What Obama and Netanyahu Don't Get: BDS Will Succeed

#FreeFadi went viral. Everyone rallied around Palestinian non-violent activist Fadi Quran’s cause, as he was jailed for obstructing an Israeli police officer, assaulting an officer, and resisting arrest, which appears in stark contrast to the video footage leaked at www.freefadi.org. And when I say everyone rallied, I mean everyone. Arabs, Israelis, Jews, Palestinians, Africans, Americans, African-Americans, people; humanity fought for Fadi. Fadi’s example illustrates the true power of the BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement, and why BDS will succeed.

The BDS movement will be successful in achieving justice in Israel/Palestine, with international law finally, duly, and dually enforced. There are two reasons. First, BDS exists within the broader context of the burgeoning nonviolent movement in Palestine, giving it unprecedented and demonstrable power.  And second, the BDS movement is international, multi-cultural, and global. The naysayers and cynics of the movement overlook these two key facts in their analysis. 

Many cynics mischaracterize BDS as bilaterally punitive, an endeavor that risks the livelihoods of the people it purports to help and damaging to the companies it campaigns against. I have a very different view of the BDS movement, as I understand it as non-violent solidarity with the people struggling on the ground, who in this case, called for BDS themselves. My perspective has two implications. First, it gives the BDS movement room to wiggle, transform, and try on different approaches. For example, an American may begin a hunger strike in support of his/her Palestinian ally, with a comparable, although likely less and definitely different, influence. Naysayers wouldn’t see this as BDS, but I do. Second, my view characterizes BDS as a labor of love for all humanity. We campaign against a company’s policy of profiteering in say, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, to elevate its social responsibility. We try to make the company more loving – they have personhood now, right? We act out of love for Palestinians, hoping they won’t have homes demolished by weaponized Caterpillar tractors. And we act out of love for Israelis, hoping no Israeli soldier will be conscripted to drive that Caterpillar weapon through another human’s home. BDS ends and means are love. The cynics don’t see it.

Next, the BDS movement is expansive, with campaigns in Europe, South Africa, America, and Canada.  People like Norman Finklestein discredit the BDS movement as having few real victories, when in fact, there have been many significant wins and many more in the works. I argue that cynics like Finklestein often neglect the cultural lens that they bring to bear on their analysis of the movement, resulting in a skewed view of the truth. For example, most Americans fail to realize that the U.S. is not a neutral party in the conflict, giving vastly more military aid to Israel, as well as diplomatic support. So, the American media may not accurately portray the winds of change surrounding the public’s opinion of the conflict.  

Indeed, there have been many more BDS and nonviolent victories in places other than the U.S. That’s why, when we achieve wins in America, we should celebrate them more over. So get out your party hats because Olympia, WA Food Co-op just beat a lawsuit against its board for boycotting Israeli products. Cynics may not see it, but the times they are a-changin’.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Jeff Mendelman

I am interested in many political issues. I have been active in rebuilding the Gulf Coast post-Katrina, most recently as a Teach for America Corps Member. I am also very interested in the potential of nonviolent freedom movements, especially the possibility for such in the Israel/Palestine conflict.

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