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February 06, 2013

Whitewashing BDS

Brooklyn College (Flickr)

Over at Tablet Magazine, Yair Rosenberg notices a journalistic trend: Misinformation about the radical, anti-Israel BDS movement.

After pointing out that MSNBC and the New York Times editorial board have sloppily described BDS as little more than a group seeking to "pressure Israel to end its settlements and occupation" (MSNBC), he explained that "this is not, in fact, the entirety of what the BDS movement advocates."

On its “Call for BDS�? page, the movement outlines three official goals for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. The first is the one acknowledged by Hayes and the Times: “Ending its [Israel’s] occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall.�? The second: “Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.�?

And then there’s the third: “Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.�?

This radical goal goes completely unmentioned by both Hayes and the Times, giving their audiences the false impression that the BDS movement merely seeks a non-violent way to end Israeli occupation and implement a two-state solution. But in fact, BDS’s own materials and proponents oppose the very existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and demand the return of 5 million Palestinians to the country, which would effectively abrogate its Jewish character.

A vice chair of Americans for Peace Now — a group whose dovishness and failure to take seriously Israeli security concerns puts it outside the American Jewish mainstream, but which can accurately be described as wanting to "pressure Israel to end its settlements and occupation" — noted that "BDS’s prime motivation, if their messaging is to be believed, is not to end the occupation at all; rather, it is to end Israel."

Even Norman Finkelstein, who dedicates most of his time to bashing Israel, felt the need to call out the BDS movement for being coy about the fact that "they don't want Israel."

What Rosenberg doesn't mention is that it isn't only the Times editorial board that got it wrong, but also its news reporters. In two news stories, the newspaper described BDS in a way that erases the vast gulf between their views and the views of many of their critics — including those critics of BDS who are also critics of Israel.

Reporter Jenny Anderson described BDS as an "international group that advocates Israel’s withdrawal from disputed territories where Palestinians live."

Vivian Yee's misreporting was even more striking:

Enter B.D.S., an international lobbying movement that advocates Israel’s withdrawal from Palestinian territories — a demand that caused a furor in another unlikely enclave of Brooklyn last year when members of the Park Slope Food Co-op rejected a motion to boycott Israeli products.

It's safe to say that the BDS movement's call for Israeli withdrawal is not what "caused a furor." It was those other demands, and the ultimate goal.

Posted by GI at February 6, 2013 12:23 PM


Why is believing the Palestinians are entitled to a right of return some sort of extreme view only people bent on the destruction of Israel would hold?

Posted by: Stephen at February 15, 2013 08:30 PM

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