Not for the first time, The New York Times today downplayed the aims of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, transforming it from an radically anti-Israel group into nothing more than a critic of the country’s West Bank policies.
In a brief piece about Hillary Clinton’s criticism of the BDS movement, reporter Maggie Haberman asserted that BDS merely is “critical of Israel’s policies toward the West Bank.”
In fact, there’s a virtually unanimous consensus — one including critics of BDS, critics of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, and even the movement itself — that BDS is about so much more.
For example, the BDS movement, in a mission statement protesting Israeli policies and supposed “colonialism” since 1948 (that is, long before Israel controlled the West Bank), calls for the Jewish state to be sanctioned at least until it accedes to Palestinian demands for a so-called right of return. This call for an influx of the descendants of Palestinian refugees is broadly understood as a way of eliminating Israel by engineering away the country’s Jewish majority.
Omar Barghouti, a founder of the BDS movement, certainly understands this, and has not been shy about admitting his goal is for Israel to be replaced with a “unitary state, where, by definition, Jews will be a minority.”
The AMCHA Initiative, a group that combats antisemitism on campus, states that BDS “aims to demonize, delegitimize, and destroy the Jewish nature of Israel, with the result of denying to Jews their right of national self-determination.”
J Street, a group largely devoted to criticism of Israeli policies, agrees that “the Global BDS Movement does not support the two-state solution, recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state, or distinguish between opposition to the existence of Israel itself and opposition to the occupation of the territory beyond the Green Line. Further, some of the Movement’s supporters and leaders have trafficked in unacceptable anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
And a vice chair of Americans for Peace Now has written that “BDS’s prime motivation, if their messaging is to be believed, is not to end the occupation at all; rather, it is to end Israel.”
The downplaying of BDS’s radical and rejectionist aims is something of a pattern at The New York Times.
Reporter Jenny Anderson described BDS as an “international group that advocates Israel’s withdrawal from disputed territories where Palestinians live,” again a misleadingly incomplete description. Vivian Lee, too, referred to BDS as “an international lobbying movement that advocates Israel’s withdrawal from Palestinian territories,” and went even further by pretending it was this demand, and not BDS’s more radical positions and policies, that “caused a furor in another unlikely enclave of Brooklyn last year when members of the Park Slope Food Co-op rejected a motion to boycott Israeli products.”
(There are exceptions. New York Times reporter Mark Landler, for example, has more fully captured the scope of BDS demands, noting that “The movement … demands that Israel end its 1967 occupation of the West Bank, give full rights and equality to Palestinian Arab citizens, and, most controversially, allow Palestinians to return to places from which they were displaced in 1948 after the founding of the state of Israel.”)
Times editorial writers, too, have rewritten BDS aims. After an editorial described BDS activists as calling only for Israel “to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories,” Tablet‘s Yair Rosenberg slammed the newspaper for having “dramatically misrepresented [BDS’s] stated aims and implicit goals, whitewashing the movement’s radicalism.”
Although today’s piece whitewashes in the same way, New York Times editors are standing by the misleading language.