‘I will continue to condemn the BDS movement’, Justin Trudeau said during a session in town hall in St. Catharines on 16th January. As one of the world’s most influential leaders, who is a model for good governance and stands for human rights, Trudeau’s support against the BDS movement is highly problematic.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, (BDS), is a globally recognized campaign that promotes a variety of boycotts and sanctions against the state of Israel for its horrendous human rights violations against Palestine and its people. More specifically, its aim is to end international support for Israel and force the state to conform to internationally established human rights laws, ending its occupation of the Palestinian lands in the process.
Founded in July 2005, the campaign is led by the Palestinian BDS National Committee, and is now an international collection of academic institutions, unions and activist organizations across the world. It has found considerable support in both South Africa, whose ruling party considers the oppression of the Palestinian people similar to what they underwent during apartheid, and The Republic of Ireland, whose capital Dublin became the first European capital to endorse the campaign earlier this year.
Founded in July 2005, the campaign is led by the Palestinian BDS National Committee, and is now an international collection of academic institutions, unions and activist organizations across the world.
The movement has also drawn diverse and renowned supporters from various walks of life, including former South African Archbishop and anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu, the late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and American politicians including Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.
Despite the movement being aimed at a political resolution, critics of the BDS have labelled the movement as being inherently anti-Semitic in nature given its blatant opposition towards the activities of Israel. This practice of wrongfully discrediting any and all legitimate criticisms of the atrocities committed by the state, under the garb of labelling it as discrimination against the Jewish people who reside there, has now become a common retort.
There is nothing inherently discriminatory about boycotts and sanctions. America, in particular, whose 26 States have now passed anti-BDS legislation, has an extensive history of imposing sanctions against China, Russia and even Saudi Arabia for both human rights abuses and political issues. However, none of them have ever been construed as being anti-Asian, anti-Slavic or Islamophobic. They were instead used as instruments to pressurize these countries into meeting America’s national interests.
It ought to be made clear that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism. While the former refers to the opposition that is targeted towards the movement of the creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East i.e. support for the modern state of Israel, the latter refers to prejudice and hostility directed against the Jewish people.
It ought to be made clear that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism. While the former refers to the opposition that is targeted towards the movement of the creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East i.e. support for the modern state of Israel, the latter refers to prejudice and hostility directed against the Jewish people. Any effort to conflate these two is an obvious attempt at discrediting dissenting opinions. This is not a view held solely by outsiders, since many prominent Israelis themselves have been very vocal about differentiating between the aforementioned ideologies to make sure that legitimate criticisms against Israel are not swept under the rug, regardless of how harsh they might be.
Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, wrote in the New York Times about how this campaign rejects all forms of racism, especially anti-Semitism, but his argument has also been fairly one-sided in the claim that no discrimination of any kind exists within the movement.
The BDS movement is not perfect by any means, and its insistence on ignoring internal flaws could lead to its eventual downfall.
The truth is that regardless of the initial intentions of its founders, whenever a movement grows to the scale that BDS is at now, unwanted elements start to creep into it whether they are welcome or not. It is the responsibility of the top brass to condemn them, and to ensure that both sides of the issue are investigated fully before making blanket statements that do no one any favours.
Failure to do so weakens the BDS movement’s stance against the Israeli government that it is criticizing, whose parliament has done itself no favours and has in fact further emboldened it’s critics by passing a law that denies visas to foreign nationals that support any form of boycott against the country or it’s settlements in Palestinian territories.
They even went a step further and published a list of organizations whose members have now been blacklisted from entering the country. Two of these are the Jewish Voice for Peace, and the American Friends Service Committee; the latter of which has actually been honored for its work in helping victims of the Nazis during World War 2. This move has baffled activists and has inhibited their ability to provide humanitarian aid within the Palestinian territories, the funding for which is already at an all-time low.
The BDS movement is not perfect by any means, and its insistence on ignoring internal flaws could lead to its eventual downfall. After more than 70 years enforcing oppression and what is essentially the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the state of Israel has started to feel the pressure of looming boycotts. To sustain that pressure, the BDS is needed more than ever today so that it can hold Israel’s human rights abuses in check. Addressing the internal flaws within the BDS framework will ensure its survival and existence as a body whose presence is of critical value in present times.
is a Development Economist with an MPhil in Development Studies from the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Islamabad. She is passionate about working towards a developed, inclusive, and greener environment and is currently working as a Research Associate at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research.