Encouraging hate, not humanity

At the Strategic Affairs Ministry’s recent Global Coalition for Israel Conference, experts address BDS and its impact in South Africa and across the world .

A panel discussion entitled Defending Israel's Legitimacy: The Battlefield in 2018, takes place during the Strategic Affairs Ministry's GC4I conference. (From left): David Brog, Tzahi Gavrieli, Wendy Kahn, William Daroff and Raya Kalenova (photo credit: MEDIA LINE)
A panel discussion entitled Defending Israel's Legitimacy: The Battlefield in 2018, takes place during the Strategic Affairs Ministry's GC4I conference. (From left): David Brog, Tzahi Gavrieli, Wendy Kahn, William Daroff and Raya Kalenova
(photo credit: MEDIA LINE)
The boycott movement and its supporters has begun to change their strategy. There is no denying that it is making attempt to infiltrate on a higher level. The movement’s mindset is focusing on influencing government and its policies towards Israel as its
But it’s not just the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that has changed its strategy – those defending Israel and fighting the lies BDS has spread, have too changed their modus-operandi.
“What has changed?” questioned Sima Vaknin-Gil, director-general of the Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Ministry. “We are on the offensive. We are facing them in the academic, legal and cultural sphere.
“We are doing this in an offensive state of mind,” she explained during the ministry’s GC4I Conference in Jerusalem in June.
“We are working a lot more as a network - not just organizations and players… each player is bringing their own added value,” Vaknin-Gil said. “We have a body on knowledge and understanding, which has made it impossible for [the boycott movement] to surprise us.”
She made it clear, however, that the other side is also learning and changing all the time, adding that the situation is not simple.
“We are using a combination of tools against them – PR, diplomacy and intelligence… Over 2017, the other side should have noted huge successes because it was 50 years since 1967, but it didn’t. They said they didn’t have big successes. We are a lot more synchronized and they’ve seen us doing on the offensive, which puts them on the defensive.”
The three main goals that have been focused upon include undermining BDS’ legal legitimacy, its moral legitimacy and financially as a movement - meaning having financial crowdfunding pages shutdown after proving the groups’ connection to terrorist organizations.
“In the US 25 states have signed anti-BDS legislation, making it illegal to do business with companies that boycott Israel and its settlements,” Vaknin-Gil said. “Cities in Germany, Spain, France and Britain are undermining BDS’ legitimacy… The fact that we are able to connect such organizations with antisemitism and terrorism bothers them deeply. Proving that money being raised by these so-called "human rights" organizations is going to terrorism and antisemitic efforts bothers them deeply.”
One of the main concerns Vaknin-Gil expressed was about the growth of anti-Israel movements working on a state level.
“They are scaling-up their efforts to go to state level - it’s no longer grassroots. Organizations like BDS are reaching out to political left and right-wing. They also working hard to hamper Israel foreign relations and trade agreements,” she said, adding that “we see this combination working in countries like South Africa, Ireland, Spain, UK and Canada.”
Speaking on the boycott movement in South Africa, Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, told “The Jerusalem Report” that what’s worrying her is the “incessant intimidation” by BDS and its supporters if people “are not prepared to subscribe to their political views.”
Kahn, who whipped out a copy of the South African Constitution as she spoke, said: “I have the right of freedom of religion, belief and opinion, I have the right to freedom of expression and I have the right to freedom of association… I think that this is pivotal - the bottom line is that as a South African citizen I have the right to have a connection to Israel and nobody else can tell me that I have to toe the line and subscribe to their narrative.”
She made it clear that “I respect anybody else's right not to have a connection with Israel - I expect people to respect my right [and that of the SA Jewish community] - my cultural, my religious and my linguistic rights.”
Asked how to deal with this intimidation, Kahn said that “we need to call them out every single time they do.”
“We need to show them [BDS and its supporters] up for what they are - they’re a dictatorship, they’re authoritarian, they are trying to control the minds and opinions of South Africans and while I fully respect their right to hold their views and to protest and say what they need to on the topic [of Israel], when they start infringing on my rights, then I need to lay down the law because that is not okay,” Kahn said.
Recently, several BDS inspired incidents of antisemitism and intimidation took the country by storm. Of late, several celebrities have been targeted by BDS and its supporters for expressing support for Israel. A local supermodel received several death threats for her instagram posts defending Israel.
Kahn explained that BDS in South Africa was a small organization of aggressive voices who are trying to portray themselves as a human right organization, “who’s true colors of antisemitism keep showing through.”
“They are using a rhetoric that wants little more than to destroy the Jewish state and has shown little in finding a lasting and sustainable solution to the tragic conflict in the Middle East.”
The wonderful thing about South African Jewry, Kahn said, is that “they are a very tenacious and resilient community who refuse to be told who they can or can’t have a relationship with.
She added that she was seeing more and more South Africans who are passionate and feel strongly about their connection to Israel.
When asked about whether or not BDS was a hate group, Kahn said that the BDS strategy is the antithesis of what the South African Constitution stands for.
“We have to expose their antisemitism, we need to expose their intimidation, which for us is anti-South African,” she concluded.
StandWithUs executive director Michael Dickson, who recently visited South Africa said that BDS is a destructive symbol whose message and symbol emanates from South Africa. “It’s that image of the BDS activist placing the pigs head in the kosher food section of a supermarket - that’s the symbol of BDS - in that image, it tells you everything that you need to know about BDS and its antisemitic agenda,” he explained. “Now, they’re very good at pretending but all it is a pretense. Even if they cover their language here and there to be careful, the result of BDS - and you see it with divestment motions on American [College] campuses - is that it always turns violent. We see, from what’s been exposed at the [GC4I] Conference is that their [BDS] funding comes from very nerferious sources.”
Dickson highlighted that antisemitism is at BDS’s core and violence is always the outcome. “BDS has no net positive results for anyone, which is why more and more people are realizing that it lives on the extremes of politics and I think what you’ve seen happen recently, is that the mainstream - people who hold moderate views - have understood that BDS belongs on the extremes of the political spectrum and have stayed away from it and that’s something that should be celebrated.”
Asked about how to deal with the hate BDS is spreading, Dickson said that StandWithUS has been fighting BDS before it was even called BDS because its been fighting antisemitism. “Antisemitism has been termed the longest hatred so there’s no reason to assume that it’s going to go away any time soon, but as far as we’re concerned, sunlight is the best disinfectant, we have to expose it - we always are wanting to shine the light on BDS actions and its intent, which is step one. From there, to take action.
He said that BDS is selling a “very negative story.”
“The good news for people who support Israel and peace in the region is that our story is a positive one - BDS are always pushing a negative product - their campaigns are always negative. Most people, if they understand what BDS is, will stay away from it because it’s got a very negative and shrill message. So we’re lucky that all we have to do is tell the truth and shine a light on the positive agenda, but we need to do it compellingly,” Dickson highlighted.
He said that once people are educated on how to be able to do that, “you’ll see it has an effect.”
Regarding his recent trip to South Africa and the BDS effect in the country, Dickson said he came away positive. “It’s very easy to be despondent because you see the shrill tone of the rhetoric and you see a very blunt tone to that rhetoric,” he said, “But I actually came away very positive. I spent a lot of time with young people who are on the frontlines of fighting this on campus and I spent time with the [Jewish] community and the non-Jewish friends of Israel. The good news is that there is such a willingness to engage, to call it [BDS] out and to be active and there was such a good coalition who want to engage on this, that I’m very positive.”
Dickson said that he thinks BDS is on the backfoot in South Africa. “I spent time in Cape Town where ordinary people told me that they didn’t understand why their city [regarding the water crisis] should be affected by someone elses political dispute - and no doubt it was by the refusal to accept support from Israel when it came to helping with the water situation. I spoke with [non-Jewish] people in Johannesburg who understood and appreciated the Jewish community and appreciated the Jewish community standing up to apartheid, and did not appreciate their struggle being manipulated by somebody else's political agenda.”
He made it clear that there is “fertile ground” to continue that fight back - “the push back and make sure BDS South Africa continues to be on the defence.”
“Without a doubt, in the last two or three years we’ve turned a corner on campuses - the [BDS] mask has slipped and the more we expose that, the better,” Dickson added.
On the academic impact of BDS, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin cofounder and director of the AMCHA initiative told the Report about the concerns American College campuses .
The goal of the AMCHA initiative, she said, is focused on Jewish students on campuses in America.
She said what they, as AMCHA, focus on is the academic boycott tactics of BDS. “I think the boycott not being spoken about - which is the most impactful - is the academic boycott. Rossman-Benjamin said that BDS is just one of the tactics that pushes that agenda forward. “The academic boycott does this in the most insidious way because of academic freedom in the classroom - my argument is that the biggest promoters of BDS [on campus] are faculty because they are changing the hearts and minds of a whole generation. They’re giving it the seal of academic legitimacy,” she highlighted. “We have university professors…who start [teaching about Israel] with the fact that Israel is a settler, colonial state - there is no other side. In academia this has become the norm. The real problem is that this is across the board... in order to get a job in one of these departments, you have to toe that party line.
“You can’t talk about Israel being a thriving democracy or look at something positive about it - you can’t get a job in a history or Middle Eastern Studies department if that’s what you’re going to say - that is the new normal,” Rossman-Benjamin said.
Despite the the battle against BDS being long and hard, the tides are changing and the Global Coalition for Israel is slowly but surely gaining the upper-hand and exposing the antisemitic truth of BDS’s destructive agenda