The movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel isn't selling.


And again: “Hawking’s decision threatens to open a floodgate with more and more scientists coming to regard Israel as a pariah state.”

These statements tell us what the journalist thought might happen, not what had happened or what did happen. Few scientists are recognizable celebrities like Hawking. The expected level of participation at the upcoming World Science Conference suggests that few are willing to forego opportunities in order to make a political statement like Hawking’s.


The inefficacy of the BDS movement has frustrated vociferous critics of Israel. In a controversial interview at Imperial College London, American political scientist Norman Finkelstein said that while the BDS had some genuine victories – countable on two hands – the BDS movement is mostly for show.

“I’ve earned my right to speak my mind, and I’m not going to tolerate what I think is silliness, childishness, and a lot of leftist posturing,” Finkelstein, a harsh critic of Israel, said.

Another well-known critic of Israel, linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky, sounded similar notes in a recent article for The Nation.

“Failed initiatives harm the [Palestinians] doubly — by shifting attention from their plight to irrelevant issues (anti-Semitism at Harvard, academic freedom, etc.), and by wasting current opportunities to do something meaningful,” Chomsky wrote.

While the BDS movement has not been an effective force, it nonetheless plays a significant role in shaping the public debate about Israel/Palestine through the use of extreme rhetoric, says Oren Segal, the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. The movement’s campus activities include observing and promoting Israel Apartheid Week, which compares Israel to the now-defunct racist regime of South Africa.

“I don’t think BDS is going to go away anytime soon, even though it continues to fail to actually have concrete results,” Segal tells National Review Online. “And the reason is because it is a way at the very minimum, to get people sort of involved in and interested in the anti-Israel movement. And if that’s all that it serves, that still enough and relevant enough for people to need to speak out against it.”

To put the BDS movement in its proper historical perspective, consider the storms Israel has already weathered. During the 1948 War of Independence, even the United States had an arms embargo on Israel. Defenders of the fledgling Jewish state had to rely on arms smuggled from Czechoslovakia as armies from five Arab states – who faced no embargoes – attacked, promising to push them into the sea.

Are they really going to worry about Meg Ryan not showing up to the Jerusalem Film Festival?

— Spencer Case is a philosophy graduate student at the University of Colorado and a National Review intern. He is a U.S. Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and an Egypt Fulbright alumnus.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review