for Israel.
Support for intersectional ideology, which falsely claims the war against the one Jewish state on the planet is analogous to the struggle for civil rights in the United States, has grown in the left, on college campuses, and with popular protest groups like the anti-Trump Women’s March. The willingness of those who embrace antisemites gives the lie to the assumption that left-wing Jew-hatred is confined to the fever swamps of American society, as is the case for the far-right.
We should celebrate Israel’s successes, which point to the utter failure of BDS on the international stage. But those stories only make it clearer that the real battlefront against BDS is here in the United States, not in the Middle East.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS — Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter @jonathans_tobin.