What BDS Means by Psychological Pressure on Israel

psych-pressure-fightingBDS-770x400If more liberal Zionists began “supporting the BDS movement at one level or another,” the psychological effect would force Israel to change its policies towards the Palestinians, according to Larry Derfner, a self-defined liberal Zionist who has despaired of political solutions to the conflict with the Palestinians.

If a substantial number of the liberal Zionists who are appalled at what Israel does to the Palestinians were to give up trying to persuade Israel to change, and instead start holding it responsible for refusing to change, I believe it would have a jarring psychological impact on this country and its leaders.

Whether that would lead to policy change or not is debatable. But Derfner is right on at least one count – the effect would be psychological. It would have little to do with the stated approach of BDS to apply economic and political pressure.

In fact, that’s the true end-game of the BDS movement: make the world hate Israel so much that the Israeli people can’t stand it anymore and will do anything to make it stop. That’s the psychological pressure Derfner’s describing.

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Other liberal Zionists, of course, have taken strong positions against such pervasive boycotts. Peter Beinart, a leading liberal Zionist thinker, asserted that a settlement boycott must be accompanied by an equal effort to support areas within the Green Line.

“We should oppose efforts to divest from all Israeli companies with the same intensity with which we support efforts to divest from companies in the settlements,” he wrote in the New York Times.

But Derfner makes no such stipulation. He simply urges people to boycott at any level.

BDS isn’t an all-or-nothing tactic. If Jewish liberals don’t want to boycott Israel, let them just boycott the settlements. If they want to support the economic boycott but not the cultural boycott, or the cultural boycott but not the academic boycott, that also helps.

But if they don’t want to boycott anything, let them come up with a better idea for transforming the status quo, or just any idea that hasn’t already failed.

Well, here’s an idea that might do the trick – how about holding the Palestinians responsible for their actions as much as Israel?

And maybe there is no need for pressure on Israel at all. Maybe if a few key changes took place on the Palestinian side, the Israelis would do what the polls consistently say they’ll do under the right conditions, even if it means making painful concessions.

What would happen if the Palestinians came to understand that support would no longer be automatic but would have to be earned by making moves towards peace? Would that have any effect on the status quo?

Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn’t. But it’s an “idea that hasn’t already failed” because it’s never been seriously tried.

Image: CC BY-SA HonestReporting, flickr/Andrew Plumb

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