Why one Jew understands the movement to boycott Israel known as BDS


Dr. David Lorge Parnas has an international reputation in software engineering. He has lectured in Israel and served as the chair of an expert committee to evaluate Israel’s Software Engineering programmes.  He has also visited Palestinian Universities and taught a short course to get to know the students and faculty. After his letters about Palestine appeared in Canadian newspapers, he has not been invited back to Israel. In this essay he explains why he does not consider the movement to boycott Israel to be antisemitic. Read more.

As a Jew whose grandmother died in a Nazi death camp, one who grew up among holocaust survivors whose lives had been completely disrupted by antisemitism in Europe, I have a deep fear of antisemitism. However, I have no fear of the BDS movement and want to explain why.

To understand BDS, one need only look at the way that Arabs in historical Palestine are being treated. If you look with open eyes, you will quickly see that something is very wrong.

  • You will see law-abiding Arab families living in constant fear of police, soldiers, and heavily armed civilians who treat them as enemies rather than human beings who are entitled to the rights that we are all supposed to enjoy.
  • You will see youth growing up without hope and in fear of arbitrary treatment by heavily armed forces that are ready to kill on the slightest pretext.
  • You will see hotel doormen reach for a weapon when a Palestinian arrives to pick up a guest.
  • You will see places where houses have been destroyed and land seized and then given to other people or replaced by forests.
  • You will see that water has been diverted from arid Arab areas to supply swimming pools and water green gardens.
  • You will learn that protesting Arabs are subject to military law while others protesting with them are protected by normal civil laws.
  • You will notice that Arabs are frequently detained for arbitrary periods without charge or trial and learn that the courts permit this.
  • You will see underfunded schools and medical facilities.
  • You will see poorly equipped universities, frequently visited by soldiers who arrest people and destroy facilities.
  • You will meet friendly intelligent students, eager to learn, who are denied access to the modern equipment and brilliant scientists just a short distance away.
  • You will hear about students, faculty members, and others who have been arrested and imprisoned for waving flags or posting on Facebook.
  • You will meet people who have received an education abroad and would like to teach Arab students but are prevented from returning.
  • You will see families whose houses were demolished because one family member was accused of a crime of which the others had no advance knowledge.
  • You will meet families that have been torn apart because some members were forced to leave and are not allowed to return.
  • You will see huge walls separating farmers from the fields and crops that once belonged to them.
  • You will see roads and buildings reminiscent of the poorest countries in the Middle East a short distance away from modern highways and building that remind you of modern Europe.
  • You will see giant walled settlements, built on land formerly occupied by Arabs but now reserved for other people.

“As a young child, I was taught the words of Rabbi Hillel. I believe that he would support BDS.” – David Parnas

The vast majority of people being treated so unfairly are not violent. The percentage of people who have been driven by, frustration, and despair to carry our suicidal actions with primitive weapons is very small.

The majority of Arabs in Palestine are victims of collective punishment and racial profiling. You will see all this poverty and oppression in areas that are completely controlled by relatively wealthy and powerful people who have good schools, outstanding medical facilities, world-class universities and the comfort of knowing that they will be protected, rather than threatened, by the police and army.

You won’t have to know who those powerful people are to know that something is wrong. They could be Africans, Chinese, other Arabs, or Hindus; it doesn’t matter who they are. You will be outraged by the unfair treatment of Palestinian Arabs no matter who is doing it.

BDS is an effort to use boycotts, divestments and sanctions in order to bring about fair treatment for all residents of historical Palestine regardless of their ethnicity, national origin, or religion. As a young child, I was taught the words of Rabbi Hillel. I believe that he would support BDS.

David Parnas, Ottawa, December 2016


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. We invite original submissions that promote a serious conversation on this serious topic. To submit an article, make a donation or learn more about what we do, contact us at: membership.ctip@gmail.com.


  1. Great post. I could also recommend a book” The other side of Israel “. These policies are long standing and previously reported. Jonathan Cook was here a year or so ago and gave a similar picture. These are the very policies that will eventually undo Israel.

    Congratulations to dr parnas for his insight and courage to speak his mind

  2. Part of the problem in discussing Israel/Palestine is stereotyping and the “us” and “them” mentality. We need critical thinkers and democratic voices from both sides to contribute to the analysis and narrative. This is important for people to realize their common humanity and explore alternatives outside the box of their own narrative — which is mainly a narrative of trauma and denial.

    Given his personal background, Dr. Parnas is a moral authority. He has an extensive knowledge of Israel. If I were an honest Israeli, or a supporter of Israel, I would ask myself: what is wrong in Israel’s behavior that such a scientist would support a non-violent pressure to be used to change its policies? Is it time for me to try and see things from a new angle? Honest Palestinians and supporters of Palestinian rights should respect and appreciate the moral lesson in this article. They should believe even more in co-existence and equality in historic Palestine under a new system that would make everyone feel safe, free and proud. Ideological bigots on both sides would think, as usual, that they know everything from 5000 BC until 5000 AD. They are simply blind intellectually, and we should feel pity for them because they cannot enjoy their true humanity and the beauty of new ideas and imagination.

    Dr. Parnas, your article is a great lesson in moral and intellectual integrity. I hope this would encourage more people to understand that denial and trauma narrative of fear and violence is not a solution. Truth, acknowledgment and reconciliation is the path to heal the wounds and enjoy a better future. Thank you for that.

Comments are closed.