BDS: How a non-violent movement has transformed the Israeli-Palestinian debate

 Bethlehem, Jun 2015. (photo: Thomas Coex / AFP / Getty Images)
Israel sees the international boycott campaign as an existential threat; Palestinians regard it as their last resort.

By Nathan Thrall | The Guardian | Aug 14, 2018

Above all, [BDS] has underscored an awkward issue that cannot be indefinitely neglected: whether Israel, even if it were to cease its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, can be both a democracy and a Jewish state.

The movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel — known as BDS — has been driving the world a little bit mad. Since its founding 13 years ago, it has acquired nearly as many enemies as the Israelis and Palestinians combined. It has hindered the efforts of Arab states to fully break their own decades-old boycott in pursuit of increasingly overt cooperation with Israel. It has shamed the Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah by denouncing its security and economic collaboration with Israel’s army and military administration. It has annoyed the Palestine Liberation Organization by encroaching on its position as the internationally recognized advocate and representative of Palestinians worldwide.

It has infuriated the Israeli government by trying to turn it into a leper among liberals and progressives. It has exasperated what is left of the Israeli peace camp by nudging the Palestinians away from an anti-occupation struggle and towards an anti-apartheid one. It has induced such an anti-democratic counter-campaign by the Israeli government that it has made Israeli liberals fear for the future of their country. And it has caused major headaches for the Palestinians’ donor governments in Europe, which are pressured by Israel not to work with BDS-supporting organizations in the Palestinian territories, an impossible request given that nearly all major civil society groups in Gaza and the West Bank support the movement. . . .

Perhaps most significantly, BDS has challenged the two-state consensus of the international community. In so doing it has upset the entire industry of Middle East peace process nonprofit organizations, diplomatic missions and think tanks by undermining their central premise: that the conflict can be resolved simply by ending Israel’s occupation of Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, leaving the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and refugees unaddressed.

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