Reader Post: BDS Is An Anti-Indigenous, Pro-Colonial Movement

River to sea BDSAs of yesterday, R&B and pop singer Lauryn Hill has canceled her upcoming performance in Israel, citing difficulties in booking a show in Ramallah around the same time. Although her statement (which one could reasonably argue is nothing more than a glib excuse) was not an explicit endorsement of the boycott, BDS champions are nevertheless hailing it as a victory. The fact that she played in Israel in 2007, and as a result, is fully aware that Israel is not even a fraction of the things her enemies portray it as, make this decision all the more bewildering. Whether or not she agrees with BDS’ goal, or even knows what the cause is actually about (more on that in a second), it makes no difference to anti-Zionists. Cancellation for any reason means they are one step closer to their goal of dismantling the Jewish state.

Founded in 2005 by Qatari-born activist Omar Barghouti, the BDS (aka Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement is the latest in a long line of attempts by the Arab world to economically, culturally, and diplomatically cripple Israel, in the hopes of finally bringing the Jewish state (along with every single Jew living within its borders) to its knees. More specifically, their aim is to pressure Israel into national suicide and purge it of its Jewish character, or at least weaken it to the point that they may invade and destroy it more successfully. All previous attempts at the latter scenario ended in humiliating defeat for the Arabs.

Naturally, the primary target of the BDS campaign is college students, particularly at Western universities. Their strategy is to drum up support among tomorrow’s politicians, businessmen, diplomats, artists, and other important decision makers with a simple and emotionally compelling narrative, simultaneously exploiting both the profound ignorance and latent, institutionalized antisemitism that is thoroughly baked into Western culture. And on that front, they’ve mostly succeeded. By directly linking the Palestinian predicament to just about every human rights catastrophe in history (no matter how erroneous and misleading these comparisons actually are), and with no shortage of historical revisionism and whitewashing, they’ve amassed a wealth of support from university students, liberals, and minority groups, even including many Jews.

You hear it all the time on campuses: Palestinians are the new Jews, the new Native Americans, the new South African blacks, the new African-Americans, etc, along with all manner of aspersions of villainy being cast on the Jewish state. This is consistent with the history of antisemitism, wherein Jews (and now the Jewish state) were defamed, isolated, and then slaughtered. The effects of this malicious campaign have been felt by Jewish students all across the Western hemisphere, as racist attacks on Jews have spiked tremendously over the past decade (especially this past summer, during Operation Protective Edge). As a result, Jews are feeling increasingly isolated on campus.

That is why it’s important to provide students with a different perspective, one that they might not have heard before. There is, of course, no guarantee that my article will change anyone’s mind, but it is nevertheless crucial that our young activists, particularly those with a genuine interest in social justice, have the complete picture. If you belong to this category, read with an open mind. There are many things the Palestinians have not told you.

First and foremost, as I have alluded to in my opening paragraph, BDS is neither about human rights or co-existence. The goal from the outset has always been to dissolve Israel and replace it with an Arab Palestinian state, thereby restoring the country to Arab colonial domination. Barghouti himself made this clear when he openly boasted of his desire to “euthanize” Israel, and that the outcome of BDS would not be a two state solution, but “a Palestine next to a Palestine.”

Other prominent BDS supporters, such as As’ad Abu Khalil, were even more candid, saying that “justice and freedom” for Palestinians is “incompatible with the existence of the State of Israel.” And what would happen to the Jews in such a state? Only time can answer that question, but given the obscenely high rates of antisemitism throughout the Arab world, it is safe to say that deportations and massacres (against Jews) are far more likely than anything resembling peaceful co-existence. This, however, is of no concern to the BDS movement or its sympathizers.

Second, although the dominant narrative in Israel/Palestine discourse is that Palestinian Arabs are the “true” indigenous occupants of the Holy Land, a cursory glance at the history of the region paints a very different picture. Palestinian Arabs, as their name directly implies, are a subgroup of the larger Arab nation whose origins lie in the Hejaz province of what is now Saudi Arabia. Their presence in the Levant largely dates back to the 7th century AD, when Arabian armies colonized a significant portion of the Middle East and nearly all of North Africa. And even though today’s Palestinians share a considerable amount of genetic material with diaspora Jews, indigenous status is lost when one fully adopts the mantle of the colonizer. Throughout their conquests, Arabs have oppressed, subsumed, and eliminated countless indigenous cultures while imposing their own via brute force. Israel was just one of the many regions that came under Arab colonial rule, and Jews (at least those who remained after the earlier Roman occupation) were just one of the many indigenous peoples they subjugated. The Dome of the Rock was deliberately built on the site of the fallen Temple, and was intended to be a symbol of humiliation to the Jews.

Nowadays, revisionists might tell you that Jews and Arabs lived together harmoniously before Zionism, but this is far from the case. Jews who lived under Arab rule were “tolerated” minorities, and nothing more. In other words, they could live and practice their religion peacefully only if they accepted complete social and legal inferiority to Arabs/Muslims. And this, more than anything else, is the key motivation behind Arab opposition to Israel. Zionism is a movement for equality and national freedom for Jews in their homeland, and is therefore a direct threat to Arab hegemony. Long before there was a military occupation, settlements, checkpoints, and a Nakba, Arabs all over Palestine (which was then ruled by Ottoman Turkey) were slaughtering Jews because they (Arabs) balked at the very idea of living together with them as equals. “Palestine is Arab land and the Jews are our dogs” was a frequent chant heard during pogroms, especially the Nebi Musa riots of 1920.

And this leads me to my third point: Jews are an indigenous people of the Middle East. In stark contrast to the BDS narrative which depicts Jews as foreign colonizers from Europe, the Jewish diaspora is an indigenous population of Southwestern Asia, with deep ancestral roots spanning more than 3000 years. Israel’s rebirth in 1948 marks the first time in history that a displaced indigenous people were able to retake their ancestral lands from a colonial power. The indigenous status of the Jews is easily verifiable through genetic, cultural, anthropological, archaeological, historical, and linguistic evidence. Furthermore, today’s anti-Zionists conveniently forget how Jews in Europe were perceived by indigenous Europeans prior to the 1960’s. European Jews, aka Ashkenazim, were hated precisely because they were non-white, non-European “Orientals” from the Middle East. Notable examples of this can be found in the writings of Kant, Hegel, Proudhon, Voltaire, and many others, including those who were (by all accounts) philosemitic.

My fourth point pertains to the allegation that Israel is built (or in this case, rebuilt) on “stolen land”. The Palestinian narrative usually goes something like this: “European fake-Jewish Khazars just showed up one day, slaughtered our people, and stole our homes”. In truth, this is a highly distorted and borderline chimerical depiction of the events leading up to and culminating in the war of 1948. The Zionist returnees had no army, no guns, no tanks, and no plan to systematically uproot the Arab residents. In fact, the mainstream of Zionist thought (including Theodor Herzl, Albert Einstein, David Ben-Gurion, Chaim Weizmann, etc) favored co-operation with the Arabs and a bi-national Jewish-Arab confederation. The Weizmann-Faisal agreement is one key example. Anti-Zionist revisionists, in their fervent zeal to demonize Israel, conveniently forget this.

Further, the population of Ottoman Palestine at the time was less than a million, in an area that now holds well over 10 million people. The Zionist Jews made a habit of purchasing unused land (mainly from absentee Arab landowners) and cultivating it themselves. And as statistics from the period clearly demonstrate, many of today’s Palestinians arrived during the British Mandate, usually as hired labor and refugees who sought to take advantage of the reinvigorated economy. Eventually, Palestinian Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini, a notorious ally of the Nazis who petitioned for the Final Solution to be brought to the Middle East, began inciting riots and attacks on the Jewish population in Palestine (e.g. Nebi Musa riots, Jerusalem pogrom, Hebron massacre, etc). Despite that, the Jewish community in Palestine didn’t arm themselves until the 1940’s, following decades of massacres and pogroms aimed at ethnically cleansing the Jewish population. After the British (who initially supported the Zionist project before siding with the Arabs in 1939) left the region, the UN decided to partition Palestine into 2 states, one Jewish and one Arab, drawn along demographic lines in order to settle the dispute. The Jewish community accepted this plan, but the Arabs rejected it. Instead, they declared war on the nascent Jewish state in the hopes of ethnically cleansing the region of Jews, promising the Arabs who have fled (mostly out of fear) that they would be able to return and then loot and despoil their property. The plan was to crush Jewish independence and divide the land between Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

The war of 1948 had tragic consequences, not only for the Arabs (some of whom were indeed expelled), but also for the Jewish population. Although a sizable Arab minority remains in Israel, virtually all of the Jews over the green line (that is, the West Bank) were expelled by the Jordanian army. Had the Arab armies won the war, the same fate would have befallen every Jew in the Middle East.

So before openly aligning themselves with the BDS movement, it is important for students, faculty, and people of conscience all over the globe to know what they are supporting. Divestment from Israel is an investment in colonialism, not human rights.


Guest Poster