Last week, New Voices pointed out a report by +972 Magazine on Norman Finkelstein, Palestinian rights activist and controversial thinker. In a move that has surprised many, Finkelstein came out in opposition to the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions), which seeks to protest the conflict between Israel and Palestine through a variety of boycotts of Israel. Because of Finkelstein’s frequent criticism of Israeli policy, many were shocked to see him liken the movement to “Maoists.”
Political voice Noam Chomsky has had similar criticisms of the BDS movement, citing the “hypocrisy [that] rises to heaven,” and questioning why similar boycotts haven’t been leveled at the United States or parts of Europe due to human rights concerns. Chomsky went so far as to suggest the movement was calling for the “destruction of Israel.” Is Chomsky, or Finkelstein for that matter, right?
While no one can gauge individual motivations for persons in the BDS movement, the movement as a whole is going about its activism all wrong. Urging the self-determination of Palestine isn’t innately anti-Semitic. But cutting off, and in essence damning, the whole of the Israeli people because of the policies of the current (or past) administration(s), ignores and inflames an issue of great complexity. A crisis of this magnitude will never find itself bettered without an approach that is sensitive, subtle, and mindful.
Lumping the entire Israeli people together through calls for a wide-sweeping boycott is not the answer anymore than assuming every Palestinian is a terrorist who calls for the disbanding of the Israeli government; such categories are feeble in their ignorance.
We’re big people. We have to put on our big people pants and get our hands dirty, stop thinking in black and white and prepare to have our assumptions challenged. Punishing all for a situation many have been born into (whether Palestinian or Israeli) won’t solve anything. It will only compound social tensions a hundredfold.