The Alliance of Baptists recently released what they refer to as a “bold and courageous statement” that affirms “the use of nonviolent boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) strategies and comprehensive education and advocacy programs to end the 49-year Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land.”
The Alliance’s decision to jump on the BDS bandwagon is neither bold nor courageous. Other denominations have taken similar steps for years. Like its predecessors, this new declaration is rooted in the false pretense that the BDS movement is all about the struggle for Palestinian human rights and the claim that boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning Israel actually helps Palestinians. The affirmation of BDS by the Alliance of Baptists not only perpetuates this charade, but it helps to promote the Arab propaganda and misinformation upon which it is based.
The Alliance of Baptists began in 1987 as a prophetic voice in Baptist life. Today, we are a faith community comprised of male and female laity and clergy, people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, theological beliefs, and ministry practices…We are concerned about drones, homelessness, the death penalty, racism, education, classism, hunger, poverty, and abuse of all kinds.
As evidenced by its affirmation of the BDS movement, the Alliance is also concerned about “doing justice” in “Palestine and Israel.” In order to provide information for their members about how to do “justice,” the Justice in Palestine and Israel Community of the Alliance of Baptists offers a list of resources (available online) that includes the work of entrenched anti-Israel authors such as Gary Burge, Stephen Sizer and Naim Ateek, all of whom have been written about extensively on CAMERA’s website.
In addition to offering these resources, the Alliance’s statement invokes Mitri Raheb who is the pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, a partner of the Alliance, and one of the authors of the blatantly anti-Semitic Kairos Palestine Document. Raheb promotes a Palestinian version of historic replacement theology that purports that Palestinians – not Jews – are the indigenous people of the land. The logical conclusion from this false theology is that Jews have no right to the land and the Jewish State is illegitimate.
For the contemporary Christian to ascribe to this supercesionist (sic) document would be saying to their Jewish neighbors and friends – indeed to the world – that Judaism has no validity as a covenant religion, that the pain and martyrdom endured by countless generations of Jews was for naught; that the world would have been better off without the religious, cultural, spiritual, social, scientific and educational contributions of Jewish people throughout ages; and that the God we worship and serve is no God at all.
The boycott, divestment and sanction movement is ostensibly a campaign against Israel perpetrated for the supposed purpose of advocating for Palestinian rights. Considering its emphasis on human rights, it is ironic that this movement focuses its efforts on the only democratic state in the Middle East and ignores known human rights violators and oppressive governments such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran and Pakistan – all of which imprison and torture political dissidents, deprive freedom of speech and religion, discriminate against women, religious and ethnic minorities, and deprive citizens of access to an effective rule of law.
Even if the only concern of those involved in BDS is the oppression of Arab Palestinians – vis-Ã -vis other oppressed people groups – then one would think that they would work to relieve the suffering of those who live in Lebanon, Jordan and what is left of Syria, where governments deny Palestinians the right of citizenship, thereby perpetuating their refugee status generation after generation.
If they truly believed in opposing violators of human rights, these self-proclaimed advocates for Arab Palestinians should be boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning the governments of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, because these entities all restrict political and religious freedoms and deny Palestinians basic human rights the State of Israel secures for all its citizens. They would also highlight the fact that the Constitution of the Palestinian National Authority (approved in 2003) calls for the implementation of Shariah which privileges the rights of Muslims over non-Muslims and the rights of men over women.
But as their actions demonstrate, proponents of BDS are not actually concerned about violations of human rights laws in general, and have no particular problem with the oppression of Arab Palestinians by any of the government bodies under which they live. If they did, they would expose those violations, and advocate for the rights of all Palestinians, not just the ones living under the control of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
Instead of recognizing that their own governments are responsible for the hardships experienced by Palestinians, BDS activists focus all their attention on alleged violations of human rights in Israel, the one country in the Middle East that secures freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and human rights for all citizens regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion.
Does BDS Actually Help Palestinians?
The BDS movement is not really concerned with Palestinian rights, and it doesn’t help Palestinians who suffer as a result of the policies of their own governments. As this Forbes article points out, “A push to ‘boycott, divest and sanction’ (BDS) Israeli companies has limited impact on the credit profile of Israel, yet it directly harms its intended beneficiaries, the Palestinians.” This piece goes on to explain:
The numbers speak for themselves: Israel (population 8.3 million) has GDP of $291 billion, the Palestinian Territories (population 4.1 million),$11.3 billion. In 2012, Israeli sales to the Palestinian Authority were $4.3 billion, about 5% of Israeli exports (excluding diamonds)less than 2% of Israeli GDP, according to the Bank of Israel. In 2012, Palestinian sales to Israel accounted for about 81% of Palestinian exports and less than a percentage point of Israeli GDP. Palestinian purchases from Israel were two-thirds of total Palestinian imports (or 27% of Palestinian GDP).
Such trade flow asymmetry shows Palestine needs Israel, economically speaking. Yet the BDS crowd would impaireconomic tiesbetween these areas, despite evidence that trade between peoples lessens outbreak of war. BDS-ers want to obliterate the vast trade surplus Israel extends to Palestine and offer nothing in its place.
A well-known case that demonstrates how BDS hurts Palestinians – rather than help – is that of SodaStream, an Israeli company that manufactures at-home soda makers. SodaStream recently closed its factory in the disputed West Bank territory and relocated it in southern Israel. This move resulted in the loss of at least 500 jobs for Palestinians who received full medical benefits and were paid between three and five times the prevailing wage available in the Palestinian territories.
A 2014 article in the Christian Science Monitor, written before SodaStream pulled out of the West Bank, quotes multiple Palestinian workers who said they would be the losers of a successful boycott of this Israeli company. One such example is a young man who previously earned 20 shekels ($5-$6) a day plucking and cleaning chickens. He earned nearly 10 times that at SodaStream, which also provided workers breakfast and lunch, as well as transportation to and from work. He said, “Before boycotting, they should think of the workers who are going to suffer.”
Another worker added, “If SodaStream closes, we would be sitting in the streets doing nothing.” The author of the article adds:
Speaking anonymously on a largely deserted street, with no Israeli SodaStream employees present, all but one of those interviewed said they opposed the boycott, given the lack of alternative job opportunities in the West Bank. That underscores Israeli claims that a boycott would be counterproductive, undermining the cooperation and prosperity that could boost peace prospects in the region.
In other words, the boycott of Israeli companies not only hurts Palestinians economically, but it adversely affects conditions necessary for securing a lasting peace between these two peoples.
SodaStream is just one of many Israeli companies that employ Palestinians. The 23 percent rate of Palestinian unemployment (in contrast to the Israeli rate of 7 percent) has prompted 69,000 Palestinian workers to seek work in the Israeli economy, where wages are at least twice what they are in the PA economy. And unlike those who used to work for SodaStream, they often have to spend a lot of time to get to and from those jobs.
For example, Omar Jibaret, a resident of Azzariah, spends four hours in transit every day to get to his construction job in Tel Aviv. In comparing his situation with those who, at the time, worked for SodaStream, he said, “I would love to work for SodaStream. They’re quite privileged. People look up to them.”
But in spite of the benefits the Israeli economy provides for Palestinians, both in Israel and the West Bank, members of the BDS movement continue to push their agenda. Regardless of how this campaign directly harms its supposed beneficiaries, the promoters of BDS willfully turn a blind eye to Palestinian suffering, motivated by their intent to destroy the Jewish State.
And the Alliance of Baptists has now joined the ranks of those who perpetuate the charade that BDS actually helps Palestinians.
Arab Propaganda and Misinformation
The affirmation of BDS by the Alliance of Baptists is based on the false pretense that BDS is all about the struggle for human rights and concern for the plight of the Palestinian people. But it is rooted in Arab propaganda and misinformation as well. The Alliance’s recent announcement states:
This bold and courageous statement coincided with the 69th commemoration of the Dier (sic) Yassin Massacre, which occurred in 1947. The small, ancient Palestinian village of Dier Yassin stood in the path of the charging Zionist militia, led by Menachem Begin, a future Prime Minister of the soon-to-be created State of Israel. The massacre, which killed more than 100 innocent children, women, and men, was one of the first in the on-going ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that continues to the present.
This paragraph asserts that a massacre of innocent civilians was perpetrated by the “Zionist militia,” and that Israel maintains a practice of ethnic cleansing to this day. Both of these false allegations have been exposed repeatedly as Arab propaganda created for the purpose of inciting violence against Jews. But the Alliance of Baptists is either unaware of the facts, or worse yet, doesn’t care to know the truth.
What Really Happened at Deir Yassin?
This CAMERA article on the subject details how the description of the fighting in Deir Yassin as a massacre has been called into question because of testimony from Arab participants.
For example, Ayish Zeidan, an eyewitness to the fighting, was quoted in the British newspaper the Telegraph to the effect that most of those killed were fighters and those helping the fighters:
The Arab radio talked of women being killed and raped, but this is not true… I believe that most of those who were killed were among the fighters and the women and children who helped the fighters. The Arab leaders committed a big mistake. By exaggerating the atrocities they thought they would encourage peopl
e to fight back harder. Instead they created panic and people ran away. (Daily Telegraph, April 8, 1998)
Furthermore, as noted by the Jerusalem Report in an April 2, 1998 article, a BBC documentary independently reported Palestinian admissions that the events in Deir Yassin had been intentionally distorted:
In a BBC television series, “Israel and the Arabs: the 50 Year Conflict,” Hazem Nusseibeh, an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service’s Arabic news in 1948, describes an encounter at the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City with Deir Yassin survivors and Palestinian leaders, including Hussein Khalidi, the secretary of the Arab Higher Committee (the representative body of the Arabs of British Palestine).
“I asked Dr. Khalidi how we should cover the story,” recalled Nusseibeh, now living in Amman. “He said, ‘We must make the most of this.’ So we wrote a press release stating that at Deir Yassin children were murdered, pregnant women were raped. All sorts of atrocities.”
A Deir Yassin survivor identified as Abu Mahmud, said the villagers protested at the time. “We said, ‘There was no rape.’ [Khalidi] said, ‘We have to say this, so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews.'”
The Alliance of Baptists either did not know, or intentionally ignored, these statements from participants who were involved in the battle in Deir Yassin. In addition, they either do not know, or are ignoring the fact, that Arab massacres and ethnic cleansing of Jews were common in the time period leading up to the establishment of the Jewish State.
As this article published in the Jerusalem Post on August 16, 2007 details:
Sixty-two Jews were murdered by Arabs in the first week after the UN partition plan was passed, and by May 15, 1948, a total of 1,256 Jews had been killed, most of them civilians. These deaths were caused by Arab militias, gangs, terrorists and army units which attacked every place of Jewish inhabitation in Palestine.
The attacks succeeded in placing Jerusalem under siege and eventually cutting off its water supply. All Jewish villages in the Negev were attacked, and Jews had to go about the country in convoys. In every major city where Jews and Arabs lived in mixed neighborhoods the Jewish areas came under attack. This was true in Haifa’s Hadar Hacarmel as well as Jerusalem’s Old City.
Massacres were not uncommon.
Thirty-nine Jews were killed by Arab rioters at Haifa’s oil refinery on December 30, 1947. On January 16, 1948, 35 Jews were killed trying to reach Gush Etzion. On February 22, 44 Jews were murdered in a bombing on Jerusalem’s Rehov Ben-Yehuda. And on February 29, 23 Jews were killed all across Palestine, eight of them at the Hayotzek iron foundry.
Thirty-five Jews were murdered during the Mount Scopus convoy massacre on April 13. And 127 Jews were massacred at Kfar Etzion on May 15, 1948, after 30 others had died defending the Etzion Bloc.
…[in addition] many small kibbutzim were subjected to attacks, including Gvulot, Ben-Shemen, Holon, Safed, Bat Yam and Kfar Yavetz – all in December. In January and February, it was the turn of Rishon Lezion, Yehiam, Mishmar Hayarden, Tirat Zvi, Sde Eliahu, Ein Hanatziv, Magdiel, Mitzpe Hagalil and Ma’anit.
In March and April these attacks culminated with an assault on Hartuv by 400 Arabs based in the village of Ishwa and an attack on Kfar Darom by members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In contrast to the fact that Arabs targeted Jewish civilians, the Arab eyewitness to the battle at Deir Yassin quoted above stated: “…most of those who were killed were among the fighters and the women and children who helped the fighters.”
In other words, it was those who were actively engaged in a military operation who were killed. They were not targeted as civilians and they did not die as victims of a massacre.
Therefore, based on recorded testimony from Arab eyewitnesses, it is disingenuous at best for the Alliance of Baptists to refer to the fighting at Deir Yassin as one of the first massacres in an on-going ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Not only is it Arabs who refuted the false allegations concerning what happened at Deir Yassin, but historical events demonstrate that it was Arabs who attempted to cleanse the land of Jews – not the other way around.
Does Israel Practice Ethnic Cleansing?
Pre-state Israel did not practice ethnic cleansing, and there is no substance behind the Alliance’s charge of “on-going ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that continues to the present.” Israel’s position towards non-Jews is demonstrated by declarations of coexistence with Arabs made by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, before Israel was even a state, and by the realities in Israel today.
In a speech on December 13, 1947, Ben-Gurion said:
In our state there will be non-Jews as well – and all of them will be equal citizens; equal in everything without exception; that is, the state will be their state as well. … The attitude of the Jewish state to its Arab citizens will be an important factor – though not the only one – in building good neighborly relations with the Arab states. If the Arab citizen will feel at home in our state, and if his status will not be in the least different from that of the Jew, and perhaps better than the status of the Arab in an Arab state … then Arab distrust will accordingly subside and a bridge to a Semitic, Jewish–Arab alliance, will be built. (Efraim Karsh, Fabricating Israeli History, p. 67)
In 1948, in the same spirit as Ben-Gurion, Jewish leaders and citizens of Haifa pleaded with their Arab neighbors to not flee the city in response to the call of Arab leaders to do so. But out of fear of being charged as collaborators with the Jews, the Arab community evacuated Haifa right before five Arab armies invaded Israel for the purpose of annihilating the fledging Jewish State.
The truth is that Arab citizens left Haifa and other towns of their own free will.
They were not ethnically cleansed.
The realities in Israel today also refute the charge of on-going ethnic cleansing advanced by the Alliance of Baptists in their statement on BDS. As of Fe
bruary 2016, about 1.8 million people, or 24 percent of Israel’s population, are non-Jews. Of this 1.8 million people, over 1.2 million are Muslim Arabs. There are approximately 250,000 Bedouin Arabs, who are also Muslim.
Citizens of Israel also include some 123,000 Christian Arabs, 122,000 Arabic-speaking Druze, 4,000 Circassians who are Sunni Muslims, and a small community of Arameans who are Christians and do not identify as Arabs. In fact, Aramean Christians emphatically denounce Arab identity, choosing instead to be integrated within the Jewish State.
Such a small ethnic minority would certainly not choose to align themselves with Israel if there was any threat of ethnic cleansing.
The Example of Father Gabriel Nadaf and Others
Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest who serves as the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Yafia, near Nazareth, is a prominent example of an Aramean Christian who supports full integration in the Jewish State. In 2012, he founded the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum to encourage Christian Aramean citizens to contribute to Israel by serving in the IDF.
Father Nadaf has paid a heavy price for his public alignment with the Jewish State. He is regularly harassed and threatened by Arab Muslims who fear that any loyalty to Israel will divide and weaken the Arab sector. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has also condemned Christian involvement in the Jewish State, describing it as an attempt to divide the Palestinian minority in Israel.
As a result of his stand, Father Nadaf has been slandered in social media, denounced by Arab members of the Knesset, censored by his church, and threatened physically. At the end of 2012, he challenged a boycott against him and had to be accompanied by Israeli Police officers – who were there to ensure his safety – as he attempted to enter a church to pray.
In December 2013, Nadaf’s son was severely beaten by members of the Hadash party, led by MK Mohammad Barakeh. But even this did not discourage the Nadaf family from their commitment to support Israel. Today, Nadaf’s son serves in the IDF, and Nadaf continues to speak publicly about how proud he is to live in the Jewish State. When he testified before the UN Human Rights Council in September 2014, he said:
In the Middle East today, there is one country where Christianity is not only not persecuted, but affectionately granted freedom of expression, freedom of worship and security…It is Israel, the Jewish State. Israel is the only place where Christians in the Middle East are safe.
Father Nadaf is not alone in this belief. In 2015, in a groundbreaking event, Israeli Christian, Druze and Bedouin leaders gathered in Nazareth in a new display of unity to discuss their role as citizens of the Jewish State. The leaders’ remarks, recorded in an Acts News Network video and published August 20, 2015 on YouTube, demonstrate that the escalation of radical Islam throughout the Middle East, and the accompanying persecution of all minorities, has made these minority citizens of Israel ever more thankful for the security and freedom provided for them by the Jewish State.
As Ayoob Karra, the former Deputy Minister of Development for the Negev and Galilee pointed out: “If you look around in Syria, in Lebanon, in Egypt, you can find that it is not the human rights for Christians in all these states. Only in Israel they have power to say everything loudly.”
The freedom and “power to say everything loudly” also applies to Arab citizens of Israel. This reality is demonstrated most notably by the fact that there are currently seventeen Arab members of the Knesset, including some who openly engage in anti-Israel activism such as Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian Arab from Nazareth.
From pre-State Israel to the present, Israel’s position towards non-Jews has been consistent. The desire to coexist with Arabs was demonstrated by the declarations made by Ben-Gurion before Israel was even a state, and statements from current minority leaders within Israel make it clear that minority citizens of Israel are thankful for the security in which they live.
Indeed, Christians, Druze and Bedouin alike attest to the reality of equal rights for all of Israel’s citizens. Therefore, there is no substance behind the spurious charges of on-going ethnic cleansing that form the foundation of the Alliance of Baptists’ statement affirming the BDS movement.
By perpetuating the charade that BDS is all about Palestinian human rights, and the claim that boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning Israel actually helps Palestinians, the Alliance of Baptists has joined the ranks of those who promote propaganda and misinformation for the purpose of delegitimizing the Jewish State. For the sake of the cause, a blind eye is turned towards the real cause of Palestinian suffering, and it is Palestinians who end up losing in the end.