By Zohaib Zafar
The Boycott-Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to exert economic pressure on Israel has gained national attention thanks to those in Congress who want to pass legislation that would allow state and local governments to restrict contracting with companies that engage in trade with Israel. Whether this legislation is justified, boycotting Israel would be a deterrent to peace in the Holy Land and even if the legislation is passed, Americans can individually participate in BDS. However, it needs to be clear that BDS will only escalate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and it would be a grave mistake for Americans to participate in such a movement.
Boycotts are economic warfare yet Israel never attacked America and for some, it is easy to make the case that not only has Israel never launched an offensive attack against Palestinians but that Palestinian groups such as Hamas are always provoking an attack from Israel. When Americans participate in BDS, they are signaling to Israel that they are alone in their war against terrorism and that terrorists can continue to attack Israel. Hence, boycotting should only be done as a last resort and when there is a real threat of violence. Consequently, boycotting will also hurt the American consumer who will have to buy inferior products and services at a higher price.
As a Muslim, the saddest element of BDS is witnessing how Muslims across the world are on the forefront of BDS movements, but when Palestinian refugees try to immigrate to Muslim-majority countries, these same Muslims turn their backs on them. This practice goes against Islamic values as well as basic human values. Politicians in these Muslim-majority countries used Israel as a scapegoat for their issues that plagued their country while denying basic freedoms to their population such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech, which also goes against Islam. The state of Israel, on the other hand, is more Islamic than any other country in the Middle East. Israel has given all Arab-Israeli citizens the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion and even a voice in their democratic government.
Given all this, a false notion exists that Israel is not oppressing Palestinians. Thanks to the far right in Israel, policies have been implemented that oppress Palestinians, which further escalates the conflict. We must help Palestinians but not boycott the very same companies that many Palestinians work for in Israel. Americans who are interested in helping the Palestinian people need to open their doors here in America to Palestinian refugees. They also need to financially support economic development projects in Gaza and the West Bank. This would pave the way for the Palestinians to democratically elect politicians who are not anti-semitic and have no affiliations with terrorist groups such as Hamas. Americans need not economically boycott the descendants of people who were turned away from our country only to lose their lives in a genocide.