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‘Full equality’ for Palestinian citizens poses threat to ‘Jewish state,’ ‘NYT’ reveals in BDS story

Media Analysis

Over the weekend, The New York Times ran a full-page “explainer” about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign targeting Israel under the headline, “Is BDS Anti-Semitic? A Closer Look at the Boycott Israel Campaign.” We were surprised —  and pleased — that the piece was as fair as it was.

The biggest problem with the article is the headline/framing. The Times would never run an article asking, “Is Zionism Racist?” — although there is plenty of evidence that Jewish nationalism is as inherently intolerant of non-Jews as white nationalism is of people of color.

But the article does include many paragraphs that are fair. Just look at this one. The Times acknowledges that the demand by the BDS campaign for “full equality” for Palestinian citizens of Israel is threatening to Zionists.

But many Israelis say the movement’s real goal is the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. Full equality for Arab citizens of Israel would require overturning or amending Israeli laws that grant Jews automatic citizenship and define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Reasonable readers are sure to ask, If a state is premised on inequality, what kind of state is it? As the Times suggests, discrimination is embedded in Israel’s laws. The nation-state law is a “basic law,” said to be equivalent to a constitution. In Israel, Jews have more rights than the 20-25 percent of the population that is non-Jewish, and the millions of Palestinians under occupation are denied rights altogether.

No wonder Palestinians support BDS, something else the Times points out.

Within the West Bank and Gaza, sponsors include a broad coalition of unions and nongovernmental organizations. B.D.S. enjoys at least the tacit support of a large majority of Palestinians, according to Khalil Shikaki, a Ramallah-based pollster.

NYT reporters Michael Wines, David Halbfinger and Steven Erlanger are also fair to the campaign by showing that a lot of liberal Jews support BDS!

Elsewhere, it appeals to those, including a significant number of politically liberal Jews, who are frustrated by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and the blockade and frequent bloodshed in Gaza.

The reasonable reader is bound to wonder, If a large majority of Palestinians support it, as do many liberal Jews — why have 27 state legislatures in the United States and the House of Representative tried to crush BDS? Because the political problem is here, too.

BDS is not very “entrenched in the U.S.,” the Times says, but it sees “significant” support for the campaign:

[T]he idea has significant support, and may be gaining ground. A survey released in February suggested that one in five Americans approved of B.D.S. as a way of opposing Israeli policy toward Palestinians. A December 2018 University of Maryland poll of a much larger sample put support at 40 percent.

Forty percent! Yet the House voted last week 398-17 against BDS with leading Jewish organizations pushing for the measure. And btw, the article says that many Americans support BDS to pressure Israel to end the occupation.

There are many concerns with the article. It offers a partial quotation of Omar Barghouti’s opposition to a Jewish state, and fails to report Barghouti’s complete statement: he opposes a Jewish state in Palestine for the same reasons that he would object to a Christian or Muslim state. Barghouti has an op-ed in The Nation explaining that AIPAC circulated a redacted transcript of his remarks.

The Times article also states that there “is some overlap between support for B.D.S. and anti-Semitism,” along with a photo of desecrated Jewish graves, but never substantiates that claim.

Today, maybe the Times started to get cold feet, even though Hasbara Central has been remarkably quiet so far. The paper partly walked back its “explainer” by running  an op-ed from Eric Alterman of The Nation attacking BDS as politically “insignificant.” Alterman’s piece includes one key comment that undermines his central argument.

Representative Brad Schneider, the Democratic co-sponsor of the House anti-B. D. S. bill, admits: “Am I worried about the overall B.D.S. movement worldwide as an economic matter? No. As an effort to delegitimize Israel, of course.”

That of course is why the Israelis are going haywire over BDS. They see it as enormously potent in raising consciousness about Israel and Zionism in just the way the NYT explainer article helped to raise consciousness. Reminder: Full equality for Palestinian citizens is a threat to “the Jewish state.”

A commenter on Alterman’s post, Merlot in Philadelphia, points out the effectiveness of BDS:

Tens of millions of dollars have been given by pro-Israel donors like [Haim] Saban and [Sheldon] Adelson to counter BDS.

If BDS is so ineffectual, why spend so much time, effort, and money countering the movement? The reality is that BDS has significantly shifted debates. It has placed Palestinian voices at the fore and it has brought forward Israeli abuses. All of that at a time when Israel is becoming more repressive.

Alterman cites two rightwing Republicans approvingly, on the same AIPAC talking point about Barghouti:

[Senator Mitch] McConnell and [Rep. Kevin] McCarthy are not wrong to remind us that “Omar Barghouti, one of the movement’s co-founders, proclaimed in 2013 that ‘no Palestinian — rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian — will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.’”

Alterman is a professor, called “Dr. Alterman” in the Times‘s description of him. As such, maybe he should have learned to go to the source of the quotation — Omar Barghouti himself — instead of relying on a couple of Republican political hacks. Here is Barghouti’s full statement:

A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the land’s indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically. As we would oppose a Muslim state or a Christian state, or any kind of exclusionary state, definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian — rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian — would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.

This ought to be fairly obvious to anyone calling themselves liberal. We think almost all Americans would not accept a religious state in our own borders. So you must ask yourself: If no Palestinians will accept a “Jewish state” in Palestine — is there something wrong with the idea?

H/t Donald Johnson, Scott Roth, Phil Weiss. 

James North and Philip Weiss

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16 Responses

  1. brent on July 30, 2019, 1:08 am

    Important article. This is where the discussion needs to evolve.

    Israel has destroyed the 2SS, as the US and others have been warning against for years. Now it will be left arguing for supremacy over equality and that will not fly for long in today’s America/Congress. The fly in the ointment will be those arguing against accepting Israel’s existence at all and accepting violence toward that end. They can undermine the potential effectiveness of the campaign for equality over supremacy.

    • RoHa on July 30, 2019, 8:30 am

      ” that will not fly for long in today’s America/Congress. ”

      Don’t group those together. The American people are dumb and ignorant, but they do have a streak of normal human decency.

      Congress, on the other hand, is just a bunch of politicians.

    • Mooser on July 30, 2019, 2:12 pm

      “The fly in the ointment will be those arguing against accepting Israel’s existence at all and accepting violence toward that end.”

      “Those”? Who are “those”? They have the power to prevent a settlement by violence, but no name.

  2. eljay on July 30, 2019, 7:17 am

    But many Israelis say the movement’s real goal is the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. Full equality for Arab citizens of Israel would require overturning or amending Israeli laws that grant Jews automatic citizenship and define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

    Being a supremacist is hard work: Every day you have to stand guard against – and be prepared to do “necessary evil” unto people who advocate – highly-offensive and even dangerous moral ideals like full equality (and justice, human rights and accountability).  :-(

    • kev on July 30, 2019, 12:19 pm

      “… But many Israelis say the movement’s real goal is the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.”

      This is the most blatant kind of evil projection… The real truth is that Zionists real goal is the elimination of the indigenous Palestinian people in order to establish an ethno-supremacist Jewish state in the Palestinians homeland. Zionism has always required disappearing the Palestinians through ethnic cleansing and genocide, but now the Zionists want to complain that BDS movement wants to eliminate Israel, an ethno-supremacist Jewish state that is squatting on the remains of hundreds of Palestinian villages that were cleansed and razed by Zionists.

      I think that the real fear is that if they ever lose their ethnic supremacy and military control, they will be treated the same way that they treated others, specifically the Palestinians. So they will perpetuate their crimes against humanity to protect themselves.

    • Talkback on July 30, 2019, 12:58 pm

      But many Afrikaaners said that BDS’ real goal was the destruction of South Africa as an Afrikaaner’s state. Full equality for non-Afrikanner citizens of South Africa would require overturning or amending South Africa’s laws that define South Africa as the nation-state of the Boerish people.


  3. Misterioso on July 30, 2019, 8:24 am

    Canadian victory:

    “Israeli Wine From Settlements Must Be Labelled, Canada Court Rules” by Noa Landau, Haaretz, July 29/19

    “Marking products of settlement as ‘made in Israel’ is misleading for people who wish to boycott them as a peaceful political expression, says court ruling.”

    “A court in Canada ruled on Monday that Israeli wine from settlements must be marked, saying that labelling such products as ‘made in Israel’ is misleading to people who wish to boycott settlement products for political reasons.

    “The petition was filed by activists against the authority in charge of regulating food imports into Canada. The court, acting as the court of first instance on the case, ruled that the office must find an alternative wording for the labelling of products from settlements.

    “The verdict noted the sensitivity and complexity of the issue, but accepted the principled stance that ‘One peaceful way in which people can express their political views is through their purchasing decisions.’ Thus, they should be provided with ‘accurate information as to the source of the products in question.’

    “In June, an advocate general of the European Court of Justice released a legal opinion that a 2018 decision by a French court not to require marking wine bottles produced in Jewish West Bank settlements is invalid.

    “Should the ECJ follow the advocate general’s opinion it could boost enforcement across the European Union, which is now minimal.

    “The advocate general noted that EU law requires that a product made on a territory captured by Israel since 1967 be marked as produced in the settlements.

    “In 2018, a French court granted the Psagot winery’s request not to enforce the EU directive to mark products manufactured in the settlements but ruled that the ECJ should review the decision since France is subject to the EU law.

    “According to the directive, consumers must be explicitly informed whether products were made in the West Bank.”

    CJPME Applauds Federal Court Decision on Settlement Wines
    For Immediate Release
    Montreal, July 29, 2019 — “Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) applauds the Federal Court of Canada’s ruling against “Product of Israel” labels on wines produced in Israeli colonies (aka “settlements”). This morning, the Federal Court rejected this practice, calling the mislabelling ‘false, misleading and deceptive.’ CJPME agrees with the Federal Court’s principled decision on this matter and renews its call for the Canadian government to distinguish between products originating from Israel and Israeli colonies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

    “Since 2017, Winnipeg-resident Dr. David Kattenburg has lodged several formal complaints over the mislabelling of wines produced in Israel’s colonies in the OPT. In his persistent fight to hold the Canadian Food Inspection Agency accountable to its own standards, Kattenburg and his lawyer Dimitri Lascaris brought the case forward to the Federal Court of Canada. Early this morning, the Court released its decision, ruling that mislabelling wines from Israeli colonies as ‘products of Israel’ is both inaccurate and a violation of Canadian consumer protection laws. The Court’s decision is consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (December 2016), which condemned Israel’s colonies and urged the international community to properly distinguish between products from the state of Israel and the OPT.

    “For the past two years, CJPME has closely followed this case, campaigning for the Canadian government ensure rigour, transparency, and compliance in regard to the labeling of wines coming from the Middle East, specifically the OPT. Responding to today’s decision, CJPME President Thomas Woodley stated, ‘This landmark ruling will have a significant impact for human rights advocates who wish to boycott wines originating from illegal Israeli colonies. What’s more, this could be the start of a larger movement to label – and even ban – products originating from Israeli colonies.’ CJPME notes that while the Trudeau government has repeatedly condemned human rights activists who boycott Israel and/or Israeli colonies, Federal Court Justice Mactavish remarked, ‘One peaceful way in which people can express their political views is through their purchasing decisions. To be able to express their views in this manner, however, consumers have to be provided with accurate information as to the source of the products in question.’

    “Since 2015, the European Union has issued labeling guidelines for products imported from Israeli colonies based in the OPT. However, in accordance with international law, many Palestinians have called for a complete boycott of any business or institution participating ‘directly or indirectly’ in the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories. In wake of the Federal Court’s decision, CJPME recommends that Canada distinguish in its dealings with Israel and Israeli colonies and immediately suspend the import of products produced illegally by Israeli companies operating out of the West Bank.”

    • Misterioso on July 30, 2019, 10:14 am

      Press Release – The Palestine Liberation Organization, July 30/19

      Dr. Ashrawi: “Ruling of Canadian federal court is an important first step for Canada and beyond.”

      “We welcome the ruling of Canada’s federal court on the illegality of labeling wine originating from illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as products made in Israel. This is an important first step for Canada and beyond, as this landmark ruling is an affirmation of the supremacy of the law and Canada’s obligation to respect international law, which considers settlements illegal and does not recognize them as part of Israel.

      “In light of this important ruling, the Palestinian leadership calls on the Canadian government to act in accordance with Canadian and international laws and amend, without delay, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (Bill C-85), which affords products originating from illegal Israeli settlements tariff free status, in flagrant violation of Canada’s obligations under international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and United Nations Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016). This ruling now clearly demonstrates that the agreement also violates Canadian law and values.

      “Further, we call on all other states, particularly the European Union, Israel’s largest trading partner, to apply EU and international laws to its agreements with Israel. It is long overdue for the EU to take the minimal step of properly labelling products originating from Israel’s illegal settlements and to ensure that its partnership agreements do not further enable or favor the continued looting of Palestinian natural resources and the profiteering from the commission is a war crime, as defined in the Rome Statute.

      “Israel’s illegal settlement regime is the embodiment of its colonial agenda in Palestine and its determined efforts to deny the Palestinian people their inalienable rights to self-determination and freedom. The obligation of all states to respect international law and the Palestinian people’s national rights is absolute. Such respect can only be ensured by practical steps that deny Israel and complicit companies the ability to profiteer from the colonial occupation and the flagrant violations of international law. Accountability is the shortest and most assured path to justice.”

  4. tamarque on July 30, 2019, 9:09 am

    In a sense the Jewish/Israeli paranoia has a real basis. If there were equality between Palestinians and Jews then the power balance would have to change and Jews would have to relinquish their supremacy and entitlements. In the US we see the same dynamic regarding racism up close and personal and we see the viciousness of the reactionary fight to maintain white supremacy.

    However, let me be very clear, this change in power relationships must occur if there is ever to be peace and human decency. Israel clearly lacks the latter.

    I would add that any anti-semitism in the BDS movement is purely happenstance as some people will do anything to attach Jews and Israel. But it is very unfair, unreal and diversionary to focus on this few hangers on to the BDS movement and to ignore the core goals of the movement. Economic boycotts do work even if they take time. The grape boycott in California years ago on behalf of farmworkers and the Montgomery bus boycott were very successful in the US–both events in the living memory of many Americans. The S.African BDS was also successful altho it took several years to build the international support necessary for it to have the impact it needed. So don’t ever be taken in by any argument that BDS against Israel is useless, meaningless, etc. Israel is quite concerned about the bad publicity it is receiving. It is also reeling from lost income and reputation as cultural icons refuse to perform or academics refusing to work there. Cumulatively these are big losses for Israel. We need to keep up the work and pressure in the US particularly. It is a touch nut to crack.

    • eljay on July 30, 2019, 9:54 am

      || tamarque: … I would add that any anti-semitism in the BDS movement is purely happenstance as some people will do anything to attach Jews and Israel. But it is very unfair, unreal and diversionary to focus on this few hangers on to the BDS movement and to ignore the core goals of the movement. … ||

      Anti-Semitism in the BDS movement neither validates Zionism or its construct nor absolves Zionists of their past and on-going (war) crimes any more than misandry in the anti-rape movement validates rape or absolves rapists of their crimes.

    • Talkback on July 30, 2019, 1:03 pm

      BDS has to distance themselves from antisemites. They are doing Israel a favour not BDS.

  5. Citizen on July 30, 2019, 1:33 pm

    The average American is bombarded via corporate news selling Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East, a small, brave state surrounded by Arab enemies, merely trying to survive. Most Americans care about lunch bucket issues, not foreign policy; when they do catch a bit of the news, they only get hasbara regarding Israel. If they knew the real situation regarding Israelis and Palestinians, and also how the Israel Lobby buys our elected politicians, support for Israel would vanish overnight.

    • tamarque on July 31, 2019, 8:22 am

      This is ignorance by design with the media more than complicit in denying information as well as prejudicing the little bit they do print. So necessary to have independent journalism to keep us informed.

      But if you analyze a situation based on real power relations it will be much easier to come to realistic conclusions. Clearly the Palestinians struggle under a brutal Occupation run by a State with excessive military weaponry including illegal chemical weapons and a huge nuclear stockpile. If it wasn’t so tragic, it is so laughable comparing the ‘threat’ of a few small rockets to the massive bombing, use of sharp shooting weapons, bulldozing and mass destruction of essential infrastructure perpetrated by Israel against the essentially unarmed Palestinians living in enforced poverty.

  6. on July 30, 2019, 4:22 pm


    I gave to the Squad because I understood they, including Rep. Pressley supported Palestinian rights and opposed Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. This is what I wrote to Rep. Pressley, in response to her latest fund-raising e-mail:

    Dear Rep. Pressley,

    I gave to the squad as a group, including you, but no more donations to you.

    Very disappointed in your vote in favor of the resolution condemning BDS, apparently because of the fears of your Jewish constituents!


    Your vote was one against (1) our democratic rights of free expression, including time honored boycotts like against South African apartheid and ironically, in the case of your anti-BDS vote, its human rights violations against black people, and (2) the Palestinians and
    their legitimate grievances against the apartheid, occupation, war crimes, settler violence and house demolitions in violation of human rights and international law.

    Also, your constituents, the Israel Lobby and Israel, one of the most powerful nations in the world, with unlimited support from the U.S. to the tune of millions, and nuclear weapons, have little to worry about from BDS, which only has the general promotion of Palestinian human and international legal rights as its goals, certainly not the destruction of Israel, as anti-BDS advocates lamely argue. The real crimes are not BDS or its goals, but the actions of Israel, the Israel Lobby, IDF and the settlers.

    For the same reasons, I no longer support or give to Bernie Sanders, to whom I made donations in 2016 and started to this year and then stopped when I learned his true feeling about BDS.

    A true leader would have said to these constituents, “You elected me to use my best judgment. And in my judgment, supporting BDS is the right thing to do and not any kind kind of threat to you, Israel or the Israel Lobby. In fact, what Israel and the Israel Lobby are doing
    is not in your best interest and may well be harmful, especially if it stokes more anti-Semitism.”

    Shame on you!

  7. Harry on July 31, 2019, 12:54 pm

    It is completely goofy and self-contradictory, from the word go, for Eric Alterman to write an op-ed in the NYT saying BDS is ineffective and insignificant. Why write a public opinion about something that makes no difference? He’d like it to be, and like even more to play a role in making it that—which, of course, is why he wrote what he did.

  8. Greta on July 31, 2019, 11:14 pm

    Alterman seems to have a bad habit of posting other people’s comments and ascribing them to the person he’s writing about. The Nation had to apologize to me for Alterman’s stupidity in taking a comment regarding the attack on Charlie Hebdo and attributing it to me.

    Editor’s Note: This article originally said Greta Berlin “wrote on her Facebook page” that “‘MOSSAD [the Israeli intelligence agency] just hit the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo in a clumsy false flag…’” Berlin actually re-posted the comment from an acquaintance. The article has been updated to reflect that.

    In fact, the comment came from someone else completely and was on my front page with the poster’s name. Someone copied it, removed the original poster’s name, then apparently sent it to Alterman, who grudgingly, changed the text slightly even though The Nation apologized to me at the end of the article. I wouldn’t believe anything that schmuck has to say.

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