Israel and BDS: Assassinating an idea?

Israel’s attempt at assassinating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction idea qualified to be included in the theater of the absurd; if it was not a very serious threat by a militaristic state that is trigger happy. At a  March 28, 2016,  conference held in Jerusalem, current  Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz brazenly called for the “civil targeted killing” of BDS leaders like Omar Barghouti and others. Minister Katz used (sikul ezrahi memukad) which “derives from the euphemistic Hebrew phrase for the targeted killing of a terrorist (the literal meaning is “targeted thwarting”).” The use of the “civil targeted killing” did not imply, according to Katz, physical murder but to undertake all measures that would disrupt and neutralize the BDS movement efforts. Israel’s “civil targeted killing” is a language of a morally and ethically bankrupt pariah state where  “blood” has become the only argument.

Minister Katz and other Israeli leaders are attempting to assassinate an idea, the BDS, by undertaking a campaign to delegitimize and civilly  targeting human rights activists around the globe. Israel, as a product, is no longer appealing across the globe including to a sizable segment of Jewish community in the U.S. and Europe. Assassinating an idea will not improve Israel’s standing nor will it end the demands for Palestinian rights, freedom and dignity.

Could an idea be assassinated in civil society? What does “civil targeted killing” mean when students, faculty, union members and political leaders around the globe have embraced the BDS as a way to bring an end to Israeli human rights violations, continued occupation, siege on Gaza and daily humiliations directed at the Palestinians?

The call by Israeli Intelligence Minister Katz should be taken seriously and it is a first step toward legitimizing intimidation and violence against human rights activists. In the past and at present, the Israeli security apparatus and military forces have deployed unrestrained violence against the Palestinians, continued to expand settlements in the Occupied Territories, and continue to regularly practice  extrajudicial killing that must raise alarms . The use of the same phrase used to target terrorists has the immediate consequence  of creating an acceptable culture of violence toward BDS activists.

For Palestinian citizens of Israel, the use of “civil targeted killing” continues a long history of real violence, massacres, thuggish practices and structural racism deployed by successive Israeli governments. This new campaign directed at BDS activists is another escalation from a state that has become accustomed to viewing everything through the lens of war and military force. In more than one way, the Israeli society and its political leadership have become comfortable in expressing and carrying out fascistic policies in the hope of reversing the emerging global consensus that Occupation must come to an end. The prominent Israeli journalist Gideon Levy called 2015, “the year of blatant and unapologetic Israeli fascism,” but the current turn pushes this even further. The BDS movement is the symptom of the deeper and paradigmatic crisis that faces Israel, the inability to overcome its Occupation of the Palestinians and the failure to permanently remove them to create the envisioned greater Israel.

Here, Israel has all the power cards in its hand yet is unable to change the basic cantors on the ground and have locked itself in an extreme rightwing box with settlement expansion as the only policy coupled with a massive military death machine. Gone is any possibility of ending the Occupation through a two state solution since the West Bank is being devoured daily by the settlers and the Israeli military. At the same time, Israel is unable to force its will  on the Palestinians or wish them away from the area! The BDS is successful because Israel has become a failure in everything that it touches, and the current crop of leaders is  unable to craft the moral high ground image without contestation across the world!

Let’s be honest for a moment, who would take Netanyahu’s word on anything pertaining to policies and global affairs? Would anyone trust anything that comes from his government? Had it not been for the well-funded AIPAC and a cadre of full-time lobbyists working to bolster Israel’s standing, no one would accept to sit  in the same room with this bully. Even using the term statesmen with Netanyahu ’s name does not seem to be polite or appropriate and indeed is a violation of language itself.

The selling point for BDS is Israel itself, its prime minister, government officials, settlers and a boastfulness coupled with total disregard to the worthiness and dignity of a Palestinian life. Added to the list is an air of hollow moral superiority that is paraded around every time Israel commits a grotesque crime on live TV, but all are supposed to accept the “official” version coming from a Soviet Era Pravda-like PR machine. Senator Patrick Leahy and 10 other Congress members have sent a letter asking Secretary of State John Kerry to “investigate whether U.S. tax money is helping Israel in committing ‘extrajudicial killings’ of Palestinians.” Also, Senator Leahy correctly framed Israel’s action as constituting a “gross human rights violations” but don’t tell this to Netanyahu for all action is justified in pursuit of domination and control of the Palestinians.

BDS activists inside Israel are “alarmed and seriously concerned for” their  “physical safety after this top-level threat.” The movement leaders point out that similar threats against them have been made by “Ayelet Shaked (minister of justice), Gilad Erdan (minister of strategic affairs and anti-BDS czar), etc.” In the face of this blatant threat, the BDS activists inside and outside Israel must double their efforts in exposing the grotesque nature of Israeli polices and mobilize civil society institutions to effect change on the ground. Also, U.S.- and European-based human rights organizations and bodies should move on the policy levels to hold Israeli leaders responsible for incitement to violence against peaceful activists. Targeting individuals will not assassinate the idea of BDS;  on the contrary, it illustrates the bankruptcy and declaration of Israel’s moral and ethical defeat.