MP George Galloway is an advocate of and participant in BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) toward Israel.
Anyone who participates in boycotting, divesting from or sanctioning anything that supports Israel is part of BDS. It includes those who defend Israel itself but oppose and boycott Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and it includes those who oppose anything and everything that has to do with Israel, up to and including its very name. The critical Zionist’s limited boycott of settlement products helps the rejectionist’s total boycott and vice versa.
There is no single standard for BDS, no single person who speaks for the entire movement, no wrong way to practice BDS. No one can be excommunicated or found in violation of the movement’s principles. All may participate in their own way. The error is to think that there is a formal apparatus or coalition that speaks for everyone.
To be sure, there is a group calling itself the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC). However, that group appears to speak less for Palestinians and more for western groups, with carefully crafted policies and statements designed to assure that Zionists critical of Israel are not offended by anti-Zionist statements. Thus, for example, this group was quick to issue a disclaimer that Galloway’s refusal to debate an Israeli Zionist did not come within its BDS policies. However, this does not mean that Galloway’s action is not a form of BDS and that he is not one of many advocates for this form of protest.
The BNC appears to have started in 2005 as a largely Palestinian movement with the issuance of a statement signed by more than 170 Palestinian organizations. However, it has progressively relied less on Palestinian support and more on western collaboration, including that of “soft” Zionists, to the extent that it modified its statement of objectives to comply with their preferences, without consulting its Palestinian board or the signatories of the original statement. We must therefore conclude that the current BNC represents a different constituency today than it did in 2005 and is thus only a portion of the overall movement.
This is not to say that the anachronistically-named BNC is not performing a useful function by organizing a section of the BDS movement. All BDS efforts are welcome. However, it would be a mistake to imagine that it speaks for the entire movement or even for significant number of Palestinians. Truth be told, it is hardly known in Palestine and neighboring countries, although the accomplishments of the BDS movement of which it is a part are celebrated widely. On the other hand, it is rare for Palestinians in the Middle East to hear about those achievements through the BNC.
We all have a responsibility to participate in BDS even if we may have different reasons for doing so. George Galloway has his own standards for participation, and many applaud him and his integrity, while others may disagree. This does not mean that he is acting counter to BDS, but only to a particular group’s standards for BDS. No group should claim to set the standard for everyone else, but all should be transparent about who they are, whom they represent and the processes and motivations that drive their statements and policies.