The Blundering BDS – a Survey of Recent Fails

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) is now in its 11th year of activism. The fear it has managed to generate among its targets is out of proportion to its size.

Perhaps for that reason, BDS dictates have become increasingly… well, dictatorial… to the point where they cross over into absurd “victories” that defeat their own goals of uniting the world against the “apartheid state”. Here are some examples that came to the fore over the summer:

Anti-settler film banned for using the “S” word

Award-winning Israeli filmmaker Shimon Dotan was preparing for the 2017 International Conference on Religion & Film at Syracuse University, to show his documentary “The Settlers”, a biased portrayal of the settlers in Judea and Samaria as religious extremists. (In reality, the two largest cities – Maaleh Adumim and Ariel – are overwhelmingly secular.)

The Atlantic reported that a few weeks after receiving the invitation, Dotan was disinvited by a faculty member in the SU Religion Department, who gave the following reason: “My SU colleagues, on hearing about my attempt to secure your presentation, have warned me that the BDS faction on campus will make matters very unpleasant for you and for me if you come.”

When the disappointed artist probed for the reason, he found that neither supporters nor opponents had actually seen the film; the BDS objections were apparently triggered by nothing more than the title of the film – Settlers – and/or Dotan’s nationality – Israeli.  

The Atlantic reporter noted the “irony” in this “chilling of free speech” by the BDS movement: “Had I seen the film before learning of this controversy rather than after, I would have expected any attempts to stop it from being screened to come from the pro-Israel faction” – the side generally demonized by the Left as the killers of free speech.

Belgian air carrier zigzags over halva bars

In late August, Brussels Airlines suddenly dropped Israeli halva treats from its in-flight menu, calling it a “controversial” product. As media moved in to discover why, the controversy turned out to have originated with one pro-BDS passenger, who was offended by the  fact that the sesame dessert producer, Achva, is located in the Barkan Industrial Park (25 kilometers/ 15 miles east of Tel Aviv). According to the Times of Israel report, that offended individual notified the Palestine Solidarity Movement [sic, more likely the Palestine Solidarity Campaign BDS division], which convinced the airline to ban the 100-gram halva bars.

After being pelted by protests from Israelis, ranging from ordinary travelers to Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, the airline went into a tailspin. The spokespeople first claimed the product was cancelled as a mistake; “We only removed it because we did not order it.” Then they cited their “responsibility” to carry food products that will “please all” their public – an explanation that only angered fans of Achva products.  A week later, they announced that there was no mistake, no displeased public, and no problem.

What caused these mid-air acrobatics? Besides receiving threats to boycott its 11 weekly Tel Aviv flights by indignant citizens both in Israel and Belgium, the airline management also received a factual explanation from Foreign Ministry spokesman Dore Gold. That’s when they discovered that Achva and the other firms in the Barkan Industrial Park employ some 5000 Palestinians alongside Israeli citizens. (They weren’t told that in 2012 the number was 15,000, but BDS pressure forced the relocation of several large companies and a massive loss of jobs.)

At this news, Brussels Airlines recovered its dignity by cheerfully denying the existence of any political issues: “It is clear that Achva remains one of our trusted suppliers without any distinction related to the origin of the product, and therefore we will continue to accept Achva’s products on board our flights, especially given its positive role in the community.”

But by then, the media had already chronicled how a single glare from the BDS folks overturned the common sense of Belgium’s largest airline, rendering them incoherent for a week.

BDS leader’s call to replace Israel with Palestine finally backfires

Omar Barghouti, founder and head of the BDS Movement, has been confronted before for his hypocrisy in calling for the “academic boycott of Israeli universities” while studying at one of them (Tel Aviv University, located in “occupied Sheikh Munis“). Having not learned from previous encounters with the media, Barghouti released a video this year explaining once again to everyone “why we boycott” Israel:  in order “to end this regime of oppression” which awarded him a masters degree, and which he hopes will eventually award him a PhD degree. His increasingly strident Israel-bashing on US college campuses are generating increasing criticism, such as this article dissecting his April 2016 speech at Stanford University.

For years this articulate speaker has been presenting BDS as a strategy for a “one-state solution that ends Israel’s existence. Realizing that he could do so without consequences, Barghouti apparently felt free this year to voice the sentiments of Hamas; in April he gave an interview (in Arabic) condemning peace movements and any kind of Palestinian or Arab normalization with Israel.

Apparently that was the last straw. In May, Israel revoked Barghouti’s rights to travel abroad; at which point the BDS leader told the world that his life had been threatened.  He was referring to Israeli Minister Israel Katz’s comments two months earlier, recommending “focused civil elimination” of BDS leaders, which Amnesty International quickly equated with “targeted assassination“.  But in August, it became clear that leftwing interpretations were ignoring the meaning of “civil“: the Israeli government announced a task force to locate and deport BDS activists from the country, as well as prevent others from entering.

The emerging BDS advocacy for Israel’s destruction is most likely the threat which the Jewish state is hoping to eject from its midst. As far as the oft-trumpeted BDS success in sabotaging Israel’s economic and academic life, even the liberal Ha’aretz has pronounced ita Colossal Flop“.