(February 1, 2023 / JNS) The Palestinian Authority, PLO and Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) last week called “on the peoples of the world and their democratic and progressive forces” to actively participate in the BDS Movement against Israel and to “dismantle Israel’s system of settler colonialism, apartheid, and military occupation.”
The joint P.A.-PLO-BDS statement demands “the dismantling of Israel’s regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid.” Their communique refers to Zionism as a “racist, genocidal ideology that encourages terrorism and fascism.”
Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, a senior project manager at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) and ex-head of the IDF Military Intelligence research division, told JNS that “the communique calls for the direct destruction of Israel and praises terrorism.”
The boycott calls emerged from a series of conferences and meetings in which the P.A.’s Ministry of Justice and the PLO joined the BNC to discuss their “anti-apartheid agenda.”
The first conference was held in Al-Bireh, a city situated adjacent to Ramallah, under the rubric “Towards a Global Front to Combat and End Israeli Apartheid.” The second event was a “Press Conference to Announce the Call of the First National Conference and Preparatory Committee to Combat Apartheid and Settler Colonialism.”
Open cooperation between the BNC and the P.A. is a break from their traditional modus operandi. The BNC, founded in 2005, aims to promote the boycott of Israel and has affiliations with extreme political groups.
Kuperwasser explained that “BDS wanted to be seen not as an official government organization, but rather as a grassroots movement.” He also noted “that in BDS, there are also many actors from very different political groups, and not all of them support the P.A.”
Dan Diker, president of the JCPA and a former secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, told JNS concerning BDS that “a lot of civil society groups surrounding the Palestinian issue are really political groups with radical agendas that are linked to terror groups.”
Diker said that the P.A. has sought to maintain a cautious approach to the BDS movement. The P.A. has been concerned about its relationship with Israel and other key international actors.
The P.A.’s double game
“The Palestinian Authority is playing a double game…. They have security cooperation with Israel and they receive money from Israel. They can’t openly boycott Israel because they would just be shooting themselves in the head,” he said.
Even though the P.A. and the BDS National Committee do not normally openly cooperate, experts say they have had a discreet relationship for a long time. According to Diker, cooperation between the P.A. and the BNC “is an old trend.”
Many specialists ascribe this relationship to a shared ideology and point to certain members of the BNC as evidence of cooperation between the P.A. and the BDS National Committee.
Einat Wilf, a former member of the Knesset and foreign policy adviser to Shimon Peres, told JNS that “the P.A., the PLO, BDS, they all share the fundamental Palestinian ethos of anti-Zionism.”
Kuperwasser agrees, saying “there is hidden cooperation because the common goal of all of them is to struggle against Zionism…. What brings them together is a shared goal of the destruction of Israel.”
Kuperwasser explained that the representative of the Islamic Nation Coordination Community, a pan-Palestinian political coordination organization, to the BNC is a member of Fatah, an organization that controls the P.A.
According to Diker, “The P.A. and BDS have been cooperating closely for nearly 20 years.”
He added that BDS is “linked to PLO terror groups so designated by the United States and Europe.”
Experts say that the difference between the P.A. and the BNC lies in their tactics, not in their goals.
Wilf said that “at the end of the day, it’s all about tactics, but otherwise there is very little difference between these organizations.”
Kuperwasser added that “BDS believes that they can represent themselves as morally sophisticated and moderate because BDS is not about direct use of force, whereas in fact, BDS is just a complementary tool to the use of force.”
Specialists believe that this new more open cooperation between BDS and the P.A. will not be representative of a broader trend of open anti-Israel cooperation.
Wilf said, “Their current work together merely reflects the P.A.’s understanding that currently, in the absence of military victory or Arab state-sponsored boycott, a good tool is a popular boycott and international condemnation.”
Diker said, “The P.A. won’t stop security coordination with Israel as they would be shooting themselves in the head. The PA security apparatus depends on security cooperation to keep them safe from enemies like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”
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