Racism at the root of BDS?
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is again attacking Israel and urging its members to support the campaign to boycott, divest from and sanction the Jewish state. Last week, the union’s national president, Mike Palecek, sent a communiqué to members packed with boilerplate calls for attacking Israel economically and politically, including a call to end the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.
The BDS movement lays bare a stark moral dissonance among so-called “progressives.” In confronting almost every other conflict and issue, these are people who urge discussion, negotiation, compromise, dialogue, conciliation. Except when it comes to Israel.
Why is Israel treated differently in this, as it is in so many other realms?
Obviously, Israel is held to a higher standard, as so many critics have noted, because it is a democracy, it prides itself on human rights and rule of law. However, the standards to which the world holds Israel are impossible ones that no country could measure up to when faced with the continual threats and violence that the country has endured for nearly seven decades.
The Jewish country – given the Bible, the Holocaust, the principles upon which it was founded – is expected to be the quintessence of morality and humanity. Which it might have been capable of, were it not for the fact that those who seek its destruction recognize no parallel standards of morality or humanity.
BDSers and other extreme critics of Israel shield themselves in a blanket rejection of the idea that their ideology could in any way be influenced by negative perceptions of Jews. Be that as it may, Donald Trump, of all people, may have illustrated the situation perfectly while speaking with Jewish Republicans last December.
“Look, I’m a negotiator like you folks; we’re negotiators.… This room negotiates perhaps more than any room I’ve spoken to, maybe more,” he said.
To Trump, being an expert negotiator is a compliment, though compliments often have double edges.
The stereotype of Jews as unconquerable negotiators is a driving force behind BDS. It is so universal a stereotype that Trump didn’t even realize it might be offensive, just as so many BDSers are blind to the bigotry inherent in their worldview.
Consider Sept. 28, 2000. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process was proceeding and an independent Palestinian state was in reach. Then Yasser Arafat left the negotiating table and began the Second Intifada. A decade and a half of continued statelessness for Palestinians has followed, as well as endless violence and thousands more deaths. World reaction should have been to rear up against Arafat’s rejection of negotiation and his return to violence. It wasn’t. Despite all reason, the world nearly unanimously empathized with Arafat’s actions. Why? Because many in the world, consciously or not, hold to ideas that let them believe the Palestinians were never going to get a fair shake. Despite all evidence suggesting that negotiation was leading to a two-state solution, violence was completely understandable because, you know, no one bests the Jews at negotiating.
Of course, there is the other factor – that Arafat seems to never have wanted a two-state solution, but this does not explain the reaction of erstwhile progressives and peace-seekers around the world.
Other stereotypes of Jews also drive the tactics of BDS. Note the two primary targets of the movement. First, it’s about attacking Israel economically. Secondly, it’s about academic boycotts. First, hit them where it hurts: in the pocketbook. Then sock it to them in the intellect.
It is hard not to draw the conclusion that, at its root, BDS is a movement steeped in racism.