BDS Campaign Wants Israel to Abide by International Law

There is a considerable amount of misunderstanding about the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions). As John Berger explained a while back, BDS is not a principle but a strategy; it is not against Israel but against Israeli policy; when the policy changes BDS will end.

BDS is also not about a particular solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but rather the demand that Israel abide by international law and UN resolutions. It is accordingly something that you can support if you are for a two state solution or a one state solution. You can even support it as a Zionist. It arises from the realization, following years of experience, that the Occupation will not end unless Israelis understand that it has a price.

In a sense, the fact that a boycott is required is a sign of weakness following the polaristaion and marginalisation of the left in Israel. On the one hand, we have more or less used all the other weapons we have in the arsenal of non-violent resistance and the situation on the ground is only getting worse. On the other hand, we are witnessing the development of a proto-fascist mindset in Israel. I am, for example, extremely anxious about the extent that the space for public debate in Israel is shrinking.

One of the ways of silencing any dissent is the through the demand for loyalty, so that a slogans you hear a lot now is “no citizenship without loyalty.” This slogan reflects the inversion of the republican idea that the state should be loyal to the citizen and is accountable for inequities and injustices. It is a manifestation of the complete reversal of the republican relationship between state and loyalty and the adoption, instead, of a logic similar to the one that informed Mussolini’s Italy. It is — as Gramsci once said — part of the morbid symptoms of our times.

One of the expressions of these symptoms is the increasingly violent attitude towards any kind of dissent within Israel. I have received more death threats following my criticism of the flotilla fiasco than ever before. When I walk on campus people ask in jest if I am wearing a bullet proof vest. Such jokes have a menacing undertone. Therefore it is not all that surprising that only three professors in Israel openly support a boycott; many others are in the closet because supporting BDS is not considered to be a legitimate form of critique and people who back it are in danger of being punished.

And yet, there is also a sense that the pro-government proponents have gone too far. They are not only targeting people on the far left, but practically everyone who is even slightly critical of government policies. A couple of months ago a high school principle who objected to military officers coming in to speak to his pupils, was all but crucified. Clearly the outrage of so many Israeli academics against the assault on academic freedom has little to do with the boycott, but is rather against the attempt to silence any kind of critique. There is an ever-growing sense that public discourse in Israel is dramatically shrinking. Thus, the provost of Haifa University, who courageously criticized the Minister of Education and the assault on academic freedom, is by no means a left-winger but is simply outraged at the current developments. He would never otherwise support my stance on the boycott.

Neve Gordon is the author of Israel's Occupation and can be reached through his website. Read other articles by Neve.

19 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ismail Zayid said on July 12th, 2010 at 12:59pm #

    BDS campaign is asking for the impossible; Israel will not abide by international law or UN resolutions. It has been determined that Israel is above international law, and, for this, it is supported by the US and its allies………

  2. lichen said on July 12th, 2010 at 3:47pm #

    Of course plenty of people who do nothing, but spend large amount of time writing zionist conspiracy theories on the internet somehow think they are better and above the BDS movement.

  3. Deadbeat said on July 12th, 2010 at 4:20pm #

    Here’s another perspective ….
    The Unchallenged Power of the Israel Lobby

    The BDS movement is extremely necessary to put pressure on Israel but it cannot stop there. What can happening to the BDS movement is that it gets co-opted by the Left-wing Zionists (like Naomi Klein) to narrow its focus and to prevent the BDS movement from challenging Western Zionism.

  4. teafoe2 said on July 12th, 2010 at 6:58pm #

    uh, who in the world is that, Mr Lichen?

    BTW, Prof Gordon has written some good stuff but he does have his limitations. His objective is similar to Chomsky/Finkelstein: to save “israel” from itself. I.e., in the final analysis he remains a zionist.

    If he and other Jewish residents of the Apartheid Monstrosity had any self respect they’d put as much distance as possible between their jive… I mean between themselves and the “Jewish State”. (sic)

    All these isrealy “liberals” make me sick, posing as “dissenters” so they can have their conquest and be considered “progressive” at the same time. Just by staying there, no matter what they say in the pages of The Nation etc, they help perpetuate the illusion that “isreal” is a normal country, that it’s not qualitatively more racist or oppressive than the US, UK or Canada. Which are all places where plenty of racism & oppression is observable, but none are in the same league as the anachronistic abomination “isreal”.

  5. jewishwiccancatholicworker said on July 13th, 2010 at 1:20pm #

    Wow! Not the comments I expected. Reminds me of when a French, Jewish survivor of WWII camps told the Yad Vashem to take his name off some wall because he couldn’t stand what the Shoah was being used to justify. I was aghast at the comments that followed on InformationClearinghouse.

    I respect people in typical oppressor class who work against it, realizing that they don’t want those benefits. In fact, those people are necessary for revolution to happen. Giving up privilege is generally not done without pressure, but some people reject it early on. I’m not a Zionist, and I hope that this article opens my Israeli sister and family to BDS. They aren’t radical enough for success, but they have good hearts.

    Are writers like Gordon and Klein trying to limit or dull some radical knife edge, or are they trying to bring more people to help hone and wield it? I think the latter.

  6. teafoe2 said on July 13th, 2010 at 1:53pm #

    So,jewishwiccancatholicworker (whew) , you say your Isreali relatives “have good hearts”? How nice. Reminds me how good Hitler was to his dogs:)

    But I have to confess, that’s the only part of your comment I’m pretty sure I understand. Are you for or against “honing & wielding” “some radical knife edge”?
    And what was the tenor of the ICH comments that had you “aghast”? Were they approving or dis- re the survivor’s request?
    Thank you for clarifying?

  7. mary said on July 13th, 2010 at 2:25pm #

    Finkelstein’s opinion on BDS in a recent interview. Much as you were saying teafoe2.

    Q. So how do American and British citizens go about accomplishing that, tactically? What are your views on the BDS movement, for example?

    A. First of all, people are getting a little too cult-like about BDS. You always know a movement is growing insular when it starts using these in-group abbreviations (‘BDS’). In my day it was ‘DOP’ – ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’. You have these little abbreviations to show that you’re part of the ‘in-group’ and you’re cool and you know what’s going on. So we should really steer away from that, because this is not about our egos, which are sometimes oversized. It’s about trying to achieve an important, humane goal.

    There are now basically three strands, as I see it, of resistance to what Israel is doing. One strand is the legal one: trying to hold Israel accountable according to international law. That took its most salient form in the Goldstone Report, but there have been a lot of initiatives around it, like the use of universal jurisdiction in the UK to threaten lawsuits against Israeli officials and personnel who come to the country. That to me is an extremely valuable tool in trying to organise people in the sense of leaning on the law to say that what we’re demanding is simply what the law is demanding. But in terms of application it’s very elitist, because it’s just a very narrow group of lawyers who can ever really bring to bear the force of law.

    Another strand is the nonviolent civil resistance, which includes what goes on in places like Bil’in, the internationalists who go over there, and also things like the flotilla. Those are all part of the nonviolent civil resistance component – I won’t say ‘strategy’ because I don’t think any of these different approaches are in conflict – of opposition to the occupation.

    The third component is BDS. This has, I think, two aspects to it: one aspect that targets Israel globally, saying anything and everything that has to do with Israel has to be boycotted, and a second that says we should focus on those aspects of what Israel does that are illegal under international law. So for example, what the Methodist Church in Britain just did: it did not pass a resolution saying we should boycott all Israeli products, even though there were some people pushing for that. It passed a resolution saying we should boycott Israeli goods that come from the settlements, because the settlements are illegal under international law. And then there are the initiatives of, say, Amnesty International that call for a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel because the transfer of weapons to persistent human rights abusers is illegal under international law. Then there’s the targeting of Caterpillar because Caterpillar is involved in demolition of homes, which is illegal under international law, and so on.

    So there’s one subset of BDS that focuses not on Israel globally but on aspects of Israeli policy that violate international law. There’s another subset that says everything having to do with Israel should be boycotted – its academic institutions, all of its products, and so on and so forth. Personally, I think that the first subset – namely targeting those aspects of Israeli policy that violate international law – has a much better chance of success because people understand international law. When you start targeting everything having to do with Israel it begins to pose questions of motive – ‘OK, now, what exactly are we opposed to here? Are we opposed to the occupation or are we opposed to Israel completely?’ And the global targeting is, I think, deliberately obfuscatory on that issue.

  8. Deadbeat said on July 13th, 2010 at 3:09pm #

    jewishwiccancatholicworker writes …

    Are writers like Gordon and Klein trying to limit or dull some radical knife edge, or are they trying to bring more people to help hone and wield it? I think the latter.

    I can’t speak to Gordon. I don’t know much about his writing but I am familiar with Naomi Klein. Her book “Shock Doctrine – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” was not written as an indictment of the Capitalist system. Many people hear the “Disaster Capitalism” part and with the current crisis are led to believe that is what the book was about.

    This book however came out BEFORE the crisis hit and was not a book about the impending economic crisis. Her book was written at the height of the War on Iraq in order to inject herself into the debate with a DIVERSION.

    During that time the “Left” was fishing for a slew of excuses for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in order to divert attention from the Zionist influence behind the War. The Chomskyite excuse of “War for Oil” was wearing thin and needed a tune up which Ms. Klein provided.

    Her angle was that the War on Iraq was a “neoliberal” — not neo-conservative (i.e. Zionist) but NEOLIBERAL. She traces the roots of the War on Iraq to Milton Friedman and 1970’s neoliberalism. Neat aye!

    However Milton Friedman was against the invasion of Iraq and was not among the PNAC policy planners in the Bush administration. However she constructed an excellent narrative to suck in the “Left” and was WELL REWARDED for her subservience to Zionism.

  9. Max Shields said on July 13th, 2010 at 3:15pm #

    And how do you know this Deadbeat? Your claims regardless seem totally fabricated.

    But to Naomi Klein, I suppose she wrote this because she was trying to deflect the neocons: Baghdad year zero: Pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neocon utopia

    Was it not you who thought Obama would make a great president. Or was that another Deadbeat (toofoo)?

  10. teafoe2 said on July 13th, 2010 at 4:43pm #

    Max S: what do you mean by “trying to deflect the neocons”? Sorry but I can’t decipher what you mean to say. ??
    BTW I can’t help noting that your final word in parens suggests a reference to my DV login handle. Is this correct? Did you intend to say or insinuate something about or to me? If so, just what did you have in mind?

  11. Max Shields said on July 13th, 2010 at 5:18pm #

    teafoe2 what do you mean? by what do you mean?

  12. Don Hawkins said on July 13th, 2010 at 5:23pm #

    who thought Obama would make a great president. Well one thing for sure we have about two years to hear My fellow Americans people of Earth we are all in deep…………………..or I hope you have ear plugs and boot’s probably a good idea anyway. I have to admit I want to read the witting in a month or so after the so called climate bill watered down bill is there any other kind. It’s going to get ugly.

  13. Deadbeat said on July 13th, 2010 at 6:51pm #

    From the Harper’s article that Max posted by Naomi Klein writes …

    In only a few months, the postwar plan to turn Iraq into a laboratory for the neocons had been realized. Leo Strauss may have provided the intellectual framework for invading Iraq preemptively, but it was that other University of Chicago professor, Milton Friedman, author of the anti-government manifesto Capitalism and Freedom, who supplied the manual for what to do once the country was safely in America’s hands. This represented an enormous victory for the most ideological wing of the Bush Administration. But it was also something more: the culmination of two interlinked power struggles, one among Iraqi exiles advising the White House on its postwar strategy, the other within the White House itself.

    As I stated Max, Milton Friedman was AGAINST the invasion of Iraq. Also Klein ignores that part of the ZionCons wanted to split up Iraq into factions which the “Americans” did as well. The reason I know this Max is that I attended Ms. Klein’s conferences and read her book. At the time I bought here “neo-liberal” explanation but that was before I was aware of Friedman’s position.

    Also posting the Harper article was 2004 where the Zionist Left was desperate for an alternative explanation as the War for Oil explanation was not holding up to scrutiny. By 2010 the neo-liberal excuse is not holding up either.

    The Chomskyite agenda is to to cover and make excuses for American Zionism. If that is not your agenda then take the time to read James Petras book The Power of Israel in the United States. You can find it on the Internet in .pdf form Take the time to read Chapter 15 Noam Chomsky and the Pro-Israel Lobby: Fifteen Erroneous Theses p.168

  14. Deadbeat said on July 13th, 2010 at 7:05pm #

    Max Shields writes …

    Was it not you who thought Obama would make a great president. Or was that another Deadbeat (toofoo)?

    Again Max when backed into a corner you resort to smears and distortion. I never advocated Obama. However Max I chose to explain about the reaction that people of color had for Obama in nuanced terms unlike Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report who was indicting the entire race for supporting Obama. I thought Ford position was hypocrisy since in 2004 he was an avid supporter Howard Dean. Ford waited an election cycle too late to bolt from the Democrats. The Left was much stronger in 2004 and weaken themselves by not rallying behind Nader (warts and all) that year. By 2008 the Left was politically useless (and in many was still is).

    Therefore since the Left was useless in 2008 and ran a decidedly divided campaign (Nader vs. McKinney) that from a practical standpoint people of color would vote for the Democratic candidate regardless whether it was Obama or Clinton. Obama just gave additional purpose to the black and brown vote. This was affirmed by the results as 95% of the black vote and 85% of the brown vote went to Obama.

    Your histrionic against Obama makes great comedy since the problem is not Obama but the “Left” who agenda it is to maintain an “easy”, “lofty”, “politically correct” middle class rhetoric of axioms, bromides, and cliches (ABC’s of Chomskyism) rather than radical, Marxist, anti-racist, pro-justice analysis and explanations of the systemic crisis.

  15. Max Shields said on July 14th, 2010 at 5:01am #

    Deadbeat: Poor uncle Milty. Good to see his notion of how to devastate a sovereign nation suits your ideological bent.

    First, since Deadbeat you seem to care more about personalities than solutions to real problems, I’ll play along for a bit. Since you impune the intentions of Klein what exactly does she have to say about this “peace activists” Friedman?
    In addressing this idea that Friedman was against the Iraq invasion, Klein states:
    “I am not the one who should be embarrassed. Despite his later protestations, Milton Friedman openly supported the war when it was being waged. In April 2003, Friedman told the German magazine Focus that “President Bush only wanted war because anything else would have threatened the freedom and the prosperity of the USA.” Asked about increased tensions between the U.S. and Europe, Friedman replied: “the end justifies the means. As soon as we’re rid of Saddam, the political differences will also disappear.” [Read the whole interview in German and our translation.] Clearly this was not the voice of anti-intervention. Even in July 2006, when Friedman claimed to have opposed the war from the beginning, he remained hawkish. Now that the U.S. was in Iraq, Friedman told The Wall Street Journal, “it seems to me very important that we make a success of it.”

    While you can debate this issue, it appears Klein stayed on point with her thesis. Whether or not Klein makes all the same connections to Israel in this is not her intention. It is to illustrate this neocolonial approach to economic control that she is tracing.

    I’ve stated my positions on Israel and that I think the state should never have been and should be dissolved as we know it. I don’t know (or really care) whether Klein fully agrees with my idea. I think she probably overlaps with much of the deep genocidal tension with the Zionist. I have no particular evidence (nor am I a witch hunter) that Klein is a Zionist.

    But as to Uncle Milty, well much of his support comes from the free market proponents and the Chicago school of economics. There is some ideological liberaterian strain in there who are anti-war, but strongly free market and would like to believe that Friedman is more like them.

  16. Max Shields said on July 14th, 2010 at 5:04am #

    Clarification: I think Klein probably agrees that Israel is the predominant threat to the region. Whether she would prefer a two state or one is another issue. Perhaps she’s written about it. I see nothing tenable about a two state solution – it is a fantacy, no a cynical illusion to consider a two state solution.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain said on July 14th, 2010 at 6:40am #

    Israel has been a full-blown fascist state since its establishment.Zionism is fascism, racism, apartheid, you name it, all rolled into one. The only thing ‘proto’ about Israeli fascism is that it is now being aimed at ‘self-loathing Jews’ within Israel itself. Arab Israelis, the Palestinians, the Lebanese and all Israel’s victim/neighbours have long experienced Zionist fascism in action.
    Zionism is to Jewry as fascism was to Italians and Nazism to Germans. It was, of course, complicated and worsened by the horrors of the Judeocide, that has so plainly left many Jews despising the rest of humanity. And the particular nature of Judaism,particularly in its extremist, fundamentalist form, whose adherents, now completely dominant in Israeli politics and the military,make no secret of their feeling of universal supremacy and superiority, not just to their immediate victims, but to the rest of humanity, makes events yet more dangerous.
    That Israel is turning more radically fascist is no surprise. The spiritual sickness that is fascism,like other psychopathies, tends to evolve, as do all natural phenomena. Racists like the Israeli elite, particularly under Likud, are and ever were fascists, in former times admirers of Mussolini and Franco and die-hard racists long closely allied to Afrikaaner apartheid South Africa. Then there are the Likud’s clerico-fascist allies like Shas and the Judaic Taliban of the settler movement, and these types are rarely satisfied with merely expelling their colonial victims. Particularly if they resist and endure, the racists’ hatred grows more and more frantic, their atrocities more and more extreme. Certainly Israel has always committed cold-blooded murder and massacre and long practised mass torture to terrorise, intimidate and recruit traitors and informers, but latterly their efforts have been truly despicable. The carnage in Gaza, the use of white phosphorus, depleted uranium,cluster bombs, DIME munitions etc, all point to a truly sinister turn. If Israel continues down the road of greater and greater atrocities, refusing all the while to ever negotiate in good faith with the Palestinian untermenschen (the ‘Iron Wall’ that has been Likudnik policy since the days of Jabotinsky, an open fascist) and global resistance to its crimes mounts, I fear a real catastrophe. For, evil as Netanyahu et al are, in my opinion, there are currents in Israeli society even more vicious and dangerous. They take their ideology, in part, from an interpretation of Judaic Law, as expressed by the Yesha Council of Rabbis and Torah Sages during the Lebanon carnage in 2006, that openly states that, under Judaic Law, it is not just permissible to kill civilians in time of ‘war’, but it is a religious good deed or ‘mitzvah’. Moreover other clerico-fascist figures have declared that it is permissible to kill children if they would grow to oppose the Jews and yet others have openly called for a genocide, citing the history of various religiously sanctioned genocides committed by the Jews outlined in the Torah. Moreover in a recent, sinister, but predictable development, the Israelis have set out, with the various Zionist Lobbies in the West, on a despicable project to re-shape international law into a parody. They aim to make it permissible to kill civilians residing in ‘terrorist entities’ (as defined,of course, by the Herrenvolk) and to criminalise as ‘terrorism’, the resistance of people to racist and fascist oppression. They aim to achieve this ghastly Orwellian end, by establishing ‘facts on the ground’ ie committing worse and worse atrocities and getting away with it, the same way as they have relentless cleansed Palestine in defiance of international law.
    In short we are confronted by a virulently fascist Israel, led by florid psychopaths motivated by perverted religious doctrines that call for genocide, and armed with hundreds, if not thousands, of thermo-nuclear weapons, and which controls the Western political, media and financial apparatus through Jewish money power. If that is not a recipe for Armageddon, as the Christian Zionist fascists so fervently hope, then I’m a monkey’s uncle.

  18. mary said on July 19th, 2010 at 2:11pm #

    Please add Coca Cola and allied products to your boycott list.

    Apart from the fact that the fizzy drink rots teeth and adds useless calories to one’s diet, the company has a long and unhealthy relationship with Zionist Israel.

  19. teafoe2 said on July 19th, 2010 at 4:17pm #

    Coca-cola corp has been on the boycott list of most activists that I know for a long time, especially those concerned about conditions in Latin America. “Coke” has an anti-people jacket long as your arm. cf. google?

    But thank you Mary for reminding us.