2017-08-02 / Voice at the Shore

BDS is, categorically, anti-Semitism

Executive Director Jewish Federation of Atlantic & Cape May Counties

At a recent event, where I was one of just a few Jews in attendance, I had a conversation with a prominent non-Jewish businessman and community leader about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He told me that many of his Jewish professional acquaintances took issue with his view that the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement was, in fact, a modern form of anti-Semitism. He was surprised when these Jewish acquaintances insisted, without exception, that it was not anti-Semitism.

The gentleman seemed genuinely concerned that Jews could view the BDS movement as anything other than anti- Semitism. He asked me, as the executive director of Jewish Federation, whether or not the Jewish community had an alternate (if not official) view of the movement. I explained that individual Jews have individual opinions on every issue, including Israel and anti-Semitism, and that these opinions can be quite disparate. But I also confirmed for him that he was quite correct: BDS is, categorically, anti- Semitism—it is anti-Semitism disguised as humanitarian concern for Palestinians.

There are two undeniable facts that support this view: The first contemporary; the second historical.

First, the contemporary: At present, no BDS movement exists in opposition to any of the many countries with human rights records far worse than that of Israel, even at its worst. There is no BDS movement targeting any nation that bars Jews from setting foot on its soil; there is no BDS movement against any nation that forbids women from driving or getting an education; there is no BDS movement targeting any nation that persecutes religious minorities; and there is no BDS movement directed toward any nation that imprisons or executes its LGBTQ citizens. The only BDS movement that exists targets Israel, and only Israel.

The second incontrovertible fact supporting BDS as anti- Semitism is historical in origin, with a long history that predates the creation of Israel. Even if we were to overlook the BDS movement’s resemblance to the Nazi boycotts of Jewish businesses before the Holocaust, we can date the BDS movement’s origins to 1945, when the Arab League boycotted Zionist goods produced in the British Mandate of Palestine. After 1948, the Arab League boycott was extended to include not just trade between Arab countries and Israel, but all companies, and their business partners, anywhere in the world, that conducted business with Israel.

The objective of the boycott then was to isolate Jews, and the Jewish State of Israel, from the international community. The Arab world sought to inflict economic harm on Jews in British Palestine, and later, Israel. The objective has not changed, nor has the nature of the movement. What is different is that the boycott has been extended beyond business and trade to include Jewish Israeli academics, athletes, entertainers, scholars, scientists, and others.

BDS demonizes Israel and Israelis with false charges of crimes against humanity. It singles out the world’s only Jewish state, Israel, and no other country in the world, for censure, while ignoring entrenched human rights abuses, and worse, in other parts of the Middle East and elsewhere. The BDS movement’s bigotry towards Jews is clearly evident in its willingness to ignore crimes and human rights violations committed elsewhere against religious and ethnic minorities, children, women, LGBTQ people, political dissidents, and others. Targeting Jewish Israelis collectively with boycott, divestment, and sanctions simply because they are Jewish and Israeli is not a humanitarian stance, it is anti- Semitism: Pure, simple, and ugly as ever.

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