It hasn’t taken long but I’m already fed up with the new line out of some factions of the ‘pro Palestine’ camp that posits the BDS movement as fatally divisive. The latest putative supporter of Palestinian rights to take up this theme is Norman Finkelstein, the tireless campaigner for Palestine, who spoke recently in Ottawa. His comments were summed up by Peter Larson on his blog, Canada Talks Israel Palestine.

Below you’ll find the response I posted on Peter’s blog, which offers some notes and observations about this disturbing trend. But before this gets too abstract for you, let’s look at a couple of basics. Here’s a shot of the Palestinian playground the Israelis levelled in East Jerusalem this week; it comes from the Ma’an News Agency story on this event, which was one of a series of demolitions the same day. They were not covered by a single mainstream media outlet I can find.


In addition, I’ve just spotted the news that an Israeli court has found the shooting in the head at point blank range of a seriously wounded and prone Palestinian man by an IDF soldier in Hebron ‘inconclusive.’ The video of the fatal shooting was widely seen across social media. As you might know, Hebron is where the Israeli government has welded shut the doors of all Palestinian homes and businesses on Shuhada Stret, the main commercial thoroughfare. Palestinians are required to access their properties via alleyways and back windows.

Here is my response to Finkelstein:

‘While I appreciate that Norman Finkelstein takes a lot of flak for his views, I agree with the contributors here who find his criticism of BDS deeply troubling. There are several reasons:

1. I do not know of a single manifestation of Palestinian resistance that has ever been deemed ‘acceptable’ by the international community, which on the contrary has unrelentingly resisted holding Israel to account for its repeated and brazen violations of international law.

2. Do the anti-BDS crowd deny that the decisions of Veolia, Ahava, Sodastream and G4S to shut down or move their OPT operations, along with Artists Against Palestine, the Brazilian musician Gaetano Veloso and many others who refuse to perform there, would have occurred without pressure from BDS activists? And can they name another strategy that can boast these successes?

3. The BDS movement originated from frustration with global obstructionism on Palestinian rights, while Israel lays facts on the ground in the OPT and pulverises Gaza every couple of years. As such, it seems perverse rather than ‘provocative’ to claim that BDS is causing the inaction it arose in response to.

More importantly, do those making these claims seriously believe that if BDS were stopped some miraculous progress on Palestinian rights would occur? And do they think it’s a coincidence that the fiercest opponents of BDS are also the fiercest opponents of Palestinian rights?

4. It is not just hot-headed undergraduates who support BDS. It is mainstream churches, labour unions, cultural organisations and many other groups and individuals. Here in the UK the Quakers made a powerful submission to the government’s consultation on plans to stop local councils from boycotting settlement related companies. As I wrote on my own blog, the World Association for Infant Mental Health moved its late May congress from Tel Aviv to Prague in response to concerns from its membership about whether Israel was an appropriate location for this event. Israeli and Palestinian mental health groups are still supporting the congress, just not in Israel.

In fact, the anti-BDS line being spun by Palestine supporters serves to uphold a dangerous and longstanding narrative which marginalises those who act on their concern for Palestinian rights with widely-accepted tools of non-violent resistance as ‘anti Semites’ and radicals, while decontaminating those who are content with an endless debate about it, bolstered by the odd letter to their MP. We’ve been here before; this road leads nowhere.

5. The anti-BDS vote in Canadian parliament, which allegedly arose from concerns about the movement’s ‘anti-Israel’ underpinnings, cannot be seen in a vacuum. During Operation Protective Edge, there was barely a peep of concern out of a single Canadian politician about attacks on UNWRA schools, the 12 hour siege of the densely populated Shujaiya neighbourhood where Palestinian civilians were stripped naked and used as human shields, or countless other incidents. These have been amply documented by numerous human rights groups, from Amnesty and Human Rights Watch to B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence. Further, just a few months ago, Justin Trudeau’s government joined the US, Israel, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands to vote against a UN resolution supporting Palestinian sovereignty over their own natural resources. In the meantime, it has not reinstated funding for UNRWA which was axed under Harper’s toxic leadership. If these are not clear indicators of Canadian politicians’ disregard for Palestinian rights and self determination, which actually underpinned support for the anti-BDS vote, I’m not sure what is.

For me, the eagerness of supposed supporters of Palestinian rights to join hands with the likes of Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Trudeau and others in Italy, France, Greece and the UK who have pledged total impunity for Israel on their watch even if it means flouting their own countries’ laws and constitutions, is a tribute to the dazzling success of the hasbara operation where this talking point was incubated, nurtured and financed. It also provides chilling evidence of the anti-Arab racism that fuels anti-BDS activism, in which a commitment to Palestinian rights can be imagined exclusively as a stick to beat Israel with, rather than a compelling and worthwhile goal unto itself.’