by George JochnowitzOn June 6, 2004, the Israeli government voted to withdraw from Gaza. Israel was about to leave Gaza and let its citizens create their own Palestinian state—albeit a small state. Had things worked out, Israel would have proceeded to withdraw from much of the West Bank. As it happened, things didn’t work out.
Instead, on July 9, 2005, 171 non-governmental organizations voted to boycott, divest from, and impose sanctions against Israel. That was the beginning of the BDS Movement. The goals of the Movement were the following:
- Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
Nothing Israel has ever done has led to a greater increase of anti-Israel hatred than the announcement of the withdrawal from Gaza. This makes no sense. Why should the world resent Israel for a decision to withdraw from Arab territory? Perhaps Israel’s enemies were afraid that an independent Palestinian state would lead to a decline in anti-Israel hatred. However, nobody ever made any kind of public statement saying that Israel was doing something as radical as establishing a Palestinian mini-state. Perhaps the founders of the BDS Movement knew that they should oppose a free Gaza because it might lead to increased acceptance of Israel. Perhaps. But what seems more likely is that BDS simply never made the connection between Israel’s withdrawal and Palestinian independence in Gaza. It was probably just a gut reaction. “Hate, hate, hate,” said the guts of the BDS founders.
The United Church of Christ voted on July 5, 2005, to divest from Israel. The Presbyterians, on August 5th, voted to press American companies not to provide technology to Israel that might be used in the occupation of Palestinian territories, and that if the companies did not comply, the church would take a vote to divest its stock in them. These votes took place after Israel announced its plans to withdraw from Gaza. Were they a reaction to the announcement? That doesn’t make sense, but then the boycott doesn’t make sense.
On June 12, 2014, the Methodist Church voted to sell its shares of stock in a British company that produces security equipment used by Israel.Do these churches realize that they are saying that Israel is uniquely wicked? Probably not. Do they think so? Maybe individual members of the churches do, but the hatred gives the appearance of being subconscious.
Whatever the motive, the BDS Movement has had an effect. The agreement that Secretary of State John Kerry was trying to negotiate never took place. How could Abbas agree to a compromise that would allow Israel to keep the territory near Jerusalem and elsewhere where close to half a million Israelis live? Can one allow an evil, hated nation to profit from a war, even if one’s own side started that war? Kerry and Abbas were both victims of BDS, since both of them apparently believe that the Palestinians can’t be expected to cede territory that belonged to Jordan before 1967. When the pre-1967 lines existed, the only countries on earth that recognized them were Jordan and Great Britain. After the West Bank was lost by Jordan, which made the mistake of joining the Arab side during the Six Day War and attacking Israel, the cease-fire lines, now called the Green Line, became holy.
Leftist academics, who form the core of the BDS Movement, have also become its victims. Now Leftists have to be silent about gay-rights and women’s-rights causes. Their response to the Boko Haram Movement has been wishy-washy. Their objection to the executions of homosexuals in Iran and northern Nigeria has been feeble. Leftists are not free to protest the persecution of women and homosexuals in Muslim areas because doing so might indirectly make Israel look less bad. The BDS Movement has made the Left powerless when it comes to protesting injustice against gays and women committed by Muslims.
There are no answers to questions beginning with the words “what if.” We will never know what would have happened had the BDS Movement not been born immediately after Israel announced its withdrawal from Gaza. Would the Arab world have agreed to accept Israel’s existence, recognize that Israel had freed Gaza, and established a Palestinian state? Maybe yes, maybe no. Be that as it may, the Palestinian cause is the only independence movement in human history that has rejected a state of its own because of a boundary dispute.
George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright ©2014. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. It is republished here with the author's permission.