The Biblical roots of BDS
Think of the worst crimes a state can be guilty of. Then dishonestly make them peculiar Israeli crimes. Apartheid, ethnic cleansing, occupation, war crimes of every description. But it's all been seen before
Plots and characters in the bible are said to portend what history will have in store for the Jewish people. That being so, the Balaam narrative foretold the plot against modern Israel: if war could not bring down the nation then cursing would. Delving into the intrigue described so compellingly in the Book of Numbers we bump into far-sighted prophecy at every twist and turn.
The plot is familiar enough. It begins with the desire of Moabite king, Balak to stop the Jewish people in their tracks after a series of victories over more powerful armies. Military might was not behind the juggernaut Jews, so Balak understood.
The power of the start-up nation, he learns, resided in their leader’s power of speech. Moses was the secret weapon. And this gave Balak an idea. If, by speaking with God, Moses could empower the Jews, then surely they could be disempowered by speech.
So the king hires a curser-in-chief named Balaam. His goal is not necessarily to wipe a wandering multitude off the face of the desert, but to keep it from going into Israel.
"Let us drive them out of the Land" he tells the Elders of Moab. What he meant was that the Jews must at all costs not establish a sovereign nation. As long as they were homeless and stateless, as far as Moab’s leaders were concerned they could keep their spirituality and myriad laws and God-given strength.
The Moabites, who after all descended from a son of Lot by his elder daughter, were prepared to live and let live. But a Jewish people connected to a national homeland – that would be a different kettle of fish. The Moabites, true blue descendants of lifestyle-loving Lot, felt that such a prospect posed an existential threat to their free and easy ways. In fact, Jews occupying the Land of Israel, they felt, would ramify the entire world.
Listen, myriad voices urge at a far-ahead point in history, at which time the people of Israel are living, and thriving, in the Promised Land, and “Human Rights” delegates by the thousands meet on the side of a game-changing conference at the Indian Ocean city of Durban in 2001; listen, say the plotters; war after war has left Israel not just intact but invulnerable.
Why not wage a different kind of war? This will be a war that Israel can’t win. Words will be our weapon. We’ll bring Israel to its knees through the power of negative publicity, condemn and demonize it to the point where Israel becomes a world pariah, the one nation that unites every other in a common hatred.
People, think of the worst crimes a state can be guilty of. Then we make them peculiar Israeli crimes. Apartheid, ethnic cleansing, occupation, war crimes of every description… Made to order, they will sap life and energy out of the Zionists. Remember that word; never ever use the “Jew” word. Remember our prime asset, that human rights halo. Keep it shining brightly and be sure to brandish the halo while we curse Israel out of existence.
And so “Lawfare” saw the light of day, and on its heels tumbled a brother-in-arms named BDS. Together they set out to paralyze Israel to the point where it stands alone and vulnerable, a meek prey for waiting wolves.
Negative people (awake to faults, real or not); arrogant people (presuming to know better than the Palestinians what’s good for them); greedy people (taking money and benefits for cursing); traits they get from Balaam their patriarch. But will they meet the fate of the wily wizard who cursed in vain?
“How beautiful are your tents, oh Jacob, your dwelling places, oh Israel.” Yes, Balaam could not bring himself to utter the curses he’d been hired and handsomely paid to speak. At the moment of truth, wrong words tripped off his tongue, that gadget of fortune and misfortune, bridge to a grabbing mind, mouth organ of militant curses, master of talking donkey, plotter of Israel’s downfall.
When the God of Israel told Balaam to shut his mouth he’d have done well to listen. Instead the nation he wanted to curse into kingdom come recites Balaam’s blessing every morning to this day.
Will the BDS-lawfare axis meet this humiliating fate? Certainly on their maligned target they’ve ruffled scarcely a hair. If anything, the harder they tilt at Israel the more furiously – infuriatingly – the nation’s milestones go by: economic, scientific, social and cultural.
One boycott icon, a cleric in magenta robes, faces down the problem in his daily devotions. Bishop Tutu on Israel is the proverbial bull in the China shop, though able to curse with courtly charm. But how the famous grinning features darken as he faces down a doctrine gone terribly awry!
How did St Augustine get it so wrong? Your destiny, you un-chosen people, was never to come back and make the desert bloom; to build a Tel Aviv of Manhattan skyscrapers; to win Nobel Prizes by the wheelbarrow full; to boast a bustling high-tech economy with a currency stronger than Europe’s.
The pores of Israel-cursing clerics leak not envy but error – the faith-losing error of dogma. Thanks to Israel the plot is spoiled, the icon shattered.
Steve Apfel is director of the School of Management Accounting, Johannesburg. He is the author of the book, 'Hadrian's Echo: The whys and wherefores of Israel's critics' (2012) and a contributor to, "War by other means." (Israel Affairs, 2012). His articles and blogs are published in several foreign journals and his new work, 'Bilaam's Curse: The enemies of Zion' will be published by Hamilton Books this year
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