‘Bad and dangerous’: Arab-Israelis, even Palestinians, blast BDS anti-Israel boycotts

“I am a Palestinian. And I want to speak about what I want without someone from outside watching me and telling me how to fight and how to live.”

By Meir Dolev, World Israel News 

Diverse voices within the Arab-Israeli community have fiercely criticized the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel, highlighting a significant disconnect between the movement, which is mostly active outside the country, and the way it adversely affects the people it claims to support.

Last week, several Palestinian and Arab-Israeli activists lashed out at the BDS movement after it put intense pressure on Emel Mathlouthi, a popular Tunisian singer, to cancel performances in both Judea and Samaria and Haifa – for all-Arab audiences.

The BDS movement accused Mathlouthi, who is a vicious critic of Israel, of “normalizing the occupation by cultural means” by touring Israel and the Palestinian territories. Mathlouthi paid for her misdeed by having her performance in a large international festival in Tunisia cancelled.

According to London-based Al Araby News, what set off the boycott was Emel’s “intention to hold a party in the city of Haifa, inside a hall owned by a Palestinian, before later retracting it.”

Haaretz reported last Tuesday that she had intended to perform in an Arab bar called Fattoush in the northern coastal city before a BDS campaign called on “Tunisians and Arabs and all Palestine supporters around the world” to boycott all her shows and music because the venue was in Israel.

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Haaretz cited harsh critique of the BDS movement by Arabs in Israel, who claim that the movement is only making things worse.

Artist Haya Zaatry from Nazareth said: “Preventing or canceling a musical performance by an Arab artist in an independent Palestinian space in Haifa only heightens the cultural embargo in which we (Palestinian citizens of Israel) live, and this is a bad and dangerous thing.”

Zaatry also criticized BDS’s policy of boycotting works by Arab-Israelis. “We are working hard to produce independent Palestinian art. We are working hard to build an independent Palestinian cultural space. We are working hard to make our voice heard in the world.”

“And, unfortunately, we only hear your voices as an attack on us, and this is a contradiction.”

The report cited another activist as accusing the movement of being out of touch, with BDS activists living abroad and not having a clue about what is actually happening in the country.

“I am a Palestinian. And I want to speak about what I want without someone from outside watching me and telling me how to fight and how to live,” she wrote.

“What do you know about our life here aside from what you see and hear on the news? You cast doubt on our Palestinian identity and act like a man who thinks he has to explain to a woman what she can and can’t do in her fight against toxic masculinity, what’s permitted and what’s forbidden.”

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Criticism of BDS from Palestinians themselves is not a new phenomenon, as pro-Israel group Stand With Us highlighted in a report citing several prominent Palestinians.

Renowned Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid slammed the movement in 2015 saying it was “the kind of ‘pro-Palestinian activism’ we could well do without.”

“BDS spokespeople justify calling for boycotts that will result in increased economic hardships for the Palestinians by asserting that Palestinians are willing to suffer such deprivations in order to achieve their freedom. It goes without saying that they themselves live in comfortable circumstances elsewhere in the world and will not suffer any such hardship,” Eid said according to an analysis by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Even Norman Finkelstein, a renowned critic of Israel, questioned the organizations behind BDS. “They’re NGOs in Ramallah, one person operations… They’re just Ramallah NGOs which represent absolutely nothing,” he said in a 2012 interview.

Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, director of American studies at Al-Quds University, was cited in The New York Times as saying: “I’m against the boycott in general, we need more dialogue with the other. That’s why I believe that you should not have a general boycott against Israel, or a boycott against Israeli universities.”

The former President of Al Quds University, Sari Nusseibeh, has also publicly opposed boycotts.

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Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas publicly announced that PA does not support the boycott of Israel. “We don’t ask anyone to boycott Israel itself,” he said, as reported by The Times of Israel.

Majdi Khaldi, an adviser to Abbas, echoed this sentiment, stating, “We are neighbors with Israel, we have agreements with Israel, we recognize Israel, we are not asking anyone to boycott products of Israel,” according to an article published by the European Institute of Public Administration.

Salaries from thousands of Palestinian workers in Israeli factories and industrial parks in Judea and Samaria are an enormous source of cashflow into the PA’s thinly stretched coffers, with most of the Israeli wages double or triple that of the average Palestinian wage.