BDS schism: BDS groups must reject Boston Jew map or lose BDS brand

The BDS leadership has distanced itself from the Boston map of Jewish and Zionist institutions, demanding affiliates do the same.

An anti-Israeli protest inspired by BDS (photo credit: REUTERS)
An anti-Israeli protest inspired by BDS
(photo credit: REUTERS)

A schism formed among proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement last Wednesday when the BDS National Committee (BNC) demanded affiliates distance themselves from the Mapping Project that charted Jewish and Zionist institutions in Boston and framed them as “structurally tied” to US media, police and government.

The BNC, the BDS leadership body, said in a statement that it “has no connection to and does not endorse the Mapping Project in Boston.”

“Endorsement of this project by any group affiliated with the BDS movement conflicts with this affiliation,” the committee said.

However, it rejected pro-Israel criticism of the project – which framed Jewish high schools and synagogues as ideological enemies – as cynical attacks on Palestinian activism.

BDS or else

A letter allegedly sent by the BNC to BDS Boston, which was affiliated with the Mapping Project and among the first to promote it, was leaked by The Jewish Journal’s Aaron Bandler.

 BDS ACTIVISTS in action (credit: GALI TIBBON / AFP) BDS ACTIVISTS in action (credit: GALI TIBBON / AFP)

“The project unstrategically targets and provides names and ‘physical addresses’ of institutions and individuals, and promotes messaging that includes phrases such as ‘resistance in all its forms,’” said the letter dated Monday. “By having BDS in your group’s name, and yet promoting messaging which indirectly advocates for armed resistance and associating with groups that do, you have violated a key guideline of our movement.”

The BNC criticized BDS Boston for opening the movement to criticism, “persecution and repression.”

Last Monday, the FBI said it was tracking the Mapping Project. On Tuesday, 37 US congresspeople sent a letter to law enforcement heads calling for investigation, Jewish Insider revealed.

The BNC issued several demands that if not met would require that BDS Boston remove “BDS” from its name and dissociate from the BDS movement.

BDS Boston was told to cease promoting and associating with groups that advocated violence, stop promoting the Mapping Project, and issue a statement distancing itself from the project while also condemning pro-Israel criticism of the initiative.

Disagreement about the Mapping Project

As of Wednesday night, BDS Boston still featured promotional materials for the Mapping Project, but issued a statement that they were separate entities.

Another BDS group, Canadian BDS Coalition, praised and shared the map just a few hours after the BNC’s declaration. NGOs Samidoun and Masir Badil did the same.

BDS activists such as David Miller have condemned the BNC’s position as “disgraceful.”

Other groups agreed with the BNC position. Massachusetts Peace Action noted as an example of proper conduct in the letter leaked by Bandler, said last Monday, “We have no connection with the Mapping Project, had no knowledge of it before its launch, and are in no position to vouch for the accuracy of everything it says,” and also condemned “lies and slander” against the project.

Mondoweiss.net, which had published pieces supportive of the project, published an essay on Tuesday critical of the map as part of “debate and discussion over critical issues.”

According to The Forward, American Jewish progressives have been concerned about the map but have felt unable to voice dissent because they didn’t want to echo pro-Israel groups and law enforcement.