The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel has often been touted as a progressive movement. Its supporters and leaders would claim that Israel is a “European settler-colonial state” implanted by Great Britain into the Middle East. Their reason is that Europe didn’t want Jews, yet used us as a tool to further their interests in the Middle East. Its leaders desperately have tried to attach BDS to the “left-wing intersectional movement” or claim it is the spiritual successor to the anti-apartheid boycott campaign of the 1980s. Yet while the movement is spearheaded by Palestinians and supported by some Jews and other minorities, it is overwhelmingly also used as an instrument of people afflicted by the “White Savior Complex.”
European Guilt & White Saviors
There have been accusations that the European Union funds pro-BDS groups and leftist NGOs that are critical of Israel’s presence in Judea & Samaria (the West Bank). Indeed, the European Union has adopted BDS-esque policies in regards to settlement products. If one takes a closer look at the crowds of people endorsing BDS, they tend to overwhelmingly be of European descent, with the obvious smattering of people from Muslim countries.
European powers were instrumental in the founding of Israel. The United Kingdom is responsible for the Balfour Declaration. That famous declaration recognized the right of a re-establishment in Mandatory Palestine of the Jewish homeland. At one point or another, France, the Czech Republic, and others in Europe provided Israel with weapons to defend itself against Arab invaders. Yet decades later, Europe has been leading the charge against Israel’s right to defend itself from terror. The Eurovision Contest in 2019, taking place in Tel Aviv, has faced calls for boycott principally from such countries as Ireland, Iceland, and Sweden. One would think that countries which have more reason to stand in solidarity with Palestinians–such as Azerbaijan or Turkey–would instead be the ones leading the boycott charge.
Europe may at one point have felt sympathy for Israel. In its earliest years, the Jewish state was a plucky socialist nation of refugees and Holocaust survivors. Europeans felt guilty for allowing the near-extermination of European Jewry. But as the country amassed power and continued to thrash its hostile neighbors, Europe felt less of a need to defend Israel. It sided with the Arab underdog as right-wing governments took power and shifted Israel’s political alliance from left-wing governments in Europe and the Soviet Union towards the capitalist US. And as the decades have passed since World War Two, so has guilt or knowledge of the Holocaust.
Europe, it seems, feels guilty for its role in helping re-create the Jewish homeland. This is why it engages in numerous acts that threaten the country’s stability. Support for BDS or other radical NGOs is just the tip of the iceberg. The Old Continent continues to back the Iran nuclear deal with a regime that wishes for the genocide of Jews. It looks the other way when Palestinian or Hezbollah terrorists threaten the country. Yet Brussels slams Israel for building houses in disputed areas.
There’s also the need for the European Union and other BDS supporters of European descent to feel as if they are empowering the “oppressed brown people” who are suffering. This mentality doesn’t just stem from guilt over creating Israel or helping create the conflict, but out of White Guilt. The Western, White World has come to see the Arabs as a hapless people who can never get anything done. They see an Arab World wracked by violence through no fault of its own, but because of Western meddling. They view Arabs through an infantile lens, thinking they need help from White Westerners to deliver “freedom” to them. Despite many of these people loathing right-wing politics, such ideology is no different than George W. Bush’s justifications for invading Iraq. Or, for that matter, EU support for Barack Obama’s justifications for regime change in Libya.
This particularly makes sense when one considers the UN’s position on Palestinian violence. The failure to pass an anti-Hamas resolution in the General Assembly last week is just one example of how countries expect “resistance to occupation”, AKA violence, to be “natural.” Yet the Vietnamese did not pledge to wipe out all American people. The Afghans didn’t pledge to wipe out all Russians. Sahrawis do not want to eliminate all Moroccans. Tibetans don’t want to slaughter all of the Han Chinese people. The Palestinians, however, have regularly been normalizing the dehumanization of Jews. Only the Palestinians suffer from the “soft bigotry of low expectations” in the international community on such a widespread level.
BDS is also about maintaining a colonial system of dominance and supremacy. This is why the infamous White Supremacist David Duke “supports” BDS and the “Palestinian cause.” Duke has made common cause with people of color–Palestinians and the anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan–that he views as inferior to himself. The underlying motive is the belief that Jews are sinister and inferior.
White Supremacists tend to blame Jews for everything wrong with the world. BDS is no different. It has blamed US-Israeli cooperation between police and military forces for an increase in police brutality against people of color. As such, BDS calls for an end to such cooperation. Has it not occurred to them that police brutality in the US against minorities has existed for over 200 years before Israeli statehood?
EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini reportedly told Palestinian officials that she disagreed with what Trump was doing to “[our] holy city” when he moved the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv. Her calls for the status quo at the holy sites–which mean Jews can’t pray on our most sacred site, so as not to offend Muslims–reinforce the idea that she is little more than a European-Christian supremacist who insists on having the Jews remain in an inferior position. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently visited the Vatican to raise his concerns about Jerusalem and the peace process. The Pope, even before this meeting, has called for the same “status quo” that Mogherini has. The Vatican’s concern for the well-being of the region and Jews, however, shouldn’t be taken seriously. Just this past week, when wishing Jews a Happy Hanukkah, it released photos of iconography depicting the Roman Conquest of ancient Israel. Alongside the Holocaust and the Iberian Inquisition, this is perhaps the most traumatic event in Jewish history.
Solidarity Between Colonizers
BDS is a “movement” that doesn’t seek justice or peace, but rather the erasure of Jewish people. The movement calls for the destruction of the only Jewish-majority country in the world via swamping it with a hostile population. It joins the UN in erasing Jewish history in the land, and seeks to portray the “dominant” society as the “rightful owners”. So while activists might claim to be progressive or deny being anti-Semitic, their support for BDS is really little more than an updated version of what White Supremacists have done in the New World for centuries–erasing indigenous identity. BDS is indeed an intersectional movement–just not a progressive one. It unites White Supremacy with the White Savior Complex. It also unites these two, seemingly-opposing political wings with pan-Arab ultranationalism and indigenous erasure under the guise of “liberation” and “social justice.”
The danger of BDS is not in its success. By all measures, the movement has failed and is failing to economically & politically isolate the Jewish state. The danger of it is that it works to normalize anti-Semitism on all fronts. It bolsters Palestinian rejectionism, White Supremacy, pan-Arab ultranationalism, and indigenous erasure all at once. It seeks to spread these under the guise of liberal values and human rights. At the same time, it fails to hold the Palestinians (and surrounding Arab countries) responsible for their own flaws and human rights violations. It strips the peoples of the region of their own autonomy and dignity by giving it away to European NGOs and mostly-White “social justice warriors” on college campuses.
The intersectionality promoted by BDS offers something to each participant involved. For young progressives–many of them having the “White Savior Complex”–it gives them a chance to be part of a new human rights movement. Activists-in-the-making who felt that they missed out on pivotal events like the end of apartheid are trying to find another “cause” to stand for.
Europeans and Arabs want to maintain their colonial status-quo by diminishing Jewish autonomy and sovereignty. This also explains their hesitance to support Kurdish autonomy & statehood. Kurdish sovereignty would be yet another example of indigenous liberation from Arab socio-political dominance and colonial, European-imposed borders in the region. Thus, in part, opposition to Israel stems from a greater fear of the unraveling of the colonial world imposed by European and Arab imperialists. Israel, after all, is the first (and so far, only) “indigenous victory.”
The goal of BDS is to impose its vision into the EU and UN. It hopes to normalize the idea of erasing Jewish ties to the land, which would justify the end of Israel. What would follow is a “return” of Arabs born in foreign lands to dominate the country. To achieve this goal, it seeks to isolate Jews (including liberal ones) in the Diaspora from social justice movements, as well as from Zionist activism. It also wants to normalize the notion of sanctions against Israel to force it to surrender. So far it is failing. But to make sure that this trend continues, as well as to make clear BDS’ complicity in anti-Semitism, Jews need to point out more clearly just who the intersectional allies of the movement are.