BDS: A sustained assault against the Jewish state

BDS’s roots trace back to two arenas – the Arab states’ boycott of Israel and the so-called Durban Conference against Racism.

June 26, 2019 22:20
3 minute read.
BDS: A sustained assault against the Jewish state

AN ANTI-BDS poster calling on Palestinians to free Gaza from Hamas.. (photo credit: MINISTRY OF STRATEGIC AFFAIRS)

I recently participated in an international conference that brought together activists from 30 countries to discuss the ongoing extreme global anti-Israel BDS campaigns.

As BDS impacts negatively less on Israel’s economy and more on negativity toward Israel and her Zionist supporters around the world, I offer reflections on the history of BDS and how to fight it moving forward.

BDS’s roots trace back to two arenas – the Arab states’ boycott of Israel and the so-called Durban Conference against Racism.

• The longstanding economic boycott of Israel led by Arab nations for decades was simply another front in the war to destroy Israel. In the United States, dating back decades, the US Congress passed legislation against those entities who cooperated or supported the boycott. No one back then defended the boycott as “free speech.” It was and is a tool to weaken the Jewish state and erode its economic viability. In 2019, we should not allow governments, universities, NGOs, or church leaders to use “free speech” as a fig leaf for BDS campaigns that have the same goals as the original Arab boycott.

• BDSers continuously move the goalposts regarding the stated goal of their campaign. We can trace its ideological roots to the ill-fated 2001 United Nations World Conference against Racism that was convened in Durban, South Africa. That continent’s first such conference was hijacked to delegitimize and demonize Israel as the 21t century’s apartheid state. Some 3,900 global NGOs formalized the insidious narrative against the Jewish state within which BDS operates. I know since I had a front row seat at the antisemitic hatefest and served as a spokesman for the outmanned and outgunned Jewish groups who attended. It was there that we learned that so-called civil society was anything but civil when it came to the state of Israel.

Initially BDSers insisted that they were not attacking the Jewish state, that they were only opposing economic activity beyond the Green Line in an effort to bring an allegedly recalcitrant Israel back to the negotiating table with the long-suffering Palestinians. It was their assertion that the tactic of economic pressure was the only nonviolent way of pressuring Israel to negotiate.

In 2019, BDS has shed its initial nuanced stance and pursues a full-fledged war against the Jewish state. It leads the charge to isolate Israel in the cultural, economic and educational domains. This isn’t a matter of free speech but a sustained assault that fulfills Sharansky’s 3Ds (Double Standard, Delegitimization, Demonization).

BDS is antisemitic. It should be unequivocally identified as such in every venue where BDS manifests. You don’t have to believe the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The German Bundestag recently took a vote acknowledging it as such. An amazing admission from a country whose unofficial motto is “exports uber alles.”

IT IS no accident therefore, that there has been a spike in antisemitic activity – including intimidation and hate crimes – on leading US campuses where anti-Israel BDS campaigns have been launched. Jewish students and the Jewish community have every right to press university and government authorities to denounce BDS for what it is and to protect their rights and safety.

To defeat BDS we need support of the full community’s leadership. It makes no difference if your rabbi’s name is Sheila or Shmuel, if you are a progressive or conservative, combating extreme antisemitic/ anti-Israel campaigns is everyone’s concern. We have the right to expect our key organizations from Federations to Hillel to hold the line when the 3Ds are being breached, and we should withhold support for anyone – Jew or Gentile, Israeli or Diaspora Jew – who legitimizes or supports BDS, a campaign designed from day one not to help Palestinians but only to hurt Israel and supporters of Zion.

Every person has the right to say what they want, but there is no obligation for Jewish money to pay for the privilege of being slapped in the face or worse for defending Israel, home to the world’s largest Jewish community.

The writer is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of Center’s Social Action agenda.

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