Tuesday, March 20, 2012

BDS Lite

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement began in 2005, and as the name suggests the movement calls for boycotting Israeli products, as well as Israeli cultural, sports and and academic institutions; divesting from firms that participate in or benefit from the occupation of Palestine and the repression of Palestinians; and sanctioning Israel for its continuing occupation of Palestinian territories. The BDS movement advocates keeping the measures in place until Israel stops the occupation, treats Arab citizens of Israel fairly; and allows Palestinians to exercise the right to return to their homes and properties.

Peter Beinart, in a March 18, 2012 OPED, is at pains to oppose the BDS agenda with respect to Israel within the green line (i.e., with pre-1967 boundaries).  However, what he does urge is a boycott of products made in the occupied territories and of companies based there.  He urges that the IRS be urged and pressured to disallow tax deductions to "settler charities".  He also argues that references to democratic Israel should clearly differentiate between Israel within the green line, as opposed to "nondemocratic Israel," namely the Israeli occupied and colonized West Bank.  It is easy to see problems with Beinart's proposal in terms of the likelihood that enterprises may hide "inside the green line" and yet maintain shell companies in major settlement clusters, such as Ariel.  The distinction between BDS Lite and full BDS may be easy to maintain in theory than in fact.  Even so, Beinart's essay is an important benchmark of the recognition that unless the moral, political and economic costs of Israel's illegal settlements are raised significantly, the creeping annexation of significant swathed of the occupied territories will continue unabated.

It is somewhat surprising to find Beinart's piece in the Times, and one has to assume its appearance there is the culmination of extensive discussions at the upper reaches of the paper.  In those locales Bibi Netanyahu has been not viewed favorably, as any of a number of recent editorials attest. Anyone who has ever written OPED columns for the New York Times understands how intensely conscious the editors are of the importance of the OPED page.  Editors often play a significant role in giving shape to a piece.  Note also that headlines are not written by the authors but by the editorial staff.  The headline is "To save Israel, Boycott the settlements."

While you are pondering the Beinart piece, take time to read this article by the intrepid Amira Hass about nondemocratic Israel.

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