The Dangers of Boycotting Israel

The Dangers of Boycotting Israel

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Note: The following piece was originally published in Israel Hayom on 5 June 2015.

Despite being in the 21st century, haters have not changed their hearts, but instead have changed their methods and slogans. Hatred in general has become harder to pin down socially and legally, because many haters use proxy mission statements to target their victims.

A good example is anti-Semitism. It seems the anti-Semites of today can easily claim “we love the Palestinians” instead of saying “we hate Jews.” This method has been championed by the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

BDS is dangerous for all of us and could severely harm the West, the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular.

As a Jordanian-Palestinian, I have witnessed firsthand that most BDS movements do not care for the Palestinians. I can authoritatively confirm this; 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. This proves that the BDS corporate culture revolves around demonizing Israel and not around caring for the Palestinians.

When weighing the facts on the ground, the call to boycott Israel is rather ridiculous. Israel is the largest employment provider for Palestinians. Almost every single friend or relative I know in the West Bank works for Israeli businesses, some even inside Israeli settlements. This by itself is evidence of how little the BDS cares for Palestinians, because if Israeli businesses shut down because of BDS, how would the Palestinians make a living?

Let’s not forget, the only Middle Eastern countries that allow Palestinians to work unconditionally are Israel and Saudi Arabia. All other countries impose extreme conditions on the employment of Palestinians. In Lebanon, Palestinians are banned from 72 professions, including being doctors. In Syria, Palestinians are being starved with no jobs or incomes in the Yarmouk camp by both the Assad regime and the Islamist rebels. In Jordan, where Jordanians of Palestinian heritage make up the majority of the population, we are banned from most government jobs. Still, you never hear the BDS movement even mentioning any of those countries.

BDS proponents counter this argument by claiming the movement is not only about livelihoods, but also “dignity” and above all “political rights.” Well, let’s examine how much of those things Palestinians get outside of Israel: Israeli Arabs (some of whom identify themselves as Palestinian) hold 16 out of 120 Knesset seats, despite making up less than 20 percent of Israel’s population. On the other hand, millions of Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon do not have a single representative in any legislative body, despite having lived there for five decades. In Jordan, Jordanians of Palestinian origin hold fewer than 10% of the parliamentary seats despite making up more than 80% of the population (as indicated by a U.S. Embassy Amman cable). Nonetheless, BDS only cares to target Israel and not any of those Arab countries.

The unfairness and obvious bias that characterize the BDS movement are not only bad for Israel, but are in fact detrimental to us all. Driving Israeli businesses out of areas with a high Palestinian population results in young men being unemployed, and we all know a hungry man is an angry man. Those men could easily be radicalized even more than they already are, which is very dangerous today, as Islamists try to engulf the entire Middle East in flames.

More radicalization of Palestinians means more trouble for Israel, and more trouble for Israel means harm to the only stable and capable power in the Levant that could confront the expanding Islamic State group. Islamic State makes no secret of its intention to target the West and has said openly that it will go after Washington and the White House after getting Jerusalem.

The harm for Israel, and in fact for the rest of us, is not only economic. The demonic image that the BDS movement is trying to establish for Israel plays into the hands of Islamists, as if demonizing Israel gives them more air to breathe.

The Islamists in our region are not stupid; they use the same message that the BDS movement uses: “rights for the Palestinians,” “justice for our Palestinian brothers,” and “justice for Palestine.” Basically, thanks to BDS, the Islamists now have ready-made slogans with which to manipulate the average Westerner and Arab. All in the name of “protecting” the Palestinians. Why wouldn’t the BDS movement protect us in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq or even Jordan?

As a Jordanian-Palestinian, and a son of refugee parents, I surely do not agree with Israel on a catalogue of issues, but I am wise enough to know that it is either Israel or Islamic State/Iran/Hamas/Hezbollah in our region. If the latter groups win, or become stronger, they will quickly find their way to Washington, London, Paris, Brussels, Amman, and Cairo.

It is fair to conclude that the BDS movement’s recklessness is endangering all of us and could result in long-term trouble that our children will have to endure.

Westerners, Arabs in general, Palestinians, and everyone else must realize that Israel is one of the main cornerstones of the Middle East’s security. Whether we like Israel or not, whether we choose to love it or hate it, we cannot afford to compromise Israel’s interests, not today and not any time in the future. This may not be what we Arabs wish for, but it is a fact.

Meanwhile, anyone with common sense must not subscribe to the hasty recklessness, hatred and silliness of the BDS movement, as this will come with a very hefty price tag for all of us.

Mudar Zahran is a Jordanian-Palestinian who resides in the U.K.

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