Impact of BDS Grows, and Grows - The View from Israel
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Author: Peter Beinart; RT News
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Memo to Jewish Groups: You Can't Effectively Fight BDS if You Don't Fight Settlements Too

Jewish groups' effort to tar BDS with opposition to two-state solution suffers from fatal flaw: They don't actively support it themselves.

By Peter Beinart

February 5, 2014
Haaretz (Israel)

Say what you will about the dubious morality of boycotting, divesting from and sanctioning Israel. (Like David Grossman and Amos Oz, I support only boycotts that target settlements and affirm Israel's right to exist). But the tactical brilliance of BDS becomes clearer with every passing month.

BDS has united Palestinians like nothing else in recent memory

At a time when their leaders are bitterly divided and their people are geographically fragmented, BDS has united Palestinians like nothing else in recent memory. For the many young Palestinians fed up with both Fatah and Hamas, it offers a form of political action untainted by corruption, theocracy, collaboration and internal repression. As a nonviolent movement, it refocuses the Palestinian struggle away from the morally crippling legacy of PLO and Hamas terrorism and instead associates it with the moral grandeur of the anti-apartheid movement. And by relying on international activists - not Palestinian politicians - it universalizes the Palestinian struggle, making it almost irresistible for a global left inclined to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in colonial terms.

But there's one more factor that makes BDS so tactically shrewd: It exploits the mendacity of the "pro-Israel" establishment. Let me explain.

Many BDS activists oppose the existence of a Jewish state within any borders. Some might reluctantly swallow one if a viable Palestinian state were born alongside it. But what unites virtually everyone in the movement is their disgust with an American-led "peace process" in which they believe Palestinians lack the power to achieve their minimal demands. The best way to equalize the scales, they argue, is through economic and cultural pressure.

To stem BDS, the Jewish establishment needs to prove this contention wrong. And they know it. In the U.S., mainstream pro-Israel types now sandwich their opposition to BDS in between statements of effusive devotion to the negotiated two-state solution. In declaring their support for Scarlett Johansson, pitchwoman for SodaStream, which operates in the West Bank, the anti-BDS Israel Action Network recently praised Johansson's "steadfast commitment to the two-state solution" and declared that "real peace, where Israelis and Palestinians can live side-by-side in peace and security, will only come about through a negotiated agreement between both parties." The Anti-Defamation League said Johansson's work for Soda Stream would "help facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state living at peace with a secure Israel." The actress herself proclaimed her support for "a democratic Israel and Palestine"

Were the mainstream Jewish organizations that reject BDS in the name of a negotiated two-state solution actually promoting a negotiated two-state solution, their strategy might have merit. But they're not. From the Clinton parameters in 2000 to the Geneva Initiative in 2003 and talks in 2008, every serious two-state framework has envisioned a Palestinian state on at least 95 percent of the West Bank. That means either requiring many settlers to leave their homes or requiring them to give up their privileged status and live as equal citizens in a Palestinian state. Either way, it's painfully obvious that subsidizing more Israelis to move to settlements, especially settlements too deep in the West Bank to be annexed to Israel in a peace deal, undermines negotiations toward a two-state solution. It undermines them because it increases the number of settlers who will demand to remain under Israeli sovereignty. And because it increases the number of Palestinians whose despair of Israel ever relinquishing that sovereignty and as a result advocate a single, non-Jewish, state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

An organization genuinely committed to the two-state solution, therefore, would oppose at least some settlement growth. It might, for instance, publicly object when the Israeli Finance Minister declares that his government has doubled funding for settlements. Or when the Israel government designates 90 settlements - including some deep in the West Bank - as "national priority development areas," eligible for special government subsidies. But as far as I know, neither the Israel Action Network nor the Anti-Defamation League has ever publicly condemned settlement growth. In 2012, AIPAC's National Council voted down a resolution that merely called on Israel to dismantle those West Bank outposts illegal under Israeli law.

In truth, establishment American Jewish groups don't really support the two-state solution. Or, at least, they don't support it enough to risk a confrontation with the Israeli government. Which is why they are more an obstacle than an asset to the American-led "peace process." And why they can't stop BDS.

What unites BDS activists, despite their divisions, is their fervent belief that someone must challenge Israel's denial of basic Palestinian rights. Were establishment Jewish organizations to pose that challenge - even just rhetorically - their opposition to BDS might carry some weight. But they're not, and BDS activists know it.

Remember Abba Eban's famous quip that "the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." These days, that's what Palestinian activists say about us.

[Peter Beinart is Associate Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York, a Contributor to The Atlantic and National Journal, a Senior Columnist at Haaretz and a Senior Fellow at The New America Foundation. He has published three books, including The Crisis of Zionism in 2012.]

Israeli Govt, Businessmen to Meet Over Global Boycott Threat

RT News

February 1, 2014 News

A man walks in the Jewish settlement of Efrat at the Israeli occupied West Bank
credit - // AFP Photo

Amid faltering peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Israeli politicians and business leaders are forced to consider a host of international boycotts that threaten to damage the economy of the Jewish state, local media reveal.

Israeli Cabinet ministers are set to meet next week to address a growing international campaign to boycott trade over ongoing Jewish settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

In the latest development, Norway's Finance Ministry directed its $810 billion sovereign wealth fund to blacklist two Israeli firms "due to contribution to serious violations of individual rights in war or conflict, through the construction of settlements in east Jerusalem."

Israel's Foreign Ministry had no comment on the matter, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The European Union recently moved to block funding to any Israeli organization operating on settlements built on Palestinian land seized during the Six Day War of 1967, which is viewed by the international community as illegal.

The criticism has even reached into the upper star-studded strata of Hollywood. American actress Scarlett Johansson, who has come under criticism over her ad campaign for a company that operates out of the occupied territories, has stepped down as Oxfam ambassador.

Finally, James Rawley, UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, criticized Israel's demolition on Thursday of 36 homes in the Jordan Valley that displaced 66 people, including 36 children.

"I am deeply concerned about the ongoing displacement and dispossession of Palestinians... along the Jordan Valley where the number of structures demolished more than doubled in the last year," he said in a statement.

Amid this wave of boycotts and condemnation, a group of influential Israeli businesspeople has launched a publicity campaign calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to forge a peace agreement with the Palestinians for the sake of Israel's economy, which is heavily dependent on exports.

Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU's ambassador to Israel, told AFP last week that Israel's ongoing settlement construction was aggravating private initiatives to boycott products and services coming from the settlements.

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid emphasized what a failure to secure a lasting peace with the Palestinians could entail.

"Europe is our primary market," he noted. "Even a 20 percent fall in our trade with Europe would mean 9,800 workers being fired immediately."

"Even a partial European boycott would be felt by every Israeli, and the cost of living would go up," he added.

Last May, the Palestine Liberation Organization released an estimate of Israeli goods for export produced in settlements, which it put at 229 million euros annually.

Amid the latest peace negotiations, neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians seem overly optimistic about the prospects of a lasting settlement that both sides can live with.

According to a Zogby Research Services poll, only around one-third of Israelis and Palestinians view a two-state solution as possible, although 74 percent of Israelis and 47 percent of Palestinians agree it is the desired outcome.

"From the results of this poll, it is clear that the past 20 years have taken a toll on the confidence both Palestinians and Israelis have in the peace process that began with the 1993 signing of the Oslo accords," the polling agency said.

In early January, Israel published tenders for 1,400 new homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, once again putting the US-brokered peace efforts between the Jewish state and the Palestinians under threat.

The announcement was expected in December, after Israel freed 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of the US-brokered deal to secure the resumption of peace negotiations.

However, it was delayed to allow US Secretary of State John Kerry to conclude his visit to the region.

The restarted peace negotiations saw Israel and Palestine returning to the negotiation table after a three-year break in July last year. The talks are set to last until April.

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