A short video recently uploaded on You-Tube by American producer Ami Horowitz says it all about the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. With a hidden camera, presenting himself as a salesman, Horowitz visits three Irish stores that openly boycott Israeli products. To the first shopkeeper, Horowitz says that he represents a Sudanese company; to the second, that he works for an Iranian farm; and to the third, that he sells the products of a North Korean manufacturer. All three shopkeepers answer negatively when asked by Horowitz if they have any political issue with selling a product from those countries (to the first store-owner, Horowitz insists that his company is “herbicide-free, pesticide-free, Jew-free”). Then Horowitz explains that his company would rather not work with a store that sells Israeli products. “Oh, we don’t, we have a very pro-Palestinian policy,” answers the first shopkeeper. The second proudly discloses a “Boycott apartheid-Israel” sign on his front-door. The third explains: “We have an embargo, we don’t do any Israeli business.”
Obviously, the shopkeepers don’t actually care about human rights or international law. But, then again, neither do BDS activists.
One of the driving forces behind BDS is Omar Barghouti, who co-founded the movement in 2005. Born in Qatar and raised in Egypt, Barghouti moved to the Palestinian Authority. He enrolled at Tel-Aviv University, where he earned a Masters in philosophy and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. Barghouti actively boycotts and defames the country and the university where he is getting his degree and enjoying his academic freedom. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where one has the freedom to boycott and defame one’s alma mater.
The purpose of the boycott that Barghouti preaches in his global travels is not to achieve a two-state solution. As Barghouti explained this week in an interview with +972 Magazine, his purpose is the implementation of the so-called “right of return”, which would grant Israeli citizenship to the actual and alleged descendants of the Arab refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war (according to UNRWA, the descendants of the 1948 Arab refugees now number 5 million people). The “right of return” would thus turn pre-1967 Israel into a bi-national state with an Arab majority (the West Bank, by contrast, will be Jew-free). What Barghouti markets as “a moral obligation” is, in fact, the end of Israel.
As Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian-Palestinian political activist, wrote in the Israel Hayomnewspaper this week: “I have personally approached several known BDS movements asking them to boycott many Arab countries for the way they treat my people, and not one time did I find even an iota of interest.” Zahran explains that Palestinians are banned from 72 professions in Lebanon; in Syria, they are starved by the Assad regime and the Islamist rebels; in Jordan, they are banned from most government jobs. Millions of Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon do not have a single representative in parliament. In Jordan, Palestinians constitute 80 percent of the population but only 10 percent of parliamentarians.
Barghouti depicts Israel as the sadistic and malicious oppressor of innocent victims. If he were right, one could not blame Irish shopkeepers for refusing to carry the products of such a monstrous and evil country. But in the age of the Internet and low-cost airlines, those people have no excuse for not double-checking facts and coming to their own conclusions. And if they are truly motivated by the defense of human rights and international law, it is for them to explain why they would not even consider the boycott of actual human rights violators.
The list is unfortunately long, but two countries recently made headlines: Sudan and Myanmar. This week, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir bolted South Africa ahead of an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has indicted him on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. Yet there is no BDS movement against al-Bashir or against Sudan.
Another example is Myanmar, which practices one of the world’s worst form of apartheid against its Rohingya minority. The Rohingyas (a one-million large Muslim minority) are denied citizenship, voting rights, and access to public schools. In 2012, they were victims of ethnic cleansing. Fleeing segregation, abuse and violence, they try to reach neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia, often perishing at sea. Yet the world is indifferent. The Economist dedicated a special article this week to the Rohingyas but it claimed that imposing economic sanctions against Myanmar would be “too blunt a weapon.” So no BDS there, either.
To paraphrase Golda Meir, BDS activists hate Israel more than they love human rights.