On May 25 the New York Times published an op-ed by Thomas Friedman with the incendiary title, “Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine,” which attempts to show just how far the Israeli Prime Minister has gone to destroy any notion of a two-state solution. That Friedman would have only now caught on to the demise of such a possibility should indicate just how far out of touch he is.
Friedman spends his space talking about Netanyahu’s purging of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, and his naming of “far-right Avigdor Lieberman” as his Yaalon’s replacement. But he begins his piece with this entrée: “Israel has recently been under intense criticism on the world stage. Some of it, like the ‘boycott, divestment, sanctions’ (B.D.S.) campaign, is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique.”
Friedman seems to take always alluding in some way or another to BDS as an obligation. Not only does he do so with remarkable consistency, he also always gets it wrong. More than two years ago, Mondoweiss succinctly captured Friedman’s modus operanti: “Not only does he try to obfuscate the origin of the successful movement and the extent of its success but he tries to cut it down to acceptable proportions.”
Yes, Friedman persistently misattributes the origins of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, (BDS) which in 2005 emanated not from U.S. college campuses as he suggests, but rather from Palestinian civil society, with over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements joining together to fight for Palestinian rights. Talk about obfuscation.
Besides purposefully erasing the origins of BDS, Friedman constantly ignores its reach. Well beyond the borders of U.S. college campuses, churches, unions, artists, writers, musicians and others, from around the world, have either explicitly endorsed BDS or taken on one or another of its tactics. And they are doing so in increasing numbers.
In April the Alliance of Baptists affirmed the use of boycott, divestment, and sanctions to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land; in May the United Methodist Church passed three measures criticizing Israel and advocating for Palestinian rights; in January that same church put five Israeli banks on a blacklist, declaring that the church would do no business with banks involved in the Occupation; previously in 2014 the United Presbyterian Church voted to divest from companies doing business on the West Bank.
In terms of labor unions, Vijay Prashad notes,
a host of US labor unions have decided to endorse the BDS pledge. The United Electrical Workers (UE), a union of over thirty-five thousand members, debated the question of Israel’s occupation of Palestine at its August 2015 convention. “Our government is on the wrong side,” said Angaza Laughinghouse of Local 150 (North Carolina). “We have to stand on the right side of the Palestine struggle.” Laughinghouse’s union—UE—decided to unanimously endorse BDS and to actively work “to become engaged in BDS.” In October, the two hundred thousand members of the AFL-CIO of Connecticut passed a resolution that called upon the national AFL-CIO to endorse BDS “in connection with companies and investments profiting from or complicit in human rights violations arising from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the State of Israel.”
Michael Letwin, Co-Convener, Labor for Palestine; Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325 comments, “By respecting the BDS picket line, a growing number of U.S. trade unions are honoring the most fundamental labor principle: An injury to one is an injury to all. The refusal by ILWU Local 10 dockers to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo in 2014 shows the unparalleled power of labor solidarity against apartheid Israel.”
Artists and musicians such as Junot Diaz, Lauryn Hill, Roger Waters, Chuck D, Boots Riley, and others have come out in solidarity with the Palestinians, and in Augist 2015 over a thousand Black artists and activists signed on. As I reported then:
On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel’s ethnic cleansing)—and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States—we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.
The list of signatories includes scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West, political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, rappers Talib Kweli, Boots Riley and Jasiri X, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Organizational signers include the Florida-based Dream Defenders and St. Louis-based Hands Up United and Tribe X, which were founded after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, respectively, as well as the 35-year-old Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis.
Commenting on Friedman’s latest, Mondoweiss again has it just right:
Friedman’s smear is obviously the establishment litmus test these days. Hillary Clinton says BDS is bad. So does President Obama, so does the French prime minister. But that will soon change. As Israel sinks further into its existential identity crisis, the few remaining liberals among the Jewish elites there will turn desperately to the world to pressure Israel, as Gideon Levy and Larry Derfner have already done. That pressure means boycott, divestment and sanctions. And if it also means the end of Israel as a Jewish state, that prospect will by then no longer be tragic to realistic Americans, including Friedman, who have glimpsed the paranoid Sparta that the Jewish democracy has produced.
One can only wonder how long Thomas Friedman can staunchly keep on with his delusional lies about BDS.