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January 12, 2021 5:14 am

Whose Human Rights? BDS Is Antisemitic and Harms Palestinians

avatar by Martin Nakell


A pro-BDS demonstration. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

BDS is not only an antisemitic movement that aims to destroy the Jewish state, but it also cripples the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

BDS launched a boycott against SodaStream, an Israeli company with a plant in Judea-Samaria, forcing SodaStream to close that plant. Every Palestinian employee lost their job. With extremely high Palestinian unemployment rates — especially among Palestinian youth — the results of the BDS movement have directly harmed the Palestinian people.

Furthermore, in cases like SodaStream and others, BDS actually harms the cause of peace, as all of the Arab-Jewish daily co-worker relationships built up over years are lost.

Misappropriating the language of progressives regarding human rights, BDS  perpetuates an empty propagandistic lie: that Israel is a racist, apartheid state, bent even on ethnic cleansing.

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The BDS narrative portrays Palestinians as an oppressed minority, equating them with Native Americans, African-Americans, and others.

But Israel is  decidedly not America. It is destructive to swallow this propaganda, to buy into these parallels — the mistake of a naïve, ethnocentric ideology. The Palestinian struggle does not equate with others.

Furthermore, Israel is not an apartheid state — as Israeli Arabs have full rights under law and serve in every sector of society, including the Knesset and Supreme Court, and Israel respects the human rights of Arabs, LGTBQ people, and others more than any other country in the region.

The Arab-Jewish co-worker relationships — such as those lost at SodaStream — represent the goodwill among Jews and Arabs who have already chosen peace; who see the other as themselves. We need to nourish that kind of goodwill that shows up every day. There are so many instances of it, where Jews and Arabs respond to each other as human beings.

When a Palestinian randomly opened fire on the car of a rabbi and his family, the rabbi was killed, his wife was injured, and their teenage daughter shot. Another Palestinian couple, passing on the highway, stopped to help. Then, another car stopped — a Palestinian doctor and his wife. These four Palestinians risked their lives to save the rabbi’s wife and children.

An Israeli doctor saved the life of the sister-in-law of a Palestinian gentleman who’d once saved the same doctor’s life from a group of angry Palestinians.

An Israeli Jew, Michael Ben Zikri, drowned in the act of saving a Bedouin woman and her four young children. At Ben Zikri’s funeral, former MK Talab El-Sana (Arab Democratic Party), said: “The Arab public is in mourning in the entire nation, from north to south. We will rename the main street in our town in [Zikri’s] honor.”

By using terms like racist and apartheid in its attacks, BDS demonizes Israel. Apartheid was the official policy of the South African government. In our time, “apartheid” has come to be linked with the dark times of that oppression. To appropriate that language dishonors those South Africans who suffered and fought and died under the laws of an official governmental system. Israel is neither a racist nor an apartheid state.

As mentioned above, none of the following, just a few among many such examples, could exist in a racist, apartheid state:

  • 35-50% of the Technion medical school enrollment is Arab; an Arab woman was 2013 valedictorian.
  • Numerous Arab parties hold Knesset seats.
  • Dr. Ahmad Tibi was Deputy Speaker the Knesset.
  • A Palestinian Justice, Hon. George Karra, sits on the Supreme Court.
  • Jamal Hakroosh is Major-General in the Israeli police.
  • Arabs, who are not required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, volunteer in growing numbers.
  • Arabs can serve as high-ranking IDF officers.
  • T. Raleb Majade was Minister of Science, Culture and Sport.
  • Majalli Wahabi was acting President.
  • Arab-Israeli Rana Raslan was Miss Israel.
  • Dr. Samer Haj Yehia is Chairman of Bank Leumi.
  • All of the two million Arab Israeli citizens have access to public education, university education (Omar Barghouti himself attended the University of Tel Aviv), government (and any other) jobs, in addition to the right to own property and all other rights.

This is not what apartheid looks like.

WaterGen, an Israeli company that can extract and purify atmospheric water, opened a project in Gaza, releasing this statement:

[E]very human being … has a fundamental right to clean drinking water, we are helping some of Israel’s next-door neighbors gain access to fresh water. We hope that our provision … will help solve the water crisis … as a step forward towards mutual collaboration.

This is not what racism looks like. This is what opportunity looks like. BDS is occupied foremost by its own Jew-hatred, a racism that, unfortunately, long pre-dates 1967 and 1948.

The Middle East is not America. As peace does grow, to help in that progressive reality, I urge you to be persuaded — not by inflammatory rhetoric — but by the facts of what the State of Israel is.

Martin Nakell is a poet/fictionalist/essayist and a Professor of Creative Writing at Chapman University.

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