I am often asked to comment on BDS, because I am expert on the economic consequences of the South African boycott. In brief, it is not the boycott that brought down Apartheid. It is that White voters elected a government that would hand power over to a better alternative: Nelson Mandela. There is only one way to influence Israel's policies: offer a better alternative and vote for it. Boycotts will never influence Israel—even if they succeed on other issues, such as getting Pink Floyd to cancel a concert.

Worse deeds elsewhere have never justified bad deeds here, unless the alternative is worse than the current situation. (Be careful what you wish for.) These are called moral dilemmas for a reason. Please do not misread what I am writing below. Read it in full before you make up your mind. It's not that long.

Israel is not perfect. (See below.)

Why Israel?

Simple. There is nothing delicate about it.

Singling out Israel is antisemitic. Israel does not even rank among the top-10 worst countries.

Here are some real bad places to be in:

(Former) Communist Totalitarian States
Country Issues
North Korea Genocide, in effect stoppable only by China
Cuba Dissidents, Press.
China Tibet and North Korea. Religion. Pollution, Migrants and Peasants.
Russia Chechnya, Dissidents, Press
Arab States
Country Issues
Mauritania 10-20% of the population are slaves!
Afghanistan Women, Hazara, Bahai, LGBT
Iraq and Syria Christians, Sunni and Shia, Yazidi, Bahai
Pakistan Journalists, Sufi, Zoroastrians, Bahai
Saudi Arabia Women, Shia and Yemenite minorities, LGBT, Bahai
Emirates Indian Workers, Bahai
Egypt (Brotherhood) Copts, Bahai
Some Other States
Country Issues
Turkey Armenians, Kurds, LGBT
Myanmar Rohingya
Sri Lanka Tamils

There are many more crimes against humanity, e.g., in Somalia, Sudan, Congo, the LRA, etc. Even Australia, the US, Japan, Brazil, etc., are not flawless: they do not exactly treat their minorities that great, either.

Yes, and then there is Israel. It's not even in the same ballpark as the countries in the table above. It is not perfect, but it has a free press, a reasonable independent judiciary, freedom of religion, and equal rights for women and LGBT. It's minorities have protections. It does not commit intentional murder on non-combatants. It appoints independent commissions to investigate crimes and misdeeds when they happen. (And, yes, it causes terrible Civilian casualties in wars—as even the best warring parties do.)

I have no problems with criticizing Israel. I have a problem with singling out Israel. The UNHRC condemned Israel 7 times, Syra 4 times, CAR, Libya, Ivory Coast, Congo, Myanmar, and Sudan one time each. Never Iran, Cuba, North Korea, China, Russia, or Turkey. I will support BDS' goals when it strongly supports boycotts of these countries, too—even if boycotts are and always will be ineffective. Come on BDS: prove to us that you are not anti-semitic by placing Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, and China/North Korea above Israel on your target list.


Even a single Civilian innocent casualty is one too many. But, while 2,000 Palestinians (not all civilians) have been killed in the Gaza war of 2014, more Palestinian civilians have been killed in the Syrian war. About 100,000 people have died in Syria's civil war so far. (More than 200,000 have died in Iraq.) Every civilian casualty is all terrible.

Also consider this: Israel has a reason to be paranoid (and it is!). It has no room for error. Unlike China (Tibet), Russia (Chechnya), Ukraine (East), Spain (Basque), the UK (IRA), Saudi Arabia (Yemenites), if Israel loses a war, the entire state will vanish and, most likely, many of its citizens will be murdered. Most (Palestinians) would be horrified by this, but they would not be able to do much about it. There could easily be another Holocaust on the Jews, just like what ISIL is committing on the Yazidi and Christians today, what extremist Sunni are doing to the Shia today, etc.

Doing Better

Palestinians do not have equal rights. They do not have a good reason to defend Israel. The failure to "bring them on board" after 1948 and 1967 remains the single-biggest failure of long-term vision by the leaders of the state of Israel.

What is happening to Palestinian civilians in Gaza that are caught in the war is absolutely terrible. What is happening to Palestinians civilians in the Westbank is bad. What is happening to Israeli Arabs (Palestinian non-Jews?) is not good. They need to be treated a lot better.

No modern state should give differential rights to its citizens based on gender, ethnic heritage, or orientation. Palestinian lives are just as valuable as Jewish lives. (This also applies to those in the Westbank or Gaza.) Israel must only consider the person and the person's motives, not that person's religion. (France has made the mistake of not making basic democratic values and loyalty a requirement of citizenship. Israel must insist on it, both for Jews and non-Jews. And reserve the right to kick out those who are not loyal to modern Democracy—(not Jewishness!).) Neither Jewish law nor Muslim law (Sharia) must be allowed to trump modern equal-right laws.

If I understand correctly, the following are legal discrimination of non-Jews in the state of Israel:

  • Israel can and has revoked citizenship for non-Jewish Israelis (but not Jewish Israelis) who leave the country for too long. Unacceptable.
  • Relatives of non-Jewish Israelis (but not Jewish Israelis) cannot immigrate to join their families. Unacceptable.
  • Non-Jewish land was confiscated in 1948 if the owner was absent, without adequate compensation. Need Exact Law. Being out of the country, e.g., visiting relatives or lecturing elsewhere, is not good cause for expropriation. (Having taken up arms against Israel would be a reasonable cause. Absenteeism is not.) Unacceptable.
  • There is disproportional investment in Jewish and non-Jewish neighborhoods via the "budget basics law" Need Paragraph and Objective Evidence.
  • There is de-facto discrimination in the building and planning process. Need objective evidence Inadequate compensation for eminent domain seizures. Unacceptable.
(PS: There is good empirical evidence that non-Iraqi Sephardic Jews are economically worse off than Palestinians.)

The American South of Jim Crowe was odious. There is more than just legal discrimination, there is of course also de-facto discrmination. Non-mixed neighborhoods are odious. It must be acceptable for a Palestinian to purchase any land in a Jewish community that they wish to purchase and move there. It must be acceptable for a Jew to purchase any land in a Palestinian community that they wish to purchase and move there. And intermarriage should be common enough not to raise any eyebrows.

Persecuted Jews in other parts of the world can obtain refuge in Israel. Why not persecuted Palestinians? (Again, this is only for individuals that are loyal to the existence of Israel as a democratic state. When they are not, it should be possible to kick them out.)

Individuals having served in the army get preferential treatment later. Palestinians should serve in the Israeli army. Arab Palestinian leaders should encourage joining the army and having loyalty to Israel. Israel's army needs to become integrated. It needs to make Israelis out of Israelis. All Israelis. No matter what their faith and background is.

Civilian palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are having a tough life. This is not partly but not alone Israel's fault. They deserve a lot better.

What Now?

Israeli policies are not driven by a single hive-mind, but by electoral politics.

Hamas offers no alternatives. Offer better alternatives.

Found a party that strongly affirms Israel. Make it a one-issue party: equal rights for all. Make Israel the state of all its citizens. Don't get caught up in other divisive issues: not war or peace, not economics, not culture, not politics, not sports. Then get the vote out. Get Jews and non-Jews to join and vote in this party.

Come on Sayed. Make the world a better place.