BDS Isn't the Criminal Here

Even those who don’t believe in the boycott, or think there are better ways to fight the occupation (such as?) cannot go along with this crushing move to criminalize it.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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A BDS demonstration in Melbourne, Australia, 2010.
A BDS demonstration in Melbourne, Australia, 2010.Credit: Mohammed Ouda/Wikimedia Commons
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The struggle against the movement to boycott Israel has sunk to a new low – criminalization. From now on it’s not just a propaganda campaign against BDS (which only made it stronger), not the usual victim-like behavior, not the colonialist fibs about the boycott’s harming Palestinian laborers. It’s not even the demonization, which includes accusing anyone who dares support the boycott of anti-Semitism, the mother of all accusations.

No, from now on the boycott is a crime. It’s a crime to boycott the criminal. A crime to avoid buying goods produced on territories of crime. A crime to avoid supporting a crime factory. A crime to fight violation of international law.

The powerful Jewish-Israeli lobbying is scoring more achievements. The go-ahead was given by none other than France’s Supreme Court, which ruled last year that boycotting Israel is, incredible as it may sound, a “hate crime.” Not the settlements or the executions at checkpoints, not the settlers’ violence and not the mass arrests – no, it’s the boycott against them that’s a crime.

America wasn’t far behind, of course. It will never miss an opportunity to cultivate, finance and encourage the occupation. Twenty states have enacted, or are about to enact, amendments against the boycott on Israel. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo even went as far as announcing this week that he signed an administrative order under which his state will boycott any organization or company that dares to take part in the boycott. “We want Israel to know we’re on its side,” said this pseudo Israel lover at a Jewish conference in Manhattan. “If you boycott Israel, New York will boycott you,” he tweeted.

Thank you, New York. Thank you governor. Your move has proved that New York stands on the occupiers’ side, on the side of crime. Again you’ve proved how unworthy the United States is of the title “leader of the free world.” Again you’ve proved that when it comes to Israel all your declared values are abruptly distorted. Could anyone have imagined issuing a similar order against the international movement against apartheid in South Africa? Can anyone imagine criminalizing the sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Crimea?

It’s not obligatory to support the boycott. It’s OK not to believe in its effectiveness. But it must be admitted that it’s impossible to be a person of conscience and buy the settlements’ products. Just as a law-abiding person won’t buy stolen property, we must not buy goods manufactured on stolen land. It’s obligatory to exhort people against this. It’s permitted to urge people to boycott such products. And it’s very difficult, in fact impossible, to separate between the settlements and Israel, which has erased the Green Line.

Israel is invested in the occupation project in its entirety and there is no longer any distinguishing between them. Is there a bank without accounts from the West Bank? Is there a health maintenance organization without a branch in Ariel? Is there a supermarket chain without a supermarket for settlers?

But even those who don’t believe in the boycott, or think there are better ways to fight the occupation (such as?) cannot go along with this crushing criminalization. The boycott is a legitimate, non-violent means that has and is being used by numerous states, including Israel.

What are the international sanctions on Hamas, with Israel’s encouragement, if not a boycott? What about those on Iran? Hasn’t Israel violated international law as well?

Israeli propagandists are delighting in the achievements against BDS. The struggle’s commander, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, last week held a propagandists’ conference in the UN building, where his forces briefed some 1,500 gullible Jewish students to recite: “Every other word that comes out of your mouths must be ‘peace.’”

That is moving, of course, to the point of tears. But the hour of truth will come, and then all those who acted to criminalize the boycott will have to answer honestly: Who is the criminal here, what is the real crime and what have you done against it?

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