The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement
A propaganda war and economic terrorism against a vital strategic ally
Recently, state legislatures around the country have begun to legislate against the practices of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS, whose founding and funding have been linked to Hamas and other designated terror groups, is a campaign that claims to be concerned with Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and that targets Israel and Israelis economically and politically. At first glance, it seems unclear why this would be an American issue, let alone a state issue, but as it turns out, BDS’s impact against American citizens is profound.
Before addressing how BDS harms Americans, it is important to set the record straight: BDS is not actually a protest of Israeli policies and is not aimed at bettering anyone’s life. BDS is an aggressive disinformation campaign dedicated to one goal: to destroy the Jewish state. In the process BDS harms Jews and Arabs alike.
“The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel. There should not be any equivocation on the subject.” Those words belong to BDS leader As’ad Abu Khalil, a professor at the University of California. “BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state … BDS is the final showdown.” That was written by BDS Leader Ahmed Moor.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said: “Those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot.” And Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog of the Labor Party has called BDS “unacceptable and hypocritical in every shape and form” and “an onslaught against Israel all over the world.”
Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of our ally Israel and every single state has economic and often many other ties with Israel, bringing home the benefits of Israel’s remarkable cutting-edge technologies in medicine, agriculture, water tech, energy, security and much, much more. But even for those who do not see standing with Israel as a state issue, BDS must be fought because it does not just attack the Jewish state. BDS is also the basis for a newly emboldened and vicious anti-Semitism here at home.
American Jews, even if they have no connection to Israel, are primary targets for BDS. This is especially acute for university students, who are targeted for harassment by other students, faculty and staff. On campus after campus, BDS routinely punishes, threatens, shouts down and shuts out open discourse in order to incite hatred and violence against Jews.
Similar to the situation in Europe, young American Jews now increasingly feel compelled to hide their backgrounds and identities. How serious is this problem? To put it in perspective, only about 1.5 percent of Americans are Jewish – yet according to the FBI, a staggering 60 percent of all hate crimes against religious minorities in this country are against Jews.
Americans who are not Jewish but who support Israel are also victimized by BDS groups. In state capitols around the U.S. and in Washington, DC, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a member of the ALEC International Relations and Federalism Task Force, and its colleagues in many anti-BDS groups have been working with legislators to fight BDS. As America’s leading law firm dedicated to defending constitutional liberties, ACLJ is willing to go to court to protect Americans from BDS attacks. Recent examples of ACLJ work relating to public university systems can be found here (where the victim is not Jewish) and here (where there is evidence of a pervasive atmosphere of hostility toward Jewish students).
Collectively, these efforts are chipping away at BDS, legally and publicly repudiating their propaganda. But there is much more to be done in terms of education and legislation. The situation on campus continues to deteriorate. States have an enormous role to play.
Israeli Supreme Court justice Hanan Meltzer has termed BDS “political terrorism.” Americans are being terrorized and young American Jews are living in fear. Fighting the blood libels and anti-Semitic abuses of BDS does not require a lawmaker to be pro-Israel, it simply demands decency, conscience, and an awareness both of history and current events.
It is vital to protect victims of BDS attacks and stand with our ally Israel. If your state has not yet legislated against BDS – or if it has but you are concerned and want to take it to the next level and go on the offensive against BDS, ACLJ is one of the organizations that might be able to help.