Exposed: The “logic” of the BDS movement

Yes, that title is correct. on page 37 of this document, Australians for Palestine list some arguments against arguments against BDS. So I’ve decided to one-up them. Mostly because it’s so easy, since AfP have obviously never studied any logic or critical thinking.

For those of you who have never studied logic, arguments basically have a series of premises and then a conclusion that follows from them. For example:

Premise 1: If it is raining then it is wet outside.

Premise 2: It is raining.

Conclusion: Therefore, it is wet outside.

When thinking about an argument, breaking it down into its individual premises and conclusions helps to see how valid it is, and identify where there are holes in the reasoning and what it assumes to be true without explaining. “Valid” means that it follows logically, “sound” means that it follows logically and all of the premises are true. We need to be looking for sound arguments; I’ll baby you through the first few, then assume you understand the technique.

Disclaimer: I am mostly going to assume that their points are correct and concentrate rather on why the argument is not logical. This does not mean that their points are all correct (far from it).

BDS bring politics into sport, culture and academia: The freedom enjoyed by Israelis comes at the expense of Palestinians who are deprived of their right to participate in such activities.

BDS infringes academic freedom: Israel’s policies and practices infringe the freedom of Palestinian academics

P1: Israel’s policies prevent Palestinians from participating in [x].

P2: Palestinians should participate in [x].

C: Therefore, boycott Israel.

This isn’t an argument. Besides the fact that P1 is arguably false, they have a huge hole there where “P3: boycotting Israel would increase Palestinian participation in [x]” should be. It’s not there because that would be a false premise.

Think about it, why would boycotting Israel help Palestinians have more involvement in these things? Surely the way to combat that would be to encourage Palestinian involvement in sport, culture and academia. Joint Israeli/Palestinian sports teams, music groups and academic research projects have been very successful in the past and brought a lot of people together.

BDS closes down free debate and exchange of ideas: BDS is aimed at institutions not individuals and hold those institutions responsible for protecting the absolute right of individuals to academic freedom.

See the problem here? Missing premises: “only individuals are entitled to speak freely and exchange ideas, institutions do not have this right” and “silencing institutions does not silence the individuals within them”.

Again, both of these are untrue. It’s true that individuals being able to speak out is essential, but as far as I’m concerned it’s just as, if not more, important that universities and media outlets can freely publish ideas and have debates.

BDS censors people: BDS does not prevent Israelis or Israeli institutions from saying or doing anything. It merely asks us to withhold support for Israel and refrain from normalising relations with it until it abides by international law.

That just avoids the question. They haven’t explained why BDS could be considered censorship. Its primary intention may be to “refrain from normalising relations”, but this means not allowing Israeli media outlets to function, which is effectively censorship.

BDS delegitimises Israel: BDS is about exposing Israel’s illegal policies and practices that have violently oppressed and dispossessed millions of Palestinians. Israel’s own actions delegitimise it, not BDS.

This assumes the definition of “delegitimise” to be “maintains illegal policies and practises that oppress and dispossess millions of Palestinians”. Even if this were the case, it doesn’t explain why this would make Israel less legitimate.

The anti-BDS definition of “legitimate” in this context is generally “has the right to exist as a state”. If oppression and dispossession negate that right, there are a lot of illegitimate states in the world at the moment. For instance, India and Pakistan have no right to exist and neither does Russia.

BDS alienates Israeli supporters: Palestinians have the right to decide on the best tactic to use for attaining freedom from Israel’s illegal occupation and repressive measures…BDS campaigns have the potential to appeal to the decency of ordinary Israelis to end apartheid now.

See the problem here yet? The argument is that it is ok to risk alienating Israeli supporters, because Palestinians have the right to decide on the course of action and potentially some Israelis will agree anyway. My issue here: why should “Palestinians” necessarily have the right to decide what the best tactic is? And which Palestinians?

Some Palestinians would tell you that violent resistance is the best tactic (you might have heard of them, they’re called Hamas, they control Gaza). Others would tell you that BDS is an awful idea because then they would be unemployed. Why are you listening to these ones above everyone else?

BDS singles out Israel for punishment: “The ‘worst first’ has never been the rule for whom to boycott” (Bisharat, 2007) and BDS campaigns indeed target many countries for their human rights violations. This campaign focuses on Israel. Furthermore, Israel has set itself apart through its policies of occupation and apartheid and is unique in that it receives massive financial and military support from the USA. This power allows Israel’s crimes to have a global reach outside the crimes carried out by other states.

There’s actually no problem with this logically, it’s just interesting that they admit that they are focussing on Israel in particular because it gets support from the US. If you want to know why that’s interesting, check some of my recent posts.

BDS is one-sided: This is not an equal conflict. Israel is the occupier and violator of human rights.

There is just a massive fallacy in that. It’s justifying bias on an issue because one side is weaker than another. By that logic, we should support the mafia because they are weaker than the government.

BDS hurts Israelis who support Palestinian rights through peace and dialogue: Palestinians are already hurting and while the goal is not to hurt Israelis, there is sometimes a price that must be paid when confronting an illegal occupation, apartheid and the denial of human rights. Palestinian civil society’s needs must be put first in the struggle against Israel’s colonial expansion and oppression

…I don’t even have to try anymore, this is just embarrassing.

BDS accuses Israel of racism when its policies are motivated by security: If that were true, the Separation Wall would be built along the 1967 “Green Line” border. Instead 85% is built inside the Palestinian West Bank effectively appropriating that land for Israel. The Wall and the house demolitions, land razing and breaking up of families and communities that it requires is not a way to achieve security. It certainly creates a situation of profound insecurity for the Palestinians who are forced to live in a state of constant fear, isolation and hopelessness. Under such circumstances, no one will be secure.

Just look at the first two sentences next to each other! And the last one! Even completely overlooking the fact that terror attacks have dropped from over 2,000 per year to ZERO since the barrier was built, why does not following the pre-1967 armistice line (NOT border) exactly as it was preclude any security concerns?

The same question goes for the adverse effects on the Palestinian population. No one is saying that it’s a good thing that they were made to live like that, it is extremely regrettable. Whether or not the security benefits were justified is debatable, but to say that there can’t have been any because it was bad for the Palestinians is logically absurd.

BDS is anti-Semitic: Israel is a state like any other and must comply with international law. The focus of BDS is on Israel’s abuse of power and Israeli institutions that acquiesce in that power, not on Jewish people or Judaism. The second-class status of Palestinian citizens of Israel is a key issue that BDS seeks to redress. Furthermore, not all Jews support Israel’s government policies and many support BDS.

This one is not actually too wrong. The anti-Semitism argument has to do with the fact that invariably it is Jewish institutions who are targeted by BDS, since they would have the closest connection to Israel, as well as a few allusions to the boycott of Jewish businesses in Nazi Germany. That said, BDS does not look racist unless you start thinking about connotations like those.

BDS wants to destroy Israel because it seeks the right of return for Palestinian refugees: Palestinians have every right under international law to return to their homes and to be compensated for their losses when they were dispossessed in the war of 1947-48…

This is fine logically, but I’m sick of all these self-appointed “legal experts” who have never read a page of international law. For one thing, under the Refugee Convention, as soon as they have citizenship of another country they are no longer refugees. Secondly, if they are still residents of their country, they are not refugees, they are “internally displaced peoples”. This would negate a great deal of refugee claims if it were actually applied.

What the Convention doesn’t say is anything about a right to return. It does encourage naturalisation in the country of refuge. Also, the other Arab countries, particularly Lebanon and Jordan, are in complete violation of the refugee convention by denying Palestinian refugees the same rights as other residents, particularly regarding employment, property and freedom of movement.

BDS was used legitimately against Apartheid South Africa, but Israel is quite different. While there are differences, the similarities have been noted by many eminent persons from South Africa particularly – Archbishop Tutu, Mandela, Kasrils, Dugard. In fact, they and many other South Africans say it is a much worse form of apartheid.

That doesn’t mean anything. What you need to do here is first tell us why BDS worked against South Africa and then say why it would also be applicable to Israel. You’ll find some major differences there.

BDS hampers the “peace process”: Israel’s use of military and economic power to systematically destroy Palestinian society and to impose negotiations designed to force Palestinians to renounce their legitimate rights is the key obstacle to peace. There is also the question of justice. Without respect for Palestinian human rights, international law and UN resolutions regarding Palestine, the “peace process” will never achieve peace or justice.

I would argue that “international law and the UN resolutions regarding Palestine” will never achieve anything. And for the record, I have studied international law. But that aside, nothing that they wrote explain why it’s ok to hamper the peace process, they just listed other things that hamper the peace process and then said that BDS is needed because it might solve those problems, overlooking the original assertion that it creates another problem in trying to do so.

Anyway, I hope this was useful to all of you. It’s just beyond me how anyone could read these kinds of things without alarm bells going off in their heads screaming “THESE PEOPLE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT!!!”. And that’s just those pages, I haven’t even touched on the rest of the document. I need to stop now before I give up on humanity…


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