Why do Zionists falsely claim BDS movement opposes two-state solution?

As Brooklyn College faces intense bullying and threats over its hosting of an event this week with Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler, Zionists are renewing their false claims that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement opposes a two-state solution.

Most Palestinian groups on Boycott National Committee support two-state solution

First, the facts. The 2005 Palestinian BDS call makes absolutely no mention of one state or two. It is not a call for a political “solution.” It is a rights-based call with three clear demands of Israel:

(1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
(2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
(3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Second, any informed person would know that the vast majority of organizations represented on the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC) – the movement’s steering group and collective leadership – explicitly support a two-state solution. You can see a list of organizations that currently make up the BNC.

Omar Barghouti makes this point in his book BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights:

While individual BDS activists and advocates may support diverse political solutions, the BDS movement as such does not adopt any specific formula and steers away from the one-state-versus-two-states debate, focusing instead on universal rights and international law, which constitute the solid foundation of the Palestinian consensus around the campaign. Incidentally, most networks, unions, and political parties in the BNC still advocate a two-state solution outside the realm of the BDS movement (pages 51-52)

Zionist claims

These facts are of no interest to Zionists intent on smearing the movement. The latest such attack appeared today on the Tablet website where Yair Rosenberg claims that the third pillar of the BDS call – respecting the rights of refugees – is incompatible with a two-state solution:

This radical goal goes completely unmentioned by both Hayes and the Times, giving their audiences the false impression that the BDS movement merely seeks a non-violent way to end Israeli occupation and implement a two-state solution. But in fact, BDS’s own materials and proponents oppose the very existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and demand the return of 5 million Palestinians to the country, which would effectively abrogate its Jewish character.

This is antithetical to the two-state solution, the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict accepted by majorities on both sides and the international community.

To bolster his claim, Rosenberg cites Norman Finkelstein who last year famously attacked the BDS movement in similar terms and claimed that the call was tantamount to the destruction of Israel.

Rosenberg’s article has been enthusiastically circulated by ill-informed commentators such as Matthew Yglesias:

And it was also circulated by Israeli government propagandists:

It’s not a two-state solution they are after, it’s maintaining Jewish privilege

If you carefully read the quote from Rosenberg above, you’ll see that he did not really assert that the BDS call is incompatible with two states. He asserted that it is incompatible with a two-state solution that protects Israel’s “Jewish character” by keeping out Palestinian refugees just because they are not Jews. This is a crucial distinction.

It is well known that, while I fully support the BDS call, I also believe that a single democratic state is the most practical and ethical way to fulfil its demands.

But after Finkelstein made the same misguided criticisms as Rosenberg last year, I laid out in an article for Al Jazeera a clear model for a two-state solution that would fulfill all three demands of the BDS call, and I based it on the political settlement in Northern Ireland (the 1998 Belfast Agreement) which has the full support of the United States government and mainstream liberal opinion (See: “Finkelstein, BDS and the destruction of Israel,” 28 February 2012).

Here’s what is so interesting: Finkelstein never responded to it and Rosenberg never mentioned it. As far as I know, no Zionist commentator has tried to refute my arguments, which is strange, since almost everything I write, including my tweets, are usually studied and dissected.

My article laid out a two-state solution, fully compatible with the BDS call, based on the principles that

underpin the Belfast Agreement and [which] did not mean the “destruction of Northern Ireland”. What they rightly did away with is ethno-religious privileges for Protestants at the expense of Catholics.

I ended my article with this challenge:

So the question then for Norman Finkelstein and Zionists who are horrified by the idea of a one-state solution, is: could they accept two states on such terms? If the answer is yes, then it is clear that the BDS call is completely compatible with a two-state solution, and Finkelstein should withdraw his claim that this is mere deception.

If Finkelstein and Zionists cannot accept a two-state solution on these terms, then we know it is not the number of states that concerns them. Rather, their priority is to preserve racial and colonial privileges for Jews at the expense of fundamental Palestinian rights.

I am still waiting for an answer.




"Jewish character" of Israel, i.e. a racist discrimination against non-Jewish citizens, just like it is now. Of course, return of Palestinians to their land could not be tolerated by racists who want to preserve their ubermensch status. The same is right regarding equality for non-Jewish citizens of Israel. So, from the POV of Zionists BDS IS a death treat to their pet colonial aparteid project of a "Jewish state" on Palestinian land.

By the way, some "clever" Zionists prefer to pretend that they are NOT against return of "some" Palestinians. One Russian speaking "liberal" Zionist put it thus: several thousands could return, and more would anyway not like to come to the state with alien culture and language.

You see, for this "liberal' colonizer Palestinians (a minority only) could be given a generous permission to come NOT to their land, but to a Zionist state. Zionists are just unable to see how they look from without their racist "culture".


A quote from Finkelstein as of July 2012:
"We are now at a crossroads in the conflict. I truly believe it is possible—not certain, not even probable, but still possible—that we can achieve a reasonable settlement within the two-state framework. But achieving this goal will require a maximum of political clarity and a vastly reduced amount of sloganeering."


so let us keep on with "peace process" while Zionists are grabbing more and more Palestinian land and ethnic cleansing more and more Palestinians

One cannot be a real liberal/leftist and a Zionist. Earlier or later one has to choose. NF made his choice. A pity, but he is a grown-up.


I don't know the context of Finkelstein's jab at "sloganeering," but there's a point to being cautious on that score. Of course Ali is right that BDS doesn't necessarily imply one state -- it's a set of tactics, after all, not a "movement" in and of itself, something often forgotten by avid proponents and opponents alike (Finkelstein's broadside "against BDS" -- as full of sloganeering as I've ever heard -- a case in point). But it's also true that even for many Palestinian proponents of two states, particularly back in the 1980s and '90s, it implied acceptance of limitations on practical implementation (as opposed to recognition of the principle) of the right of return, at least for a period, to enable reduction of tensions and reconciliation. Agree or not, this would have involved a huge concession on the part of the Palestinian people -- and as is widely discussed it may have by now been rendered moot by the massive increase of settlements and their infrastructure since that time. Nevertheless, I don't think it's helpful so present a description of an "acceptable" two-state agreement that glosses over the problematic implications for right of return. Ending privilege of one group over another in any state is indeed a bottom line principle. But that has more dimensions than the superficial democratic ones. Northern Ireland is a useful model, as is South Africa. But not only do both analogies have historical weaknesses, the ending of de jure racial/ethnic/religious privilege has not been a fast track to equality of economic or other power in either place. Ali, you yourself make a strong case for one state being more logical and just, and more are agreeing with that all the time. But just because two states looks more and more impractical, let's not underestimate the obstacles to achieving true equality in one state. And yes, let's try to avoid sloganeering, even about something as important as the right of return.


Just one of several foundational myths (lies) that Zionists have propagated, is that of a Jewish state. A "Jewish" state was never adopted by the UN when Israel's terrorists unilaterally spawned their illicit racist enterprise on Palestinian soil. http://www.countercurrents.org...
Recognizing a Jewish state would be tantamount to recognising Mississippi as a White Supremicist state. Such an abomination has no place in a modern world.


Actually, UN Resolution 181 in 1947 calls for the establishment of two states in Palestine, one Jewish and one Arab.

Ali Abunimah's picture

Resolution 181 also stipulates that neither of the hypothetical states is allowed to discriminate against any of its inhabitants based on race, religion, nationality. Israel is not the “Jewish state” envisaged by resolution 181. It is the kind of state expressly prohibited by Resolution 181.


That's only true for the occupied territories. Arab Israelis, including my Arab Israeli boss, are citizens with "freedom of religion, language, speech and publication, education, assembly and association." Discrimination, while endemic, is not official and will not be eliminated by BDS.


And Palestinians in Israel are by LAW citizens of the 3d class. They are publicly called "a demographic threat" by Zionist rulers. Of course, a Zionist Jew knows better than the victims of such politics, just like any other colonizers.


Contrary to Zionist propaganda, Israel is no democracy, as democracies don't discriminate against citizens based on ethnicity. More than twenty percent of Israel's citizens have far fewer legal rights because they are not Jews.

As outlined in the following, institutional discrimination is embodied in Israeli law:


For a list of 23 additional discriminatory laws passed by the Knesset since 2010, see:



Let's be practical here. A state of Israel with a majority Arab population will quickly stop being the state of Israel. The name will change, all the symbols will go away and it is likely to turn into another failed Arab states that Jews are expelled from.

The result of the BDS objectives might be two states but in neither of them would Jews have a home. Given that the whlle basis of the two state solution is to create two states with one of them being Israel this scenario contradicts this. The argument made that BDS wants to destroy Israel is perfectly valid and the best you could do to argue to the contrary is to pretend in the possibity of a utopian society arising and bash those that look at the Middle East and notice that it is the least likely place for such a utopia to arise.

Ali Abunimah's picture

I’m personally offended by this attitude — that frankly smacks of anti-Semitism — that says Jews can never live with other people. Jews “have a home” in many countries, especially the US where they have done exceptionally well — better on average than in Israel, and I don’t see why it needs to be different elsewhere. Let’s stop demanding that Jews be ghettoized please!


I also find Carry's language offensive, but Ali's answer is incomplete. Of course it's important uphold Jews' (and everyone else's) individual democratic, civil and human rights wherever they live, and ghettos are distasteful. But the principle of national self-determination demands that if a significant number of a group wants to have a geographically identifiable homeland, that must be taken into account in the messy businesses of international relations, identity defining and border drawing. Can the one country Ali envisions be a homeland for both Palestinians and those Jews who choose to live there, with equal rights on all levels -- not to the exclusion of others who may also dwell there, but as an expression of the fact that it is these two particular peoples who identify this particular land as their national home? I would hope so. None of this, by the way, ignores the fact that one of those peoples now rules over the whole country, discriminates obscenely against the other and has displaced it in large stretches of the landscape. But it rejects the notion that the struggle is simply about individual rights. The aspiration must be for equality between Palestinians and Israeli Jews, in some political form or another. "Two peoples, one future."


Israel is a Zionist colony on Palestinian land. Period. Get accustomed with reality of others seeing you colonizers through.


We are discussing whether BDS negates the two state solution. You have made no argument to the contrary except to argue that two states might continue to exist neither of which would be Israel which in itself contradicts the entire idea of the a two state solution with Israel and Palestine existing side by side.

That Jews can live well in the US is not exactly a counterargument and in fact it suggests that your position is that in your ideal future Jews should be forced out of Israel like they were forced out of pretty much every Arab country in the past. Because without being intellectually dishonest you really can't make the claim that Jews can expect to live well in an Arab/Muslim dominated state given to what happened to the 'native' 'Arab' Jews that lived in the Arab world who all of a sudden became foreign enemies who need to be expelled by force. Or perhaps you would like to discuss the current situation of other minorities in the Arab world?


Pre-Israel, Palestine was indeed peaceful, and pretty close to a utopia for all people who resided there for centuries in harmony. It was only when massive numbers of Europen Jews illegally immigrated into the region with intent on making it a Jewish state that serious trouble arose. For life before Israel, please see this brief video:
Also check out some of the myriad of photos at Palestine Remembered website:


But this underlines the central faultline of the BDS, it does not have a Palestinian state as an objective. It acts like a headless chicken. Name me a single national resistance movement that did not define its objectives in the form of a national state.