Attacking Israel’s legitimacy is contesting its very right to exist as a Jewish state. This is the aim of delegitimization, which seeks to isolate Israel as a pariah state and reject the notion of a two-state solution. Delegitimizers garner support by appealing to North America’s most vulnerable targets, including college campuses, churches, labor unions and human rights organizations; communities and populations who are deeply invested in and concerned about civil liberties and freedoms. Oftentimes, they utilize Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) tactics to do this, the same tools used to isolate and vilify apartheid South Africa, Iran, or Nazi Germany. BDS activists present distortions, fabrications and misrepresentations of international law in an attempt to paint Israel with the same brush. There are many ‘hot topics’ when it comes to attempts to delegitimize Israel, but the core of these issues often find their root within the BDS movement.
It is important to remember that BDS is a “neutral” set of tools designed to disempower errant states through economic pressure and world condemnation of human rights violations. The Jewish community has and does correctly support divestment when these tools fit the situation as in the instance of South Africa in the 1980’s and Iran today. However, Israel is a pluralistic democratic society and these tools are neither appropriate nor will they bring about peace. BDS is simply a tactic to tell an anti-Israel story that undermines Israel’s right to exist by falsely equating Israel to racist and genocidal regimes.
Despite the facade of a campaign to “improve” the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace, the end goal of delegitimizers and BDS activists is to increase the isolation and eventual disappearance of the Jewish state. BDS campaigns carry an underlying sentiment that the very existence of a state for the Jewish people is the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
BDS efforts exist across the world and are growing in prominence throughout North America. As they are often masked as legitimate protests against Israeli policies, it is important to recognize the fine line between criticism of Israel and attacks on its legitimacy. The category of ‘criticism’ includes a genuine discussion and questioning of Israeli policies on issues such as security, settlements, Jerusalem, etc. Delegitimization, on the other hand, not only criticizes policy, but fabricates facts, misrepresents international law, engages in defamation of the Jewish state and people, demonizes the Israeli military, government, and society and holds Israel to an unreasonable double standard when compared with other nations.
When making the case against BDS, the following talking points can prove helpful:
- The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, if nothing else, complex. There are those who seek paths to end the conflict and those who seek to act it out. There are those who favor reconciliation, two states living side by side in peace and those who model division with tactics such as boycotts to justify punishing Israel, only one party in the conflict.
- Singling out and blaming one party is detrimental to peace. The true path to peace is through dialogue, and will only come about when both the Israeli and Palestinian narratives are recognized.
- BDS actions only CREATE DIVISIONS, NOT CHANGE. The Jewish community wishes to work toward a model of reconciliation that will bring about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than perpetuate it.
- Peace will only come through constructive and not destructive means. Those seeking to hasten peace should focus on efforts of reconciliation that are necessary to foster a generation of Israelis and Palestinians prepared to work and live side-by-side.
- Anti-Israel measures are more likely to hinder rather than advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. They gloss over the complexities of the conflict, including the immeasurable power of terror. BDS measures delegitimize the democratic Jewish State of Israel, attempt to blame Israel exclusively for the failure of the peace process, and give hope to extremists that their goal of undermining the sovereignty and global support for Israel can be realized without dismantling terrorist infrastructure.
Recommended Reading on BDS:
- Basic De-legitmization of Israel (Reut Institute)
- Israel De-legitimizers threaten its existence (Reut Institute)
- The Campaign Against Israel’s Legitimacy Answers to Israel’s Critics (AJC)
- Security and Defense: Combating delegitimization (Jerusalem Post)
- Action needed to combat campaign delegitimizing Israel (JTA)
- The deligitimization of Israel – Why the Christains Must Defend Israel (ICEJ)
- Combating the delegitimization of Israel (NGO Monitor)
- Combating Delegitimization Requires A Big Tent (The Jewish Week)
- Six Steps to Better Israel PR (Jewish Journal)
For additional BDS-related talking points and for assistance developing strategies for combating delegitimization in your community, contact IAN.