The increasing support for the BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) movement targeted at the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands around the world has caused great concern within the Israeli government and they have launched a propaganda effort to try and discredit it, such as retaliating against those who advocate for it by going to the extent of getting sympathetic western governments to even criminalize speech in support of it.
Some critics of BDS argue that the movement is merely a cover for anti-Semitism. StevoR has reprised one version of that argument, saying that the BDS movement is covertly anti-Semitic because it is not accompanied by calls for boycotts of other oppressive nations. I usually skim over his posts because they are drearily repetitive but this is a type an argument that I have heard elsewhere even outside of the BDS issue and is worth addressing. Other commenters have responded as well and I urge readers to read those that come after the above link.
Incidentally, why no similar BDS campaigns against say China over Tibet and Xinjiang or Indonesia over West Papua and other islands and places seeking to break away from the Javanese empire or Russia over Chechyna etc .. As the Jewish people have seemingly said throughout their existence – why us? Why is hate speech and hate campaigns like the BDS acceptable here only against Israel and Jewish people and businesses?
I find unpersuasive the suggestion that this issue has a covert agenda simply because it does not also call for the boycott of other nations. Boycotts and embargoes have been conducted against other nations, most notably against South Africa, Rhodesia, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Iraq. Many of these boycotts were led by governments. The South African parallel is telling because that too was largely initiated by ordinary people because western nations were unwilling to act, at least initially, against that apartheid regime, the way they are unwilling to act against Israel now.
The argument that “If you really care about A you should also be doing something about B, C, D, at the same time or your sincerity about A can be questioned” is one that can be invoked to shut down action on any issue, since the world is a complex place and there are always other issues that require attention. For example, during the boycott movement against South Africa during that country’s apartheid regime, people could just as easily have suggested that we should not concern themselves with that country’s problems since at that time the treatment of Palestinians by Israel and many other situations were not receiving the same level of attention and their plight was being largely ignored by the focus on moves against South Africa. People who argue this way are similar to those who argue that we should not devote any effort to redress women’s inequality in the west because the situation of women in some other countries is much worse, or that the lives of the poor in the US is better (They have refrigerators! And TVs! And cell phones!) than those of poor people in many countries so what are they complaining about?
The fact is that fighting any injustice anywhere is a good thing and people should be free to choose which struggle they want to focus their efforts on and where they feel they can be most useful without being denigrated for not choosing something else.
People who care about all the other injustices in the world should be encouraged to create greater awareness and garner support for those causes, and all power to them. If StevoR feels that similar boycotts of China or Indonesia are necessary (and we know he feels strongly about those issues since his username at one time was “StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!”), then he should be calling for them and working to increase support for them, not undermining the efforts of BDS. Our goal should be to increase the numbers of fights against injustices, not decrease them. So the only issues in judging the BDS movement is whether the Palestinians are being treated fairly by Israel and whether such boycotts are an effective tactic in redressing the severe injustices perpetrated on them by the Israeli government.
The reasons why some issues rise to the surface at particular times in history while others do not, even though they share many similar features, is something for scholars to discuss and analyze but that this happens all the time is an undeniable fact. Why are people so familiar with the Jewish holocaust but the Armenian genocide is barely mentioned? Why do we remember what happened to Salvador Allende but not so much about Patrice Lumumba? Why is the expulsion of French colonialists from Algeria so well known but a similar action by the people of Cameroon almost totally forgotten?
For whatever reason, attention to the issue of Palestine and Israel has come to the fore now and is growing. And that is the reality that has to be dealt with. To argue that we should weaken the struggle for justice there because we are not devoting equal attention to other situations has to be seen as seriously self-serving. It is StevoR and others who argue like him and not the BDS movement who can be accused of having a hidden agenda, theirs being protecting Israel from the consequences of its appalling behavior.
As Edgar says in Shakespeare’s King Lear (although in another context), “Ripeness is all”. To complain that all the serious issues in the world do not command the same amount of attention at the same time is like complaining that all the fruits on a tree do not ripen at the same time. When a fruit is ripe for plucking, then it should be plucked, rather than waiting for all to ripen.