Israeli citizens comment on the anti-BDS conference in Tel Aviv this week
Since boycotts are a nonviolent civil action, Israel has been struggling for years to find ways to quash the movement, only to repeatedly find itself in the same dilemma: Applying coercive legal measures runs contrary to the State's proclaimed support of the values of free speech. In Israel, calling for a boycott of the State, its institutions, or Israeli companies, was outlawed in 2011, [http://www.acri.org.il/en/2011/07/17/the-anti-boycott-law-questions-and-answers/]. This anti-democratic move has opened the eyes of many people all over the world who became aware of the nature of this regime.
This is the first conference of its kind in Israel (similar conferences have been held in the United States for several years now), where politicians, state officials, and public figures join forces in an attempt to solve Israel’s inability to take down a dissident grassroots movement.
In Israeli coverage of BDS and panels held on this topic, the arguments of those who support BDS are usually absent. This practice of exclusion produces ignorance about BDS and the Palestine solidarity movement, and promotes hysteria and tribalism, rather than actual education [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NR38p1n7pI&list=PLNiWLB_wsOg7BWMNmSk5UhZ6qI2bUinSK].
As Israeli supporters of the BDS movement, it was our duty to attend the first official conference against BDS. One speaker after another tarnished us; we witnessed our demonization as “anti-Semites” and “terror enablers” with Israeli officials proposing “targeted civil killing” (termed euphemistically “targeted thwarting”; https://youtu.be/ukXAFxI8Ix4) against activists in the movement [http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4784262,00.html]. It should be noted that this choice of words resembles Israeli military terminology for the state's illegal policy of extrajudicial execution of Palestinians. While the word "civil" (rather than "military") is used here, this statement, in addition to outlining political persecution, amounts to inciting violence against supporters of BDS.
As for another fear-mongering lie, the inadvertently ironic claims that “big money” is fueling the movement are not grounded in reality. Israel and its supporters spend tens of millions of state dollars on propaganda and defamation efforts. By contrast, BDS activists often organize grassroots actions on a shoestring budget.
"Legal scholars" at the conference argued that BDS “works in contravention of international law”. This is yet another ironic comment. BDS is a non-violent movement targeting complicit institutions in the service of justice and equality for all (Palestinians, Jews, and non-Jews alike). Those looking for violations of international law are advised to examine Israel's massacres of civilians in Gaza and Lebanon, its illegal land grab and colonization project in the West Bank, its policies of administrative detention, house demolition, its torture of political prisoners, you name it.
Several panelists spoke of revoking the residency of a BDS figurehead, Omar Barghouti. No one bothered to question the fact that a residency status amounts to second-class citizenship. Little attention was paid to the fact that revocation of citizenship is an anti-democratic act (already practiced by Israel) with implications for the indigenous Palestinian population within Israel. Mostly missing, of course, was the broader context of Israel’s 68-year-long ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population under its regime, which includes but is not limited to the draconian, bureaucratic measure of residency and citizenship revocation.
The anti-BDS conference in Tel Aviv this week was a grotesque display of ignorance, hatred, and racism. Israel has failed to stop the growing BDS movement. We intend to work even harder to promote BDS. The lies and threats which were voiced in the conference only illustrate why BDS is necessary to end Israel's military occupation and apartheid regime in Palestine, as most probably, Israel will not volunteer to put an end to these atrocities.