October 27, 2014

Commentary | March 9, 2009
Hyde Park: Boycotting profs have it all wrong
Written by Axel Van den Berg, Harold Waller and Morton Weinfeld

We are delighted to read that the goal of the boycotting professors is “a just and lasting peace between two viable states,” and with “security for all.” We share similar goals. But the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) approach to Israel will not get us there. Quite the opposite.

The BDS movement has unwittingly emerged as a kind of slick PR branch of Hamas, Hezbollah, and their patron Iran. By demonizing Israel, it simply magnifies the all too real sense of insecurity and vulnerability that Israelis are increasingly feeling. More intransigence will be the result.

In fact, if one looks to find the real “root causes” of the current Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, the unholy troika of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran deserve much of the blame. Again, they are not discussed in the lengthy response by our McGill colleagues. It is so much more effective to talk generically about victimized Palestinians.

The bald fact is that Palestinians today are indeed victimized, by Hamas extremists as much as by any Israeli occupation. Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as the Iranian regime, in their foundational statements, current pronouncements, and hostile actions, clearly demonstrate that their main problem is not Israel’s alleged intransigence. It is Israel’s very existence.

The Israelis withdrew from the security zone in Lebanon. They were rewarded by an increased barrage of Hezbollah rockets on their northern towns. Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. They were rewarded first by a Hamas electoral victory, followed by Hamas’s ruthless and documented power consolidation in Gaza, including systematic murder and maiming of political opponents, which has continued to the present. This was followed by post-truce relentless increase in the level of missile attacks on Sderot and southern Israel, this time organized by the very Hamas government of Gaza itself.

So if Israel were to leave the West Bank, and Hamas were to take control of the new Palestine, in one way or another, who would protect West Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv suburbs from a fresh missile assault? And who would protect the Palestinians from another round of devastation after an Israeli military response? (By the way, how many of the BDS crew would like to live and work in a Hamas-run state?)

It is also possible that over time Hamas might evolve into a more accommodationist entity, truly dedicated to working out a two-state peace agreement. After all, a generation ago, the PLO/Fatah was the devil incarnate to Israel and its supporters. No longer. And such positive changes in Hamas, or in the Palestinian political landscape, would be reciprocated by the Israeli electorate as well.

In the interim, if the BDS gang is desperately into boycotts, consider boycotting Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran. Let those admirable and realistic Palestinians and Israelis who are really dedicated to peace and security come together and continue their difficult work.

Axel Van den Berg, Harold Waller, and Morton Weinfeld are professors of sociology, political science, and sociology, respectively. They can be reached at morton.weinfeld@mcgill.ca.

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