The New York Times editorial board refuses to lay blame for the failure of the peace talks on either side. By contrast, Eric Alterman in The Nation is a model of clear thinking. The Israelis and Netanyahu were “never serious about pursuing” a two-state solution in recent talks, Netanyahu wants “a Bantustan-style solution,” and “US audiences may be fooled by Netanyahu’s lip service to a two-state solution, but Israelis are not.”
Then something comes over this calm and persuasive writer, and three-quarters of the way through his column, Alterman starts writing as if he is a man possessed. Maybe something bit him?
Alterman is enraged by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, BDS, and makes the astonishing claim that BDS is helping Netanyahu pursue the occupation.
Netanyahu and company actually appreciate the misguided efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in the United States and Europe. As [Avner Inbar, director of the liberal Israeli thinktank Molad] explains, while “the ideologically driven BDS movement likes to claim credit for any instance of international pressure on Israel, it really forestalls such pressure, as the large actors whose actions count in this regard—governments, international agencies and corporations who oppose the occupation—are justifiably reluctant to be associated with the wholesale anti-Israeli rhetoric of the BDS movement.” Right-wing Israelis are therefore able to take advantage of the widespread distaste for “BDS-style rhetoric and tactics, because they know that the more attention the BDS movement receives, the more difficult it will become to build serious international pressure on the occupation itself.” (This is undoubtedly why Mahmoud Abbas opposes BDS as well.)
If BDS is so helpful to Netanyahu’s efforts to maintain the occupation, Hasbara Central sure didn’t get the prime minister’s memo. Israel’s friends have been working overtime out of the expressed concern that BDS represents the greatest threat to Israel. At a secret conference in London aimed at thwarting BDS just last week, Ron Lauder linked it to terrorism. Many others claim that it’s anti-Semitic. Israel lobbyists are trying to get US lawmakers to legislate against it. They are alarmed because, as the New York Times reported in that op-ed yesterday, BDS’s momentum is growing. Some European banks have turned from Israel, the American Studies Association voted for academic boycott of Israel, and the movement’s recent progress has been so dramatic that Netanyahu mentioned BDS 18 times in his speech to AIPAC. “Those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot,” he said.
Even more bizarre is Alterman’s contention that well-meaning governments and corporations and international agencies oppose the occupation and are just itchin’ to put pressure on Israel. Where’s his evidence? Israel has never paid a price for expansion; it just keeps expanding. Obama called for an end to settlements in 2009 and then promptly reversed himself, lest he lose Haim Saban and other major backers. The Democratic Party has endlessly supported Israel’s colonization of Jerusalem; and the American Jewish community has also been a passive supporter — “breakfast at the Regency,” as David Remnick put it. When Peter Beinart dared to call for boycotting settlement goods, he promptly set off a furious argument here over whether you could boycott Israel even outside the Green Line, in the illegally-occupied territories.
Palestinians didn’t care about that American foodfight; they moved ahead with the boycott call.
BDS is a Palestinian-led movement that has been unhampered by all the tribal and imperial politics that have prevented western governments and corporations from doing one thing to stem Israel’s expansion, from 1948 on. And that’s the problem. Alterman once was able to claim that he was a good American liberal on this issue, representing the left side of American debate, concerned about Palestinian human rights. He’s lost that status to BDS, which is really doing something about Palestinian rights. No wonder he’s lashing out.