The BDS tipping point

The efforts of the Jewish Federations’ Israel Action Network (IAN) have paid off in spades.

US states with anti-BDS legislation (photo credit: Courtesy)
US states with anti-BDS legislation
(photo credit: Courtesy)
With 25 out of 50 states in the US having taken action against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement through legislation and executive orders, the efforts of the Jewish Federations’ Israel Action Network (IAN) have paid off in spades. But, the organization must remain ever vigilant in this critical fight.
In May 2018, Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat from Louisiana, signed an anti-BDS executive order, making Louisiana the 25th state in the US to take action against BDS. With this, Louisiana joined the diverse group of American states, both blue and red, in going on record rejecting BDS. In such divided political times, this is one issue for which there is strong bipartisan support.
“Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East and a beacon of democracy in the region,” Edwards stated. “The United States, and by affiliation Louisiana, have benefited in innumerable ways from our deep friendship with Israel. Any effort to boycott Israel is an affront to this long-standing relationship. I am pleased that Louisiana will join what is now a critical mass of states in supporting our closest ally.”
The Israel Action Network (IAN), a project of the Jewish Federations of North America that educates and mobilizes the organized North American Jewish community to counter assaults made on Israel’s legitimacy, heralded the action in Louisiana, calling it a tipping point.
Dedication to the cause
Now that half of the US has taken action against BDS, the job of IAN is to continue working with communities in the rest of the country to help influence their respective state legislatures.
“There should be no question,” said Skip Schrayer, chair of IAN’s advisory board. “Boycotting Israel is bad for business. These state actions address the discriminatory nature of BDS and the ability for states to control their own commerce. We thank Governor Edwards and the many community activists who made this possible in Louisiana – and in 24 other states throughout the country.”
Creating this legislative phenomenon is even more remarkable given that there are few political issues these days that receive overwhelming bipartisan support. Minnesota was another state that came on board to reject BDS.
“Our Minnesota legislature passed a bill that prohibits the state from contracting with vendors who boycott Israel,” said Representative Joyce Peppin, a former majority leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives. “This made us the 19th state to pass anti-BDS legislation. And we never would have got[ten] this far without the dedicated work of the Israel Action Network and Jewish Federations.”
What’s behind the BDS movement
Supporters of BDS say it’s a positive tool for change, and in truth, the Jewish community and many others have used these tactics with Apartheid-era South Africa and Iran. However, BDS efforts against Israel are not aimed at promoting peace. Activists co-opt a progressive political agenda – using the language of human rights, justice and equality – with the goal of isolating Israel as a pariah nation and normalizing anti-Zionism as a valid movement for justice.
Companies around the world – especially in Europe – are under pressure to cave in to BDS.
Now that anti-BDS legislation has reached its tipping point, these companies are realizing that boycotting Israel is detrimental for business and that there are real ramifications to endorsing BDS. The efforts by IAN have put BDS activists on the defensive and have been one of the most successful ways to aggressively combat the BDS movement.