Repressing free speech is undemocratic, that was established in the First Amendment a long time ago, and the right to boycott is enshrined within that amendment, including the right to boycott Israeli products. It was also established long ago that all men and women, including Palestinians, are created equal and are deserving of the same rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
For many decades now, Jews around the world, including staunch Zionist Jews like the late Dr. Nahum Goldman and Professor Yishayahu Leibovitch had opposed the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and building Jewish settlements there – as have Israeli generals, former Mossad chiefs and countless lesser known Jewish people. But over the last fifty years consecutive Israeli governments of all parties have built Jewish settlements in the West Bank and no amount of talking and negotiating has made the slightest difference.
Israel claims that it has a small Arab minority sometimes called “The Arabs of Israel” and that they enjoy full citizenship rights. However, these are Palestinian Arabs and although they hold Israeli citizenship they do not enjoy the same rights as Israeli Jewish citizens. They live in separate cities and separate communities, go to different schools are given far less opportunities and poverty levels are considerably higher among them. From laws that limit who they may marry and where they may live to laws that limit their right to commemorate the “Naqba,” the catastrophe that befell Palestinians when Israel was established, Palestinian citizens of Israel face discrimination at every stage of their lives, and still Israeli law makers continue to pass laws that discriminate against them at an alarming speed.
The Right of Return of Palestinians who were displaced in 1948 has been enshrined in article 11 of UN resolution 194. Furthermore, according to a report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia the Law of Return, “conferring on Jews worldwide the right to enter Israel and obtain Israeli citizenship regardless of their countries of origin and whether or not they can show links to Israel-Palestine, while withholding any comparable right from Palestinians, including those with documented ancestral homes in the country.” This was correctly referred to as a policy of “demographic engineering meant to uphold Israel’s status as the Jewish state.”
BDS have arguably become the three most controversial letters in the alphabet. Representing the call by Palestinian civil society to impose boycott, to divest and to impose sanctions on the State of Israel and companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. This call seeks to remedy the three conditions described above without harming or depriving anyone of their rights. BDS is controversial mostly because the call has been widely misrepresented. But the demands of the BDS movement neither express or intend any racism or violence towards anyone, they are as follows:
- Ending the occupation.
- Equal rights to all Palestinians.
- Return of the Palestinian refugees.
According to a letter submitted by the ACLU to members of the US Senate, “S. 720 Israel Anti-Boycott Act is a bill that seeks to criminalize the call for BDS.” It states that it “would punish businesses and individuals based solely on their political point of view” and “Such a penalty is in direct violation of the First Amendment.” The letter ends by urging senators to oppose the bill.
In speech made by Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the co-sponsors of this bill, regarding BDS at the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum on June 5, 2017, the Senator from New York said, “There is no greater example than this insidious effort to harm the Jewish state than through the boycotts, divestment and sanctions.” However, in reading the demands of the BDS call, it is clear that its goals are to improve the conditions which Israel has imposed on Palestinians and to repair inequities which Israeli governments are unwilling to address. There is no question that all efforts to get Israel to repair the inequities without pressure, had been exhausted.
Schumer refers to BDS as “a modern form of anti-Semitism.” Indeed, a modern form which does not incite against Jews, does not call for the killing of or discrimination against Jews but instead demands that all people who reside in Palestine/Israel enjoy the same rights and privileges.
Miko Peled is an Israeli human rights activist living in Washington DC. He is the author of “The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine” and the forthcoming book, “Injustice, The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five” expected to be available in the fall on 2017. To request a lecture please go to mikopeled.com