Who do BDS Boycotts Help? The Mapping Project’s Dangerous Goals

July 12, 2022
Josh Lipowsky  —  CEP Senior Research Analyst

In June, the Boston, Massachusetts-based pro-Palestinian website the Mapping Project published an interactive map of the locations of “Zionist leaders and powerhouse NGOs” in Massachusetts. The website states that its goal is to expose “local institutional support for the colonization of Palestine,” which it links to “systemic white supremacy” and “other harms” such as “policing, US imperialism, and displacement.” But by calling for almost 500 institutions in the state to be “dismantled,” the group’s goals threaten the livelihood and quality of life of the people of Massachusetts and expose individuals to possible violence, while doing nothing to better the life of the average Palestinian.   

The Mapping Project’s website makes clear that its goal is “to reveal the local entities and networks that enact devastation, so we can dismantle them. Every entity has an address, every network can be disrupted.” Supporting the creation of an independent Palestinian state is not dangerous, but by publishing the addresses of public and private institutions and organizations—along with the names and addresses of allegedly affiliated individuals—while urging that they be “dismantled,” the Mapping Project is tacitly encouraging violence and putting innocent lives in danger.

The path from inflammatory rhetoric to violence can be a short one. Take Robert Bowers, a man who blamed the Jewish charity HIAS for unwanted immigration and murdered 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in retaliation against what he saw as a Jewish conspiracy. Or Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people at two New Zealand mosques because he believed that Muslims threatened to replace white, European culture.

As of July 7, the Mapping Project listed 497 entities in the Boston area, including universities such as Boston College and Harvard, the Boston police, and companies with a New England presence such as Microsoft, Intel, and Google. It also targeted local chapters of the Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC, and the ACLU, as well as Jewish schools, Jewish youth programs, and synagogue umbrella councils. It is doubtful that dismantling Harvard, the Newton Public Schools, and Massachusetts General Hospital will improve the lives of Palestinians, but it will surely put people out of work and reduce the quality of life for area residents bereft of education, health care, and an array of other essential services. Nor will Palestinians benefit from dismantling drug companies Pfizer and Moderna, which developed the most widely used life-saving Covid-19 vaccines and also made the Mapping Project’s target list.

It is difficult to connect the dismantling of the City of Boston, also called for by the Mapping Project, to an improved life for a Palestinian farmer in the West Bank. The Mapping Project accuses municipal organizations such as the City of Boston of supporting “Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland” and overfunding “the policing of Boston’s Black and Brown residents.” But it does not explain how ending police protection for millions of Bostonians will help a West Bank olive grower feed his family.

Academic institutions such as Harvard, Boston College, Wellesley, Tufts, and Smith College are labeled as part of a collective of “land-grab universities,” while area police departments are accused of being “complicit” in “Policing, Prison-Industrial Complex, Surveillance.” The Boston Globe and Boston Herald are accused of complicity in “propaganda/normalization” and “Zionism.” But again, it remains a mystery how dismantling the Boston area’s police forces and media will affect a Palestinian Authority (PA) government that has not held free elections in more than 15 years.

Nor does the Mapping Project explain how its call for boycotting the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) will improve Palestinian lives. According to the Mapping’s Project’s IBEW entry, trade unions are “conservative institutions that generally serve to maintain the capitalist-imperialist system intact.” But nowhere is Israel mentioned or how boycotting IBEW will free the people of Gaza from the repressive grip of the terror group Hamas.

The Mapping Project aligns itself with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks a total cultural, academic, and economic boycott of the State of Israel. However, boycotting Israel will not improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians, who are largely reliant on Israel for their economic prosperity. The total economic blockade of Israel advocated by BDS would negatively impact Palestinian life, which is why the PA and segments of the Palestinian population do not support it. During a December 2013 trip to South Africa for a Nelson Mandela memorial, PA President Mahmoud Abbas clearly stated, “No, we do not support the boycott of Israel. But we ask everyone to boycott the products of the settlements.”

Palestinian shopkeepers have also noted that they are reliant on certain Israeli goods that they cannot produce or import from Jordan or Egypt. Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and a co-founder of the BDS movement, has brushed aside these concerns, declaring that Palestinians will have to pay a price to achieve freedom.

BDS’s willingness to sacrifice the quality of life of Palestinians to sanction Israel suggests its larger goal is hurting Israel rather than helping Palestinians. Similarly, the Mapping Project is callously willing to inflict pain and suffering on Bostonians and Palestinians to punish Israel and all those it deems complicit in its existence. In short, the Mapping Project is more anti-Israel than it is pro-Palestinian. Its goals are misguided while its tactics are hostile and reckless and should be vociferously repudiated.  

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