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Nonviolent Communication

Is BDS a nonviolent strategy ?

I’m using this blog to initiate a discussion about whether Boycott, Divestment Sanction (BDS)  is a nonviolent strategy . My hope is to connect with a community out there that will help me  get clarity for myself about whether I support BDS, to get a deeper understanding of   what IS a nonviolent strategy and to contribute to inclusive peace in the Mideast.

This Article by self described “sad Zionist” Kathleen Peratis is a great place to start . Please comment and share! 

This paragraph ( below) from her article in support of BDS is stirring- it presents BDS , not as a punishment, but   as a way to stir Israelis to empower themselves to do what they already know  is in their own interests and the higher human moral ground:

“The deciders on whether there will be a two-state solution are the Israeli people. It is they at least as much as their government who should be the targets of our advocacy. And not because they favor occupation. On the contrary, any pollster will tell you that a large majority says it favors ending occupation. But that majority neither puts pressure on its representatives nor votes in large numbers for peace candidates. Why? Because ending occupation is low on the agenda of Israeli voters, lower even than the price of cottage cheese.”

OPEN ZION on THE DAILY BEAST

If You Want Two States, Support BDS
by Kathleen Peratis Oct 16, 2013

I have not only heard all the arguments against BDS, I have made them. I am one of those really liberal Jews who will appear on panels too treif for most mainstream Jews (because they include anti-Zionists) and argue that the liberal Zionist dream is not dead, that a Jewish and democratic Israel is still possible, that Israel (inside the green line) is a democracy. For this I am sometimes mocked. Marilyn Neimark, my co-panelist not too long ago, turned to me when it was her turn and said, “And do you also still believe in the tooth fairy?”

The audience roared. I did not take offense.

Demonstrators hold a placard urging the international community to take action against Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied territories as left-wing Israeli and foreign peace activists join Palestinians in a protest. (Gali Tibbon / AFP / Getty Images)

Most of those who populate the very narrow ground that I stand on (I called them “sad Zionists” in an op-ed early in the year) know that the current peace process is at best a Hail Mary, that the occupation is a lot more entrenched and sustainable than we ever thought, that the two-state solution—along with our liberal Zionist dreams—is going down the drain.

For all of our efforts, why are we getting nowhere? For one thing, we are fighting the fight with a hand tied behind our backs. We hysterically condemn the use of a nonviolent tool that works. The tool is Boycott, Divestment Sanction (BDS).

The deciders on whether there will be a two-state solution are the Israeli people. It is they at least as much as their government who should be the targets of our advocacy. And not because they favor occupation. On the contrary, any pollster will tell you that a large majority says it favors ending occupation. But that majority neither puts pressure on its representatives nor votes in large numbers for peace candidates. Why? Because ending occupation is low on the agenda of Israeli voters, lower even than the price of cottage cheese.

The nearly 3000 people at the J Street conference two weeks ago are a testament to how much we care. But what tools is this impressive group deploying? I heard nothing new (I watched a lot as it was streamed). They are raising their voices, sending a message to Congress, supporting the administration. That is basically what we have done for 25 years. It does not shake Israelis from their indifference, an indifference that is staggering. As former Haaretz writer Lily Galili said in a recent post, Israelis are tired of “the endless parade of U.S. and European envoys bearing all kinds of solutions to the conflict, from plans to road maps” so much so that by now “Secretary of State John Kerry ‘s visits are hardly noticed.”

Israelis are not demanding an end to occupation because the status quo is working for them. It is “sustainable,” as several speakers at the J Street conference pointed out. American Zionists would make a contribution if we were to shake up that indifference, if we were able to make the status quo less comfortable.

While we might not like all those who wield it, BDS has shown itself to be a tool that unsettles indifference. Few things focus the attention of the Israeli government on the issue of occupation like BDS, even the parve BDS of a limited boycott of settlement products (see Peter Beinart’s “Zionist BDS”). I don’t denigrate this limited boycott. Not buying Soda Stream or Gush Etzion wine is a start.

But maybe it is time now, maybe past time, to embrace a broader BDS tool for our own goal of ending the occupation—time for us to embrace the wake-up call that occurs when a rock group won’t perform in Tel Aviv, when the E.U. refuses to fund Israeli projects that have any presence over the Green Line, when the Presbyterian Church threatens divestment in companies that profit from the occupation.

I know this tool is anathema to the Jewish community. Why is that?

One argument, one I have made myself, is that BDS just makes Israelis feel that the world is against them, engenders a siege mentality and is therefore counterproductive. But what has been gained by such deference? For how long do we have carrots only and no sticks?

Another and related argument is that BDS hurts Global Israel (Bernard Avishai’s phrase for the good guys) and strengthens the Greater Israel yahoos because BDS means to isolate Israel and therefore shrinks its commerce and intellectual intercourse. That is true, but that is precisely what the boycott tool is meant to do: disrupt the status quo until justice is restored.

The almost unspoken reason I have kept my distance from BDS is the whiff of anti-Semitism that rises from some of the BDS organizations, including some in the Global BDS Movement.  Their advocacy of the “full” right of return of Palestinian refugees means an end to Jewish Israel.  Their one-sided condemnation of ’48 is a rejection of our democratic Zionism. We cannot march shoulder to shoulder with them.

But why have we conflated their goals with their tools? Are they inextricable? I don’t think so.

We can, if we choose, use BDS as one of our tools to end occupation rather than eschew it merely because it is wielded by people who may share some, but do not share all, of our goals.  We can create (and name) a pro-two-state, anti-occupation, Jewish BDS movement that is not limited to settlement products but that extends to everyone who profits from the occupation. Let’s embrace and not condemn the performers, funders and investors who say they won’t perform, fund or invest in Israel until the occupation ends. Let’s not attack them and reflexively call them delegitimizers or anti-Semites (unless, of course, they are). And let’s do so until Israelis do one thing: place ending the occupation higher on their priority list than the price of cottage cheese.

I can’t conclude without saying a word about fear, the fear of activist Jews that endorsing BDS means you are no longer under the communal tent. Just last week, J Street member Seth Morrison felt he had to quit J Street and remove himself from its listserve because he decided to join Jewish Voice for Peace, an American Jewish organization that supports the Global BDS Movement. What a pity that he was presented with, or felt he had to make, such a choice.

Source: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/10/16/if-you-want-two-states-support-bds.html

ePalestine Blog:http://www.epalestine.com

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About robertaindia

In the world with a peaceful heart

Discussion

5 thoughts on “Is BDS a nonviolent strategy ?

  1. If BDS HARMS people in any way, then NO it is not non-violent.

    Sharon Klein

    Posted by Music | October 25, 2013, 6:46 pm
  2. Thank you Roberta for posting Kathleen Peratis’ very thought-provoking article and inviting us to join you in wrestling with the compelling, heartfelt questions you raise.

    As a Jew, long-time activist for a more humane and equitable world, and someone deeply committed to finding ways to connect with everyone around core universal yearnings, I’ve questions and concerns about BDS as a strategy.

    I am utterly opposed to Israel’s policies that continue to contribute to the enormous suffering of the Palestinian people. Yet, with so many other countries whose policies are inhumane in the extreme, I truly don’t understand the singular focus of BDS only on Israel. Does this singling out of Israel have at its core the “intention” of nonviolence?

    In this space that Roberta has created for us, I welcome learning in order to understand deeply both BDS and my own reactions to it.

    Karen Hirsch

    Posted by Karen Hirsch | October 29, 2013, 2:03 pm
    • Dear Karen,

      Thank you for replying! I too am yearning for community and conversation on this topic- what makes something nonviolent?

      I am so touched to hear, and share with you, the deep pain you feel as a Jewish woman committed to a more humane and equitable world, when you see Israel’s policies that continue to contribute to the enormous suffering of the Palestinian people. And i also hear your pain , and share that too, when you see the singular focus of BDS only on Israel.

      And i hear that your pain about the way Israel is singled out in the BDS movement is so deep that its hard to trust that the intention underlying BDS is really nonviolent and aiming for a solution that brings dignity and safety to everyone. Perhaps you fear that the despair and outrage people feel about the suffering of the Palestinian people is being channeled into hatred and revenge?

      I too am wondering how we can go to that cliff of despair-feeling the suffering so deeply that we look over into the abyss- and still not fall into either despair or revenge. And what action, then, do we take?

      What is a nonviolent way of putting pressure on a system that blocks peace, blocks the world from moving forward? I want love to be the motivation for change, not hate. I want everyone to be lifted and carried along. I want people to support change because of the recognition that we are all one interconnected human family, that our very survival on Earth and of Earth depends on us recognizing and ultimately celebrating our interdependence and interconnection.

      How do we move from here to there?

      Posted by roberta | October 31, 2013, 4:04 am
    • Thank you Varda. I initiated this conversation so i could learn about all the effects of any decision to boycott or not, and this is really useful. Since i posted this, i had a long conversation with a Palestinian activist friend from Hebron. He said their campaign is to “buy local”, not to boycott. So they have positive energy and empowerment and wont hurt Palestinian businesses that sell Israeli products, rather, as a way of encouraging Palestinian businesses to carry Palestinian products. I’m learning a lot from many different people. Thank you.

      Posted by robertaindia | January 11, 2014, 6:17 pm

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