From the high profile dust-up over SodaStream through the recent spate of divestment debates on campuses, some of the strongest voices against the BDS movement have come from critics of Israeli policy.
Peter Beinart, the de facto spokesman for Liberal Zionism, famously called for a boycott of the West Bank in 2012. In the same article, however, he also called for the increasing investment inside the Green Line, in order to distinguish “Zionist BDS” from the predominant BDS movement.
“Boycotting anything inside the green line invites ambiguity about the boycott’s ultimate goal — whether it seeks to end Israel’s occupation or Israel’s existence.”
MJ Rosenberg, a longtime critic of Israel’s West Bank policy, who was spurred by last week’s debate at the University of Michigan, to write a detailed piece about the duplicity of the BDS used the same argument:
The reason why BDS keeps failing despite the almost universal recognition that the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the blockade of Gaza, are illegal and immoral is that the BDS movement is not targeting the occupation per se. Its goal is the end of the State of Israel itself.
In its view, all of historic Palestine is occupied territory; that means Tel Aviv and Haifa as much as Hebron and Nablus. Obviously, a movement dedicated to eradication of Israel as a country is never going to achieve support other than from a radical fringe.
Rosenberg and other supporters of the two-state solution – including those who support a “limited boycott” of the West Bank for that purpose – are best positioned to see that the BDS movement is not a “peace” movement and does not aim for a Palestinians state alongside a Jewish state.
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In fact, Liberal Zionists are the ones whose ideology is most threatened by BDS. When people on both sides, but especially the Palestinians, start to tilt towards a one-state solution to the conflict, the concept of democratic Israel with a strong Jewish majority is threatened. And that’s pushed Liberal Zionists to draw sharp distinctions between their own two-state agenda and the destructive measures promoted by the BDS.
Or as anti-Zionist Steven Weiss of the anti-Israel Mondoweiss website writes scornfully, “In their effort to preserve Jewish status in Israel, some of these liberal Zionists would seem to be… conservative.”
But by supporting any part of the BDS’s tactics, such as a West Bank boycott, Liberal Zionists are unwittingly helping the BDS movement grow. Young activists who are deeply concerned about Palestinian rights often fail to make the clear distinction Liberal Zionists are trying to make, and end up throwing their support behind a movement that ultimately seeks Israel’s destruction as a Jewish state.