This week in The Nation, Noam Chomsky has joined Norman Finkelstein and MJ Rosenberg in distancing himself from the BDS movement. All three are well known as harsh critics of Israel, with added legitimacy and fame (or infamy, depending on your viewpoint) granted to them by virtue of being Jewish. Yet, starting with the posting on YouTube of Finkelstein's 2012 interview with a BDS activist that became a must-watch for those involved in this issue, they have each called out BDS quite publicly.
Finkelstein was entirely clear about what BDS was about; referring to it as a "cult", he noted the implications of their demands: "We want the end of the occupation, the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever because they know the result of implementing all three is what, what is the result?
You know and I know what the result is. There’s no Israel!"
Rosenberg, in a Huffington Post column a few months ago, gave his message away in the title of a column that, except for a few statements, I could have written myself:
"The BDS Movement Is About Dismantling Israel, Not The '67 Occupation". He stated "The demands make clear that the movement's goal is ending Israeli statehood, not just the post-1967 occupation......If the BDS goals were achieved, there would be no State of Israel at all. That is why so many proponents of BDS have such a hard time even referring to Israel as a country. It's often the "Zionist entity" or the "occupying regime." Rosenberg has also denounced one of the leaders of the BDS movement, Ali Abunimah, for open anti-Semitism-- and recognized that Jews on the left tolerate that far too easily: "There is a tendency among Jews on the left, including myself, to argue so vehemently that being anti-Israel does not make one an anti-Semite that we don’t notice when being anti-Israel coexists with anti-Semitism, that one just feeds the other. We should"
Now Chomsky has joined with his denunciation of BDS, but even in recognizing its errors, he continues to get the story wrong. He assesses the 3 demands of the BDS movement but doesn't accurately describe the first. Chomsky writes "The opening call of the BDS movement, by a group of Palestinian intellectuals in 2005, demanded that Israel fully comply with international law by "(1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall." . Time out for the referee's whistle. Let's check the actual web page of the BDS Call as of this moment. Here's the same demand there: "1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall".
Oops. No organization pushing BDS considers Haifa and Tel Aviv to be any less "occupied Arab lands" than Gush Etzion or Ariel, and none accepts the right of Israel to exist as the state of the Jewish people within the pre-1967 armistice lines. That's a yellow card for Noam. Like Rosenberg and Finkelstein, he does criticize the demand for the fictional "right of return" for descendants of Arab refugees from Israel's War of Independence (a war made necessary by Arab refusal to accept the establishment of the Jewish state). But unlike Rosenberg and Finkelstein, he fails to clearly point out that the goal of this demand is indeed the elimination of Jewish statehood. His criticism is solely that this demand lacks support, especially-- as he accurately points out--that it has no basis in international law (contrary to the loud insistence of those touting it as a "rights-based" effort). Presumably if there were more people around dedicated to the elimination of Israel, he would be willing to support it.
Chomsky also criticizes the United States for casting vetoes in the UN Security Council against biased anti-Israel resolutions. He refers to the veto of a January 1976 resolution backed by the Arab states which he alleges supported a two-state settlement within the international consensus. Wait, there's the ref again. Let's check the full operative text of that resolution:
(a) That the Palestinian people should be enabled to exercise its inalienable national right of self-determination, including the right to establish an independent state in Palestine in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;
(b) The right of Palestinian refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours to do so and the right of those choosing not to return to receive compensation for their property;
(c) That Israel should withdraw from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967;
(d) The appropriate arrangements should be established to guarantee, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all states in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries;"
So we see a call for a Palestinian state (which was not part of the consensus of the US, Europe or Israel in 1976) and the attempt to give the fictional right of return a more solid standing than just the advisory nonbinding General Assembly Resolution 194 (which, itself, does not include the word "right" when discussing possible return of refugees). Two rather significant points that were not in the international consensus at all, and the second of which would result in an American veto of this resolution were it introduced today. That's a second yellow card and Noam is now off the pitch (at least for today). Even when he's right in finding fault with BDS, he still can't be intellectually honest about either its history or its goals.
It's good that even severe Jewish critics of Israel are waking up to the dogmatic anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism that is baked into the BDS movement. They may be a bit late, having failed to notice that these have been part of the DNA of the movement since its birth in the moral sewer of the 2001 Durban NGO conference, but at least they are now calling BDS and its hateful leaders out openly. It seems that Jewish Voice for Peace has now left itself out alone on the BDS island, as they still stubbornly refuse to see the anti-Semitic hate speech of those with whom they choose to stand.