Omar Barghouti is finally in the Nation. He has a piece in the first round of a forum on BDS. The exchange comes on the heels of the dust up within the magazine over the Park Slope Food Co-op boycott and Ben Adler’s Twitter meltdown.
From Barghouti’s “BDS for Palestinian Rights: ‘Equality or Nothing!’”:
Desperate to “save Israel,” essentially as an apartheid state, and motivated by genuine fear of the demise of Zionism, “liberal” Zionists are under exceptional duress given the fast spread of BDS. Cognizant of its appeal to an increasing number of younger Jewish activists, some are muddying the waters by suggesting a Zionist-friendly boycott to undermine the movement. But BDS is an ethically consistent, rights-based movement that cannot coexist with racism of any type, including Zionism. A “Zionist BDS” is as logical as a “racist equality”!
BDS addresses comprehensive Palestinian rights, not simply ending the Israeli occupation of some densely populated Palestinian territory in order to save Israel as a “purer” apartheid. Even those who seek ending the occupation only, disregarding the basic rights of most Palestinians, struggle to explain their opposition to a full boycott of Israel, the occupying power, which under international law bears full responsibility for the occupation and its manifestations. The BDS movement calls for boycotting Israel just as South Africa was the target of boycotts due to its apartheid regime, China due to its occupation of Tibet and Sudan due to its crimes in Darfur.
Still, BDS is not a dogmatic or centralized movement—it is all about context sensitivity and creativity. BDS supporters in any particular context decide what to target and how to mobilize and organize their local campaigns. So long as they uphold the basic rights of all Palestinians, international partners may decide to selectively target companies implicated in Israel’s occupation or colonies only out of pragmatic considerations rather than approval of Israel’s other injustices.
A movement that dwells in citizens’ consciences, that is rooted in an oppressed people’s heritage of struggle for justice, and that is inspired by the rich and diverse legacies of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. cannot be defeated or co-opted.
Our South Africa moment has arrived.
Bernard Avishai counters, “BDS Abandons Israeli Progressives”:
Still, Israel is also a place of progressive and creative forces, concentrated in Israeli elites: again, artists and scholars, but also entrepreneurs and professionals. BDS aims to hit global companies doing business with Israeli ones. But, as a group, international companies are the most important allies Israeli liberals have. These companies are learning and teaching organizations: Intel’s impact on Israel is like MIT’s on Cambridge. Opposing the bloc of parties favoring Greater Israel is a (somewhat weaker) bloc working toward Global Israel. What would BDS do to the latter, the very people in Israel whom the liberal world needs to strengthen?
. . .
Some will say, fine, force the implosion of Israel’s private sector and this will finally force Israeli elites to seek political change more urgently. This is mechanistic and shortsighted thinking. Economic implosion, which a fully implemented BDS would bring about rather quickly, will cut the ground out from under Israel’s most educated and cosmopolitan people. It will not just pressure them, it will destroy them—ruin their lives, force the emigration of their children. Settlers and their ultra allies, in contrast, have no problem with Israel turning into a poorer, purer, Jewish Pakistan.
Is there any other context in which the Nation would celebrate the progressive force of global capitalism? And what exactly have “Israel’s most educated and cosmopolitan people” done to end the occupation? Not much, it seems.
While this is Barghouti’s first time in the magazine, Avishai is somewhat of a regular. In fact, this anti-BDS piece is almost exactly the same as a previous anti-BDS article he wrote for the magazine in 2010. Aren’t there any other liberal Zionists out there who could make this argument?