PODCAST: How BDS became such a big deal in American politics
Republicans are trying to criminalize boycotts of Israel, part of a broad push to delegitimize any criticism or pressure on Israel. By not unconditionally defending the right to boycott anything or anyone, Democrats are falling into a dangerous trap, Lara Friedman says on The +972 Podcast.
The capitol building of the United States of America located in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Lars Di Scenza/CC)
The United States’ approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has dramatically transformed since Trump took office, but a lot of those changes — from legislation to defund the Palestinian Authority to an attempt to criminalize boycotting Israel — actually came from Congress.
“This isn’t just a matter of the Trump administration, this is trends that have been coming since before the president was elected and have coalesced under him,” says Lara Friedman, an expert on everything Israel-Palestine on the Hill, and president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace.
When it comes to the Trump administration, “we’ve had an extraordinarily coherent and focused and effective policy on Israel-Palestine from Day One. If people are surprised where we are today, it’s because they had either the naiveté or the almost lack of respect for this president to not take him seriously and not take the people around him seriously, because they’ve done exactly what they said they would do,” she adds.
According to Friedman, the Trump administration has de-recognized the Palestinians as a people with a legitimate national narrative, instead engaging with then as individuals with aspirations. “By moving the embassy, by closing the consulate, and by effectively cutting off relations with the Palestinians, by throwing them out of Washington, we now treat the Palestinians as a people represented by the equivalent of maybe a mayor who is spoken to, if he is spoken to at all, by our ambassador to Israel. That’s how far we’ve moved things back.”
So where does that leave us? Where is the fight today? Because it seems like there is a fight going on, and it feels like Israel is at the center of it, and at times it also feels like it’s not about Israel.
Friedman describes how, by rallying around a two-state solution, politicians have established a safe space where they can say they oppose the occupation while ignoring the facts. “It’s been a formula for not doing anything,” she says.
“We’re in a political moment where using Israel to inoculate an illiberal agenda in the U.S. is very handy,” she later adds. What they call anti-BDS legislation at the state level “is not actually anti-BDS, it’s anti-boycotts and it’s anti-free speech, and it applies equally to settlements as it does to Israel, and it’s brazenly unconstitutional.”
The idea of boycotting Israel to pressure it into changing its policies, and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement and in particular, has turned into a major wedge issue in American politics, explains Friedman. Republicans are pushing radical legislation that would criminalize boycotting Israel, a move opposed by the ACLU and others as unconstitutional — and Democrats are falling into their trap, says Friedman.
“There’s got to be a point when you say, whether or not I adopt this tactic, this is a legitimate nonviolent tactic that we will defend,” she adds.
Democrats need to decide not to throw those in their party who do support boycotts under the bus “in order to make the right, which will never ever be satisfied with our position, feel better about us. We’re never going to be in that tent — we don’t want to be in that tent,” she says.
Full disclosure: The Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) is a financial supporter of the nonprofit that publishes +972 Magazine.
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.