Hillary Clinton letter asks pro-Israel leaders to help her undermine BDS movement

In a letter released yesterday, Hillary Clinton asked pro-Israel leaders and potential donors for advice on how to push back against and undermine the movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel for their continued human rights violations and illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. BDS has gained particular traction on college campuses and in Europe.

Here is an example of the letter, obtained by Barak Ravid of Haaretz:


There are a lot of problems with this letter — on factual, political and moral grounds — and as a former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton really should know better.

For starters, Palestinian activists launched the BDS movement in 2005 after effectively giving up on the direct negotiations that Hillary Clinton says are the only path to peace. To be clear, negotiations will be necessary in order to end the conflict, but the Israeli government certainly isn’t behaving as if it intends to negotiate in good faith any time soon. Israel’s recent elections produced what has been called its most right-wing coalition government in history. It’s new Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, has openly called for the genocide of the Palestinian people. For the time being, Palestinian grievances can either be addressed through the informal international community through BDS, or they can be addressed through violence via Hamas. Which would Clinton prefer?

Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu, via Wikimedia Commons

Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu, via Wikimedia Commons

What’s more, Clinton’s insistence that there is an either/or choice between direct negotiations and external pressure is absurd. The whole point of BDS is to exert enough external pressure on Israel that they are forced to come back to the negotiating table with a serious commitment to abandon their settlements and give a new Palestinian state full sovereignty. Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t going to wake up on a different side of the bed one day and decide to do that all by himself.

Until a new round of serious negotiations takes place, however, Netanyahu and Clinton are going to have to get used to Israel being called an apartheid state, because that’s what it is. Apartheid in its original Afrikaans literally means “the state of being apart,” and as long as Israel is one state that affords second-class status to a large swath of the people within its borders based on their ethnic identity, they will be in a “state of being apart.” Reasonable people can disagree as to whether Israel’s state of being apart is as bad as South Africa’s capital-a Apartheid, but the definition fits, however “concerned” it makes Clinton feel.

Reasonable people can disagree over the long series of political and historical events that have produced the Israel-Palestine Conflict. They can disagree over why the negotiations that came so close to succeeding during Bill Clinton’s presidency will likely be impossible for another Clinton presidency to replicate. They can disagree as to what the best path forward is for peace in the region, and they can even disagree as to whether Israel has a right to exist in the first place.

But Hillary Clinton’s letter is not reasonable. It is pandering that fails to adequately address the very terms of the reasonable disagreements underlying the conflict. It may be campaign season, but again, she’s a former Secretary of State. She really ought to know better.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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