A group of IDF reservists is preparing for a fight on another front – countering the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement sweeping its way across US college campuses.
“We must create a shock wave [to fight BDS] because, otherwise, the efforts are just not working at the moment,” Amnon Goldstof, co-founder of Reservists on Duty, told The Jerusalem Post recently.
The organization was established in January to counter the Breaking the Silence group, an NGO that provides anonymous testimonies of alleged IDF transgressions.
Since its establishment, the group has expanded its activities to target the growing BDS movement, attracting the support of hundreds of IDF reservists, as well as military brass and MKs from across the political spectrum.
“Today, the main goal of our organization is to fight against the new anti-Semitism and the groups that lead it, primarily BDS,” Goldstof said.
According to Goldstof, the boycott movement is a manifestation of classic anti-Semitism “pure and simple” and he sees it as his civic duty to fight the phenomenon.
“Old anti-Semitism wanted to see a world without Jews, and the new anti-Semitism wants to see a world without a Jewish country,” he said.
There are many groups trying to counter the BDS movement, he added, though most are trying to use hasbara, public diplomacy, to depict a positive picture of Israel rather than to confront the phenomenon head-on.
Amnon Goldstof (Photo credit AMIR SHEINBOIM)
“Everyone wants people to see how good Israel is, how much we have to offer, but this isn’t working [against BDS],” he said.
“We decided to change strategies, stop being on the defensive and to go on the offensive and stop apologizing and to, instead, expose BDS for what it really is,” he explained.
The group is working on a campaign set to launch in the coming months that aims to provide a direct and “shocking” response to the boycott efforts.
“Everyone will know what BDS is, what new anti-Semitism is, and what the dangers are – we have been there in the past,” he said.
Goldstof, along with other members of the organization, is currently touring college campuses and meeting with Jewish students and parents in the United States to learn firsthand about BDS and form partnerships with organizations fighting it.
“Every week we are visiting more campuses and hearing lots of stories and learning more about BDS,” he said.
For example, he said the group has learned that many of the leaders of BDS are Jewish and Israeli students in the US.
“It is a lot about the identity of Jewish youth that is looking for the victim to identify with. We need to bring back the pride for Israel,” he said.
The worry is more among the parents’ generation than among the younger generation, he explained.
“The parents grew up with Israel not being something that can be taken for granted as opposed to the youth who grew up with the State of Israel and the IDF as something that has been there and that can be taken for granted.”
Goldstof reiterated a number of anecdotes he has heard from students and parents regarding bullying and aggressive actions targeting Jewish students by BDS activists on a number of campuses.
“In Israel, we are comfortable because we live with a certain security, but when you go on campus [in the US] you see Jews being attacked, whether they are Zionist or non-Zionist,” he said. “Simply because they are Jewish.”
He called it “unbelievable” that in 2016, Jews are afraid to walk around on the streets of many countries in the world and that every Jewish institution must hide behind a security barrier.
“It is as if the world didn’t wake up – 70 years later [after the Holocaust] and the world doesn’t realize the direction it is heading in,” he said.
Still, Goldstof asserted, while he is overly pessimistic about this new anti-Semitism, he is ready for the fight, with the collaboration of many new Jewish organizations he has met on his US visit.
“Like in war, there are a lot of battles, you win some and you lose some,” he said. “We see this as our civic duty to fight for the Jewish people and for Israel.”