BDS should stand for building, developing, supporting human rights, group founder says
May 7, 2013 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
Calev Myers (left), chief counsel, Jerusalem Institute of Justice; Faytene Grasseschi, founder, MY Canada; Majed Al Shafie, founder, One World International; and Hany Boghossian, chair, MissionGTA, addressed the question, who is responsible for the treatment of Palestinian refugees, during Palestinian Human Rights Week, which was launched last week at U of T. (Photo: Joanne Hill)
Palestinians would be better served by a BDS campaign dedicated to building, developing and supporting their human rights instead of attacking Israel, says an Israeli human rights lawyer.
BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – refers to the movement that is becoming increasingly popular among anti-Israel activists.
“I don’t believe in BDS,” said Calev Myers, founder and chief counsel, Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ). “Engaging and interacting is a better way to influence change than boycotting, divesting and sanctioning. That’s not helping the situation: nothing is getting better from calling for boycotts of Israel. So I say, if you really care about the Palestinians, instead of boycotting, divesting and sanctioning Israel, start building, developing and supporting the human rights of the Palestinians. Do a different BDS: shift it in another direction.”
Myers was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Palestinian Human Rights Week event held reecently at the University of Toronto.
Faytene Grasseschi, founder of MY Canada and Majed Al Shafie, founder of One Free World International were the guest speakers. Hany Boghossian, chair of MissionGTA, served as moderator.
The university’s MacLeod Auditorium was about two-thirds full; it was the last evening of Passover, so observant Jews could not attend.
Myers said the timing was not deliberate and pointed out that Passover had already ended in Israel (where he lives). Myers spoke to the Jewish Tribune before the event.
The JIJ is a privately funded NGO founded in 2004.
Myers, 39, studied law at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He devotes half his time to working for the JIJ and the other half practising corporate law as a partner in the Israeli law firm Yehuda Raveh.
The JIJ is “a bona fide civil rights, human rights organization within our country, which is one of the things which gives us legitimacy to come and speak to these issues because nobody can blame us for whitewashing Israel’s failures,” said Myers. “We try to look at the issues from a human rights perspective. When you put on your human rights lenses you see what’s really happening and who the true abusers of human rights of the Palestinians are. It’s not primarily soldiers at checkpoints, the Israeli government [or Jewish] settlers in the disputed territories: it’s the Palestinian Authority itself and the nations surrounding Israel.”
Palestinian leaders use Israel as a distraction while lining their own pockets with financial aid intended for the Palestinian people.
“By constantly only pointing at and attacking Israel, we give carte blanche to the Palestinian leadership to do what they want with their people and their money. They want to keep their people in poverty... [because] then they’re easy to brainwash...and they’re frustrated. When people are so frustrated, so poor and so wretched they’re looking for somebody to attack, and that’s why they can be sent to be suicide bombers and all these other things.
“There are many different motivations for taking that money into private and personal banks accounts. One is personal enrichment...and the other is control because if [the money] really gets down to the people they won’t need the Hamas and the PLO as much as they used to. And they can still fund their propaganda, their terrorism and everything else.”
Donors must demand accountability and reform to effect lasting, positive changes for Palestinians, Myers said.
The event was extended by almost an hour to accommodate a lively question-and-answer period, which included challenges from people who held anti-Zionist views.