We at Presbyterians for Middle East Peace are saddened by the decision to deny a group of BDS activists, including a leader of a Presbyterian group, entrance into Israel due to security concerns. We recognize that sovereign states will determine who is able to enter a country and who is not, and also recognize that the United States has denied many from entry into our country; some out of security concerns, some because of illicit activities or others for dangerous political activism. While no system is perfect, states must find a balance between open borders and security concerns. Still it saddens us that states must be forced to make such decisions. It should be noted that the vast majority of activists were able to enter Israel, but those who lead efforts to destabilize Israel were barred entry. This goes with the directive of the Knesset not to stifle political speech and expression but to protect the people of Israel from those seeking to do harm.
Unfortunately, we recognize that actions among certain members of the BDS Movement are seen as an existential threat to Israel. From its start, the BDS strategy has pursued a “zero sum” agenda in which they advocate for a Palestinian State at the expense of the existence of the State of Israel. In their worldview, only one can survive. Their policies and platform have even drawn into question the right of the Jewish people to self-determination as they have advanced an anti-Zionist agenda. It is not surprising that the State of Israel is taking a strong stance against BDS. At the last General Assembly, the commissioners voted twice to reject the BDS idea of a non-Jewish Israel by affirming the approach of “two states for two peoples.”
The BDS movement, while proclaiming to be non-violent and to be a movement seeking to promote democratic values, on the contrary, has engaged in dehumanizing activities, activities which have led to anti-Semitic and violent rhetoric and actions directed at Jews of every age, social standing and sexual orientation. Furthermore, it has supported its own form of censorship against Israelis and Palestinians that have not followed their radical agenda. Instead of seeking reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis, the BDS opposes all forms of coexistence programs, examples of shared society and attempts at reconciliation.The BDS agenda does not advance boycotts or economic actions against a policy that they want to change in the same way as economic sanctions were used to end apartheid in South Africa. Instead, BDS boycotts and sanctions are an act of war seeking to destroy the State of Israel.
It is ironic that the advocates for BDS recently denied entrance into Israel are victims of their own actions. In their attempt to pursue a zero sum game, they have been “hoisted on their own petard.” The fact that they are surprised that their radical agenda has drawn a response testifies to the reality that they are not true peacemakers nor seekers of justice. More importantly, as long as the PCUSA is seen as being a collaborator with the BDS Movement, we can anticipate further actions taken against leaders of the denomination.
It is time for the PCUSA to re-evaluate its relations to the BDS movement, as the General Assembly’s enduring commitment to two states would direct; a movement that has not brought about relief for the Palestinian people but has actually lead to further misery.