What suddenly became crystal clear from the pro side is that the Palestinian call for BDS, which they fully support, has Israel's demise as its goal. This is articulated as follows:
... non-violent punitive measures [will] be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:The "wall" or separation/security barrier is problematic because of the Palestinian land it traverses and divides, but it also has some genuine legitimacy as a defensive measure. Still, for the most part, any progressive Zionist can accept points 1 and 2 (although #2 is really about the internal makeup of Israel and should be outside the scope of bilateral negotiations for a peace agreement between a sovereign Israel and a newly sovereign Palestine). Number 3, however, a full right of return to what is now Israel by the refugees of 1948 and their descendants, is a complete non-starter, a denial of the right of national self-determination to the Jewish people, and a rejection of the 1947 United Nations decision for separate Jewish and Arab states in Palestine.
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
As maintained by JJ Goldberg, this is a movement that is not aimed at securing peace with an agreed-upon two state solution, because Israel cannot accept this third demand without ensuring its doom. This would guarantee that the conflict continue for decades, if not generations to come, with much suffering by both sides. Instead, Goldberg offered the example of the Geneva Initiative (also known as the Geneva Accord).
Despite this, the vast majority of this left-wing audience were receptive to the BDS message. Israel's position as a military powerhouse against the weak Palestinian underdog, often coming across as a bully--with the flotilla incident and Operation Cast Lead as the most recent glaring examples--guaranteed this outcome. To argue that the peace process failed because of a variety of complex factors involving the wrongs and shortsightedness of both sides, would not have carried much weight with this crowd.
Ms. Peratis began her argument on the anti side by praising BDS for at least being a non-violent strategy. Yet it was never a consideration for supporters of BDS that the ongoing ravages of what remains of the occupation have anything at all to do with the violence of the intifada, or the role of Hamas in Gaza. (Btw, Peratis indicated that she would support a boycott targeting only the settlements.)
Sadly, Yonaton Shapira, the former Israeli air force officer, had no notion as to why Israel was legitimately created as a refuge for Jews. Nor could he even understand the concept of Jews as a people, apart from adherents of the Jewish religion. But he was sure that the Meretz party, which he explicitly mocked as representative of the Israeli left, has supported "every war." This is a gross distortion of Meretz positions, as this statement on the Gaza war attests.
Gil Kulik, a retired US State Department official who is now an activist for J Street's local New York chapter, made the following observations:
- The pro-BDS people, especially Hannah Mermelstein, were quite unabashed in acknowledging that the logical outcome of implementation of their platform would be the demise of Israel as a Jewish state. For her, it was simply a matter of "justice" for dispossessed Palestinians, because Israel should never have been created in the first place. In her view, a two-state solution in which Palestinian refugees would be permanently settled in the Palestinian state or Jordan was no solution to the "refugee problem," which could only be resolved by mass repatriation of Palestinians to their original homes. The fact that adhering to "right of return" guaranteed that BDS would remain a marginal phenomenon, at least in the United States, was of no consequence to her.
- J Street was cited several times, mostly unfavorably, as an organization that really lacked the courage of its convictions or was just "Israel Lobby light."
- Despite the palpably anti-Israeli proclivities of the audience, the forum was conducted with decorum and civility.