In 2005, so-called ‘Palestinians’ began an economic war against Israel called, BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). The BDS movement says it exists only to get Israel to comply with international law. It wants only, it says, to end Israel’s ‘Apartheid’, end the ‘occupation’ and bring ‘equality’ for ‘Palestinians’ (BDS Homepage, bdsmovement.net).
Today, some 10+ years later, the world may be growing wary of BDS. There’s evidence to suggest that Zionists (those who defend Israel’s right to exist on its ancestral homeland) aren’t the only people to understand that getting Israel to ‘comply with international law’ is not the goal of BDS.
Perhaps the first non-Zionist to make this point was Norman Finkelstein, once the ‘rock star’ of the Palestinian Cause (Jordan Michael Smith, “An Unpopular Man”, newrepublic, July 7, 2015). No friend of Israel, he nonetheless turned against BDS.
In a February 2012 interview with a strongly pro-Palestinian activist, Finkelstein declared that he had decided to oppose BDS (ibid). He declared that BDS had only one real goal—to destroy Israel (ibid). Therefore, he didn’t want to have anything to do with BDS.
This rejection was extraordinary. Finkelstein had been to that moment a notorious anti-Israel advocate. He was “no poster child for truth and fairness about Israel” (“Norman Finkelstein slams BDS, ISM movements”, elderofziyon, February 14, 2012). But here, he was adamant: he said, ‘they [BDS} think they’re being very clever…[they say they want justice]…but they know that the result of implementing what they want is—no Israel…you know that and I know that’ (ibid).
Today, Finkelstein isn’t the only person to understand the true nature of BDS. Today, the United Methodist Church knows it, too.
To be sure, BDS happily courts a variety of Christian denominations. BDS helps to foment anti-Israel votes in the Presbyterian Church, World Council of Churches, United Church of Crist, United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Episcopalian Church, among others.
Some of these Churches voted to boycott Israel before BDS began. BDS has increased their anti-Israel ardour.
For example, this month, BDS travelled to the United Methodist Church (UMC) looking for a big victory against Israel. Relying on a cadre of strongly anti-Israel members within the Church, BDS had put a number of anti-Israel BDS resolutions onto a major UMC General Conference agenda.
Since this General Conference meets only once every four years, any resolution placed before it is important: it’s the only place to go to change Church positions on moral, social and public policy issues (Miriam Elman, “United Methodists Vote to Break Ties with Anti-Israel ‘U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation’”, legalinsurrection, May 19, 2016.
This year’s quadrennial Conference took place May 10-May 20th. Some 864 delegates gathered to vote on a variety of resolutions that would affect Church policy. Four of the resolutions submitted asked for some kind of boycott against Israel.
Before the Conference, BDS promoters felt good about how Church members would vote. But they were disappointed. In a stunning reversal, UMC delegates turned against BDS. As one delegate put it, “activists who seek to enroll the church in demonizing Israel serve neither peace nor justice for anybody” (“Juicy Ecumenism”, 2016 United Methodist Church General Conference, May 17, 2016).
That statement echoed Finkelstein’s earlier condemnation. The UMC vote was significant. 60 per cent rejected the boycott effort (478-319) (ibid). After the vote, essayist Elman tweeted, “Instead of divesting from Israel, United Methodists voted to divest from anti-Israel BDS coalition” (ibid). To Elman, this latest anti-Israel gambit truly ‘went down in flames’ (ibid).
This isn’t the only recent major failure for BDS. Since April, 2015, eight states in the US have passed legislation to prohibit their state from investing state funds into any company that participates in the boycott of Israel: Iowa, Illinois, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, and Florida (“Movement Against Israel Boycotts Gains Steam as Iowa’s Governor Signs Anti-Boycott Bill”, thetower.org, May 11, 2016). Twelve (12) other states have similar legislation pending (Danielle Ziri, “At the state level, US legislators tackle BDS head on”, jerusalempost, May 11, 2016).
At the Federal level (in the US), the Obama administration has not challenged BDS language or anti-Israel efforts. But at the state level, where the Obama reach is short and weak, the battle to protect Israel gains strength.
This month, Israel has won twice—at the United Methodist Church General Council meeting (May 17th), and in Iowa, where the Governor signed Iowa’s own anti-BDS legislation (May 10th).
The fight to protect Israel is far from over. BDS will fight on—especially on college campuses and within Christian Church hierarchies.
But then, as you’ve just seen, those who defend Israel are no longer silent. They’re no longer passive. They’ve become better organized, more assertive and more vocal.
They’re fighting for Israel. They’re fighting for us—and they’ve just begun to fight.