June 4, 2013

BDS a hypocritical movement

Boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel would wrongly punish a nation that is far from an apartheid state.

On May 21, Luke Brinker wrote an excellent column titled “The flaws of ahistorical activism” illustrating the hypocrisy of the anti-Israel movement. In the article, he argues that the progressive policies of Israel’s government are in line with the broader views of activists who dismiss it as an apartheid state. His analysis is accurate, though there are several issues that he did not discuss. In particular, he did not sufficiently undermine the flawed and repeated claim that Israel is an apartheid state and he did not explain the dangerous consequences of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). I will continue where Brinker left off.

Brinker’s article is a response to Students for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) recent event “From South Africa to Israel: The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.” At the core of SJP’s argument is the notion that Israel is an apartheid state. This is absolutely false: In South Africa, the black population was segregated, banned from voting, and deprived of their citizenship; in Israel, Palestinian citizens of Israel (or Israeli-Arabs) share the same exact facilities as non-Arab citizens, have the right to vote, and hold Israeli citizenship. Though Israel is unfortunately not free of discrimination, there is not a single democracy in the world that is. Whatever forms of discrimination that exist in Israel are essentially no different than those in any other Western democracy.

Recently, University of Chicago Friends of Israel (UCFI) invited Ishmael Khaldi to speak to the university community. Khaldi was born in a Bedouin tent, voluntarily served in the Israel Defense Forces, and eventually rose to become Israel’s Deputy Consul General in San Francisco. He is the first Muslim diplomat, let alone Bedouin, in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Khaldi considers himself living proof that Israel is not an apartheid state and said, “Israel may be the only country in the Middle East, if not the world, where a Bedouin shepherd can become a high-tech engineer, a scientist, or a diplomat. The sky’s the limit.”

Arabs hold many other prominent positions in Israel. A few years ago an Israeli Arab Supreme Court Justice, Salim Joubran, sentenced Israel’s former president to prison. In 1999, Rana Raslan became the first Arab Miss Israel. This past year it was an Ethiopian-Israeli. There are many Arabs who hold high ranks in the Israeli military, and the recently appointed director of emergency medicine at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem is also an Israeli-Arab. Furthermore, Arabic is taught in Israeli schools, is on Israeli signs and, as an official language, is provided via subtitles on the state television channel.

Another major facet of SJP’s argument is that BDS is the solution to fighting Israeli apartheid. Well, we’ve already established that Israel is not an apartheid state—but let’s look at what BDS ultimately does. It would force individuals to boycott Israeli products, musicians, sports teams, companies, and even academics. The BDS movement is nothing but a hypocritical movement aimed at the destruction of the State of Israel. The hypocrisy of BDS begins with its founder Omar Barghouti, who is a graduate student from Tel Aviv University. Since he argues for a full boycott against Israel, including academics, BDS supporters should boycott him as well.

Boycotting Israeli products is also a challenge when one considers that Israel has made major contributions to many areas of technology, including the cell phone, text messaging, and the Intel chip in the laptop I am using to type this. Even Stephen Hawking’s refusal to fill the role of honored speaker at an event hosted by the Israeli president is hypocritical, as his boycott does not extend to the computer system that gives him the ability to talk. The computer, which is built around an Intel Core i7 Processor, was designed by Israel’s Intel team.

BDS ultimately hurts Palestinians from an economic standpoint as well. Many of the Palestinians in the region controlled by the Palestinian National Authority commute to Israel for work. The BDS movement attacks Israel’s economy, which could ultimately force Israeli companies to lay off employees—many of whom would be Palestinian. Thus, many Palestinians could suffer severe economic consequences from a boycott aimed at advocating for their wellbeing.

Those that support BDS are not “pro-Palestinian.” The movement does not help Palestinians in any significant way; it only hurts them. In all, the BDS movement is nothing but a hypocritical movement that aims to destroy the State of Israel via economic warfare. BDS will not solve the conflict—it will only prevent peace.

Blake Fleisher is a second-year in the College majoring in linguistics.