GUEST WRITER’S ARGUMENT
On Sunday, April 16, Pitzer College Student Senate decided to take a hard stance on a divisive issue. Since 2005, the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has attempted to hinder Israeli economic development. The hope was that Israel will withdraw from the West Bank and end the so-called “apartheid” state. Although the BDS movement has gained support internationally, it has succeeded only in hindering opportunities to promote peace and a two-state solution, in addition to harming the Palestinian economy.
The first problem with BDS is that it is promoting a fight against something that does not exist: an apartheid state. Israel is a thriving democracy whose declaration of independence  established a state dedicated to ensuring “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture…” If Israel were an apartheid state, she would not have Arab Supreme Court justices, Parliament members, or soldiers. She would not have laws against racial, gender, and religious discrimination, as well as harsh punishments to enforce such laws. She would not have open elections in which all citizens of the state, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Druze, can vote and elect their government representatives. The BDS movement pushes anti-Israel propaganda — it seeks to paint Israel as the oppressor  when most military actions are for self-defense, especially given that Israel is surrounded on all sides by hostile neighbors (Lebanon and Hezbollah, Syria, Gaza and Hamas, and now ISIS in the Sinai). While BDS and groups that support the movement are quick to criticize Israel for defending herself when attacked by an enemy state, rarely do they critique or comment on the inhumane military practices  of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and other Arab countries in the Middle East (and the list is, in fact, extensive) . The BDS movement calls for an “equal playing field” in the Middle East, when Israel is in fact held to a different ethical standard while fighting for survival in a region filled with turmoil, inner strife, and war.
"The BDS movement calls for an “equal playing field” in the Middle East, when Israel is in fact held to a different ethical standard while fighting for survival in a region filled with turmoil, inner strife, and war."
The second problem with BDS is the economic harm and stagnation that the movement causes to Palestinian development in the West Bank. Israeli companies and institutions are heavily targeted, despite serving citizens from all of Israel and the West Bank, including 20% of Arab-Israelis  and 83% of West Bank Palestinians . Ironically, enforcing BDS has done the most damage to the population the movement seeks to help. In 2015, Bassem Eid, of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, published a rejection of the BDS movement because, according to him, it does not accurately depict the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His message states that, despite the best efforts of the BDS movement, “Israelis continue to come to the West Bank to do business, and most Palestinians continue to buy Israeli goods” . The reality of the situation is that, boycotting Israeli products does not stop Palestinians from buying them. Furthermore, it may create a situation where Palestinians do not have access to products they need, particularly because of the corruption  of the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank. BDS assumes that all Palestinians are willing to sacrifice their livelihood to make a statement, which, time and again, has proven to be false by the actions of thousands of Palestinians who work for boycotted Israeli companies and institutions, such as Ahava and SodaStream.
"The BDS movement is not just a thinly-veiled, anti-Israel smear campaign — it works directly against Palestinian independence."
For instance, prior to being pushed out of their plant in Mishor Adumim, in the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, SodaStream employed 1300 workers, 450 of whom were Arab-Israelis and 350 were Palestinians. Not only does BDS push out centers of economic development from the West Bank, but also pushes workers into unemployment, stunting growth of the Palestinian economy and creating less than ideal circumstances for a sovereign Palestinian state to form.
The BDS movement is not just a thinly-veiled, anti-Israel smear campaign — it works directly against Palestinian independence. The facts on the ground in the Middle East are not quite so simple as they are made out to be by the proponents of this movement. While the Palestinians deserve statehood, that should not come at the expense of Israel’s legitimacy or Palestinian livelihood. These intersectional struggles require a holistic approach before anyone can create a solution that is beneficial to both sides. One thing, however, is clear: The conflicts in Israel and Palestine will not and cannot be solved by a misguided boycott.
Featured Image Source: "Manif ! Solidarité avec Gaza" by Heri Rakotomalala — Own work. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr Creative Commons — https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2907/14494093057_47e7ffe327_b.jpg