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Last week, Morocco became the fourth Arab state — after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan — to strike a peace deal with Israel. The US-brokered Abraham Accords will almost certainly be remembered as Team Trump’s greatest foreign achievement. Among the as-yet-unappreciated benefits: The accords will utterly delegitimize those in the West who seek to delegitimize Israel, not least the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction the Jewish state.
A decade ago, if you asked pro-Israel thinkers and activists to name the biggest threats to the Jewish state, a nuclear Iran would no doubt top the list — but BDS and delegitimization more generally would come a close second.
No, BDSers couldn’t commit mass violence against Israel the way the Tehran regime or its terror proxies could. At the time, and still today, these movements were mostly confined to the nuttier confines of the college campus. Then again, as the recent, explosive arrival of critical theory on the national stage shows, what festers in Queer and Grievance Studies departments doesn’t stay there. Pro-Israel types were right to be worried.
Israel’s fear — and the BDSers’ goal — was that the Jewish state would become something like South Africa circa 1985, an internationally loathed and widely sanctioned pariah. Indeed, this is why anti-Israel activists often deployed the rhetoric of “apartheid.” It is unfair and ahistorical to compare Israel with that grotesque racial regime, but fairness and historical probity aren’t exactly hallmarks of the Jewish state’s haters.
The BDSers achieved a measure of success, in Europe especially. Performing artists would often cancel concerts in Israel under BDS pressure — and sometimes lead the charge, as in the case of the likes of Tilda Swinton, Roger Waters and Coldplay’s Chris Martin. European theaters would refuse to host Jewish (not even Israeli) film festivals, even as BDSers preposterously insisted that their movement isn’t anti-Semitic. Western universities or individual departments would mount academic boycotts of Israel. Then, last year, in perhaps the most alarming move, the European Court of Justice ruled that EU states must label West Bank products as “made in settlements.”
Was Israel’s economy ever in serious peril? Probably not. Europe remains the Jewish state’s biggest trade partner, though boycotts and labeling could bite if widened to include firms that operate in Israel or Palestinian territories. The real danger, however, was moral-cum-political. If BDS succeeded, it would make permanent Israel’s status as an abnormal country, rather than a normal fixture of the Mideast map. That would demoralize the Israeli people and compound the hostility they already face in global forums like the United Nations.
Well, so much for all that. Today, a little more than a year since the EU labeling decision, you can find Israeli products — prominently displayed, sometimes with Israeli flags to promote them — on the shelves of grocery stores in the United Arab Emirates.
How far can BDS go in a world where once-sworn enemies of the Jewish state enjoy Israeli citrus products and myriad cultural exchanges? Who exactly do Western champions of the Arabs represent, when the Arabs themselves want to live peacefully alongside Israel and accept the Jewish state’s fundamental legitimacy? Isn’t it more than a bit condescending for, say, Roger Waters — place of birth: Great Bookham, Surrey, England — to tell Arabs whom they can do business with?
To be clear, I’m not suggesting BDS will disappear tomorrow. The wider Arab world is making peace with Israel, but Palestinian leaders aren’t about to give up what is admittedly a very nice grift: billions of dollars in international aid in exchange for refusing to accept reality. BDS helps lend a veneer of global credibility to their rejectionism. And fanatic college professors and students can always use “anti-Zionism” to mask old-fashioned hatred, singling out one state and one state only — the one that happens to be Jewish — for opprobrium.
But the fact remains that the Abraham Accords have revealed a silly side to the BDS movement: For God’s sake, when Sudan, once one of the world’s most virulently anti-Israel states, has made its peace with Jerusalem, BDS looks like a boutique cause for gentry leftists, the kind who put their pronouns in their Twitter bios. The real world — and the Middle East — have just moved on.
Sohrab Ahmari is The Post’s op-ed editor. Twitter: @SohrabAhmari
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