BDS has shown that it is antisemitic by targeting the Jewish democratic state of Israel rather than going after Iran, which one of the leading sponsors of terrorism, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said as he visited the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank
“Here is the thing that frustrates me about BDS,” DeSantis said as he stood under a large white tent outside the co-working space Hub Etzion, along with Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan.
“You have people who would be willing to trade with Iran the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world. .. but they only want to boycott the one Jewish democracy in the world, that is the only place that they seem to get upset about,” DeSantis said.
“To me, that just shows you that antisemitism is driving the the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, I don't think you can separate the two,” DeSantis said.
He is the first American governor that people can recall who has so publicly crossed over the Green Line to visit West Bank settlements. The Gush Etzion stop is his second such trip during his trade visit to Israel this week, in which he is leading a delegation of over 90 people from his state. On Monday, he also visited the Ariel settlement.
DeSantis who prides himself on being the pro-Israel governor of the most pro-Israel state, said that he saw no difference between either side of the Green Line.
Florida is open for business both with Judea and Samaria and with Tel Aviv, DeSantis said. He was careful in speaking not to use the word settler, settlements or West Bank. He referred to the West Bank region as Judea and Samaria.
The bi-partisan opposition to BDS in Florida is so strong, that politicians who support such a boycott of Israel can not survive, DeSantis said.
"If you support BDS in Florida, you are dead, politically,” he added.
The battle against BDS unites republicans and democrats and is part of the bipartisan consensus on Israel, said DeSantis, who is a Republican.
“Us fighting BDS to me is the continuation of the bi-partisan consensus in favor of Israel. It is not a departure, the people who are supporting BDS, are departing from the bi-partisan consensus," DeSantis said.
“We value the relationship with Israel, we are not going to discriminate amongst Israelis. We want people from Judea and Samaria to come and be tourists in Florida, just like we want people from Tel Aviv to come," he said.
Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, visits Gush Etzion, May 29th, 2019 (Tovah Lazaroff)
“We are also a very pro Israel state,” he said, adding that this is the reason why the legislature has enacted strong anti-BDS regulations and why it has approved a strong antisemitism bill that DeSantis plans to sign into law.
DeSantis said he chose to come to Judea and Samaria specifically because of the successful battle Florida fought against Airbnb’s boycott of the settlements.
“We took action early, we were the first state to do so," he said. Airbnb has reversed its policy, and in Florida we welcome engagement with Israelis of all stripes, we are not going to discriminate.
Florida’s actions were partially responsible for Airbnb’s decision to rescind its boycott and had acted as an example of why other companies should not follow suit.
“The fact that we successfully beat this effort back is going to cause anyone else to think.
DeSantis also dismissed the idea that West Bank stumbling blocs were an impediment to peace, explaining that the felt the larger battle was the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state.
“In Florida, we want to treat all Israelis equally. I do not want to discriminate. To me, the one constant throughout the modern history of the Middle East and the State of Israel has been that Palestinian Arabs have wanted to get rid of the Jewish state more than they have ever wanted their own state,” DeSantis said.
“I don’t think that has changed. There have been a lot of efforts at peace and they have been rejected. At the end of the day, if you do not accept Israel’s right as a Jewish state, you are an impediment to peace,” DeSantis said.
He made his visit in advance of a June 25-26 US economic workshop in Bahrain, where its believed the Trump administration will unveil the economic portion of its peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As part of those efforts, investment funds should be set up for joint Israeli-Palestinian industrial zones, Erdan said. Such an initiative should be discussed in Bahrain.
While standing with DeSantis he called for sovereignty to be applied to West Bank settlements, stating that “there is no reason not to apply Israeli civil law to these areas today.”
Among those who attended the event were Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman and Efrat Council head Oded Revivi.
The visit to Gush Etzion was organized by Ruth Lieberman and Sarah Paley of the Yes! Israel Project, an organization that coordinated much of the governor's visit to Israel this week.