THE PASSOVER QUESTIONS YOU NEVER THOUGHT TO ASK

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UNMASKING THE BDS MOVEMENT

By: Dave Gordon



In the Passover Haggadah it says,“in each generation, they come to destroy us” – “they” meaning the anti-Semites, the Jew-haters, and those who discriminate against the Jewish people.

The Sages were prophetic in a way, knowing that the Jewish people would be eternal targets, in every part of the world. In the twenty-first century, our enemies at home and around the globe use economic warfare to mask their anti-Semitism.

In the continued efforts to delegitimize, demonize and hold Israel to a double standard, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movements have been developing more and more support over the course of a decade. Their implied or stated goal is to cripple
the Israeli economy enough to bully lawmakers into political decision-making. That usually means giving away the West Bank to the Arab Palestinians without mutual negotiations, or in some cases, abandoning Israel in their time of need. What is certainis that Israel, a free and democratic Jewish State, is singularly targeted in a way that no other nation is or has been.

Moreover, these groups overlook, justify or ignore the deadly violence – the terrorism targeted towards innocents – which Israel faces on a regular basis. The attacks have gone on nearly without interruption since Sept. 2000. (One statistic states that the Israel Defense Forces arrest a terrorist, or discover a terror plot, every nine minutes.)

Fortunately, the United States, as one ofIsrael’s closest allies, recently took action against the BDS movement. 

In Feb. 2016 the US Senate passed the bi-partisan Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, which included anti-BDS legislation. Surprisingly, the range of territory included everything Israel oversees, including the West Bank. The act, which implies BDS is discriminatory, protects governmental entities who choose to retract pensions and contracts from entities that boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel.

On their own, other states have created local anti-BDS legislation including: South Carolina Illinois, Ohio, California, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

“With this bill, Congress underscores the critical role that state and local governments and their communities have toplay in the ongoing struggle against anti-Semitism worldwide,” said bill
co-sponsor Senator Kirk to the media.

The BDS movement’s purpose was “to delegitimize Israel’s existence and inflame tensions in communities and on college campuses across the country,” said one of the co-sponsors of the bill Representative Dold. The new legislation sends “an unquestionable message about our steadfast opposition to BDS and strong support for those who stand up for Israel.”

In a similar vein, in February our neighbors to the north, Canada, passed a parliamentary motion condemning BDS.

As surprising as this may seem to some, even Peace Now – one of the left’s most well-known organizations who never miss an opportunity to harshly criticize the Israeli government – has stated that BDS is tantamount to collective punishment. 

Prof. Norman Finkelstein, another much-admired voice on the left, who has said no shortage of vicious words against Israel, has disavowed the BDS campaign, calling it “silliness, childishness and a lot of leftist posturing.”

What’s most interesting is that none other than Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has denounced BDS. “No, we do not support the boycott of Israel,” he said. “We do not ask anyone to boycott Israel itself. We have relations with Israel. We have mutual recognition of Israel.”

At our institutions of higher learning, however, the campus situation is dire. There is an upswing in anti-Israel activity and BDS support. Scores of university student groups across the nation have passed BDS-type resolutions in the past few years. Fifteen campuses put forth resolutions in the 2013-14 academic year – and nineteen in the past year, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL wrote in 2014 that some 400 anti-Israel events on campuses nation-wide focused on BDS while, in 2015, thatnumber exceeded 500. Eight college campuses considered BDS resolutions in the 2012-13 academic year as opposed to nineteen last year, according to their statistics. Finally, in a recent study, the AMCHA Initiative investigated more than 100 public and private colleges and universities, and found that BDS has in fact led to increased campus anti-Semitism.

To get a sense of what the anti-Israel crowd is using to justify its position, one only need look at the organization called the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. To their minds, BDS is correct because “Israel has violated more United Nations resolutions than any other country in the world.” Moreover, they say that “Israel is institutionally racist. It engages in ethnic cleansing.” Absurdly, they claim BDS is justified “in the face of the extraordinary stranglehold on the media that sympathizers of Israel have maintained over the decades,” while “criticism and open discussion of Israel in the US is suppressed, and critics are aggressively silenced and censored.” 

One need only look at how the mainstream media has skewed and biased coverage – and how pro-Israel speakers have been forced off of university campuses – to understand how this assertion has no basis in truth. Yet this organization maintains that Israel has no right to exist under international law, and that Hamas’ violence isn’t much to be concerned about.

These are the ideologies that drive the BDS supporters.

By the numbers, more than 300 academics, and dozens of organizations have partnered with the BDS initiative. It is their belief that dialogue, discussion, moral suasion and an open exchange of ideas isn’t worthwhile – and is, in fact, highly discouraged. “[It] would be naive to think that further debate and exchange… will bring an end to the apartheid system,” they exclaim. “Exchange and debate have unfortunately only furnished a cover for continuing expropriation.” 

According to Jewish Voice for Peace, Portland, Oregon’s Human Rights Commission placed Caterpillar, HP, G4S, and Motorola Solutions on a city-wide “no-buy list” because they do business with Israel. Similarly, regional governments in St. Louis, Missouri and Durham, North Carolina have cancelled contracts with certain security firms on the basis of their ties to Israel.

The anti-Israel ideology has spilled into religious institutions, too. In the past two years, United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Mennonite Church and two of the largest Protestant churches joined Boycott, Divest and Sanction campaign, reported the Guardian newspaper. All told, these account for several million members of BDS. In June 2014 America’s largest Presbyterian group voted to divest from Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard due to those corporations doing business with Israel. 

According to one BDS website, scores of governmental entities outside North America as well as corporations have signed onto BDS. The European Union forbade EU member states from cooperating with or transferring funds or giving scholarships and research grants to bodies in the West Bank; 26 municipalities in Spain, the Danish Bank and the Norwegian government are also boycotting Israel.

In spite of all of this, there issome good news on the international front. In Oct. 2015, the Jerusalem Post reported that a consortium of lawmakers from around the world have condemned BDS, and are advocating for the boycott of those who boycott Israel. The 22 lawmakers who signed a joint resolution hail from the UK, Italy, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic, Greece, Finland, Canada, South Africa, Uganda, Guatemala, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay. In part, the resolution advocated to “unequivocally declare our support for the Jewish people to livein peace, safety and security in the Land of Israel, and in their undivided capital, Jerusalem… [and] recognize the unique, historic and spiritual significance of the Land of Israel and the City of Jerusalem to the Jewish People.”

Additionally, at least some individuals see how BDS initiatives are backfiring against the very people they seek to protect – the Palestinians. Mike Fegelman, of  CBC says incredulously, “BDS campaigns saw close to 600 Palestinians who were gainfully employed at the SodaStream factory put out of a job,” all because some of the company’s products were manufactured in an Israeli settlement. “BDS pressure tactics cost Palestinian men and women equal-paying jobs, competitive employment benefits and generous health insurance packages.”  He continues by explaining: “Boycotting Israeli products like Jaffa oranges and Dead Sea salts does nothing to help the Palestinians improve their lives, nor does it help to develop democratic institutions necessary for Palestinian statehood aspirations.”

So, although the situation may seem dire and the tide of
anti-Semitism strong, it is safe to say that there is hope, in the guise of some individuals who are seeing logic. To counter all of the lawmakers, governments and extremists who seek Israel’s demise, there are people – fewer in number but more powerful in their ideals – who defend Israel’s existence. Let us align ourselves with them and pray for the general world feeling to change.