Thursday, March 27, 2014

What are the goals of the Palestinian Academic Boycott of Israel?

According to the website of PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the goals of the BDS movement are threefold:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
Of these three goals, the first two are compatible with the continued existence of the state of Israel, although the existence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in the area of municipal Jerusalem outside the Green Line (in the area annexed by Israel after the 1967 war) complicates matters, and is one of the primary subjects of the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. If Israel withdraws from the lands conquered in the Six Day War in 1967, the state will continue to exist with a Jewish majority. If the state of Israel treats Israeli Palestinians as equal citizens, it will be fulfilling the promises of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, issued in 1948:
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
Israel has not, in fact, ensured complete equality of rights to all of its inhabitants. Between 1948 and 1966, the Arab citizens of Israel lived under military rule. Even today, there is governmental discrimination in the allocation of funds to predominantly Arab towns and cities, and there is discrimination in housing and employment against Arabs (sometimes government imposed, sometimes not – for example, in the last couple of years, the government has been pushing for employers to hire Arab college graduates, who have generally had a very hard time getting hired in certain professions).

It is the third demand of PACBI that is the problem – that Israel agrees to “respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return their homes and properties.” Refugees from the 1948 war numbered about 711,000 people. As of 2012, 30,000-50,000 were still alive. Their descendants, as of 2012, are estimated to number 4,950,000, with a total number of 5 million people (according to UNRWA). If the PACBI demand covers only the people who themselves are refugees from 1948, then there would be no particular problem in those 30,000-50,000 people returning to what is now Israel. Since the places that they live are probably now occupied by other people, Israel would have to find comparable places for them to live. The problem is that the demand of return covers the descendants as well. If all of those people go to Israel, the population will become majority Arab-Palestinian, and the country will no longer be majority Jewish.

If the goals of BDS, as articulated by PACBI, are met, the state of Israel will cease to exist as a Jewish state, and the Jews living within its boundaries will become a minority.

The claim is often made that a “one-state solution” is ideal – that Jews and Arabs should live together in one state where the rights of each group will be safeguarded. There is no evidence from the history of the Jews in the surrounding Arab states that such a thing could be possible. For example, in Egypt, there are very few Jews left, perhaps about a hundred. There are probably no Jews left in Syria. The Jews of the Arab world, who numbered about 900,000 in 1948, have dwindled to tiny minorities in all of the Arab states. They were driven out or fled because of anti-Jewish persecution. Many of them went to Israel in the late 1940s and 1950s, while others went to France, other European countries, and the United States. Is there any reason to suppose that a new state with an Arab majority will treat its Jewish residents any better than the other Arab states?

If the ultimate goal of PACBI and the BDS movement is to make Jews a minority in an Arab dominated state, I see no reason why anyone with a concern for justice would support this movement.

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