BDS is progressing, even within Israeli society. Two of my good friends, Uri Avnery and Gideon Levi, used to argue against the efficiency of this strategy, claiming its sole result would be to strengthen Israeli national unity behind the government. For years, I have tried to convince these kind of really good Israelis that they were doubly wrong. First: there are moral duties toward the oppressed that come before any alleged effect on the oppressor’s society; eleven years ago, the Palestinian people called on the world to sanction the Israeli colonial state, and supporters of Palestinian rights should listen to that appeal and act accordingly, unless there are very good reasons not to do so, and there are not. Second: history has proven, time after time, that only such pressures can move the lines within a colonialist society.
While Uri is still arguing against BDS with more or less the same arguments, Gideon Levi has changed his mind. In an article entitled “Boycott is the only way to stop the Israeli occupation”, (Haaretz, 1 May 2016), he answers his colleague Aluf Ben who, repeats more or less the same old arguments against BDS (Haaretz, April 28), especially its negative effects on the more progressive part of the Israeli society. Another argument raised by Aluf Ben is the lack of efficiency of sanctions on regimes like North Korea or Cuba.
Levi’s answer focuses on the nature of the Israeli society, which he describes as a spoiled society: “Close down the international airport for two days and let’s see who’s for the settlement of Yitzhar; demand a visa for every little vacation abroad and let’s see who will say “the Land of Israel for the People of Israel.” And we haven’t even begun to talk about ongoing conditions of shortages and economic crisis that will require Israel to finally ask: Is all this really worthwhile to satisfy an appetite for real estate, is all this worthwhile for the caprice of the occupation, are they prepared to pay out of their own pocket and lifestyle for regions of the country that most people have never even seen and have no real interest in their fate?
After pointing out that BDS did not yet have substantial economic impacts, the Haaretz columnist stresses the actual effects of the campaign: "it is basically a protest movement by people of conscience who want to do something...That actually imbues me with great hope, Benn, I don’t see any other alternative.”
Michel Warschawski (Mikado) is an Israeli anti-Zionist activist. He led the Marxist Revolutionary Communist League until its demise in the 1990s, and co-founded the Alternative Information Center.