One of the foundational claims of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is that Israel is a settler colonial project without legitimacy.

It is a claim repeated in mindless rote fashion, as if repeating it ten times in every discussion is a litmus test for being truly anti-Zionist. The claim is that Jews have no historical claim to the land of Israel, that they are outsiders imposed upon the region by colonial powers upon the indigenous Arab (mostly Muslim) population.

The point of this post is not to address all the lies and distortions build into the settler colonial claim, which is an inversion of history. In fact, the Muslim conquerors who replaced the indigenous Jewish and other populations are the settlers who colonized the area. Zionism is the liberation movement of the indigenous People of the region. That many centuries have passed since Arabs from Arabia and northern Africa settled the area through force does not change the fact that they are not the indigenous Peoples. But that’s an argument for another time.

This post is about how BDS itself has become a settler colonial ideology, which imposes itself on other peoples and other struggles, conquers, and subjugates the goals of others, particularly people of color, to the anti-Israel agenda.

We have documented this hijacking of other movements many times, and described the damage BDS leaves behind. The most glaring example is how anti-Israel BDS activists have infiltrated and redirected the Black Lives Matter movement:

But it doesn’t stop there. BDS activists have taken over the radical fringe of the LGBT movement, tried to turn it against Israel under the demented claim that Israel publicizing its fair treatment of LGBT people is actually worse, and more necessary of condemnation, then the abuse of LGBT people in the Arab world, including the Palestinian territories. It’s the doctrine of “pinkwashing” and it is the rage in leftist radical and BDS circles:

But wait, it doesn’t stop there. BDS activists have attempted to take over the environmentalist, water conservation, and indigenous rights areas with claims of “greenwashing” “bluewashing” and “redwashing” — seriously: Pinkwashing, Redwashing, Greenwashing — the multi-colored world of anti-Israel hate:

http://www.israelilaundry.org/category/greenwashing/

The international human rights movement is another victim. The obsession of U.N. agencies in demonizing Israel beyond rationality is matched by groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International:

In 2009, HRW’s founder and longtime chairman, Robert Bernstein, published a NewYork Times op ed stating HRW simply disregarded fundamental facts in service of its obsessive animus toward Israel. Entitled “Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast,” the piece condemned HRW for distorting facts to fit its anti-Israel focus. 

“Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah choose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields,” Bernstein wrote. “They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.”

Even sports events are hijacked for use against Israel, such as recently happened in Scotland:

https://twitter.com/BirdsOfJannah/status/766063990904619008

You are aware by now of how pro-BDS propagandists with Ph.Ds use their power over students on college campuses to stoke anti-Israel activism, but it’s moving down food chain to elementary schools, as I documented happened in Ithaca, New docs reveal Third Grade Anti-Israel event much worse than thought.

And we could go on and on with attempts by BDS to conquer and subjugate other disciplines, groups, ideologies, and movements … and the damage and destruction left behind.

There is another excellent example of how BDS settler colonialism has damaged the interests of others, the effective destruction of the American Indian Studies Department at the University of Illinois as Champaign-Urbana.

There have been recent news articles on how the American Indian Studies Department at the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign at best is on life-support, and more likely, is gone forever. A once vibrant department with seven full time professors now has none.

The articles attribute the decline to the attempted hiring of controversial hate-tweeting professor Steven Salaita and the controversy over the refusal of the Board of Trustees to approve his tenured hire. Salaita sued, and eventually took a modest settlement check rather than fight to vindicate himself, as he had promised.

[Steven Salaita Twitter Profile Pic, July 2014]

[Steven Salaita Twitter Profile Pic, July 2014]

The result was two years of campus turmoil, a boycott of UI-UC much to the consternation of UI-UC faculty who support the boycott of Israeli academics but uncomfortably found themselves on the receiving end of a boycott.

The Urbana-Champaign News-Gazette reported, Post-Salaita: UI program’s future unclear:

The future of the University of Illinois’ American Indian Studies program is under review following the departure of its longtime director, Robert Warrior, and most of its faculty.

Warrior, a leader of the unsuccessful campaign to reinstate Steven Salaita at the UI, recently accepted an endowed professorship at the University of Kansas in English and American studies….

The Salaita case took a huge toll on the program. The UI’s decision to withdraw his tenured job in American Indian Studies in 2014 after his angry tweets about Israel raised widespread concerns about free speech and academic freedom….

Two years ago, the program had seven core faculty members. By last fall, it was down to two, including Warrior….

“As of now, there are no faculty in American Indian Studies,” Camargo said.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed had a similar article focusing on the Salaita hire as leading to the demise of the department, How the Salaita Incident Imperiled the Program That Tried to Hire Him (behind paywall).

The focus on the Salaita failed hire, however, is too narrow. The seeds of destruction were planted when the American Indian Studies Department decided to align itself with the BDS movement’s focus on intersectionality and to subjugate the academic study of indigenous North American peoples to the needs of the boycott movement. It’s no coincidence that Robert Warrior, then head of the department and a former Ph.D advisor to Salaita, is an active and open BDS supporter, as was Vincente Diaz, the co-chair of the search committee that made a contingent offer of employment to Salaita.

In effect, BDS supporters hired BDS leader Salaita despite Salaita’s thin record of scholarship with regard to American Indians (he taught English at Virginia Tech and his written works centered around anti-Israelism.) It smacked of BDS cronyism.

The News-Gazette article offers an insight into the program change that predated Salaita that sowed the seeds of the departments destruction, and likely will damage other American Indian studies programs (emphasis added):

When the Salaita case hit, Warrior had begun the process of upgrading the program to a full department. Hired as director in 2008, he had helped put the program on the map by broadening its focus to indigenous studies, focusing not only on American Indians in North America but other indigenous cultures and issues as sovereignty and identity, Burgos said.

Other programs in American Indian studies are now following suit, he said.

Making a conditional offer of employment to Salaita, who literally wrote a guide on how faculty could extend the academic boycott of Israel within universities, made sense if the focus of American Indian Studies no longer is American Indians and other indigenous North American peoples. If intersectionality and internationalization are the ideology, and hatred of Israel is the motivation, attempting to hire a Salaita made perfect political sense.

But as with the Black Lives Matters, LGBT, environmental and other movements, BDS proved damaging. BDS was capable of taking over the intellectual territory of other peoples, but it was not for the benefit of any movement other than BDS.

It’s time for a reboot of terminology. Israel is not a settler colonial nation, but BDS is a settler colonial ideology.

[Featured Image: Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, demanding an end to “normalization” between Arabs and Israeli Jews]