A Tactic Not a Trademark: How the BDS National Committee Supports the Liberal Zionist Agenda

Back to top

When they mention "red lines" to me, I lose my mind. I know one "red line"

It is not the right of the biggest ego to sign a document of recognition or surrender to "Israel"

―Naji AlAli

On June 24, 2022, under pressure from zionist demands for an FBI investigation, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions National Committee (BNC) announced that it does not endorse the Boston Mapping Project despite support from the Palestinian Liberation Movement.

On June 3, 2022 an anonymous group of anti-imperialist oganizers launched The Boston Mapping Project to "deepen political analyses [to] community power." The Mapping Project reveals the connections between Boston area zionist forces and weapons developers, university land-grabbers, and other institutions collectively propelling imperialism, zionism, colonialism, ableism, prison expansion, and integrated police forces. It also offers thawabet-affirming, written analysis of these connections.

The liberal, normalizing, and appeasing announcement by the BNC was made following a public statement by The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston, Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) and other zionist groups. They called the project "antisemitic" and are alarmed by the enthusiasm of cities across the U.S. to create similar maps of their own.

The FBI investigation motivated by zionists is a way to criminalize and collectively punish proactive community safety and awareness-building. Such attacks by zionists against Palestinians and oppressed communities are typical of local Boston area zionist and white supremacist organizations.

The liberal zionist forces who claim to support the Palestinian struggle in order to manipulate it also showed their true colors. So-called "Middle East Policy Expert" and liberal zionist Ariel Gold called the Boston Mapping Project "abhorrent," confirming the performative proximity to the Palestinian movement of the supposed white feminist, anti-war organization, Code Pink, for which she is a national co-director. Codepink is frequently inserting itself into organizing work for Palestine. Her comment mirrored Scottish zionist, Eve Barlow, who tweeted threats of "bombarding" to "cost BDS [Boston] something."

In crisis, a liberal zionist like Gold will always protect their zionism, dropping their rhetorical support for Palestine to defend their actual material interests in the occupation. As J Street and AIPAC typically compete, it is in moments such as the unveiling of the Boston Mapping Project that the zionist spectrum unites.

This analysis presents seven tactics that the BNC uses to monopolize leadership over the Palestinian struggle by drawing examples from around the world. The findings will aid the grassroots movements to maneuver around long-known contradictions of the BNC. This is a clarifying moment for those truly committed to the liberation of Palestine and reveals the BNC's proximity to the liberal zionist camp. This is a forward-moving struggle that must not be encumbered by the betrayal by regressive forces that aid colonialism.

  1. Tactic 1: Normalization between BDS National Committee (BNC) and J Street Agents
  2. Tactic 2: False Victories to Appear Successful
  3. Tactic 3: Structure and Trademarking
  4. Tactic 4: "Lawfare"
  5. Tactic 5: Placement in Palestine Leveraged for Isolation
  6. Tactic 6: Monopoly over Symbols and Tactics, with Disregard to Thawabet
  7. Tactic 7: Grassroots Absorbs the Ultimate Toll and are Disposable
  8. BNC's Global History of Coercion and Co-option:
  9. Conclusion: BNC is a Danger to the Palestinians and the Liberation Movement.

BNC Tactic 1: Normalization between BDS National Committee (BNC) and J Street Agents

The BNC's position against the Boston Mapping Project was expressed in three ways: a tweet, a statement, and a leaked letter. The leaked letter was supposedly sent directly to BDS Boston, but somehow made its way to the zionist Jewish Journal. It is unclear how the right-wing Jewish Journal recieved the letter. These leaks are not a shock when the liberal zionists have done the same, however. In 2017, a memo from the liberal zionist Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RFB) was similarly leaked. It outlined RFB's strategy to use BDS to further a J Street agenda by investing in a network of organizations to contain Palestinian demands and actions according to their strategy.

For example, the BNC, like J Street, does not recognize the interior of occupied Palestine as Palestinian land (what some refer to as '48 Palestine). In an "Introduction to BDS," posted on the BNC website in May 2014, it forgoes the stolen land of Haifa, Akka, or Al-Lydd and does not mention that they are under zionist occupation. Rather than affirm the Palestinian's Right to Return, which also means decolonization, the BNC uplifts normalizing Oslo terms:

By referencing an occupation that only starts in 1967, the Nakba is also erased. The BNC's willingness to forgo these stolen lands is foundational to its drive for Palestinian equality within the zionist colony as "citizens." This aligns with the J Street position. Equality, however, cannot logically occur without true liberation.

This strategy for equality is actually highlighted by Daniel Levy, a trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RFB) and a co-founder of J Street. His role is valuable to the BNC because RFB funds organizations who form a coalition with the BNC in the so-called United States. This coalition is employeed to organize congressional advocacy that has yielded contradictions of its own.

In an article Levy penned for Haaretz in 2014 when he was the Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Levy lauds the BNC for its ability to stop a contract between the EU and a new settlement. In Levy's view, the BNC's role in preventing business with this new settlement preserves "israel" as a whole. Levy also foreshadows the multi-million dollar investment and strategy he would later oversee as a trustee with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and a founder of J Street in an insiduous form of normalization. He even encourages shifting the Palestinian grassroots movement:

"The other potential game-changer would be a Palestinian shift of strategy in which targeted BDS assumes priority, something Palestinian activists are advocating. It is not so hard to imagine that if a sanctions campaign targeting the occupation does not succeed fast enough, then it will be replaced by an ultimately successful sanctions campaign in favor of one shared democratic state."

After initially condemning BDS in 2014, J Street has re-focused on co-opting the BDS movement to diffuse its liberatory potential to safeguard the zionist entity. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, tweeted in 2019, "My take on the communal obsession with fighting BDS. Please stop. The real threat to Israel is the occupation and the descent to one state. Further - this obsession is hurting Jews' ability to work with our allies on other critical issues."

J Street is against legislation criminalizing an individual's ability to boycott. However, J Street's opposition to anti-BDS legislation in Congress is not the result of a committment to the liberation of Palestine. Actually, J Street recognizes BDS as a movement towards legal equality, not as a struggle for land back ("decolonization"). It sees the value of BDS as a means to "a clear horizon for reaching a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," in order to protect the overall continuity of the colony and its so-called Jewish identity.

With Daniel Levy informing J Street and RFB simultaneously, millions of dollars have been dumped in groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), IMEU, Adalah Justice, Pal Legal, and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). They all engage in congressional advocacy work as a coalition managed by the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, which is also a recipient of RFB funding.

In fact, it was these organizations that pushed the case of BDS as a tactic for J Street to get behind. As early as 2011, Rebecca Vilkomerson, JVP's former executive director, was pitching BDS at its J Street conference. During this same conference, Rabbi David Saperstein mentioned that if BDS were to become a strategy, it would have to be J Street to "guide [BDS] away from deligitimization efforts [against "israel"]." In 2014 Sam Jadallah, chairman of IMEU, explained at a J Street session his vision for a "thriving Palestinian state" next to an "israeli" one. He also stated, BDS "is not about destroying israel."

Leveraging these RFB organizations into the core of J Street to make a friendly case of absorbing BDS into its tactics has created a sort of horizontal corporation of organizations containing the advocacy and language of the Palestinian grassroots scene in the U.S. diaspora. In this ecosystem, the BNC has had a variety of interactions under these terms. On the USCPR website, only the campaigns the BNC approves are listed according to its normalizing, Oslo-abiding language, while others that occurred in the US are excluded because the BNC has had issue with them.

A sense of mobilization is also created by this coalition for public buy-in. Frequently, Adalah Justice and JVP interact to normalize, and on multiple occassions, they have hosted self-proclaimed founder of the BNC, Omar Barghouti. During a panel event with them, he emphasized the need to mobilize against the "far right around the world," without of course mentioning the liberal zionists, such as those within JVP itself. In 2017, he met publicly with zionist settler and benificiary of zionist security technology Rebecca Vilkomerson when she was the executive director of JVP. Despite her resignation, JVP continues to push normalization and is a serious risk to Palestinian grassroots movements.

BNC Tactic 2: False Victories to Appear Successful

"Tell no lies, Claim no easy victories..."

-Amílcar Cabral

Ben and Jerry's (2021-2022)

Principled grassroots organizers worldwide have cautioned against the BNC's declaration of false victories surrounding its efforts to target and pressure Ben and Jerry's. This campaign aligned with J Street's view of "israel" being off limits from boycott. The focus of this campaign was only Ben and Jerry's operations in newer settlements and not the interior of historical Palestine.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, celebrated this campaign for, as he put it, drawing "a principled and rational distinction between commercial transactions inside the sovereign State of Israel, and those in the territory it occupies."

Affirming the J Street position, organizations across the U.S. launched campaigns targeting Ben and Jerry's. RFB grant recipients like Jewish Voice for Peace and Adalah Justice Project led the way and even celebrated the false victory when Ben and Jerry's announced it would no longer sell in the younger zionist settlements. These so-called "BDS victories" against Ben and Jerry's received similar praise from other liberal zionist RFB-funded organizations.

Ben and Jerry's confirmed and emphasized that it will continue to support "israel" and that business would resume as usual in the core of the colony. The false celebrations by RFB-funded organizations was met with confusion and outcry by members of the Palestinian struggle and the global public, who have long held that the entire zionist entity was a viable and necessary BDS target. Meanwhile, the BNC ran a campaign in support of Ben and Jerry's decision, with the logos of RFB grant recipients plastered upon the campaign page. The celebrations of false victories by these same RFB grant recipients provided evidence to principled organizers of the degree of normalization promoted by the BNC. The multimillion dollar RFB network orchestrated online propaganda yet achieved nothing in regards to changing material conditions.

Less than a year later in 2022, Ben and Jerry's reversed its decision to cease business with newer settlements, under the direction of its parent company Unilever. Zionist ice cream maker Avi Zinger circumvented Ben and Jerry's decision by simply buying the company.

The reversal of the Ben and Jerry's decision not only exposes the shortcomings of such campaigns, but additionally reveals Ben and Jerry's normalizing nature. Had Ben and Jerry's been "principled," (a word J Street propaganda throws around loosely) this sale would have never happened; in fact, this sale amounts to normalization. The BNC's insistence on declaring performative "wins" is deflating and misleading to the broader movement. It intentionally distorts the firm and clear definition of normalization. Simply put, this BDS campaign against Ben and Jerry's made for a temporary social media spectacle that flopped.

The BNC put out a statement in response to the reversal with the support of only their RFB nonprofit network: Adalah Justice Project, Jewish Voice for Peace, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Pal Legal. This reveals the BNC's reliance on the NGOization of the movement to validate itself in light of such contradictions.

General Mills (January 2022)

The BNC declared VICTORY!" as if General Mills had stated they are divesting from operations in occupied Palestine because of the zionist entity's criminal occupation and treatment of the indigenous Palestinian population. But General Mills, who sold a joint stake in a venture in Al Quds, said no such thing. It sold to expand its global capitalist interests and reaffirmed it will continue to do business with the zionist entity.

Such false declarations of victory by the BNC create a false sense of progress among some allies of the struggle for Palestinian liberation, while instilling distrust and disillusionment in others. In a recent interview, Boston's Mapping Project Collective offered a useful critique of such false declarations of victory within the BDS movement:

"We felt that BDS efforts often missed the full picture of how the corporations, institutions, and other entities sustaining Zionism and other oppressions operate: not in isolation from one another, but through the web of connections they establish with one another to more effectively carry out their oppressive agendas – e.g., Raytheon establishing research centers at MIT (while Boeing leases space from MIT); or the Brookline Police coordinating with the Consulate General of Israel to New England to repress a Palestinian-led protest."

BNC Tactic 3: Structure and Trademarking

Boycott has been a universal tactic that complements other forms of resistance. It was waged against the British occupation of Palestine and was waged during both Intifadas.

Yet, the BNC trademarked the tactic in capitalist fashion to maintain control. The BNC falsely assumes ownership over the acronym "BDS" and even the word "boycott" (see section below on Gaza).

Following the BNC's rejection of the Boston Mapping Project, both true and performative allies of BDS Boston raised questions about the structure of the BDS movement:

Do local BDS organizations formally join the BDS movement? Do they need permission from the BNC to start organizing for BNC locally? Or can any group declare itself a BDS group and start fighting for BDS where they live?

These questions point toward deeper questions and tensions which are currently being contested in the Palestinian struggle, both in Palestine and in the diaspora:

Is BDS a trademark? Or is BDS a tactic? Did BDS start in 2005 when the BNC was formed? Or has BDS existed long existed as an anti-imperialist strategy?

Many of these questions cannot be neatly answered here, precisely because they are currently being contested. However some basic facts can be established:

The BNC does not require activists to seek its permission before starting BDS organizations and campaigns. However the BNC will step in agressively against groups identifying with the BDS movement when these groups utilize tactics, messaging, and collaboration that cuts against the BNC's political committments.

In 2019, a local BDS statement out of Germany called for distancing from fascist right-wing elements who supported "BDS" on a basis of anti-semitism and were present at a BDS action in Berlin against the zionist company SodaStream. The BNC released its own statement in which they rightfully state that any BDS campaign, its supporters, and affiliates must adhere to its anti-racist values.

Over time this statement used against neo-Nazis tragically became weaponized against Palestinians.

"Any group that propagates or tolerates forms of expression or activities that conflict with the movement's principles...can not be part of the BDS movement and will be considered outside the BDS movement and will be asked, by the BNC, to no longer use the BDS acronym or claim any affiliation to the movement."

The above comes from its statement to Germany, but is now used repeatedly to maintain control of tactics by "trademarking" the act of boycotting. Not only Boston but numerous other organizations around the world have experienced this tactic. BNC has no ownership over this tactic and makes gross insinuations by extending the statement to principled organizers.

An examination of the BNC's letters to various organizations shows that BNC's trademarking tactic primarily targets any kind of expressed support for Palestinian resistance. This is because the BNC wants all to abide by a human rights- and civil rights-based vision to satisfy the RFB and J Street network that gives it performative reach into the U.S.

Resistance supports decolonization while the civil rights vision that the BNC toutes invokes integration. Rather than directing its energy to building outwardly and expanding campaigns to isolate the zionist entity, the BNC expends significant energy attempting to silence support for Palestinian armed struggle and those who firmly reject all zionists and normalizers.

The armed Palestinian resistance enjoys a tremendous level of mass support from the Palestinian population, inside and outside Palestine. The battle of Saif al-Quds as well as the Unity Intifada of May 2021 made very clear the inextricable links between the armed resistance and the people of Palestine.

The Council of National and Islamic Forces (CNIF) is the coalition of Palestinian political parties and resistance movements that represent the vast majority of the Palestinian populace, from Islamist movements to Marxist ones. In BNC's intimidation letters to organizations around the world, the CNIF can be found as the first organization listed on the letterhead. Including them on the letterhead is an intentional choice, presumably because it affords the unelected normalizers at the BNC a false sense of legitimacy.

The contradiction is laid bare: why would BDS denounce those in diaspora for supporting any form of resistance while the CNIF are doubtlessly steadfast and united in their support of resistance and in support of intifada (which, unless you're Ariel Gold, is widely understood to be a violent uprising)?

Long live the blessed Intifada
Glory and eternity for our martyrs
Fast recovery to the injured and freedom for our heroic prisoners
It is an Intifada until victory

The National and Islamic Forces

Statement issued by the National and Islamic Forces
February 10, 2001

In addition, the BNC consistently declares itself—using language typical of the NGOization of Palestine—to be the "largest coalition" of "Palestinian civil society," as though it were a representative body accountable to the needs and concerns of the Palestinian people. Mahmoud Nawajaa, a member of the BNC, is a project coordinator for the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) that was formed after Oslo.

To deceive activists globally, the BNC has bolstered itself globally as some sort of authoritative body that speaks on behalf of the Palestinian people as it simultaneously undermines support for the resistance. This is, in essence, the nature of Palestinian NGOs. The BNC provides only an illusion of representation in the way NGOs do, reinforcing NGOization that was beckoned in by normalization in the first place.

BNC Tactic 4: "Lawfare"

The BNC wages lawfare and repression against organizers from Boston to South Africa, from Melbourne to Canada. BNC does not speak for all Palestinians. BNC does not have a monopoly on strategy. BNC leads by fear, making political declarations on behalf of Palestinian society in a manner that resembles the NGOization of Palestine or a self-appointed PLO nouveau.

The statement below, released after the BNC decided to join the chorus of the enemy against the Boston Mapping Project, makes it clear which side of the struggle many organizations chose. Certainly, it is the side of liberation, the side of resistance, and the side of return.

"Finally, we reject any attempts to isolate or ostracize segments of our movement that are doing this critical work, especially in the face of backlash and repression. We reject any attempts to prevent organizers from confronting the interconnectedness of systems of oppression. No one in our movement has a monopoly on movement tactics, including BDS. The work to uncover the relationships between policing, Zionism, and imperialism is critical movement work that should be uplifted."

Excerpt from statement in support of the Mapping Project released a day after BNC condemnation of the project, signed by

Palestinian Youth Movement, Within Our Lifetime - United for Palestine, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Masar Badil - Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement, Center for the Study and Preservation of Palestine, Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Just Peace Advocates/Mouvement Pour Une Paix Juste, Falastiniyat, U.S. Palestinian Community Network, Canadian BDS Coalition, Palestine House - Palestinian Canadian Community Centre, DSA BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group, National Students for Justice in Palestine, Collectif Palestine Vaincra, Africa for Palestine, Palestine Action, Canada Palestine Association, Palestinian American Women's Association, Palestinian and Jewish Unity, DecolonizePalestine, Campaign to Boycott Supporters of "Israel" in Lebanon

With the organizers behind the Boston Mapping Project anonymous, the only clear target for the BNC was BDS Boston, who publicly endorsed the endeavor. The BNC tried to coerce BDS Boston organizers in a desperate, shameful, and public display to force compliance with its vision of integration and normalization. The bullying and hypocrisy can be viewed with clarity.

This is not Boston's first interaction with BNC. BDS Boston has long organized against PUMA, a company complicit in zionist land theft that is on the BNC's "BDS list." BDS Boston has staged monthly protests since December 2020 in front of PUMA's flagship Boston store and North American corporate headquarters.

As part of a document laying out the local Boycott PUMA campaign, BNC-affiliate PACBI raised concerns with BDS Boston's refusal to recognize the zionist entity in an information document. Their issue? BDS Boston put the name of the illegitimate zionist entity, "Israel," in quotes. Moreover, the BNC told BDS Boston (behind closed doors) that BDS Boston should not publicly collaborate with Samidoun around actions against PUMA. The BNC claimed that any association between BDS Boston and Samidoun would put Palestinians on the ground in danger, because of Samiduon's principled support for Palestinian resistance in all forms Palestinians deem necessary.

PACBI has never successfully organized a single protest against PUMA in the US.

Yet, through collaborations between BDS Boston, SJP chapters, and Samidoun (International Support Network for Palestinian Political Prisoners), organizers across the East coast have continued to organize—in Boston, New York, and Rhode Island. Actions in Boston shut down PUMA's flagship Boston store on multiple occassions during peak business hours, actually cutting off material support for the zionist entity.

BNC Tactic 5: Placement in Palestine Leveraged for Isolation

BNC's approach reinforces a notion that Zionism only impacts Palestinians in Palestine and is not a global project that needs to be combatted in every single locale. BNC will never know what actions, tactics, messaging, and collaborations are most appropiate for any local grassroots organization, and it should trust the grassroots.

The BNC interjecting what it believes is in its best interest is contextual gatekeeping from Palestine. According to the letter that the BNC has issued, it suggests that strategic associations with pro-liberation solidarity organizations opens up Palestinians to "heightened persecution and repression." This reasoning spits in the face of the courageous resistance who face down soldiers, settlers, and bullets every day to defend their land. It explains how the BNC can distance itself from BDS Boston and the Boston Mapping Project while they comfortably engage with liberal zionists. They concede to threats while others push the Palestinian Liberation Movement forward.

The BNC has policed the messaging, associations, and projects undertaken by organizers in the Boston area, projects that those in alliance with the Palestinian struggle for liberation have proudly supported.

Meanwhile, the diaspora questions why the affiliates of the RFB liberal zionist funding framework are deeply entrenched in the BNC. The reason for this is because of BNC's liberal foundations. The organizations who endorse BNC from the U.S. are all "peace maker" organizations according to RFB, who prioritize Congressional advocacy over the development of grassroots power in communities.

In response to backlash to the BNC's Twitter post announcing its public condemnation of the Mapping Project, the BNC censored all critical comments while keeping the zionist ones. Moreover, a parade of propaganda began to arise from the RFB network, including Nora Lester Murad's poor critique of organizers from the confines of her academic office in New York.

BNC is putting in danger all Palestinians by selling the movement for funding while endangering the Black, Brown, and Indigenous allies in the imperial core who also are impacted by the zionist connections uncovered by the Boston Mapping Project. BNC's role in Boston, then, has been to alienate organizers from the movement at-large and to prevent the building of real power between groups on the side of liberation.

BNC Tactic 6: Monopoly over Symbols and Tactics, with Disregard to Thawabet

"...whatever the name used, whatever the latest expression, decolonization is always a violent event."

- Frantz Fanon

In its letter to BDS Boston signed by Mahmoud Nawajaa, General Coordinator of the BNC, the BNC demanded that BDS Boston:

  • Denounces the Mapping Project
  • Refrains from promoting any groups that include "messaging that conflicts with the BDS movement guidelines, including advocay of armed resistance"
  • Does not organize with such groups whose "advocacy conflicts with the BDS movement guidelines"

The unelected BNC stated that if BDS Boston would not comply with the rules set out by BNC leaders, then the BNC would demand that BDS Boston remove the "BDS" acronym from their name.

In the letter to BDS Boston, the BNC contradicts themselves. They claim that in accordance with "international law," BNC supports "resistance by all means, including armed struggle." Yet the BNC has neglected to clearly mention the terror of U.S. imperialism, capitalism, and zionism, likely because the BNC relies on liberal zionist networks who are engaged with Congress members and imperialist policies. Instead, the BNC focuses on policing the Boston Mapping Project because it penned its support for Palestinians to choose "resistance in all its forms."

This phrase can be found in one of the Mapping Collective's seven articles in which the collective analyzes networks of structural oppression (as shown on their map) which relate to policing and empire:

We view US police on all levels as white-supremacist, colonial institutions that have no role in our communities; we support non-cooperation, community self-defense, and resistance in all its forms.

excerpt from Zionism, Policing, and Empire

This view is not rare. Louis Allday wrote, "[r]egardless of what is mandated by international law, the Palestinians possess a fundamental moral right to resist their ongoing colonisation and oppression through armed resistance, and that right must be recognised and supported."    

There is no doubt that the martyr Naji Al Ali would object to the BNC's flagrant use of his iconographic Handala, a figure that upholds all forms of resistance, and a figure that would staunchly object to BNC's normalization and inability to confront zionist land theft and murder.

This...puts you in Boston and us in Palestine and many others in the US and globally in direct danger of heightened persecution and repression.

- excerpt from leaked BNC letter to BDS Boston

It must be understood that the BNC's actions are an attempt to isolate the resistance from their diasporic support and international solidarity groups. By acting as some arbitrator of what is valid resistance, the BNC mirrors the zionist entity's targeting of six NGOs in Palestine that were accused of terrorism. The BNC wages such allegations as a way to police and destroy their validity. Ultimately, the BNC wants diaspora to "peacefully" align with the RFB network's role in support of the J Street agenda.

BNC Tactic 7: Grassroots Absorbs the Ultimate Toll and are Disposable

BNC issued its condemnation of the revolutionary Boston Mapping Project, on the same day that 37 US lawmakers called on the FBI to initiate a federal probe of the Mapping Project. In their statement, the bipartisan congressmembers "fear that this map may be used as a roadmap for violent attacks by supporters of the BDS movement against the people and entities listed,” and they ask the federal government for "enhanced security for targets listed in the project, and work with social-media companies and Internet service providers to prevent its further distribution”. The BNC is heeding the efforts of zionists in Congress, who represent both AIPAC and J Stree interests, by issuing its statement where it essentially disposes of those who implicate its vision of a J Street worthy BDS. 

In striking similarity, in February 2021, the BNC took the opportunity to condemn Palestine Action and Samidoun network at the BDS Europe forum, on the same day that Samidoun was given the "terrorist" designation by the zionist entity. The BNC not only allowed this repression of Samidoun to become policy without a fight, but added to the pressure on Samidoun, further increasing the chokehold on organizers within and outside of Palestine that are associated with Samidoun. Eight months later in October, six NGOs were granted the same designation by the Defense Minister of the zionist entity Benny Gantz.

The notes issued by the BNC to attendees from this conference exemplify BNC's role as a divisive force in the movement. BNC asked hypothetical FAQ questions during a conference session, "Why doesn't BNC issue more solidarity statements?" the BNC explained that they are committed to non-violence. This staged session occurred after the BNC approached organizations in one on one conversations, urging them to avoid Samidoun. BNC often makes reference to Samidoun as "the S group", making them out to be some boogeyman to scare organizers from building strategic alliances with them.

In its efforts to alienate principled groups from the movement at-large, BNC ironically isolates itself. For example, one point BNC discussed at the conference was:

"Samidoun are openly advocating for armed resistance. They have the right to do so, but without any association with BDS. We do not have any relationship with them accordingly, and we urge all BDS groups not to organize anything with them."

The BNC, at the behest of the liberal zionist network that it relies on—endangers Palestinian lives when it makes such condemnations.

The BNC opens Palestinian organizers globally and within Palestine to increased repression by isolating principled groups from one another. The BNC's failure to support Palestinian organizations at times when they are under opposition attacks is not an incidental problem that can be corrected through dialogue. It is a pattern which points to the deeply-rooted political failures of the BNC to provide leadership to the Palestinian struggle.

Striking Palestinian organizations in the midst of zionist targeting is a pattern of disposing Palestinians and their allies at the behest of their political network. Rather than supporting the Boston Mapping Project in this critical moment, the BNC joined the enemy of the Palestinian Liberation Movement by adding to the dogpile onto the Mapping Project, a dogpile that was a testament to the power of the project.

BNC's Global History of Coercion and Co-Option:

The tactics are key to understanding the following testimonials shared with the author and Jisr Collective. The tactics outlined in the case of BDS Boston and the Boston Mapping Project are evidenced by a history of these tactics being used against other regions that organized boycotts. These tactics are essential to study for all grassroots organizers to proactively identify any normalizing entities who stifle the movement and work to alienate organizations and regions from one another. It is in the interest of all to continue discussing these tactics in relation to the liberal zionist funding bodies who manipulate Palestinians for their own political self-interest.

Canada:

In late 2020, the BNC targeted the Canadian BDS coalition because the organization Samidoun was listed as a "friend" of the coalition on the Canadian BDS website. BNC demanded the Canadian BDS coalition remove Samidoun from its site. As in its letter to Boston, the BNC's 2020 message to the Canadian BDS coalition asserted that Samidoun is "not in harmony with the BDS movement's guidelines" and is "incompatibile with the role and mandate of the BDS movement."

A letter sent to the Canadian BDS Coalition in April 2021 by the BNC was obtained by the author and Jisr Collective. It mirrors the language and rhetoric of the letter sent to BDS Boston almost word for word. It also uses the recurring motif of "lawfare" and "Palestinian repression" in order to scare organizers from taking principled positions on liberation and resistance. As with Boston, BNC threatened the Canadian BDS Coalition, demanding the coaliation remove "BDS" from their name.

The BNC followed through with its threat, as they did with Boston, issuing a public condemnation of the Canadian BDS Coalition, which now sits. at the top of the BNC website. Any person who might be interested in joining a BDS campaign anywhere in the world is greeted with a message that the Canadian BDS Coalition is not accepted by the BNC.

Canada needs more BDS, not less, and the BNC creates a barrier for increased resistance to Zionism. The BNC's actions against the Canadian BDS Coalition served to make this coalition weaker and smaller. The BNC did not strengthen the BDS movement in Canada, but split it apart.

Lebanon:

In Lebanon the formation of the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of "Israel"(CBSI) was made possible by the late revolutionary organizer, educator, and intellectual, Samah Idriss. He began building the campaign in 2002 after zionist massacres in Jenin. Its goal, in contrast to BNC, is to boycott supporters of the zionist entity; the campaign's criteria are much broader than BNC's short "BDS list" and includes normalization, buying stock of company complicit in occupation, donating to zionist "charities", and contributing to the occupying forces.

Association with the Palestinian armed resistance and its political parties is not a cause for shame or a justification for repression...

Another example is found in Lebanon. Samah Idriss, founding member of the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon, notes: “Popular boycott is part and parcel of 'total resistance,' that also includes armed resistance. Both forms of resistance, civil and armed, are complementary and should not be viewed as mutually exclusive."

- Khaled Barakat, Uphold Palestinian struggle in all its forms
Electronic Intifada

Co-founder of BNC and PACBI Omar Barghouthi referred to CBSI as "the first and most important popular campaign organized outside occupied Palestine...even prior to the call of Palestinian civil society in 2005." And yet, while BNC distanced itself from Boston's Mapping Project, CBSI stood strongly in support of it.

South Africa:

In 2015, the BNC Secretariat wrote to BDS South Africa, demanding BDS South Africa disinvite Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled from an upcoming tour in South Africa. The BNC Secretariat's claims that Khaled's invitation would "harm the global BDS movement" and provide "golden opportunities" to opponents.

This language mirrors the BNC's more recent in its communications with organizers in Boston and Canada:

"BDS is a non-violent strategy of resistance and solidarity. It does not replace any other strategy, but it has to maintain its consistency to continue growing in a sustainable way and to maintain its claim to being an ethically consistent and principled human rights movement. This is a fundamental aspect to our identity which has allowed us to win over the major parts of the liberal mainstream worldwide as well as more radical groups who now recognize the effectiveness of BDS as a tactic.

3) Conflating Laila Khaled and the form of struggle she represents (as well as her political party) with BDS, when they clearly diverge in crucial and fundamental ways, cannot but harm the global BDS movement, as it gives our opponents a golden opportunity to exploit this conflation and make assumptions about BDS based on Laila Khaled's views on a variety of issues unrelated to BDS."

— excerpt from BNC letter to BDS South Africa

The BNC Secretariat's letter defaults to a human rights and international law framework consistently rejected by principled members of the movement. The oppressed do not need to beg for "rights" from oppressors; rather, the oppressed take them by force as they have been taken from them by force, by any means necessary.

BDS South Africa rejected BNC's demands, and despite these demands, Leila's tour proved to be very successful. BDS South Africa was split and rebuilt as Africa4Palestine.

New York:

New York City Students for Justice in Palestine (NYC SJP), today known as Within Our Lifetime, wrote a critique of the overreliance on BDS as a tactic of organizing on US campuses entitled "The BDS Ceiling" in preparation for the National SJP conference in 2015.

Instead of responding to this good-faith critique by New York organizers, a critique which actually calls for more BDS, BNC representatives in Gaza tricked student groups to turn against NYC SJP. The BNC sent misleading messages in Arabic to the political student blocs to sign a statement against NYC SJP, claiming that an American group was attacking BDS.

Intentionally manipulating the language barrier, BNC did not give the student blocs any further information nor were the students provided a translated version of NYC SJP's critique, and BNC's response to NYC SJP was only shared in English, not in Arabic:

And herein lies one of the most significant obstacles currently facing the movement for Palestinian liberation outside of Palestine: the near-exclusive focus on BDS has resulted in it becoming the paramount strategy of solidarity organizers in the United States. This brings a slew of other issues to the table, issues that have been unconsciously created by the insistence of adhering to the BDS framework without using BDS as it was meant to be used—as a tool in a toolbox, not the toolbox itself. This article is not a polemic against BDS or BDS organizations, but an analysis of where Palestine solidarity organizations currently find themselves, and how BDS has manifested itself as the entire strategy of Palestine solidarity organizations.

—excerpt from NYC SJP's "The BDS Ceiling"

In a statement that is still visible on the BNC website, which was regrettably signed by virtually all student blocs of the Palestinian political movements, BNC denounces the "attack" on BDS by NYC SJP.

Gaza:

Upon learning about the reality of the situation, students from the leftist Progressive Student Labor Front of Gaza withdrew their support for the BNC statement and reinstated their support for NYC SJP in a new statement. The BNC ignored these changes, however. The Progressive Student Labor Front of Gaza's coerced "endorsement" still appears on the BNC website. As a result, the NYC SJP stood in solidarity with the Progressive Student Labor Front in a subsequent article.

The Gazan Progressive Student Labor Front's rescindment defanged BNC's attack, but solidarity and diasporic grassroots groups did not respond in the same way they did to BNC's recent attack on Boston organizers, because at the time following the attacks on Gaza, the community at large wanted to preserve unity. Now, nearly a decade later, it has become clear that the BNC has no interest in real unity and is more than willing to play a divisive role to separate Gaza from diaspora.

In 2019, BNC again alienated the boycott movement in Gaza by diverging from the prevailing consensus on the ground regarding the definition of normalization. The visit of artist Hamza Namira to the West Bank via an entry permit is considered normalization because a visa to travel across occupied lands granted by the occupation is de facto recognition of the zionist etntiy, and BNC reiterated that this position, and the entirety of the Gazan based Boycott Campaign - Palestine (BCP) has "nothing to do with the BDS movement".

BCP was founded in Gaza in February 2015. It rejected coexistence and normalization with the oppressor and operates across Palestine, but is most active in Gaza. It behooves Palestinians and allies in the struggle to take a hardline stance on normalization in refusal of recognition of the occupying entity. George Habash refused to step foot in occupied lands, even those under control of the normalizing Palestinian Authority, even when granted clearance by the zionist entity.

BNC has repeatedly asked Boycott Campaign - Palestine to change their name, presumably to remove the word "boycott." In March 2022, the General Coordinatior of the BDS National Comittee, Mahmoud Nawajaa, wrote on his Facebook page that BCP in Gaza is "not related to the boycott movement in any way," a strange statement that is not in line with principles of unity that the Unity Intifada upheld despite geographic separation. In June 2022, BCP issued a statement in strong support of the Boston Mapping Project, in stark contrast to BNC's shameful public condemnation of it.


Britain

In documents obtained by the author and Jisr Collective, smears in branch meetings against Palestine Action by the BNC reveal its toxic and contradictory role. The BNC disapproved Palestine Action's campaigns against the "Israeli" weapons developer, Elbit Systems, the largest arms manufacturer of the zionist entity (primarily of drones). The BNC claimed in 2020 that Palestine Action's tactics would "criminalize BDS." Palestine Action destroyed Elbit equipment used to assassinate Palestinians on the ground as well as people in the Global South.

By 2021 Palestine Action grew significantly while the normalizing heads of the BNC in Ramallah continually smeared them. At the BDS Europe forum in February 2021, the BNC said, "engaging in wanton destruction of property as their main tactic" could not be "associated with the BDS name." 

To the BNC, the grassroots are disposable. Palestine Action's suffered approximately 50 arrests and repeated actions which included blockades, rooftop occupations, and break-ins that damaged Elbit's machinery. They achieved great success, shutting down Elbit's HQ in London, for example.

When Palestine Action also shut down the Elbit factory in Oldham, BNC took the opportunity to highlight this win for the movement, but omitted naming Palestine Action. The BNC did note that it was a step "towards ending...apartheid" which was achieved via direct action, that BNC had long denounced as "criminal."

France:

Collectif Palestine Vaincra (Palestine Will Win Collective) is a French organization which is an affiliate of Samidoun. The Collectif is the target of attacks by Zionists and by the French government (which also imprisoned the longest-held political prisoner in Europe, Lebanese freedom fighter Georges Abdallah).

Collectif Palestine Vaincra (CPV) worked with BDS France without issues upon its formation in 2019. Suddenly, BNC instructed BDS groups to never support CPV. Statements of support for CPV were removed from the BDS France website. In protest of the BNC's condemnation of the Collectif, solidarity groups in Marseille, Paris, and Toulouse changed their names.

In March 2022, CPV and Comité Palestine Action(Palestine Action Committee) were banned by French president Emmanuel Macron based on unfounded accusation of anti-semitism. Rather than stand with the CPV and CPA, which formed the Commitee Against the Dissolution of CPV was formed shortly after the ban, the BNC and BDS France leadership took the opportunity to formally forbid its affiliates to support CPV.

BNC's direct instruction to solidarity groups to not stand in solidarity with CPV and CPA is, once again, similar to the BNC's condemnation of the Boston Mapping Project, the Canadian BDS Coalitions, BDS South Africa, and other organizers who the BNC has chosen to attack and condemn in moments of needed support.

BNC once again made their stance clear: they were willing to eject an organization for fighting to protect comrades when those comrades most need local support.

By May, French courts overturned the ban on the Palestine solidarity groups, and in the lead up to this win, CPV recieved overwhelming support from other pro-Palestinian organizations, trade unions, political parties, and a petition with almost 12,000 signatures.

Australia:

In 2021, members of the queer and Palestinian community organized a boycott campaign calling on Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) to drop an "Israeli" state-funded film, The Swimmer, from their program. The mobilization of the community proved successful, with several filmmakers withdrawing their entries and instead screening them in an anti-colonial film festival that was organized as an alternative to MQFF. Despite the success of this campaign, PACBI, an arm of the BNC, attempted to overturn the campaign by claiming that the film was not an appropriate boycott target, despite the film being exemplary of pinkwashing.

PACBI told organizers in Melbourne that the film was not "boycottable" because PACBI had "not found proof of the Israel Film Fund" attaching "political strings to funding." PACBI wrote a patronizing letter to BDS Australia, in which PACBI played devil's advocate for MQFF. PACBI portrayed local activists as uninformed and misguided.

PACBI, in effect, claimed the film was not "Israeli" enough, stating that "BDS campaigns are focused on complicity, not identity", a problematic statement considering that the "identity" is that of a settler perpetuating violent, genocidal settler-colonialism by virtue of its recognition.

BDS Australia told organizers not to describe the campaign as being affiliated with BDS in any way, proclaiming that the campaign was something that Zionist might "latch onto" to "misrepresent the BDS movement."

Organizers resisted this top-down pressure to call off this anti-normalization campaign in its entirety. Just as what occurred with Gaza, the definition of normalization was being bent to fit BNC's comfort level, likely because it relies on liberal zionist networks in the US diaspora who identify as "israeli." While organizers globally heed the call for a cultural boycott of the Zionist regime, BNC and its affiliates continue to normalize to legitimize the occupying entity, just as J Street encourages.

Spain:

Relatedly, BNC had also attempted to shoehorn organizers associated with BDS Madrid in the summer of 2020. BNC took issue with speaker who was in support of armed resistance then bullied organizers accusing them of misusing the "BDS name" and demanding they distance from what they call "the S group" (Samidoun) and others that advocate for armed struggle.

BDS Madrid was organizing a protest against annexation on July 1st, 2020 when the BNC interfered and created intentional chaos that led to people leaving, fragmentation, and the formation of multiple new organizaitons.

In a manner that resembles BNC's behavior in all the above locales, BNC yet again defaulted in Madrid to statements of harmony with BDS guidelines, international law, and language typical of liberal NGO networks that have repeatedly appeared in all the above case studies. BNC, to principled Madrid organizers, again called for distancing from the movement, name changes, and accused them of harming the movement and Palestinians simply because of their steadfast dedication to resistance.

Conclusion: BNC is a Danger to Palestinians and the Liberation Movement

Whether the BNC is a form of controlled opposition, or if it began as principled and then degraded in the hands of liberal zionists, is up for debate. The various tactics used by the BNC reveal an unsuccessful strategy to create fragmentation, distrust, chaos, isolation, and real harm at the behest of liberal zionist stakeholders and normalizers in the BNC.

The Palestinian Liberation Movement recognizes the danger of the BNC to the Palestinian people and their supporters and cautions the public from affiliation or collaboration because of the BNC's:

  • Proximity to "israelis" and zionist funding bodies
  • Role in reinforcing NGOization
  • Use of normalizing language as opposed to liberatory language
  • Toxic and divisive organizing culture.

Despite the cowardly position and regressive role of the BNC, and despite its growing irrelevance to the liberation movement, the organizations who signed the Palestinian Youth Movement's support letter show a firm commitment to build upward. BDS Boston pushes the movement forward while the BNC has kept it stagnant for well over a decade.

The time used by the BNC for performative actions, lofty yet shallow academic conferences, and webinars has not liberated a single inch of Palestinian land. The global solidarity movements have shouldered the burden of normalization from the Palestinian Authority and from the NGO complex, from which the BNC derives its legitimacy.

This is a collective call to say: enough! Principled organizations do not heed the orders of corrupt funding sources but rely on the priceless thawabet and principles to guide their movement building. These principles naturally unite them and keep them accountable-and no organization or entity can skirt accountability no matter how prestigious they become in western imperialist institutions!

It is in full confidence that this analysis is presented to bring all organizations to recall and adhere to the thawabet. This is a necessary step to preserve the integrity of the movement that the prisoners, martyrs, and people at the front line uphold. Diaspora will never abandon them for the forms of resistance they choose, despite the choice of the BNC to do so.

In each city, power is being built by groups who are looking beyond the fearmongering of zionists and Palestinian NGOs and nonprofits who operate according to the terms of their funders. Grassroots organizers insist on the continuation of boycotts according to a strategy of liberation in support of resistance in all its forms and denounce every form of normalization that the comprador have relied on to bolster their status.