OpinionBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

Will there be a BDS movement against the Taliban?

If BDS-ers set aside their single-minded focus on Israel for just a short period to spotlight instead the Taliban’s daily outrages, it could help pressure the U.N. Human Rights Council to make the same adjustment.

Protesters in Berlin hold a Palestinian flag and the initials of the anti-Israel BDS movement while then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting Germany in August 2019. Credit: Israel Hayom.
Protesters in Berlin hold a Palestinian flag and the initials of the anti-Israel BDS movement while then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting Germany in August 2019. Credit: Israel Hayom.
Dan Schnur
Dan Schnur
Dan Schnur is the U.S. politics editor for the Jewish Journal.

The BDS movement and its followers might actually have the opportunity to do something good this week. No, really. 

The U.N. Human Rights Council, which usually devotes most of its time to criticizing Israel for defending itself against terrorist attacks, has called an emergency meeting to examine potential human rights abuses committed by the Taliban during their takeover of Afghanistan. There are already reports of Taliban militia ordering women to give up their jobs and to remain indoors, closing schools for girls and forcing young women to marry their fighters, not to mention the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities and whippings, beatings and other violence against Afghani civilians.

It would seem that this should be an open-and-shut case for a U.N. entity with the expressed purpose of promoting and protecting human rights around the world. But over the years, the HRC has dedicated the overwhelming majority of its time to Israel-bashing, to the point where the Jewish state has received an official condemnation from the Council on no fewer than 78 occasions since it was reconstituted in 2006—more than the rest of the world combined. In other words, the atrocities, cruelty and barbarism that is a feature of daily life in Iran, North Korea and Syria, just to name a few countries, is of less concern to the commission’s members than Israel’s efforts to protect its citizens against constant threats of violence from its foes.

The United States, the European Union and Canada have all criticized the tribunal for its single-minded focus on Israel, as have two former U.N. secretaries-general and even the HRC’s own former president. But earlier this year after Hamas launched several days of missile attacks against Israel, the HRC launched an unprecedented permanent “fact-finding mission” against Israel—the first time in the U.N.’s history that a member state has been subject to such an inquiry. The council also commenced an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the Jewish state, and for good measure called for an arms embargo to be imposed on Israel as well.

It’s exceedingly improbable that the HRC will shift its focus from the imagined transgressions of Israel to the actual atrocities taking place in Afghanistan. But if the leading voices in the BDS movement were so inclined, the Taliban’s rampage of violence, misogyny and hate-mongering could present them with an opportunity to demonstrate that their concerns about human rights violations are not just an excuse to engage in continuous exercises of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. If the BDS-ers decided to set aside their single-minded bias and hatred toward Israel for just a short period to focus their spotlight instead on the Taliban’s daily outrages, it could help pressure the HRC to make the same adjustment.

Granted, that temporary reorientation would do nothing to reverse or even weaken the anti-Israel hatred that flows unceasingly from both BDS supporters or HRC members. But it would eliminate one level of hypocrisy from their core arguments—their seemingly myopic belief that there is only one country on the planet that deserves scrutiny for its conduct. Their implied belief that Israel is so uniquely malignant in its behavior that human rights abuses everywhere else in the world should be overlooked or minimalized reveals their true motivation: delegitimizing and ultimately eliminating the world’s only Jewish state.

Of course, calling out the Taliban would have no impact on the core falsehood at the heart of anti-Zionism; the ridiculous notion that Israel’s efforts to defend itself and its people against violent terrorism somehow violates the human rights of those committed to Israel’s destruction. But at the very least it would temporarily cast some necessary attention on the genuine brutality and actual carnage being committed in Afghanistan as opposed to the make-believe crimes of which Israel is incessantly accused.

The much more likely outcome is that while the Taliban destroys a country, terrorizes its people and subjugates its women, the BDS-ers will remain silent. The Human Rights Council members will express their concern or issue an ineffectual statement of admonition against the violence. Then both will go back to their more accustomed and hypocritical work of singling out the State of Israel and its people.

Dan Schnur teaches political communications at UC Berkeley, USC and Pepperdine. He hosts the weekly webinar “Politics in the Time of Coronavirus” for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall.

This article first appeared in the Jewish Journal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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