The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – which calls for a commercial, cultural and political boycott of Israel – is championed by most pro-Palestinian activists as a major asset in the struggle against the Zionist entity.
Israel itself is becoming increasingly vocal in its condemnation of it which has led many to conclude that Tel Aviv considers it as a major threat.
But Kashif Iqbal, a masters student at SOAS, argues that BDS has been hijacked by the “western left” and has become very detrimental to long-term Palestinian interests.
Not only does BDS accept the terms of the Zionists, it seems to spend most its time trying to “look innocent” according to Western and Zionist norms. Hence the people behind the movement spend more time condemning Palestinians for being “anti semitic” or “homophobic” than they do condemning Zionist policies – I remember one of the movement’s latest articles claiming that the struggle must be against homophobia within in the movement as much as it is against Israeli occupation!
Firstly, the BDS people are normalizers of Zionism within its 1967 borders – their whole approach is one of de-legitimizing Israel only outside of its pre-1967 occupation, suggesting that if Zionism left Gaza and the West Bank they would accept the Zionist entity.
In other words BDS is not an anti-Zionist organization on Palestinian/Arab terms, it is a “lefty” organization which has no problem with Israel as long as it is only occupying 80% of Palestine.
Secondly, the whole approach of western lefties seems to reinforce the Zionist system, suggesting the only path to resistance is not only to get “white lefties” on your side, but to pander to their values of fighting anti-semitism, homophobia and advocating non-violence etc. In other words they condemn the actual Palestinian resistance in exchange for begging the white man to be nice to the Palestinians!
This not only reinforces the problem, but allows only for a solution which is acceptable to white lefties and the white mainstream. I call this the “internationalization of the conflict” … or better, the de-localization, de-indigenization and westernization of the conflict, positing “western lefty” values as superior and hence condemning most organic Palestinian views as “extremist.”
In other words, the BDS movement aims for a purely symbolic political solution in Palestine, yet will never address the real problem of redistributing resources, banks, corporations, land, tax revenue etc back to Palestinians.
This is similar to what happened in South Africa, where a de-localization and “western hippification” of the conflict led to a purely political solution, when the actual solution must be economic … i.e. who controls the resources, land, corporations, economy.
It’s no good Palestinians getting a state with Jews owning everything, as happened in South Africa where the whites still control the economy. This does not do much to alleviate the actual problem of foreigners owning your country! But this question is purposefully being avoided and diverted into a purely symbolic political solution that western lefties will be happy with.
Therefore, the BDS movement is detrimental to the Palestinian cause in the long run, and is just another tool to divert Palestinian interests into begging westerners and appeasing western norms and values, and thereby sidelining Palestinian, Arab and Muslim ones.