The BDS movement has become so toxic, many of the most desirable targets of BDS campaigns are distancing themselves from the movement, according to Eric Alterman, a columnist for the progressive magazine The Nation.
In an otherwise scathing critique of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s peace efforts, Alterman claimed that right-wing Israelis “take advantage” of the international distaste for the BDS movement to escape pressure to make concessions:
Netanyahu and company actually appreciate the misguided efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in the United States and Europe. As Molad’s Inbar explains, while “the ideologically driven BDS movement likes to claim credit for any instance of international pressure on Israel, it really forestalls such pressure, as the large actors whose actions count in this regard—governments, international agencies and corporations who oppose the occupation—are justifiably reluctant to be associated with the wholesale anti-Israeli rhetoric of the BDS movement.”
Right-wing Israelis are therefore able to take advantage of the widespread distaste for “BDS-style rhetoric and tactics, because they know that the more attention the BDS movement receives, the more difficult it will become to build serious international pressure on the occupation itself.” (This is undoubtedly why Mahmoud Abbas opposes BDS as well.)
It would be nice to believe that governments and corporations really are recoiling in disgust from the BDS, though threats from Europe and beyond remain. Suggesting that Israeli leaders see the movement as beneficial, however, does not align with actions being taken on the ground to limit its ability to function.
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But the sentiment clearly captures Alterman’s own feelings about the movement – and perhaps that of other outspoken “progressives” who believe in a two-state solution. Others, who identify as Liberal Zionists, such as Peter Beinart and MJ Rosenberg, have also come out against the BDS movement because they understand that the BDS is working to destroy Israel as a Jewish state, not to end the conflict.
While all three are generally critical of Israeli policies, particularly in regard to the West Bank, the radical anti-Israel rhetoric from the BDS goes too far, even for them.
Alterman’s comments serve to reinforce the idea that the people who see the true aims of the BDS movement most clearly – and therefore have the most credibility as critics – are those like Alterman, who must now draw a distinction between his criticism of Israel and the smears of those who seek Israel’s destruction.
So while the BDS movement has become more visible over the past year, it’s not surprising that people are starting to question what they see. The BDS may be enjoying its moment in the sun but, as Louis Brandeis said, sunshine is the best disinfectant.