The growing BDS threat against Israel
In his article (“Israel is beating BDS at the cost of its democracy”, December 20), Swedish political scientist Anders Persson writes that the BDS movement, which calls for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel, has largely failed in achieving its objectives but is hurting Israel’s democracy from within. He is wrong on both points.
It’s true that Israel is flourishing despite BDS but we read daily about successful boycott actions and delegitimization of Israel through what Persson calls “the legislative turn”. Israel has better take the BDS-threat of intimating lawfare seriously.
BDS cannot achieve two of its overall objectives - ending the occupation and implementing the right of return of the refugees – because they are extreme and unrealistic.
An end of the occupation and lasting peace cannot be achieved by unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the territories. A withdrawal should take place in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement following negotiation between the two sides. A mass return of refugees to Israel would transform the Jews to a minority in their own country and is the opposite of any two-state solution.
The BDS movement claims that it targets complicity in the occupation, not Jewish identity, but its economic, cultural and economic boycott targets practically every Israeli institution and any Israeli representing them. In this the BDS mirrors the official Israeli position which does not any longer distinguish between Israel within the green line and the settlements.
A boycott of Israel may be welcomed by the Palestinians but will have the opposite effect on the Israeli public opinion and play into the hands of the Israeli government. A boycott does hardly leave any room for negotiations. Anders Persson forgets to mention that the EU and its member states reject the attempts by the BDS campaign to isolate Israel and is opposed to any boycott of Israel.
Instead he credits the BDS movement with the downgrading of Israel’s ranking in academic democracy projects. This is of course a worrying development and is mainly due to the lack of democratic rights in the occupied territories. The passing of illiberal laws in the Israeli parliament has also affected Israel’s ranking but has nothing to do with BDS besides one law against BDS supporters entering the country.
In this Israel doesn’t differ from other EU member states (Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia) that also have seen their democracy status changed from "liberal democracy" to "electoral democracy" in the V-Dem Institute’s ranking. It’s no comfort that Israel finds itself in their company but the scoring is uncertain according to V-Dem and Israel could also belong to the higher category.
With the announcement of elections in Israel in April next year and the dissolvement of the Knesset no more illiberal laws will be passed until then and the new Knesset might repel the previous laws.
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