Is Treason Virtuous? Israeli Academics Who Support BDS

By Prof. Philip Carl Salzman


(Source: McGill Daily/Flickr)

Democracies, such as Israel’s, offer many political benefits: First, all adult citizens have the right to influence government policies—through voting, lobbying, and contributions—according to their preferences. Second, changes in governments are regularized, through time limits on every administration. Third, whether administrations are re-elected or replaced by a different one, the process is peaceful, without violence and the loss of blood.

Democracies thus reflect the will of the population, although opinion may be split. A foundational principle of democracy is majority rule; the majority in a vote carry the day. This rule guarantees that the interests of the greater number will be represented. (In federations, such as the United States, it is the majority of constituent states that carry the day in federal elections.)

Those citizens who do not approve of a government or particular government policies are free, in democracies, to express their dissent. They may try to influence the majority, so as to bring majority rule to change a policy or a government. Resort to violence or other undemocratic means are, however, forbidden.

“Self-help,” that is, acting on their own behalf, may be available to citizens on some issues. For example, while the Trump administration in the United States is allied with Israel, some citizens disapprove of this alliance, and wish to take anti-Israel measures as individuals or in concert. An example of such self-help is the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement, in which individuals and groups commit to boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning Israel. Various U.S. states have passed legislation or produced executive orders to forbid the state government from doing business with entities that engage in BDS.

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(Philip Carl Salzman is a fellow of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)