False Claims of the BDS Movement


Hope for Israel has published a series of articles that outline the basis of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by providing detailed information and evidence about their primary campaign platforms – academic boycott, consumer boycott, cultural boycott, divestment and sanctions. The BDS movement has proved itself to be discriminatory, divisive and in many ways anti-Semitic at its core. It is a movement that uses a rights-based discourse to ultimately deny the rights and legitimacy of one people, the Jewish people, to establish themselves in their historical homeland. Under the guise of promoting peace in the Middle East, the boycott movement, in reality, does not seek peace. Unfortunately, its leaders and many of its advocates are misleading large numbers of its supporters across the globe by spreading lies and propaganda about the State of Israel.

The purpose here is to refute some of the core, foundational lies and distortions claimed by the BDS movement, and in response, provide a more factual understanding of the specific issues and controversies surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Lie: Zionism is a colonialist movement, which conquered and stole land from the Palestinians[1] with no rightful claim to it.

The Truth: Zionism is a national liberation movement of the Jewish people whose belief holds that the Jews, like any other nation, are entitled to a homeland. Zionism was one of many national liberation movements in the 19th and 20th centuries. As a result of the persecution of Jews and anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East, Jewish individuals and families began to make their way to the Land of their forefathers, a place with which the Jewish people have maintained ties for more than 3,700 years, including a national language and distinct civilization.

Theodor Herzl, founder of the World Zionist Organization, appealed to the Ottomans to request permission for the allocation of land for the fleeing Jews. In 1917, due to growing support for Zionism within Britain’s parliament and the presumed defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the Balfour Declaration was written creating, “A national home for the Jewish people.” This declaration was confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922. Zionists, or Jews who sought to make a new home in their historic homeland, did not conquer or colonize “Palestine.” In fact, there was never a nation or state called Palestine. It was a region on the eastern Mediterranean that received its name from the Romans referred to as Palaestina, given in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel. The British Mandate divided up the region between the Jews and Arabs and, with the support of the United Nations and the international community, a Jewish State was established in 1948.

The Lie: The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was achieved through the ruthless and well-planned ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians.

The Truth: For the sake of perspective, it is crucial to clarify what was happening in the first half of the 20th century across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. These regions witnessed incredible waves of population exchanges for the purpose of establishing nation-states. In this wave, approximately 60 million people were uprooted or transferred from their homeland. By 1947, Jews constituted over half of the population in Palaestina. After the wreckage of WWII, the British powers gave over the region to the United Nations to decide how to divide up the land. The United Nations declared two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – one Arab and one Jewish. While the Jewish community jumped at the opportunity, the Arabs denied the offer and declared a war of annihilation. Had the Arabs accepted the UN Partition Plan, not a single Palestinian Arab would have become a refugee.

In the months leading up to the war, Arabs either fled or were driven out of their homes for various reasons. Thousands left in anticipation of war; thousands more left at the request of the Arab armies; some were expelled by the Israeli army, but the majority fled in order to escape being caught in the crossfire. Many assumed – or were promised – that the Arab armies would quickly defeat the Jews and expected to return to their homes after the war. However, when the Israeli army defeated the five Arab armies from the nations of Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, it was clear that the Jewish State would remain. The more than 700,000 Arabs who fled then became refugees. It is important to note, as a result of this conflict, approximately 850,000 Jews were forced to leave their countries in the Middle East and Europe, and became refugees; they ended up finding refuge in the new State of Israel and were gladly welcomed and integrated into Israeli society. Out of tens of millions of refugees worldwide during this time period, it is only the Palestinian Arabs who are still considered refugees, and that is predominantly due to the fact that Arab countries refused to absorb these populations (even until today) as a way to continually perpetuate the conflict. Unlike the Arabs’ very clear purpose of annihilating the Jews, the Jewish people never intended nor carried out any form of genocide or ethnic cleansing. Historical records prove this to be true.

The Lie: Israel is committing war crimes and violating international law through the military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

The Truth: During the 1948 War of Independence, Jordan illegally captured and occupied Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem and changed the name to the “West Bank,” as it is commonly referred to today. Jordan expelled all of the Jews from that area, including the holy sites in Jerusalem. In the years leading up to the 1967 Six-Day War, neighboring Arab states continued to completely deny the existence of the State of Israel and carried out acts of terror and aggression towards Israel; this ultimately led to threats of war. During the Six-Day War, Israel seized control of the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria from Jordan in an act of self-defense, after Jordan joined military forces with Egypt and Syria in another attempt to destroy Israel. When East Jerusalem came under the Israeli rule, Arabs living there were given permanent residency status with the option of becoming Israeli citizens (although most chose not to take this option for political reasons) and the right to vote and run for the city council. To this day, residents of East Jerusalem have the freedom of movement, the right to live and work anywhere in Israel and are entitled to social benefits, including national health insurance.

The often-quoted UN Security Council Resolution 242, adopted in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, has been largely misinterpreted by opponents of Israel to say that Israel’s acquisition of territory in 1967 is ‘inadmissible’ and requires Israel to return to its pre-1967 boundaries. However, Resolution 242 did not demand a unilateral Israeli withdrawal, rather, it was meant to guide the negotiations for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement, which would leave Israel with “secure and recognized boundaries.” This is why the presence and construction of Israeli settlements should not be considered illegal. A more accurate understanding is to refer to the land acquired in 1967 as disputed territory, until an agreement is reached that determines sovereign legal borders.

The 1967 border that marks the Green Line and is often referred to as “occupied territory,” was never an international border; it was the Armistice Line of 1949 where the Arab and Israeli forces drew a ceasefire at the end of the War of Independence. According to Arab leaders, this line had no political significance. A more exact and legal definition according to international law is to call the West Bank “disputed territory” because there was no previous legal sovereignty over the area. Israel has since used this territory captured in 1967 as a wager for negotiating peace with neighboring Arab states, as it did with Egypt in trading the Sinai Peninsula in 1979. In 2005, in yet another effort to make peace with the Palestinian Arabs, Israel completely withdrew all troops and military presence, along with more than 9,000 Israeli citizens from 25 settlements from within the Gaza Strip and handed over total control to the Palestinian Authority. Two years later, an internationally recognized terrorist organization called Hamas, whose main charter expresses the group’s devout commitment to the complete destruction of the State of Israel, gained control over the Gaza Strip by vote of the people. Intense factional fighting broke out in the Gaza Strip between the two main political parties Fatah and Hamas, including the killing of civilians, public executions of political opponents, throwing prisoners off high-rise buildings and expelling all Fatah members from Gaza, practices that Hamas continues until today. Purely for the sake of defending its citizens from terror attacks, Israel does maintain surveillance and a strong hold on its border with Gaza in order to ensure that weapons or equipment for building rockets are not smuggled inside.

The Lie: Jewish settlements are an obstacle to peace.

The Truth: Settlements have never been an obstacle to peace. The first 18 years in the life of the State of Israel, when Jews were forbidden to live in East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, the Arabs refused to make peace with Israel. The Israeli settlements that existed in the Sinai after 1967 did not prevent a peace agreement with Egypt, but they were removed as part of the terms of the negotiations. In the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, Israeli settlements were not an issue. In 2005, in hopes of moving forward in negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel evacuated all of its settlements from the Gaza Strip. In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to withdrawal from approximately 94 percent of Judea and Samaria, but the Palestinians rejected the offer. In 2010, Benjamin Netanyahu froze settlement construction for ten months, but Palestinian leaders refused to come to the negotiating table until the period was nearly over. Time and time again, Israel has made clear that it is willing to make concessions when it comes to settlements. The truth is that the existence of a Jewish State is an obstacle to peace in the eyes of the Arabs.

Even though settlements are not an obstacle to peace, their expansion in size and number do require large numbers of Israeli troops to defend the residents from threats by surrounding Arab neighborhoods. For many years and even in recent weeks, settlers are oftentimes the targets of repeated Palestinian terror attacks. The question of settlements is a matter of any final status agreement.

The Lie: Palestinian people live inside Israel as third-class citizens. They are subjected to a system of racial discrimination and racist laws that are tantamount to Apartheid, as defined by the United Nations.

The Truth: Israel is one of the most diverse and open societies in the world, and most definitely in the Middle East. Of Israel’s more than 8 million inhabitants, 1.8 million are non-Jews comprised of Muslims, Christians, and Druze. This Arab minority has equal voting rights for both men and women, unlike many Middle Eastern countries that forbid women from voting. Arabs occupy senior positions in the Israeli police force, the Knesset and the Israeli judiciary. Arabic is an official language in Israel. Israeli law prohibits discrimination in employment.

Under apartheid, black South Africans could not vote and were not citizens of the country. They could not eat in the same restaurant as whites, or go to the same schools, they were treated at black-only hospitals, and they could not even walk on the same side of the street as the white South Africans. In Israel, every day you see Arabs and Jews interacting together in shared spaces in public, at school, doing business together and being treated by both Arab and Israeli doctors. The sole legal distinction between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel is that Arabs are not required to serve in the Israeli army. Even so, many Arabs have volunteered themselves to serve at their own will.

It cannot be denied that within Israeli society there are cases of discrimination, not only between Jews and Arabs, but also within the Jewish community. There are problems of discrimination between religious Jews and secular Jews, between Ashkenazi and Sephardic, with Ethiopian Jews and Russian Jews. Every society that has such a large amount of ethnic and cultural diversity struggles to cultivate tolerance and uniformity. Fifty years after the civil rights movement in the United States, discrimination has still not been eradicated. Europe today is struggling to integrate its ever-growing immigrant population. However, from a legal and judiciary standpoint, the rights of all citizens, including minorities, are protected under Israeli law.

In conclusion, Israel is not perfect, and is not exempt from criticism. Not every decision the Israeli government makes is the proper one, nor are all of her actions blameless. There is a robust amount of criticism towards Israel, even among its citizens, in most every sector of society, which makes for a thriving and healthy democracy. Israel is still a very young country and has many areas to grow and improve for its citizens, including its minority populations. Any conflict between two peoples creates a difficult situation; self-defense is oftentimes accompanied by injustice and harm to innocent people. There is a difference, however, in having legitimate and constructive criticism of Israeli policy, versus creating an international campaign that tries to delegitimize Israel’s existence and make fictitious claims of genocide, apartheid, and crimes against humanity, as does the BDS campaign. We hope that by presenting historical and on-the-ground facts and information about Israel, more people will be able to refute the lies of the boycott movement and start to move towards a better world for all of the inhabitants in the Land.

[1] All references in this article to the term “Palestinian” is with an historical understanding that Arabs did not refer to themselves as Palestinians during the Mandate period, and no Arab institution called itself Palestinian. The collective identity in the pre-1967 era was overwhelmingly Arab; a Palestinian identity did not exist within the general population. A self-defined, Palestinian national identity is a fairly new creation and did not develop until after the Six Day War in 1967.

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