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The Great BDS Debate

By       Message Uri Avnery       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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Reprinted from Gush Shalom

BDS Protest
BDS Protest
(Image by Alex Chis)
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HELP! I am walking into a minefield. I can't help myself.

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The minefield has a name: BDS -- boycott, divestment, sanctions.

I am often asked about my attitude towards this international movement, which was started by Palestinian activists and has spread like wildfire throughout the world.

The Israeli government now considers this movement a major threat, more so, it seems to me, than Daesh or Iran. Israeli embassies all over the world are mobilized to fight it.

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The main battleground is the academic world. Fanatical adherents of BDS are conducting fierce debates with equally fanatical adherents of Israel. Both sides use experienced debaters, diverse propaganda ploys, phony arguments and outright lies. It is an ugly debate, and getting uglier.

BEFORE EXPRESSING my own attitude, I would like to clear the ground. What is it all about?

For the last 70 years, since age 23, I have devoted my life to peace -- Jewish-Arab peace, Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Many people on both sides of the divide speak of peace. By now, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson, "peace" has become the last refuge of the hate-mongers.

But what does peace mean? Peace is made between two enemies. It presupposes the existence of both. When one side destroys the other, as Rome destroyed Carthage, it puts an end to the war. But it is not peace.

Peace means that the two sides not only stop hostilities against each other. It means conciliation, living together side by side, and, hopefully, cooperating and, eventually, even getting to like each other.

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Therefore, proclaiming a wish for peace while conducting a mutual hate campaign just isn't the real thing. Whatever it is, it is not a struggle for peace.

BOYCOTT IS a legitimate instrument of political struggle.

It is also a basic human right. Everybody is entitled to buy or not to buy whatever he or she desires. Everybody is entitled to ask others to buy or not to buy certain merchandise, for whatever reason.

Millions of Israelis boycott shops and restaurants that are not "kosher." They believe that God told them so. Since I am a strict atheist, I never followed that call. But I always respect the attitude of the religious.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany, American Jews organized a boycott against German wares. The Nazis reacting by proclaiming a day of boycott of Jewish shops in Germany. I was 9 years old and still clearly remember the sight: brown shirted Nazis posted in front of Jewish shops, waving signs "Germans, defend yourselves! Don't buy from Jews!"

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)

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