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The pro-Pales­tinian, anti-Israel BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanc­tions) is a prominent element of the pro­gres­sivism of our time.

BDS is a movement that seeks to pressure Israel through non-violent, eco­nomic means for three stated goals: dis­mantle Israel’s barrier in the West Bank and regain lands taken in the Six-Day War of 1967, force Israel to acknowledge the equal rights of “Arab-Pales­tinian cit­izens,” and promote a Pales­tinian “right of return” as out­lined in United Nations Res­o­lution 194, adopted just after the for­mation of Israel in 1948.

The BDS movement, though admirable for its peace­fulness, is inher­ently flawed. Its under­lying assump­tions about the core qual­ities of the Israeli state are that it is a state built on lands stolen from Pales­tinians, and that there cannot be a fun­da­men­tally Jewish state. These core assump­tions are the cause of the con­flict and the BDS movement’s mis­un­der­standings of Israel. Broadly speaking, the sup­porters of this movement are either mis­guided in their under­standing of the par­ticular socio-political issues between Israel and Palestine or fun­da­men­tally opposed to the exis­tence of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Con­sider the second stated goal of BDS: “Rec­og­nizing the fun­da­mental rights of the Arab-Pales­tinian cit­izens of Israel to full equality.” While equality is a noble goal, it is not clear what sort of equality they desire. If it is full par­tic­i­pation of current Pales­tinians in the political process of the state of Israel, then that would mean a destruction of the current order of Israel as a Jewish state. If they desire equality in self-rule, they already have that to a great extent through the Pales­tinian Authority, the party in power in the West Bank.

They are not rep­re­sented in Jewish set­tle­ments in the West Bank, but that can only be solved by nego­ti­ating peace and com­promise with Israel. The Pales­tinian Authority has made it clear that they will not reach peace through any sort of com­promise of land. Hamas, the ter­rorist party in power in the Gaza Strip, has indi­cated that they will not reach peace with Israel under any con­di­tions.

Those who back BDS have a fun­da­mental mis­un­der­standing of both how to properly enact political change and of the unique com­plex­ities of the Israel-Palestine sit­u­ation. This is demon­strated by their third stated goal, that of adhering to U.N. Res­o­lution 194. Com­plying with inter­na­tional agree­ments seems like a good way to achieve peace on its face, but the res­o­lution was passed in 1948 while Israel was still bat­tling for its inde­pen­dence. At the time of the res­o­lution, all Arab states rejected the plan and Israel was unrep­re­sented in the United Nations.

But 68 years and several wars and intifadas later, Israel’s ter­ri­tories have expanded through lands taken in wartime from their aggressors. Rela­tions with Pales­tinians have also worsened over the last two decades. To ask Israel to abide by a 68-year-old plan dic­tated by an inter­na­tional body in which they had no rep­re­sen­tation, and which all Arab coun­tries rejected, is unre­al­istic and unfair.

Finally, the BDS movement white­washes the reasons behind Israel’s set­tlement of lands in the West Bank and the Golan Heights and mil­itary mea­sures against both the West Bank and Gaza. The BDS movement asserts that set­tlement con­sti­tutes a vio­lation of human rights and goes directly against inter­na­tional law, but it ignores the fact that these lands were seized from mil­itary aggressors.

The Israeli gov­ernment has a policy of “land for peace” that began due to sug­ges­tions in UN Res­o­lution 242 in the aftermath of the Six-Day war and has dic­tated decades of Israeli peace nego­ti­a­tions and security policy since. This policy played out in Israel’s nego­ti­ation for peace with Egypt in 1979. Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula in return for a lasting peace with Egypt and the agreement has proved suc­cessful in years since. This doc­trine also prompted the uni­lateral with­drawal from Gaza in 2005, but since the with­drawal was not accom­panied by any form of peace agreement, the con­flict with Gaza has esca­lated.

Since the land given to Gaza has not resulted in peace, Israel’s current position is to stay in the West Bank until there is a mul­ti­lateral peace agreement. This means that the Pales­tinian Authority in the West Bank must be willing to nego­tiate and com­promise if they want sole control in the West Bank, since Israel will not give up land again without a promise of peace, even under eco­nomic pressure. Until then, set­tle­ments will stand, Israel will be under threat from all sides, and the BDS movement may con­tinue spouting its sim­plistic nar­rative of oppression and calling for Israel to give up its land, without properly under­standing a complex, mer­curial region of history and deeply rooted con­flict.