According to ‘Israel Hayom,’ BDS has nothing to do with the occupation

Israel’s most-read newspaper deletes crucial explanations from an Associated Press article, leaving its readers with zero understanding of why Palestinians might want the world to boycott Israel.

Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall dividing the West Bank town of Bethlehem promotes the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) Movement. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)
Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall dividing the West Bank town of Bethlehem promotes the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) Movement. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

The Associated Press published a feature article last week discussing the impact that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement has had on the Israeli music scene as of late.

Spurred by a few high-profile cancellations at a recent music festival in Israel, most notably by singer Lana Del Rey, the article did what one would reasonably expect an international wire service covering such a story to do: it explained the phenomenon, gave some subjective views and objective facts, and, of course, explained what the BDS Movement is and what its demands are.

The article was reproduced and published by a typically large number of international news outlets, including the New York Times. One of those publications, however, the English edition of Israel’s most-read newspaper, Israel Hayom, made an interesting change to the AP article in the version it put online for its readers.

According to the Israel Hayom version of the article, the BDS Movement has absolutely nothing to do with the occupation. The sixth paragraph, which explains the origins and aims of the movement, reads:

The campaign, founded in 2005, calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, cultural institutions and universities. BDS says it seeks to end what it describes as discrimination against Israel’s Arab minority.

The original AP article, as published on dozens of other websites and newspapers around the world, reads (my emphasis):

The campaign, founded in 2005, calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, cultural institutions and universities.

BDS says it seeks to end Israel’s occupation of lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war and what it describes as discrimination against Israel’s Arab minority. It calls for the “right of return” for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to homes their ancestors fled or were expelled from in the 1948 war over Israel’s creation.

The bolded parts, which Israel Hayom deleted, represent one of the more balanced and even-handed descriptions of the occupation and Palestinian refugee problem that one can fit into two sentences, and actually veer far closer to the Israeli narrative than the Palestinian one.

So why did Israel Hayom — a free newspaper published by Sheldon Adelson in order to advance the political interests of Benjamin Netanyahu — simply erase two out of three of the BDS Movement’s clearly articulated demands?

Instead of removing two-thirds of the movement’s platform, it could have simply reworded the description of it in order to better conform to the radical-right lexicon and worldview preferred by Adelson, Netanyahu, Israel Hayom, and friends.

It would almost have made more political sense to fully distort the movement’s goals, and describe them as seeking to drive Israel’s Jewish population into the sea so that they can be replaced by Palestinian refugees. Instead, what Israel Hayom did in practice was to reduce the movement’s demands to a sole issue that almost no reasonable person could find offensive: an end to ethnic and religious discrimination among Israeli citizens.

Of course, speculating about the newspaper’s motivations is not the important part here. What is important is the result: untold thousands of readers of Israel Hayom’s English edition are no closer to having any understanding of why Palestinian civil society is calling on the world to boycott Israel. And by erasing Palestinian activists’ actual, clearly articulated, and rational demands, Israel Hayom is, in its readers’ eyes, effectively reducing the BDS Movement to nothing more than a spiteful campaign driven by hate.

I therefore encourage you all to read the Palestinian boycott call for yourselves. Then decide whether it is something you can relate to, understand, or if you feel compelled to answer their call or fight against it. But read it for yourself. Do not let your worldview be shaped by an online news desk editor who deletes a crucial context paragraph just because it rubs him or her the wrong way.