How BDS Gets Israel Wrong, and Vice-Versa

Jan. 30 2018

The recent decision by the Israeli government to deny entry to the country to representatives of organizations dedicated to boycotting it has sparked a fair amount of controversy. To Haviv Rettig Gur, these measures are a product more of grandstanding by some Israeli politicians than of any real strategy to combat the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS). Moreover, he writes, BDS is bound to fail because its premise is based on a misunderstanding of what motivates Israelis:

Some of the [BDS] movement is rather openly and bluntly bigoted against Jews and Israel. Some of it is made up of well-meaning liberals at a loss for how else to aid the Palestinians in their plight. And some, as with all political movements, is a mix of well-meaning empathy and unexamined prejudice. . . . [Its supporters] seek to affect Israelis’ behavior through boycotts and sanctions, but have no clear sense of why Israelis behave as they do in the first place—and thus of what sorts of pressure might be required to change that behavior.

They do not know that most Israelis back, in principle, withdrawal and separation from the Palestinians, or that since the second intifada that began in 2000, most Israelis no longer believe that Palestinian politics can reciprocate such an Israeli withdrawal with peace. That is, they don’t know that Israelis oppose withdrawal because they believe the vacuum they leave behind will be filled by the likes of Hamas, Hizballah, or Islamic State. . . .

Most Israelis believe their children’s lives are literally and directly endangered by the Palestinians’ liberation—far more endangered by that liberation than by the continued low-level conflict required to maintain the occupation. No amount of diplomatic shuttling . . . is likely to make a dent in that mainstream Israeli fear, which is constantly bolstered and validated by the rhetoric and actions of Hamas and other mainstream Palestinian groups, as well as the experience of the 2005 Gaza withdrawal. . . .

If . . . Israelis believe their children’s safety is on the line, what possible effect can an economic boycott have? Would any BDS activist risk his own children’s safety to escape someone else’s boycott? This, for Israelis, is the damning truth behind BDS. . . . Average Israelis, [for their part], mostly hear about BDS from their own politicians, since these boycotters do not engage Israelis and so have no control over how their efforts are being presented to the targets of their ire.

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More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Israeli Security

Hamas’s Deadly Escalation at the Gaza Border

Oct. 16 2018

Hamas’s weekly demonstration at the fence separating Gaza from Israel turned bloody last Friday, as operatives used explosives to blow a hole in the barrier and attempted to pass through. The IDF opened fire, killing three and scaring away the rest. Yoni Ben Menachem notes that the demonstrators’ tactics have been growing more aggressive and violent in recent weeks, and the violence is no longer limited to Fridays but is occurring around the clock:

The number of participants in the demonstrations has risen to 20,000. Extensive use has been made of lethal tactics such as throwing explosive charges and grenades at IDF soldiers, and there has been an increase in the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. At the same time, Hamas supplemented its burning tires with smoke generators at the border to create heavy smoke screens to shield Gazan rioters and allow them to get closer to the border fence and infiltrate into Israel. . . .

[S]ix months of ineffective demonstrations have not achieved anything connected with easing [Israel’s blockade of the Strip]. Therefore, Hamas has decided to increase military pressure on Israel. [Its] ultimate goal has not changed: the complete removal of the embargo; until this is achieved, the violent demonstrations at the border fence will continue.

Hamas’s overall objective is to take the IDF by surprise by blowing up the fence at several points and infiltrating into Israeli territory to harm IDF soldiers or abduct them and take them into the Gaza Strip. . . . The precedent of the 2011 deal in which one Israeli soldier was traded for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners has strengthened the feeling within Hamas that Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price for bringing back captured soldiers alive. . . . Hamas also believes that the campaign is strengthening its position in Palestinian society and is getting the international community to understand that the Palestinian problem is still alive. . . .

The Hamas leadership is not interested in an all-out military confrontation with Israel. The Gaza street is strongly opposed to this, and the Hamas leadership understands that a new war with Israel will result in substantial damage to the organization. Therefore, the idea is to continue with the “Return March” campaign, which will not cost the organization too much and will maintain its rule without paying too high a price for terror.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security