David R. Henderson  

Both Sides--BDS and Israel's Government--are Wrong on BDS

What do people believe about i... But or Therefore?...

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.

Michael explains:

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.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (5 to date)
Yaakov Schatz writes:

January 10, 2018, not 2017. Otherwise, a fine post from the Jerusalem post.

David R Henderson writes:

Thanks, Yaakov. Change made.

Daniel writes:

"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."

Nation states owe a very minimal set of rights to non-citizens, and the right to travel "as long as they do not commit a crime against others", is not a right recognized by a single state in the world today.

Gerald writes:

I'm sure Mr. Makovi means well, but I think he misses the mark. BDS is just the latest iteration of the world's oldest hatred. In its current incarnation, it takes to task the Israeli oppressors who put the boot on the neck of a supposedly weak, indigenous people who seek only to live in peace and harmony with Israel. The beauty of BDS is that it can veil its true intentions as mere criticism of a state's national policies. (Never mind that the BDS champions have nary a negative word to say about the very real human rights violations and abridgments of freedom that are simply part of life in most Arab states.) Makovi is also incorrect in describing BDS as a mere "thought crime". BDS goes further than voicing one's opinion; its seeks to affirmatively harm Israel by attacking its economy. What logic requires a State to grant a "right of travel" to those advocating and carrying out economic warfare against it?

Qgambit writes:

There is no such thing as a right to travel freely to other countries.

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