Trending Topics:

BDS lays the basis for a true peace process

on 20 Comments


The recent collapse of the “Kerry Plan” to revive the two-state solution has once again exposed the peace process as a cynical travesty devoid of justice.

Recycled in various permutations for over two decades, the U.S. sponsored two-state solution has had a consistent purpose: force Palestinians to formally accept an apartheid “Jewish state” on more than three-quarters of historic Palestine and—at best—an Israeli-controlled Palestinian Bantusan on what’s left.

It also demands that seven million Palestinian refugees, transformed through Zionist alchemy from victims of ethnic cleansing into a collective threat to Israel’s “Jewish character,” permanently concede their right of return.

To succeed, this process requires an indigenous accomplice willing to trade away Palestinian rights and demobilize popular opposition in exchange for what Palestinian grassroots activist Haidar Eid describes as “a flag, a national anthem, and a small piece of land on which to exercise municipal sovereignty and establish ministries, all with the permission of the occupier.”

The Palestinian Authority (PA) was created by the 1993 Oslo Accords precisely to fulfill this function, to be administered by a compliant PLO “negotiating partner.”

For iconic Palestinian intellectual and one-time senior PLO advisor Edward Said, this “instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles” was a catastrophe. “I doubt that there was a single Palestinian who watched the White House [signing] ceremony,” he wrote, “who did not also feel that a century of sacrifice, dispossession and heroic struggle had finally come to nought.”

Today’s PA leadership under notional president Mahmoud Abbas represents a Palestinian neoliberal 1% and actively colludes with Israeli forces to suppress any signs of resistance, having become, as Said predicted, “Israel’s enforcer.” Abbas has unashamedly affirmed this role, recently declaring the PA’s “security relationship” with Israel “sacred.”

Yet despite its best efforts at collaboration, the PA cannot openly submit to Israeli demands for total Palestinian capitulation, for fear of being toppled by a new popular Intifada.

For its part, the Obama administration regards a two-state solution as the best long-term means of securing Israel’s ongoing role as watchdog for U.S. imperial interests in the region (Secretary of State Alexander Haig once referred to Israel as “the largest American aircraft carrier in the world”).

As in all alliances, however, there is tension. Israel’s highly conspicuous “Jewish only” settlements in the 1967 territories undermine the U.S. administration’s two-state plans as made clear by John Kerry’s “poof” comment regarding Israel’s responsibility for the most recent breakdown in the talks. At the same time, U.S. politicians know they must placate domestic pro-Israel forces or suffer the electoral consequences.

These strains notwithstanding, shared aims and ideology—rather than the “Israel Lobby”—ultimately guarantee unconditional U.S. support for Israel, which is therefore free to drag out endless negotiations to nowhere.

The 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel challenges all these machinations. BDS, the largest international movement in solidarity with Palestinian resistance, demands not only an end to the 1967 occupation, but equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and that Israel respect, protect and promote Palestinian refugee’s right of return.

Zionists complain these demands spell the end of the “Jewish state.” They are correct. A “Jewish state” is by definition dedicated to the supremacy of Jews over non-Jews in Palestine, and is therefore irreconcilable with the justice advocated by BDS. As Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah summarizes, “The demand for a Jewish state cannot be implemented without violating the fundamental human rights of Palestinians, who are no less deserving of human rights than any other group of humans.”

In response to this message, Israel and its backers are striking back. In 2011, the Knesset passed legislation making BDS advocacy and Nakba commemoration a punishable offense. They are now seeking to do the same in the U.S., particularly at universities, where, as author Bill Mullen points out, the battles between Israeli proxies and emerging Students for Justice in Palestine chapters represent “the sharpest campus political conflicts since the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Vietnam antiwar movements.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not only insisting that the PA acknowledge Israel as a “Jewish state” and “cancel” Palestinian right of return as a precondition for any agreement, but is also promoting a new Israeli Basic Law reaffirming Israel’s status as “the nation state of one people only—the Jewish people—and of no other people.” The Kerry Plan similarly insists that Israel is “the nation-state of the Jewish people.” 

This language only underscores the racist premises of the “Jewish state,” and makes a mockery of John Kerry’s warning that Israel might in future become an apartheid state. In reality, Mr. Kerry, Israel has been an apartheid state since Day One.

Half a century ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded the world there can be no peace without the “presence of justice.” BDS, by insisting on liberation and full equality throughout historic Palestine, embodies this self-evident principle. Any genuine peace process must do no less.

David Letwin

David Letwin works with Jews for Palestinian Right of Return. He has been published online at Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, The Sabbah Report, and Socialist Worker.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

20 Responses

  1. DaBakr on June 4, 2014, 5:29 pm

    LOL. If only the author and his cohorts had the same problem with the notion that wether by decree, law or by decades of tradition there are many nations where Islam reigns ‘superior’ over Judaism, Christianity , Bahai, and other eligions. I don’t need to name them. The BDS movement and leadership knows quite well the world in which we live and I assume they know exactly why Israel is set up with laws that protect its Jewish culture and character. The fact is, they simply do not care, do not like Zionism and they do not like Israel in the present position of sovereignty that it has over one of the largest and last populations of Jews in the world. So, good luck with your ‘really great solution’ to the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews. (which is essentially what it has always boiled down to despite BDS types excruciating push to change the semantics and flip the situation on its head in any and every way possible.)

    And yes, I believe that movements like BDS make it harder to come to a treaty as it A) continues giving false and overblown expectations to the Palestinians and B) it further isolates Israel which-while it may be the goal of BDS-only hardens Israeli and their allies positions and most studies have proven long ago that BDS did not essentially do any harm to the bds’rs ‘beloved’ false-analogy: South Africa. BDS of SA only achieved visibility in the world of PR and Israel’s conflict with the Arabs has always been a completely different ball-game compared to the Apartheid regime in SA. You can say it all you want-but it doesn’t make it so except for a tiny fringe community that we keep hearing threats about how its “about to take off like a rocket”. It seems to me it merely ebbs and flows. You think its waxing in the US now while many see it as waning after its peak several months back. Whatever-its certainly not a serious plan except in th minds of those that conceived it.

  2. Kay24 on June 4, 2014, 6:07 pm

    A very interesting article Mr. Letwin. It clearly explains this irrational need by Bibi that Israel be recognized as a “Jewish state”. Israel wants to dominate it’s neighbors, not give them their due rights, and wield power over them. Any resistance will then be met with deadly force, as it will be then seen as an attack on said Jewish state. The constant whining from Israel is that it’s neighbors want to wipe Israel off the map. The reality is, recent maps ALL show it is the Palestinians who are systematically being wiped off the map, and to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, will give the impression that Palestinians agree to the occupation, and brutal crimes against them. The Palestinians cannot, and should not, give Israel that legitimacy – it will be to their peril. Besides, it is utterly stupid of Israel to demand they be recognized in some manner, when it refuses to recognize the rights, freedom, and even existence, of the Palestinians. What chutzpah!

  3. pabelmont on June 4, 2014, 8:07 pm

    Kay24: Yes, After Israel gets USA and others to “recognize” it as a “Jewish State” it has a better chance to portray efforts to secure Palestinian RoR as “destroying” the Jewish aspect and, therefore, destroying the “Jewish state”.

    a better chance. But of course reality is that the nations have long demanded PRoR and also done nothing to make it happen. that is BDS’s job. Might happen! If it does (if many nations impose real sanctions seeking to achieve the 3-point BDS program) Israel may find that its best choice is to allow PRoR. In that case, there would still be an Israel, but one less majority-Jewish. Keep tuned!

  4. JustJessetr on June 4, 2014, 9:52 pm

    “For iconic Palestinian intellectual and one-time senior PLO advisor Edward Said, this “instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles” was a catastrophe. “I doubt that there was a single Palestinian who watched the White House [signing] ceremony,” he wrote, “who did not also feel that a century of sacrifice, dispossession and heroic struggle had finally come to nought.”

    Funny, the Israeli hard-right say the same thing, that Oslo was a disaster for Israel and that it was the beginning of giving everything away.

  5. mondonut on June 4, 2014, 11:22 pm

    How positively Orwellian. “BDS lays the basis for a true peace process”, wherein peace is the liberation elimination of one of the two parties to the peace agreement.

  6. on June 5, 2014, 12:03 am

    There is no BDS merchandise (t-shirts et cetera) on ebay ? Nor is there any Israel Apartheid merchandise on ebay. We have a ways to go it seems. There is a demand for these items so why is no one acting ? Cafepress have some lame items for sale, for and against Israel but no real emphasis on the magic words of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Is someone suppressing these items on ebay ??

  7. lonely rico on June 5, 2014, 12:44 am

    No. True peace would be the liberation of BOTH parties from the racist ethnocentrism called zionism.

  8. Naftush on June 5, 2014, 3:09 am

    Seven million refugees, my posterior. Subtract descendants even if UNRWA chooses to support them, because nowhere on earth do descendants of refugees count as refugees. Subtract those who never left Mandate Palestine, a fortiori those who remained in Israel and put forward the farce of being “internal refugees.” Subtract those outside of Mandate Palestine who piggybacked on the real refugees to benefit from UN provisions (30% of the original count according to Morris). Subtract those who left in order to preserve their wealth or simply because they did not wish to live under Jewish rule. Subtract those who were bullied out of Mandate Palestine by invading Arab militiamen and thugs. Subtract those who did in fact return at times when Israeli impediments were lax. Now redo the count.

    • mondonut on June 5, 2014, 4:09 pm


      You forgot a biggie, subtract everyone who subsequently obtained citizenship in another country thereby ending their status of “refugee”. Interestingly this includes many high level Palestinian politicians.

  9. seafoid on June 5, 2014, 4:06 am


    You need to get real. YESHA has to go.
    You have lost the argument.
    I haven’t seen any credible hasbara in the FT for some time.

    “if Israel maintains its occupation, and spurns the peace terms being negotiated by US secretary of state John Kerry, such distinctions will erode. European pension funds are already starting to pull their investments in Israeli banks with branches in the settlements.

    Israeli leaders, from former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert to Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, justice and finance ministers in the present rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, have warned that Israel faces ostracism unless it makes a deal on Palestine. Now it is the settlements that are being targeted. But that could easily morph into a general boycott.

    It is disingenuous to romanticise settlement enterprises. The occupation imprisons thousands of the Palestinians’ young men, gives their land and water to settlers, demolishes their houses and partitions the remaining territory with scores of checkpoints and segregated roads. There are almost no basic foundations for an economy. The way to create Palestinian jobs is to end the occupation and let Palestinians build those foundations – not to build “bridges to peace” on other people’s land without their permission.”

    • mondonut on June 5, 2014, 4:15 pm


      Then maybe the FT (and most everyone here) needs to as honest with its readers as you are willing to be. The true, unlisted goal of BDS is to eliminate the Jewish state. Get the BDS proponents to state this forthrightly and just watch their support evaporate.

      The BDS can only succeed by masking its goals and enlisting useful idiots.

      • seafoid on June 5, 2014, 11:15 pm

        The Jewish state has to retreat to morally defensible borders, Mondonut.

        If you won’t do it, Galut will.

  10. wes on June 5, 2014, 4:38 am

    mondonut says:
    June 4, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    “How positively Orwellian. “BDS lays the basis for a true peace process”, wherein peace is the liberation elimination of one of the two parties to the peace agreement.”

    mondonut ,you have my friend,in one short sentence,summed it all up

    arab strategic thinking………………liberation elimination

    wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhooooooooooooo i love it

    a peace process called ….LIBERATION ELIMINATION

  11. NickJOCW on June 5, 2014, 4:57 am

    …BDS, the largest international movement in solidarity with Palestinian resistance, demands not only an end to the 1967 occupation, but equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and that Israel “respect, protect and promote” Palestinian refugees’ right of return.

    The author is obviously right about the role and aspirations of BDS but there needs also an intervening stage when Israelis, uncontaminated by mythopoeic enthusiasm, lend their weight to those demands. This brings me back again to a question I have asked twice before, to no avail:

    Are they also the demands that ‘liberal’ Jews work for? Yes or no?

    • NickJOCW on June 5, 2014, 3:37 pm

      Eleven hours later, no answer is an answer. The BDS demands do not ask anything of Palestinians. The days of concession and negotiation are maybe over as the impetus for a resolution passes to the global community. Could there be a danger that outraged Jewish voices here and elsewhere may come to be regarded as one among myriad inter-tribal Jewish differences, where all want to occupy Palestinian land but some prefer to do so with a smile and an extended hand while others go for a gun.

  12. just on June 5, 2014, 8:03 am

    G4S is in the ‘spotlight’:

    “Desmond Tutu will lead protesters on Thursday campaigning against British security firm G4S’s role in maintaining prisons and detention centres in the West Bank and Israel.

    The South African retired archbishop and Nobel peace laureate will challenge G4S’s management over the company’s alleged role in facilitating “Israel’s brutal occupation and abhorrent prison system” at the company’s annual general meeting in London on Thursday afternoon.

    Tutu, and several other notable protesters including directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, philosopher Noam Chomsky and barrister Michael Mansfield QC, have written an open letter to G4S management, published in the Guardian, demanding the company stop supplying equipment to Israeli prisons.

    “G4S helps the Israeli Prison Service to run prisons inside Israel that hold prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory, despite the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibition of the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier,” the protesters wrote.

    “Through its involvement in Israel’s prison system, G4S is complicit in violations of international law and participates in Israel’s use of mass incarceration as a means by which to dissuade Palestinians from protesting Israel’s systematic human rights abuses.”

    The protesters claim that human rights organisations have documented “systematic torture” and ill treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including children held in solitary confinement, at some of the Prisons.

    In a separate letter to the Guardian a number of MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn and Joan Ruddock, said children were reportedly ill-treated in the prisons and called on G4S to “terminate its contracts with facilities where children suffer routine physical and verbal abuse”.

    G4S, which employs 8,000 in Israel, said it “takes very seriously our obligations to ensure that our activities do not contribute to human rights abuses”.”


    BDS! Thanks to the wonderful folks who brought this to light, and to Bill and Melinda Gates for listening and acting!

    • Bumblebye on June 5, 2014, 8:21 am

      From Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (which is based in Mike Mansfields chambers):

      “London, 2 June 2014 –
      Security firm G4S are to be investigated after a UK Government trade body found that human rights complaints made in relation to the activities of the firm and their subsidiaries in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory need further examination.
      The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provide guidelines for multinational enterprises for responsible business conduct which governments encourage companies to observe wherever they operate.
      Following a complaint by the legal charity Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR), represented by lawyers Leigh Day, that, contrary to the OECD Guidelines, G4S PLC has breached the obligation to respect human rights of those affected by their activities, the OECD UK National Contact Point (UK NCP) (within the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills) has today accepted in an Initial Assessment that issues raised in the complaint are substantiated and require further examination.”

      • Bumblebye on June 5, 2014, 8:46 am

        And from their (long) blog:

        “Today’s decision by the UK National Contact Point (UK NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines) to accept in their Initial Assessment that issues raised in LPHR’s complaint regarding the activities of G4S PLC in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) are substantiated and require further examination, is both ground-breaking and significant.

        Ground-breaking because it marks the first time that the implementation mechanism for the OECD Guidelines has been successfully utilised to this stage in the procedure regarding the relationship between activities of a corporation and adverse human rights impacts against Palestinians in Israel and the OPT.

        And significant because of its potential to bring positive and effective change to Palestinians adversely affected by serious, continuing and pervasive international law and human rights violations.”

      • just on June 5, 2014, 8:51 am

        Many thanks, Bumblebye!

        This is mightily significant, and the information that you posted just sent shivers of delight down my spine.

  13. bintbiba on June 5, 2014, 9:12 am

    Well done, Bumblebye ! Earlier this a.m I signed the petition received in my inbox.

Leave a Reply