The growing worldwide support for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement to pressure Israel over its treatment of Palestinians has led the Israeli government to ban 20 organizations that support BDS from entering Israel. The list includes Codepink, American Friends Service Committee, and Jewish Voice for Peace. The Israel lobby in the US has also used its clout to try and silence voices that support Palestinian rights and BDS.
Israel has powerful friends in the US government, the media, and academia but cracks are appearing in that wall of solidarity. For example, the New York Times has long turned a blind eye to the plight of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. It gives copious amounts of space to apologists for Israel’s behavior while giving scant attention to the cruelty of that government’s actions. This has been most obvious in its editorial pages where rarely would any of its regular columnists make any criticisms of Israeli government and military actions except in the most egregious of cases and these would quickly disappear from view. But the global awareness of the awful conditions that Israel imposes on Palestinians that have evoked strong comparisons with the period of apartheid in South Africa can no longer be ignored by the major newspaper in the US.
Philip Weiss says that a recent column by Michelle Goldberg is a breakthrough, because she too thinks that the possibility of a two-state solution is dead. He quotes key passages from her piece.
“Supporters of Israel hate it when people use the word “apartheid” to describe the country, but we don’t have another term for a political system in which one ethnic group rules over another, confining it to small islands of territory and denying it full political representation.
“If the Israelis insist now on finishing the process of killing the two-state solution, the only alternative we have as Palestinians is one fully democratic, one-state solution,” [Mustafa] Barghouti says, in which everyone has “totally equal rights.”
Israel’s apologists will be left mimicking the argument that William F. Buckley once made about the Jim Crow South. In 1957, he asked rhetorically whether the white South was entitled to prevail “politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.” The “sobering answer,” he concluded, was yes, given the white community’s superior civilization.
It’s impossible to say how long Israel could sustain such a system. But the dream of liberal Zionism would be dead. Maybe, with the far right in power both here and there, it already is.”
The fact the writers like Goldberg are saying that there is no word other than apartheid to describe the condition of Palestinians, and that the newspaper published it, is because the reality can no longer be ignored or suppressed.
Weiss says that Israeli liberals are being pushed more and more into an untenable position.
The reason that Israeli liberals are viewed with contempt by the left is that they have more pity for themselves than for the people under the Israeli boot… And they reject the only thing Israel seems to fear, international pressure in the form of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).
But actions like banning these groups is unlikely to stop the movement.
In an interview with +972 Magazine, Jewish Voice for Peace executive-director Rebecca Vilkomerson noted that “Israel’s decision to specifically ban JVP leaders from entry is disconcerting but not surprising, given the consistent erosion of democratic norms as well as increasing fear of the BDS movement in Israel.”
To Vilkomerson, the blacklist is not only an organizational hardship but a personal one. The Brooklyn activist is married to an Israeli and has extensive family and friends in Israel and the West Bank whom she will likely no longer be able to visit.
But the barring of Jewish Voice for Peace, an explicitly Jewish organization, suggests a true ideological contradiction forming between Israel’s claim as homeland to all Jews and Israel’s fear of the catalyzing BDS movement. And it further reveals the fissures within the mainstream American Jewish community regarding Israel.
In fact, in the approximately two days since it was made public that Jewish Voice for Peace is included on the blacklist, the general social media response suggests that membership and donations to the non-profit have increased.
Vilkomerson told Mondoweiss this would be impossible to confirm until tomorrow.
Among the twenty blacklisted organizations there was an overwhelming sense of momentum — an affirmation that BDS is successfully putting pressure on Israel to end its abuse of Palestinians.
“This [blacklist] is a declaration of failure and defeat by the state of Israel and it grows out of the global BDS movement,” Dr. Osama Abuirshaid, national policy director at American Muslims for Palestine, told Mondoweiss.
But Ariel Gold of CODEPINK noted that the BDS blacklist could have the effect of keeping “those of us that work really hard for Palestinian rights as disconnected as [possible] to the people struggling on the ground.”
“Israel is willing to do anything, even give up their image — which was already a false image — of being a democratic state and being a homeland for all Jews in order to try and prevent the inevitable,” Gold said. “This BDS ban really only strengthens the movement further…it allows the rest of the world to see this hypocrisy that Israel is even more clearly.”
We can expect to see more attempts to silence BDS supporters in the US as the movement gains strength. Fordham University is being sued by students because it refused to recognize the student group Students for Justice in Palestine.
In a case that highlights what some are calling the “Palestine exception” to free speech on college campuses across the nation, we look at students who are suing Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus in New York for their right to start a Students for Justice in Palestine group. The student government approved the group unanimously, but the dean of students overruled the approval, saying the group would “stir up controversy” and be “polarizing.”
A lawyer for Fordham University was very clear as to why it wants to ban the group, saying that “the university does not want to promote a club that supports “BDS,” the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement aimed at Israel.”
While Israel may win some short-term battles, it is rapidly losing the public relations war as it keeps increasing its repressive actions against Palestinians directly and those who support justice for them.