As the boycott movement to delegitimize Israel gains steam on American college campuses and on the supermarket shelves of European countries, supporters of Israel are grappling with finding effective ways to confront what is, at its core, anti-Semitism.
In America, states have begun leading the way to impose consequences on individuals and companies that actively participate in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Last week New York State Senator Michael Gianaris introduced legislation that would prohibit the state government from contracting with companies boycotting the Jewish state. Like other anti-BDS state legislation, it accurately connects the dots from the immoral boycotting of Israel to anti-Semitism.
Tennessee was the first state to pass legislation against BDS, stating, “One of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state... [is to] undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.”
Indiana used the Tennessee anti-BDS template, which according to JNS, said it “expresses opposition to the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel BDS movement [which] represents an attack, not only on Jews, but on the fundamental principles of the United States.” The resolution goes on to thank the presidents of Indiana University and Purdue University for “strongly” condemning the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. They should be applauded, while other academic leaders should be encouraged to speak out against BDS.
Last spring, Illinois unanimously passed anti-BDS legislation with teeth, that prohibited its pension funds from investing in BDS companies. Perhaps most important is that it showed that fighting against the BDS movement has wide bipartisan support, with a blue state taking the lead.
The bipartisan effort against BDS extends to Israel. Zionist Union (Labor) MK Hilik Bar addressed the Ohio State Senate last month about the dangers facing Israel, and announced that Ohio was planning an anti-BDS bill. Bar said, “Ohio will fight BDS and boycotts against Israel... it was a great to hear about it on my visit.” Israeli politicians from the Center, Left and Right need to tell American Jewry that any boycott of Israel is not the way forward for peace, and will further Israel’s delegitimization.
The US Congress joined the act in April when according to The Times of Israel, Congress “passed carefully crafted legislation to discourage European Boycotts of Israel, tying... talks with Europe [on] negotiations [for] the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.” This week, bipartisan letters from the House and Senate were sent to the EU asking them to reconsider the labeling of products from over the Green Line.
In June South Carolina barred conducting business with companies that discriminate against Israel.
Yet the pro-BDS movement is still on the march, and in true Orwellian fashion claimed that if you love Israel, you must boycott not only Judea and Samaria, you must boycott all of Israel. Last month The Washington Post gave voice to two college professors (Harvard and University of Chicago) who claim that their love for Israel compels them to boycott the whole nation.
In their tough-love approach they join with Israel’s more blatant delegitimizers, conveniently ignoring the fact that the Palestinians have refused territorial offers granting them all of their supposed territorial aspirations.
The professors also choose to ignore Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ incitement for stabbing and ramming cars into civilians as simply irrelevant to their determination to give tough love only to Israel.
When the PA president says, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem,” we are supposed to understand that this is just the hyperbolic way a victimized people speak in this part of the world. To rationalizers of Palestinian violence, the stabbings, bus bombings, honor killings, blood-lust rallies, launching of missiles from schoolyards and ramming of cars into crowds are explained as the only avenues of self-expression open to those who feel so frustrated.
Despite their progressive universalistic ideology, they avoid calling for a boycott on any of the real human rights abusers in the world, where a compelling case for boycotts can truly be made. They do not waste any ink deploring the human rights abuses in the Arab world, China, Russia, Syria, North Korea, or Iran. No boycotts for them, only boycotts of “love” for Israel.
If that’s love, please love Israel a little less.
So now is the time for mainstream American Jewish organizations and religious denominations to come together to support and promote new state legislation against BDS. All supporters of Israel, who realize that destroying Israel hurts America, should publicly and strongly support current state legislative efforts across America, and create resources for all states to begin their own legislative process.
These efforts are vital because it cannot be forgotten that the real vision of the BDS movement is the destruction of the State of Israel, not a two-state solution. As the founder of BDS movement said, the “current Zionist state of Israel was criminally built on the ruins of Palestinian society.”
BDS is not a benign human rights movement striving for mutual respect of national aspirations; it is a scheme to harm, and worse, to defame Israel by saying in effect that Israel is more worthy of being shunned than the now exonerated and rewarded mullahs of Iran.
Pro-Israel groups should come together and place ads in newspapers that say: “Wherever We Stand, We Stand With Israel. Wherever We Stand, We Stand Against Boycotts.”
The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network™), a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders.