Larry Derfner has argued that liberal Zionists who support a 2 State Solution should start supporting BDS, because it’s only BDS, as a form of shock therapy, that will shift the Israeli political landscape. I think it’s bad idea, mostly because I don’t think apocalyptic-manichean or negative-dialectical politics ever “works.” As an activist movement, BDS has shown itself over and over to be a political force that does nothing but poison the kinds of normal human relations upon which a decent political settlement would have to depend. By demonizing an “enemy,” by refusing to consider the two human sides to a complex political conflict, movement-BDS has nothing politically constructive to contribute. Even if you do support, as I do not, a 1 State Solution, binational or otherwise, I think BDS as a movement is going about it in the wrong way because it rejects the middle-ground, the in-between of mutual recognition.
This all came into sharp focus reading two pieces, the first one here by Hussein Ibish about Professor Mohammed Dajani, whose resignation the administration at Al-Quds University refused to decline. Dajani caused a shit storm by sending Palestinian students to a study-tour at Auschwitz, part of a program that brought Israeli university students to study-tours of Nakba sites. The price of normalization cost him his job. But at what cost comes this particular case of BDS? Ibish writes, “There is a broader conflict… between those who want to embrace the world, in all its complexity and challenges, versus those who want to crawl inside a warm cocoon of insularity… Those, like Prof. Dajani, who try to break through this curtain of insularity are frequently punished, or at least criticized, for their embrace of broader realities, some of which are uncomfortable and destabilize reassuring mythologies.”
Writing here in the Forward about Eric Cantor and Tea Party radicals, Jay Michelson suggests another way to consider the question. Why liberal-progressive middle-of-the-roaders and other last-ditch supporters of a 2 State Solution might want to avoid the cocoon of BDS extremism is not too unlike why establishment-conservative Republicans like Eric Cantor might not have wanted to side up with Tea Party radicals. Writing in the Forward, Jay Michelson comments, “Once you empower extremists, you can never be extreme enough in your opposition to whatever it is they hate. Feed the fire, and eventually you get burned…Perhaps [Cantor] was just using [extremists] to stay in power — or perhaps they were using him. Either way, he muddied the waters, obscured the choices in play.” Mixing metaphors, it’s not less the case that BDS extremists fire up the hate, muddy waters and obscure choices. The viewpoints are just as muddied and maybe even more so than the rightwing Zionists who occupy the opposite extreme.