BDS, a deeper look


The BDS movement is perhaps the best known political manifestation of college age sociological phenomena. That is, the need of this group to be involved in some sort of faith based movement for justice which satisfies its desire for what among liberal Jews is known as “Tikkun Olam”, Hebrew for  repairing and fixing the world. This term has become an all encompassing rubric for any progressive cause.  The actual genesis of the term comes from the kabbalistic writing of  Rabbi Issac Luria (aka the Ari Hakodesh ie. The Holy Lion (1534-1572)), where it refers to the specific idea of fixing the original sin of Adam (in the Bible) by bringing the world back to the true purpose it was created for. That is, the recognition of its unity with the creator. This is something quite different from what it has been co-opted  for and opposed to its original meaning. But it has become acceptable to distort the original form of an idea by over generalizing and ignoring mitigating details which actually make all the difference.


 The fact that Judaism and Christianity have been relegated to irrelevance by many, in no way diminishes  the religious impulse  in Jews and Non-Jews alike. Religion is as much a human need as it is an officially sanctioned code of behavior. While I do not mean to say that the content or claim of the movement is invalid simply because it fits such and such a category of behavior, rather, the 'human needs' side of it cannot be ignored. Combine this into the context of being a college student in our modern egalitarian society where the cause fits the need to achieve positive behavioral confirmation and you have a potent brew. But still the issue of the truth and righteousness of the cause have an important say. So can we confirm that at least the facts are on BDS's side ?


They begin their crusade by insisting that Israel has stolen the land of the Palestinian people. There is no further need according to them to even confirm this notion. Thus we are forced to examine this premise and answer the question of what exactly gives people or 'a people' (and there is a distinction) title to a piece of land. Is this situation different at all from the displacement of the American Indians by European settlers or the grab of the Southwest US from Mexico. Yet one rarely hears complaints from politicized college students that all the area from Texas to California should be returned to Mexico or that major adjustments are needed in returning land to the American Indians. There is no lack of disputed lands or out and out land grabs by various players around the world be they British, French,  Russians, or any of the various perversions perpetrated by Turkey against the Armenians, Cyprus, and Kurds, the Chinese against Tibet etc., etc.


 So how much factual history do most of these BDS people actually know, and do they even care ? Their uncompromising attitude seems to indicate that the emotional exhilaration of championing a group of alleged victims trumps the need to do any research or consider any other line of reasoning. Aside from the above mentioned issue, it is necessary to ask if this possible double standard stems from or contains an element of anti-Semitism. While people are free to disagree, more often then not a double standard as applied to Jews inevitably points to anti-Semitism.


To begin the process of determining title we need to do a brief review the history of the land in question. I am putting forth as fact the following historical progression;


Aside from a relatively brief period of 70-100 years there was either outright or some measure of Jewish sovereignty or a population majority over the land known as Israel in ancient times from approximately the middle of the 13th century BCE (we are not even including the Father of the Jewish people Abraham, who inhabitied the land some 500 years previously) to some time in the 2nd century AD when Roman forces conquered Jerusalem and the surrounding area, followed by the Byzantine conquest thereafter. This is a period of  some 1500 years. However, the exact extent of the land under Jewish sovereignty and their percentage of the population did vary during this period. The conquest of the Northern kingdom in the 8th century BCE by the Assyians, followed by the Babylonian conquest of the Southern kingdom in the 6th century BCE did reduce the Jewish population significantly. The Jewish population did bounce back and reestablished itself less than one hundred years later and continued to strengthen under the Hasmonian dynasty in the 4th century BCE. However, after the Roman conquest in 135 AD, although remaining a significant percentage of the population, Jews were one of various people inhabiting what  had been Israel and their numbers ebbed and flowed throughout the following centuries although they always had a presence in the land, if not a majority in various towns (including at times Jerusalem).  Even before the Byzantian period  up until the advent of Islam and thereafter, Jews also had a considerable presence throughout much of the rest of the Middle East including Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq where there were large, influential communities. Moslems will usually not tell you about the status Jews had in the Arabian peninsula at the time of Mohammed. Obviously his world view was heavily influenced by Judaism and he expected that somehow Jews would be happy to endorse his new religion. He was quite disappointed when this did not happen and this helps explain his subsequent enmity towards the important community of Qurash, which he eventually enslaved and destroyed. Genetically, Jews can be shown to be clearly indigenous to the Middle East, despite any forced conquest or exile.


What about the alleged victims, the people who now call themselves Palestinians. Did they ever have a  ruling or dominant cultural presence in this land ? There is no mention anywhere in historical annals whatsoever of any such people having a common culture and historical memory inhabiting what had previously been known as Israel. Except in so much as these Arabs were members of the larger Muslim religious community, which after their genesis barely a hundred years earlier, were involved in a frenzy of  conquest, and subdued the Byzantine empire in the 7th century. But within the Muslim community there was no people with an historic identity called Palestinian. The British who after WWI inherited the Ottoman empire (within which the land of Israel was included), carved out entire countries such as Iraq and Jordan (in the period between WWI and immediately following WWII)  by separating local tribes such as the Heshemites and Sauds (who could not tolerate each other) understood this first hand. Much of the land was owned by both local and foreign wealthy Arab or Turkish landowners sometimes known as the Effendis. The area they call Palestine was more often referred to as southern Syria. These unscrupulous landlords treated the impoverished local population as their serfs, not to mention the normal entrenched corruption, crooked tax collectors and marading Bedouins that made organized and minimally secure life impossible for generations. There are many written testimonies on the conditions prevailing in the abandoned lands of Israel from reliable sources, including Mark Twain's well known observations on his trip to the middle east in 1867 in his book "Innocence Abroad". This stunted and abnormal existence can in no way be called a functioning Palestinian State, despite the best attempts by todays Palestinian propagandists to convince us otherwise. Besides which there is no way they can blame it on Jews or other foreigners aside from the Turkish overlords who ruled the area as part of the Ottoman empire from the mid sixteenth century until  after World War I.


Few other areas on earth from the 2nd century onward have been the subject of so many invasions, migrations and fluctuating populations as Israel and its surrounding environment. In the  19th century alone there was much upheaval and transnational population movements as  Egyptians, Turks and Saudis fought among themselves for control of the Hijaz (the area of todays Saudi Arabia bordering on the Red Sea). Similarly, after the 1860s Ottoman war with Russia, large groups of  immigrants including Chechens, Circassians, and Turkmen  were relocated to Israel, as well as  tribes of Bedouins, Algerians, Yemenis, just to mention a few. This is significant because the Palestinians now make claims that they were the indigenous population from time immemorial (see footnote 1). Being that this claim is patently false, the argument is left as; among all the people inhabiting the land now called Palestine by the world at large, why did Jews or more specifically the Zionist movement, have the right to declare a singularly Jewish state when they did, instead of creating a state of Palestine encompassing whatever people happened to be living there at the time. There is no question that  a political union between Jews and Moslems would have been rejected by both sides and would have been somewhere between impractical to impossible. Aside from this it should be noted that with few exceptions, all other nations undertake activities in their own interest, regardless of the status of outsiders, but Jews, persecuted as they have been, have to be magnanimous enough to worry about also making a state for others as well as if we are supposed to believe that the “Palestinians” would have done this for them had the situation been reversed, instead of considering them Dhimmis (protected inferiors) as they and Christians were throughout the then Muslim majority Middle East. This also ignores the fact that the Zionist movement was very concerned with the rights of whoever lived in the land at the time (regardless of his ancestory) would have in a predominantly Jewish entity.  The Arabs had, and continue to have political representation in the Israeli government and equal judicial rights at a time that it was unthinkable in most Moslem countries to tolerate any non-moslems sitting in a national legislature. Can a Jew even enter the majority of Moslem countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai etc. [at least up until 2020 when President Trump's mideast peace initiative made progress toward peaceful recognition] despite the fact that at the time of Mohammed, Jews had large influential communities in the Hijaz ? Why is BDS so solicitous for the rights of people who have little history of recognizing the rights of others ?  (see footnote 2)


The initial answer in part, is because defending a so called victim gives the defender a positive feeling of high moral stature. In short a quasi religious feel good about yourself experience that handly fills the loss of formal religion is his life. So much the better if the victim appears helpless and unable to deal with his own problems and really leans on outside support. Jews all to often do not get this "lets support the perceived victim" status despite the fact that in terms of numbers they are clearly a minority and have suffered incredible persecution. Their problem is they usually are capable and quick to address their own problems, disqualifying themselves from fitting the helpless victim image. To the contrary, they are preceived as too few with too much which always underlies garden variety anti-Semitism. But where was all this outrage during the holocaust, when helpless Jewish communities were clearly being massacred for the upteenth time in history ?


 The second answer is that BDS is able to maintain a double standard because it is simply easier to pander to the fear of offending millions of easily agitated Moslems (the vast majority of who prove time and time again that they are unwilling to recognize anyone elses  rights to anything), than to push around an easy target like the Jews who wield little physical power (as an ethnic group), are normally loath to offend other nationalities, and due to their small numbers,  need all the friends and sympathy they can get. This is true even if Jews are accused of  wielding power out of proportion to their numbers in other respects. That is due more to their energy, industry and civilized mentality. Pointing to Israel as an example of Jewish power, is disingenious, since the hostility of the surrounding Arab nations has compelled them to maintain a capable and vigilant military for the sake of survival.


The Palestinian leaders have become masters of ignoring any Jewish connection to the land and with the wave of a hand denying there were two Temples and an entire line of ancient Davidic kingdoms. This despite their claim that the Koran enshrines Moses and other Hebrew Prophets and that the Koran itself, (sura 5/20) states that Israel was divinely put aside for the Jews ! Or perhaps as Achmadinajad of Iran has stated when asked about this subject, "Not in in my Koran" implying that much depends on which version of the Koran you accept  ! Rather, they insist that Israelis are European based interlopers, which is ironic given the historical scenario we have explained above. But it can be understood if we grasp their overall strategy, which is to deny Jews a state of any kind at all while their leaders enrich themselves by playing victim to naive, sympathetic Western ears. Why, for example, have they not created  some infrastructure necessary for a state (at least in Gaza and Ramallah) with all the billions they have received from the outside world (who have their own need to rein in the Jews), rather than buy weapons or build offensive tunnels with it or just plain pilfer it? Similarly, when given the Gaza 'settlers' expensive green houses as a gift, they ransacked them instead of use them to further agricultural development.  Tragically this might compel them to appeal to their own people as a responsible leaders instead of fearing assassination if they dare succumb to recognizing any legitimacy to the Jewish claims in Israel. This being the case, how can Israel negotiate with those who refuse to recognize it at all ? We have seen this time after time as Benjamin Netanyahu, makes this recognition a precondition of negotiation and time after time is rebuffed. But this does not stop them from demanding recognition for Palestinians on their own terms.


History shows that the usual situation is that Jews are constantly called upon and expected to justify their existence or right to be somewhere and play the adult by giving in to the prerogatives of the other side. Jews are somehow being selfish when the wish to exercise their own culture in freedom and security. They are expected to be egalitarian and assimilative by the outside world, while the Palestinians are never judged by their own standards based on disrespect for the rights of their own people and a predilection for autocracy. There seems to be incredible tolerance for cutting them all kinds of behaviorial slack, as if the unconsious assumption is "They can't be held responsible for meeting anyone else's behavioral standards".  Zionism or Jewish national liberation after many centuries of oppression in Europe finally decides that the situation there is intolerable and they should return to their original homeland, and then they are told “What right do you have to come back”. But they did not come back wielding a sword. Land was purchased from its “legitimate” owners to accommodate them.  Most claims of Jews displacing Arab inhabitants can be traced to the fact that the Arab tenent farmers did not own the land they were working. The original owners were bought out and the Jews became the de facto owners of the land. The tenent farmers were compelled to move on but in many cases were compensated well for their trouble (see footnote 3). This clearly happens all the time all over the world. as land changes hands and tenents are replaced. There is nothing unusual or outrageous about this as long as the tenants are dealt with fairly, although from the tenants point of view it is a hardship.


OK, you still say Jews have no inherent right to nation life in their former homeland ?  Fine, then they have earned the right the same way that 99% of the rest of the world including Americans,  have earned that right, through conquest, especially so since that conquest was an unwilled one. Is this worse than the original  Mohammedan conquest of the Byzantines which was unquestionably for the sake of subduing the indigenous population and has conferred in their own eyes and the eyes of  others, title over the land ? Then the same holds true when Muslims are conquered by others especially in a defensive war. Muslims, however, seem not to feel that they must acquiesce to what they expect others to acquiesce to. In addition to this, it is clear that they believe their conquest has divine sanction. If the rest of the world accepts this, why is Jewish divine sanction any less compelling, unless of course that the rest of the world does not accept this justification, and feel rather that it is not worth the price in blood and treasure to disprove this claim. Similarly had  the Crusader's conquest lasted beyond approximately two hundred years (it ended late in the 13th century), the world would be perfectly content to accept this, unless this claim was challenged by Muslim force, and would entail a danger to their interests. Thus we see that the argument against Jewish sovereignty is mostly based on the perception of what force is behind the entire enterprise and not an established and legitimate legal sanction such as actually took place at or after during the period of the British Mandate.


The League  of Nations voted to give the Jewish people a national  homeland in this area from the debris of the Ottoman empire after WWI.  The original mandate called for the Jewish homeland to encompass much more than the area known as Israel today. That is, it would include also what is Jordan today (which is three times bigger than Israel). Ironically Jordan only came into being by decree of the British government in 1921, after being unilaterally loped off the League mandate with no support from any of the member countries (except Pakistan ?!). There was no mention of any established "Palestinian People". In the end Arab violence against the establishment of a Jewish homeland (often originating in areas outside the territory in question) caused the League to establish the Peel commission in 1936 to come to a solution concerning the Jewish/Arab problem. They recommended the establishment of two separate autonomous areas. Although this reduced the size of the Jewish area tremendously even after the Jordanian surgery, the Jewish leadership accepted the compromise. The  Arab nations surrounding Israel refused to consider even this tiny Jewish entity, and made preparations for war. The Jewish enclave declared itself a state in May of 1948 and was immediately invaded by five Arab states with the Palestinian Arabs themselves having little to say in the matter, except that they were told by the invading armies to evacuate their homes and settlements until after the Jews would be "throw into the sea". The invasion failed as Israel managed to fight off the invaders. Later wars in 1956, 1967 and 1973 also failed as well.

 The point is that it is not possible to deny the link of Jews, their peoplehood and their culture, to this land. Compare this to Americans, who had no link to North America until the 17th century AD. But continued to expand ever westward over a period of two centuries pressuring the indigenous population of American Indians to migrate before them. This eventually received official sanction from the US government and popular sentiment under to motto of "Manifest Destiny". That is, the idea that Americans had a divine and or natural right to take over the land from a supposedly inferior culture. Were the American Indians not victims worthy of popular sympathy ? But we are talking about a time when chattel slavery was common in the Western Hemisphere so the issue was merely considered an us vs them phenomena by the majority of the American public.


During mandatory times, was there any  recognized Palestinian authority to deal with or someone to democratically represent them as a people with a common historic cultural memory ? The very idea is baseless, except for several individuals such as the Mufti of Jerusalem (whose meeting with Hitler is well known, see footnote 4). There were only competing groups and tribes many of whom were concerned much more with weakening the Jewish position in Palestine to mention nothing of the fact that governments and powers outside the land competed for power and influence claiming that they were the true representatives of the Arab population. In addition, British Mandatory records show a large influx of  outside Arabs (as much as four hundred thousand into an existing population of approximately half a million !) came from all over the surrounding area to settle in Jewish designated area of Mandatory Palestine. They came to benefit from employment opportunities offered by newly built Jewish farms, factories and businesses, as this was a huge new shot in the arm for an economically moribund region. Any claim to political, legal or social unity among the Arabs is refuted by the experience of T.E. Lawrence (see his well known biography 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom'), better known as 'Lawrence of Arabia'.  During and immediately after WWI he tried to unify the 'Palestinian' tribes in order to have some semblance of a single political movement to counter any Turkish or foreign claims to the land. To his great chagrin, he and the British government were unable to make the Palestinian Arab population see each other as members of a common social and political union rather than families and tribes with no common loyalty. Of course the purpose was really to allow Great Britain to manipulate and control the situation, as they tried to do in many places around the world. Regardless, all this well documented history is simply shrugged off by the BDS movement with the claim “the Jews took the Palestinian's land”.  I am not saying the Arab population should have been driven out of the land, rather that events (such as proclaiming falsehoods about Jewish history, antipathy towards democratic procedures, and continuous acts of terrorism on their part) have made this solution impossible. The Jews would be naive fools to play the game BDS expects them to play. Is it any wonder that American foreign policy fails time after time given the misreading and shallowness of the assumptions behind it?


So what is left to concede to the Palestinians ? Today it is a given that secular democratic values leave virtually no room for exclusive national values. All cultures must put aside their perogitives and melt into an amorphous egalitarian mass. We do not feel that this is in our interests, all the more so since it is undeniable that Jewish history and culture has given the world much of what is substantial and valuable in their own culture.  Are the Palestianians Muslims ready to   forego their religious imperitives to compromise with another culture? Many of them also seem unwilling  to abandon  a historical sense of entitlement. As Arab leaders such as Nasser were frank enough to say in the early years of the state of Israel; "There is no room for a democracy in the Middle East", and there of course has never been what westerners understand as democracy of almost any sort there, except perhaps in Lebanon under the influence of the French. Nassar and the other Arab autocrats could not come to terms with a state of Dhimmis making them look backwards and incompetant. Jews having or appearing to have the upper hand over Muslims was more than just a disgrace, it was intolerable for them. Will BDS take all of this into consideration ?


(footnote 1)  Defenders of Palestinian rights will claim that the Israeli "Aparthied" regime does not allow Palestinians freedom of movement. The truth of the matter is that non-Israeli Palestinians were able to work inside of Israel for many years, even before the Oslo accords.  However, too many of them used the opportunity to engage in acts of egregious terrorism which costs the lives of thousands of Jewish Israelis. It was impossible to allow the situation to continue due to the extraordinary security risk. On the other hand Israeli Palestinians are able to go to the same places Jewish Israelis do, attend the same universities and shop at the same stores without restrictions. Whatever their feelings about Israel being a Jewish state, few of them are willing to give up Israeli citizenship to live under Palestinian rule. If Israel is such a bad place for them then why is this so ? Why do many of their leaders ask to be taken to Israeli hospitals ( including the below mentioned Saeb Erekat) when they are ill rather than among their own ? What are they afraid of ?

(footnote 2) Witness Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat who publicly claimed that “I am the proud son of the Canaanites who were there 5,500 years before Joshua bin Nun burned down the town of Jericho”, making it about the most bogus claim ever made by any politician. The truth of the matter is that his family traces it lineage to the Huwaitat tribe, which migrated from Arabia to Jordan. In a more candid moment Hamas minister Fathi Ḥammad admitted “half the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis”.

 (footnote 3) The following is an exert from the biography of  Yehoshua Hankin, a zionist pioneer, who was very involved in purchasing land for Jewish settlement, both before and after World War I:


 "During World War I, Yehoshua Hankin  was exiled by the Turks to Anatolia. Returning to Palestine, he soon  resumed his work where he had left off. In 1920, he concluded a deal with the Sursuk family of Beirut for purchase of 60,000 dunams of land in the Valley of Jezreel. ... This tract became home to numerous new kibbutzim and other settlements, including Nahalal, Djindjar, Kfar Yeheskel, Geva, Ein 'Harod, Tel Yosef and Beth Alpha. Half of this land was unirrigated and considered of low value, but the remainder contained about 500  Arab tenant farmers. These latter, though reimbursed above and beyond the requirements of the law, continued to complain of dispossession."


* (footnote 4) and wouldn't you know it, just happens to be a blood relative of Yasar Arafat !