Both Sides--BDS and Israel's Government--are Wrong on BDS
And an appeal to basic principles of freedom explains why.
In his novel 1984, George Orwell gave us the memorable term “thoughtcrime” to describe thoughts which the state punishes to protect itself from criticism. The Strategic Affairs Ministry’s recent decision to bar the members of numerous BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) groups from traveling to Israel is punishing them for the “thoughtcrime” of trying to voluntarily persuade people to boycott Israeli goods. BDS members taking this position are violating no one’s rights, but the Israeli travel bans, by contrast, do violate people’s rights, ironically making the Israeli government guilty of the very illiberality that the BDS movement has long accused it of.
This is the opening paragraph of an op/ed in the Jerusalem Post by Michael Makovi, a Ph.D. student in economics at Texas Tech University.
And in case, you think Michael is sympathetic to members of BDS, think again. He writes:
On the other hand, the 2005 open letter entitled “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS” does unfortunately “call upon international civil society … to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel.” In essence, advocates of BDS wish to impose their opinions on others. It is not enough for them to voluntarily boycott Israeli goods themselves.
And what’s the principle underlying both of Michael’s points above? People’s right to exchange freely, people’s right to travel freely, and people’s right to speak freely.
No consumer has an obligation to purchase anyone’s product, and therefore, no seller can complain their rights have been violated when a consumer chooses not to purchase from them.
By contrast, the Israeli government’s travel ban is a violation of rights. Every person has a right to freely travel as long as they do not commit crimes against others. When a person who is innocent of any wrongdoing finds their ability to travel restricted, their rights have been violated. By restricting travel in response to mere expressions of opinion, the Israeli government is committing exactly the sort of illiberality which BDS has always accused it.
The article is “BDS Blacklist Punishes Thoughtcrime,” Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2018.
Side note: When I was a representative of Libertarians for Peace on the steering committee of the Peace Coalition of Monterey County, a number of reps of other groups pushed for BDS. The opposition to that push was great enough that the PCMC never came out in favor of BDS. But the more interesting triumph was that I persuaded one of the chief advocates of BDS that sanctions require the use of, or threat of, force and, therefore, violated the principles of peace that we were supposed to be advocating. I argued that she should support, not BDS, but BD. She agreed, although I think she might have backslid later.