December 30, 2018

BDS: The new face of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Image result for bds israel logo


Amitai Nelkin ‘21
“Israel Effectively Declares Itself an Apartheid State,” are the words that greet visitors to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions website and that appear in big, bold letters. While to an American Jew, this statement may easily be cast off as nothing more than provocative clickbait, this statement happens to be at the core of many young Americans’ beliefs.
Founded in 2005, the BDS movement calls for a boycott of anything and everything that comes out of Israel. BDS states its goal is to “pressure Israel to comply with international law,” in order to promote their pro-Palestine agenda. The movement largely sides with more radical, liberal views, with wild claims such as “all Israeli agricultural businesses are involved in human rights violations.
Despite their extreme nature – or perhaps because of it – BDS enjoys a large body of supporters, many of whom have an interesting commonality: they are college students.
“Most of the dangers of BDS,” senior David Wingens says, “is their presence in places like college campuses.”
Wingens said he believes BDS is misleading these young, impressionable students and is teaching them “Israel is immoral.”
Unsurprisingly, Wingens is not the only one that feels this way. The belief that BDS is as a movement deliberately preying on uninformed college students for support is widespread. Perhaps one of the major causes of this fear is due to BDS’s phrasing in their marketing and advertisements.  By using such specific terminology, BDS can “invoke the sentiment and feelings of people who might not be sympathetic to their cause at first,” senior Theo Hyman-Bockman said.
BDS  also constantly compares itself and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the South African institutionalized racism that was present for the latter half of the 20th century. BDS claims both they are “inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement” and that Israel is an “Apartheid state.” Anti-BDS protesters fear the parallels that BDS draws between segregated South Africa and modern day Israel are not only misleading, but harmful to Israel’s image as well.
“It’s a good strategy,” Hyman-Bockman said.
Wingens agrees the parallels are inaccurate, saying when he hears the word apartheid, “I think of South Africa, segregation, discrimination by race. I don’t think of Israel… because Israel is not an apartheid state.”
As proof of intentional racial separation of people in Israel, BDS and its supporters look to the Israel-West Bank Barrier as they believe it was put up as a way to discriminate against the Palestinian people. BDS and its advocates assert the wall was built purely as a way of establishing a racial apartheid in Israel, while Israel says the wall was built as a security measure and as a method to decrease suicide bombings and other attacks.
“The wall was put up not for the purpose of separating people,” junior Gabi Weiss fervently says, “but [for] separating terrorists from being able to get in. And it works!”
While there are disagreements as to the purpose of the wall, neither side truly believes it is the best – or only – means of achieving peace in this area.

“Nobody wants a wall running through the middle of Israel, but it's necessary to keep Israel safe,” Wingens admitted. “Without the wall, Israel is a much, much more dangerous place.”

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