Israel has been distancing itself from democracy, a credit to the awareness brought about by BDS, which is asking for nothing more “radical” than human rights.
It is worthwhile to recall the objectives of BDS, so as to grasp how basic they are:
- Equal rights for all citizens, something Israel does not currently grant;
- Ending the occupation, and dismantling the wall, both of which are illegal according to international law;
- Granting Palestinian refugees the Right of Return, guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
If BDS is indeed a “threat” to Israel, if it “delegitimizes” it in in any way, it is because Israel is in violation of international law. Justice is only a threat to injustice.
When a majority of Palestinian civil society organizations picked BDS as the strategy for their liberation struggle, modeling it upon the South African anti-apartheid struggle, they were sending a clear message to the world that our circumstances are not unique, they are comparable to those experienced by the indigenous black Africans under the official segregation rules of the white South African government. Apartheid is officially designated a “crime against humanity,” and the comparison with apartheid, indeed the mere use of that term to describe the country that had long claimed to be a democracy, set into motion a series of seismic shocks that forever changed the discourse around Israel.
Many Palestinians and their allies had long maintained that the Palestine predicament was absolutely unique. Some will still passionately argue that no other people has suffered so long, been so vilified, so dispossessed, so misrepresented. And even though nobody truly wins at Oppression Olympics, they would claim first prize.
Others, myself included, argue differently. I believe the only unique aspect of the Palestine predicament is that it is a liberation struggle where criticizing the oppressor is viewed as racism. No other oppressed people was accused of racism for rising against their oppressor, even when there was a racial and/or religious divide between the oppressor and oppressed, the colonizer and colonized. No such accusation was even considered in South Africa, or Algeria, or India. But when the Palestinians seek self-determination, they are deemed “anti-Semitic” by the hegemonic discourse in the West, which both funds and shields Israel.
This has changed. . . .
The end of the myth of Palestinian exclusivity comes hand-in-hand with the end of the myth of Zionist exclusivity, namely that a country can somehow alter the meaning of democracy to suit its political ends, so that Israel is a democracy, albeit a qualified “democracy,” not fully, but “Jewish,” as if qualifying “democracy” in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious context did not immediately void that term.