Not just about Jews: a sneak peek at the union of Soviet socialist BDSers

Faster than COVID morphs into new dangerous variants, anti-Semitism continually changes its ugly face.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, also known as BDS. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, also known as BDS.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In our time, the ugliest variant of history’s oldest virus is the self-proclaimed boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. In its earliest iteration, BDS was presented as a tool for peace – with a “simple” goal of cajoling a supposedly reluctant Israel back to the negotiating table with the Palestinians to reach the unreachable star of a peaceful two-state solution.

Remember SodaStream? The wildly successful international brand created by Israeli businesspeople set a standard of treating its employees – Israeli Jews and Arabs, and Palestinians – equally. Then BDSers around the world denounced SodaStream for the sin of locating its facility on a West Bank “settlement.” The result? Hundreds of Palestinian breadwinners were suddenly out of work and out of hope.

Hardly anyone noticed that BDS soon expanded its message and target. No longer targeting West Bank “occupation,” activists denounced the Jewish state itself because it was the implementer of the occupation. Not confined to campuses, the Kairos Palestine Document was introduced with its full-throttle boycott of Israel wrapped in theological discourse. Bottom line: Christians supporting Israel were guilty of religious sin.

Next, BDS openly bullied and demonized anyone who identified as a Zionist. Wearing an "I’m a Proud Zionist" T-shirt brought verbal abuse – and sometimes worse – because Zionists supposedly prop up an apartheid, colonizer state.

Now BDS has crossed an even more pernicious and dangerous line: The working assumption is that a Jewish entity, any Jewish entity, is Zionist and therefore subject to being scorned, ostracized, and boycotted unless it explicitly denounces Israel.

Daniel Birnbaum, CEO of SodaStream, speaks during a meeting with Ramon Laguarta, Elected Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, (not seen) in Tel Aviv, Israel, August 20, 2018 (credit: REUTERS)Daniel Birnbaum, CEO of SodaStream, speaks during a meeting with Ramon Laguarta, Elected Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, (not seen) in Tel Aviv, Israel, August 20, 2018 (credit: REUTERS)

In the last few days, the student government at the University of Toronto (UT) passed a resolution effectively declaring all Jews presumptive enemies of humanity. A resolution at UT's Scarborough campus makes it the policy of the student government – which controls funding to all student groups and is financed by compulsory student fees – to refuse to “engage with organizations [and] services” that do not act in sync with the global BDS movement. This ban includes disallowing kosher food on campus since providers “normalize Israeli apartheid.”

What microaggressions have kosher bagel bakers visited upon Torontonian snowflakes? Elementary.

Kosher catering is done by – gasp! – Jews. Jews, their thinking goes, overwhelmingly support Israel. Ergo, all Jews are evil, until they prove otherwise, such as declaring their distaste for the Jewish state. The resolution acknowledged that it might be difficult to find food providers who meet their purity test, so it allows “exemptions” when necessary, presumably by application to the student government.

Here is why this resolution creates a new variant of anti-Semitism. It took many years for the world community to acknowledge that “anti-Zionist” was often used as a substitution for anti-Jewish. Indeed, the growing adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by governments around the world – including those of Canada and Ontario – is a welcome statement of that recognition. Remember the good ol' days when anti-Semites insisted that they had nothing against Jews – it was just Zionists they hated? The Toronto Stalinist resolution rips the mask off that fallacy. All Jews are presumed to be colonialist apartheid supporters and oppressors unless they can convince the self-appointed gatekeepers of civil society otherwise.

Are we overreacting? Not really. Just a few weeks ago the Sunrise group in Washington, DC openly tried to bar Jews from joining in a protest to protect our environment.

Let’s not forget Linda Sarsour and other woke gatekeepers who have demanded that progressive Jews leave their Zionism at the door as the price of admission.

This new danger is not just about Jews. Forget the anti-Semitism for a moment. Right now, the target is Zionists (read Jews). We should all stand breathless in beholding the chutzpah of those who are moving ever closer to dictating how you should think and act. This is cancel culture on steroids, abusing authority to impose its will by force. Think of the rich possibilities ahead if resolutions like this are unleashed. Almost certainly, the next target will be Christian groups who will be disenfranchised unless they, too, pass a purity test of publicly declaring support for values that run counter to their faith.

What’s next? Once purity tests become acceptable, the possibilities are endless. Will Muslims have to declare that they detest ISIS before some are willing to employ them? Or Black Americans made to aver that they are not related to any looters? This, we know from history: It never stops with Jews.

Wake up, folks! We have been treated to a sneak peek of a future controlled by the Union of Soviet Socialist BDSers. It’s ugly, dangerous, and, left unchallenged, catastrophic for democratic societies.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its director of global social action. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director of interfaith affairs.