Sunday, June 13, 2010

Blockade Vs. BDS, What's the Difference?

A point that I have brought up a few times on the Huffington Post is asking what the difference is between the HP hated Gaza blockade and the HP beloved BDS movement. Let me show you one quick example from a recent article posted about the recent remarks by Senator Chuck Schumer. Schumer stated that Gaza should be "strangled" economically until the people there and their rulers agree to make a lasting peace with Israel. This dovetails with the Israeli blockade, which is clearly intended to keep the Gazan population unhappy by keeping out certain kinds of goods. Here's the conversation:

One HPer laments the unfairness that if someone were to suggest strangling Israel economically, there would be national outcry. But that is exactly the goal of the BDS movement, to hurt Israel's economy to achieve a political goal. So when I ask what the difference is, another user informs me that I'm in fact correct, the goal of BDS is for Israel to change, but it's OK because it's "a noble cause". Not exactly a convincing argument.

Let's talk about the arguments the HPers have used when I bring up this point.

- "It's collective punishment!". First of all, the blockade is not collective punishment. Collective punishment is meant to be applied at the individual level, as in, if an individual commits a crime, his or her whole town cannot be punished for that crime. But let's assume that argument is correct, the blockade is collective punishment. The Gazans are being punished for the crimes of Hamas, their government. Why should Joe Mustafa have to be denied his cookies because Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's existence? But by the exact same argument, but should Joe Cohen have his business boycotted just because Israel refuses to recognize Hamas' existence? Joe Cohen could be the most liberal peacenik in Israel, but BDS doesn't care. If it has an Israeli bar code, it cannot be bought, even if it was produced on the hippiest kibbutz in the Galilee. If that's not collective punishment under the HP definition, I don't know what is.

- "The blockade is enforced, BDS is a choice", as in, the Israelis enforce the blockade while the people who boycott Israel have a choice. Unfortunately, this is a difference in implementation, not principle. If it were up to the BDS movement, every company and person would boycott Israel, that is their goal. Likewise, Israel doesn't let anything into Gaza they don't check. The only difference in this case is that Israel is simply better at achieving their goal than the BDS movement, Israel has the personnel and equipment to restrict Gaza's economy in a way that the BDS movement can't. But again, if the BDS movement had the ability to completely cut off Israel's economy the way Israel has cut off Gaza's, they surely would.

-"The blockade is illegal, BDS is legitimate". Again, this is built on a false premise, the blockade is not illegal. The US and the UK have used blockades consistently when they fight wars, and there is little doubt Hamas and Israel are at war. And no, UN condemnation does not make something illegal.

So then you would ask me, "Matt, you have such a problem with BDS, why don't you have a problem with the blockade, you hypocrite?" I would reply that I have a problem with BDS because it is simply wrong in its goal. I support Israel, thus I don't want to see it weakened by BDS. If the BDS movement truly wants peace rather than simply hurting Israel any way possible, I would advise them not to attack only Israel with their campaign. But anyway, their choice of advocating a Israeli boycott in and of itself is a legitimate tactic. People use boycotts all the time to achieve political goals, most famously in South Africa and Nazi Germany (just to give a balanced examples of boycotts, one for a good goal, one for a bad goal). However, don't tell me that the blockade isn't also a legitimate tactic if you support BDS. We've proven above that the principle behind BDS and the blockade, hurting your opponent's economy, is exactly the same. You can't claim the blockade isn't legitimate (it's collective punishment, it's illegal, it's immoral), and at the same time toot the horn of BDS. That makes you the hypocrite.


  1. That's a good argument, Matt, yet for some reason I do not think it will carry much weight the HP crowd. I know, for sure, that it would carry no weight with the great majority of Daily Kos.

    Nonetheless, point well taken.

  2. Of course Israel's enemies are hypocrites. But that has never stopped them from seeking to harm Israel even as they denounce in the same breath Israel's right to defend itself. What they do is politically correct and supported by the UN and much of the world; what Israel does is politically incorrect and condemned by the UN and much of the world. That is the difference.