Thanks so much for running Nathan Thrall’s comprehensive article on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (‘Something needs to happen’, Journal, 14 August). I greatly appreciated its fair treatment of the BDS movement, its histories, strategies, and Israeli counterstrategies.
Unfortunately, one area where it came up short was in not portraying the vibrant and growing Jewish support for BDS, propagating a myth that Jewish communities worldwide are united against it. This is simply not correct. My organisation, Jewish Voice for Peace, for example, endorsed the BDS call in 2015 after many years of supporting settlement boycotts. We have only continued to grow at an even faster pace since then, now boasting over 16,000 dues-paying members, over 70 chapters across the US, and over 250,000 online supporters. In the global context, just a few weeks ago, over 40 Jewish organisations on five continents published an unprecedented joint letter defending the BDS movement against accusations of antisemitism and affirming its legitimacy as a tactic. The piece would have been greatly improved by acknowledging the complexities of Jewish communal responses to the BDS movement.
Jewish Voice for Peace
• Nathan Thrall’s long article does not mention the real objective of the BDS movement – the destruction of the state of Israel. We had all the euphemisms – “the Palestinian right of return”, an end to “occupation” or “apartheid”, “the one-state reality”. All are synonyms for politicide and the replacement of Israel with an Arab-majority state, to add to the 22 Arab states already in existence.
Will the Guardian now commission an essay on the million Jewish refugees from now-judenrein Arab countries, “ethnically cleansed” from their homes by state-sanctioned persecution and violence? The majority found a haven in Israel, where they are now just over half Israel’s Jewish population. Will the piece lament the loss of 3,000 years of Jewish heritage, the mass dispossession, the emptying of Baghdad, Tripoli and Cairo of their once-thriving Jewish communities?
Harif – UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa
• I have long condemned the Israeli occupation, but I also criticise the BDS movement. There are many countries that occupy the territories of others – India occupies Kashmir, China occupies Tibet, and Turkey occupies northern Cyprus. Furthermore, Turkey ethnically cleansed northern Cyprus of all its Greek citizens, and China has been accused of holding up to a million Muslims in “re-education camps” (China denies using camps to suppress Muslim minorities, 14 August). And yet only Israel is the target of BDS. Certainly the BDS movement attracts idealist activists who can rationalise these double standards, but equally it attracts antisemites who see this selective attack on the Jewish state as an ideal weapon to further their racist agenda.
• Nathan Thrall’s article is a welcome in-depth, and accurate account of an unjustly slandered campaign. He gets to the crux of the issues BDS activists highlight: that Israel has established a one-state reality that privileges the rights of Jews while denying rights to Palestinians and that this unjust system meets the legal definition of apartheid. Emphasising Palestinians’ long-standing use of nonviolent tactics like boycott, Thrall also lays bare the violent and repressive responses of Israeli governments even to such unarmed resistance. Hence Palestinians called for international support through BDS.
But the boycott is not about western civil society somehow liberating Palestinians. It is about us seeking to end the complicity of our governments and other institutions in their oppression; an act of solidarity.
In the UK, a two-way arms embargo on Israel must be imposed immediately, universities must divest from companies profiting from Israeli apartheid and banks like HSBC must sever links with the arms companies facilitating Israel’s massacres.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign
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