Can BDS Change the Status Quo in Israel?

fightingBDS-rogerCohen-quote-773x403New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, another liberal who’s openly suspicious about the motives of the BDS, notes in passing in his latest column that the BDS movement has very little actual impact on Israel.

In his latest article, Cohen refutes a central myth about Israel that has penetrated to the highest reaches of American government – that the status quo in is “unsustainable,” that Israel cannot remain as it current is.

The misconception served as the basis of John Kerry’s recent push for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But according to Cohen, a deeper look at the situation reveals that the idea is simply false.

Tel Aviv, one of the world’s most attractive cities, has a boom-time purr about it. For all the talk of its isolation — and all the efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement — Israel has an economy as creative as it is successful. Yes, it is sustainable.

In other words, Israel’s economy is booming and the BDS can’t touch it.

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In an earlier column written during the height of the SodaStream-fueled hysteria about BDS, Cohen offered one of the strongest condemnations of the movement found in the mainstream press:

I do not trust the B.D.S. movement. Its stated aim is to end the occupation, secure “full equality” for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and fight for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees. The first objective is essential to Israel’s future. The second is laudable. The third, combined with the second, equals the end of Israel as a Jewish state. This is the hidden agenda of B.D.S., its unacceptable subterfuge: beguile, disguise and suffocate.

Cohen is right about the limited affect of BDS on Israel’s economy, and about its hidden agenda. But the BDS movement can’t be dismissed too lightly. Like most boycott movements, its impact is not economic but psychological.

And that psychological element just may break out into something bigger in the coming months. Palestinians, including notable Palestinian lawyer Diana Buttu, are advocating popular resistance and a greater emphasis on BDS in the wake of the collapse of peace talks.

Buttu also emphasized that BDS is more than just boycotts.

We have to start focusing on the “sanctions” part of BDS, which is really important. With this upgraded status, there is a lot that the PLO could be doing, like pushing for sanctions and for Israel’s expulsion from various international organizations. Just like South Africa did.

That will test Cohen’s theory about how sustainable the current situation really is. But maybe, if the economy really is strong enough, Israel’s creativity may be able to confront the other challenges as well.

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