The National Union of Students recently passed a motion in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The purpose of this was to show solidarity with Palestine by endorsing a rapidly growing global campaign which aims to put political and economic pressure on Israel to comply with BDS’s goals; the end of Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, full equality for Palestinian-Arabs living within Israel and for Israel to respect the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Israel responded with indignant rage, with Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu vociferously denouncing the decision and his argument was spearheaded with the false claim that the NUS refused to boycott ISIS. In reality, the NUS executive council adopted a resolution last December condemning ISIS as a ‘terrorist organisation… that carries out atrocities’. In a meeting prior to that, the executive council rejected a motion on Kurdish solidarity, which had included similar anti-ISIS sentiments- but it had been rejected for reasons unrelated to the condemnation of ISIS.
The Israeli reaction to this motion was extremely vocal and this reflects the powerful potential of the boycott movement. Here, a union representing students in one country deciding to officially endorse the BDS campaign, yet Israel reacted furiously and this was reported by the global news media. This shows that the BDS movement is working; Israel is on the defensive- having to fall back on fallacious accusations of anti-Semitism and poor attempts at smears (e.g. saying the NUS refuses to support ISIS) in an attempt to discredit the movement.
There are other indications that BDS is ruffling some important feathers in the global, pro-Israel camp. There are reports that Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire American-Jewish casino owner and a prominent supporter of Israel, has organised a clandestine meeting in Las Vegas to discuss how to counteract the growing influence of BDS on American university campuses. Netanyahu has also recently announced that an additional 100 million NIS (that’s nearly £17 million) will be allocated to the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs to combat BDS.
I believe that the continued rise of BDS is inexorable and will not be affected by Israel’s efforts to fight it. Israel’s current treatment of Palestine is clearly massively immoral and illegal and so none of its criticisms of BDS have any weight. Israel continues to militarily occupy the West Bank and is still building new settlements in Palestinian lands. It continues to besiege Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison, with nearly 2 million inhabitants condemned to live in a tiny strip of land, which Israel has repeatedly attacked in previous years with high-tech weaponry, killing thousands of civilians and committing numerous war crimes. Meanwhile, millions of Palestinians in surrounding countries spend their whole lives in UN refugee camps, waiting for the day when they can return to where their ancestors were expelled during Israel’s foundation, in 1948. The injustice suffered by Palestinians is just far too obvious and far too disgraceful for Israel’s public relations machine to be able to smear and discredit the BDS campaign.