03/05/2014 10:47 am ET Updated May 05, 2014

Netanyahu Is Mostly Right About BDS -- But BDS Is Not the Issue

Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech at this week's uneventful AIPAC conference was of no significance whatsoever. (Read the text yourself.) The only thing new was that this time, in addition to invoking the Holocaust as an excuse to resist any form of peace and reconciliation with the bad guys, he joked about annihilation. Grinning, he said:

Iran's missiles can already reach Israel, so those ICBMs that they're building, they're not intended for us. You remember that beer commercial, "this Bud's for you"? (Laughter.) Well, when you see Iran building ICBMs, just remember, America, that Scud's for you.

Funny, huh. Even Netanyahu doesn't take his gloom-and-doom stuff seriously.

The only thing new about the speech was his focus on the BDS movement, which AIPAC has clearly decided to make its latest fear mongering target. Netanyahu devoted a full quarter of his speech to the BDS movement.

As I have written before, I don't much like the BDS movement for many of the same reasons Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn't. It demonizes Israel, some of its leading proponents are anti-Semites, and its rage against Israel is entirely selective. I also believe (from reading its material) that the movement exists to eliminate the State of Israel by replacing it by "One State" in which Jews will be a minority. As one who supports the continued existence of a secure Jewish state, I have no choice but to oppose the BDS movement.

So I wasn't offended by anything Netanyahu said about it in his AIPAC speech.

What did offend me was Netanyahu's use of BDS as a diversion from the main issue: the occupation. It is the occupation, not BDS, that threatens to end Israel's existence as a democratic Jewish state. It is the occupation, not BDS, that has turned Israel into a pariah in most of Europe. It is the occupation, not BDS, that prevents Israel from achieving peace with the Palestinians and the entire Arab League (as offered in the Arab League initiative). It is the occupation, not BDS, that has jeopardized Israel's standing with liberal and progressive Americans, including the Democratic party at large, not BDS.

In fact, if BDS disappeared tomorrow, all of Israel's problems would remain. All it would lose is a convenient scapegoat.

In short, Netanyahu is using BDS as just one more excuse to avoid making tough decisions about the occupation. And he is giving a hostile movement infinitely more credibility than it deserves. The prime minister of Israel should not be giving speeches about a fringe movement that, so far, has accomplished almost nothing -- including on U.S. campuses. It's as if Lyndon Johnson gave a speech denouncing the Trotskyists for its opposition to the Vietnam war.

All Netanyahu did was use BDS as another excuse to avoid the issue of the ugly, immoral, illegal occupation itself. So typical. Anything to avoid talking about peace.