August saw dramatic BDS developments as Movement for Black Lives accusations that Israel has committed “genocide” alienated Jewish supporters. Hacked files showing the Open Society Foundation supports BDS, and that World Vision employees in Gaza had diverted millions of dollars to Hamas, shook faith in the global NGO and charity sectors. And the British Labour Party’s continuing antisemitism crisis was complemented by explicit BDS stances from the Canadian and US Green Parties. Even as traditional Democrats like Hillary Clinton and mainstream progressives like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio condemn BDS, there is growing evidence that the movement is solidly behind BDS. These fissures, and BDS support from major foundations like Open Society, suggest major shifts for Israel support in the future.
The most striking development in August came with the deepening crisis surrounding the Movement for Black Lives and its support for BDS. The movement’s platform, released in August, included several demands related to Israel. In a long section devoted to military spending, criminal justice reform, health care, and foreign affairs, the manifesto stated:
The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people. The US requires Israel to use 75 percent of all the military aid it receives to buy US-made arms. Consequently, every year billions of dollars are funneled from US taxpayers to hundreds of arms corporations, who then wage lobbying campaigns pushing for even more foreign military aid. The results of this policy are twofold: it not only diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Everyday, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded apartheid wall.
The document called on supporters to “Build invest/divestment campaigns that ends US Aid to Israel’s military industrial complex and any government with human rights violations,” campaign against “against G4S and other global private prison companies that are profiting from the shackling of our community in the US, in Palestine, in Brazil and around the world,” and to “Fight the expanding number of Anti-BDS bills being passed in states around the country. This type of legislation not only harms the movement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, but is a threat to the constitutional right to free speech and protest.”
The authors of this section included representatives from Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Dream Defenders, and Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Adalah is a leading BDS organization and has been the recipient of support from the New Israel Fund and Open Society foundation, while Movement for Black Lives has received funding from the Ford Foundation.
The “genocide” accusations were immediately criticized by Jewish groups otherwise favorably inclined toward the movement, including J Street, which stated that the assertion “Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people is outrageously incorrect, and deeply offensive to those who have lived through an actual genocidal attempt.” The Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations and individuals also criticized the “genocide” allegation, which was supported by Jewish Voice for Peace. A group of African American pastors also stated its opposition to the manifesto and allegations.
The affair demonstrates the success that BDS has with its long-term strategy of cultivating various far-left groups and movements in the name of ‘intersectionality,’ which alleges the unity of all ‘oppression’ and injustice,’ and in focusing hostility against Israel and Jews. In turn, these are now having a measurable impact on mainstream politics, with the promise of more to come. The willingness of BLM and other minority groups to turn on Israel and repudiate mainstream Jews also indicates the diminishing Jewish political influence. The perverse redefinition of genocide away from mass killing is also part of a long-term process of turning Jews from victims to perpetrators.
As the presidential elections come closer supporters of the Democratic and Republican parties assert that their candidate is the better friend of Israel, including on BDS. At the same time, more reports indicate that Black Lives Matter and its supporters have successfully made opposition to Israel a litmus test for joining the progressive movement.
Despite condemnation from progressive figures such as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the BDS movement continues to gain strength there. This had led to speculation that BDS will produce a split in the Democratic Party in the near future, particularly given support expressed by Bernie Sanders’ supporters and by the Green Party. For the moment, however, support for Israel remains stable, especially at the state level. This was demonstrated, for example, in New Jersey and California where anti-BDS bills barring the states’ pension funds from investing in companies that boycott Israel were, respectively, signed and passed in August.
On-going support for Israel, however, is the target of BDS and its enablers. Another major development in August was hacked documents and reports that revealed the extent to which the BDS movement is supported by mainstream foundations. Documents stolen, apparently by Russian hackers, from the Open Society Foundation indicated the organization had adopted explicit policies to change public attitudes against “racist and anti-democratic” Israel and that they had supported a number of pro-BDS groups. While it has been known that Open Societies had supported BDS, including covertly, their call for influencing global politics against Israel was a new discovery. Its secretive opposition to Israel demonstrates the power that foundations and charities wield as seemingly ‘non-partisan’ advocates for transparency, justice, and good governance.
Foundation and NGO support for BDS also builds on the longstanding United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) for Palestinian lawfare against Israel and BDS efforts. A new report in August indicates that the UN and EU are contributing money to Palestinian efforts to further institutionalize opposition to the “occupation” including filing a lawsuit at the International Criminal Court.
Another report noted how the Norwegian government funds other BDS organizations. Finally, accusations regarding Palestinian staff members took over the Gaza branch of the World Vision charity, diverting tens of millions of dollars to Hamas, including the military wing, show the process at its most covert and extreme.
Elsewhere a Spanish court in Málaga overturned a local city council’s BDS resolution. The decision was another in a series handed down by Spanish courts as a result of lawsuits filed by a pro-Israel group. At the same time, the Ibiza municipality passed a pro-BDS resolution. In Canada, the head of the Green Party resigned in August over that party’s adoption of a pro-BDS policy.
In Britain, the long-standing Labour Party scandal that emerged with revelations regarding antisemitism in affiliated student groups took a new turn. Reports indicated that lawyer Shami Chakrabarti, who produced a report downplaying Labour antisemitism, was rewarded with a peerage at the request of party head Jeremy Corbyn. A separate report on antisemitism at the Oxford University Labour Club, which had been suppressed by the party’s executive committee, revealed widespread abuse of Jewish students.
The Labour Party also suffered embarrassment when it was revealed that the international security firm G4S, which Labour had previously voted to boycott over the company’s work in Israel, has refused to provide security for the party’s annual conference. Various reports suggest the party conference may have to be cancelled.
In academia, as the fall semester begins there were a number of BDS developments. Most notable was a resolution passed by the student government at Leipzig University condemning BDS as antisemitic and a threat to academic freedom. The came in the wake of a pro-BDS event at Leipzig in the spring, as well as revelations regarding an antisemitic seminar at another German university, at which students were taught that Israelis harvest Palestinian children’s organs.
In the US, however, after a three-month investigation the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at the University of California Irvine received a written warning over its violent behavior during a protest against the showing of an Israeli film in the spring. During the protest filmgoers were trapped in a room by a mob that shouted “Long live the intifada,” “fuck the police,” and “all white people need to die.” As part of the punishment the SJP chapter must host an “educational program” by November. Pro-peace and Jewish groups protested the SJP sanctions, calling them a slap on the wrist.
More positively, a pro-BDS student involved in a violent protest against a visiting Israeli speaker at Kings College London was convicted of assault against a member of the audience. These contrasting outcomes suggest that the violence that characterized campus BDS protests in the previous academic year is likely to continue if not expand.
In the cultural sphere, BDS supporters harassed Israelis performing at the Edinburgh Festival, as did supporters of Glasgow’s Celtic football club during a match against an Israeli team. In response the European football association UEFA announced it was considering sanctions against Celtic, as well as against the French team St. Etienne, which had permitted fans to wave Palestinian but not Israeli flags. Elsewhere in football, the international football association FIFA announced that the 2017 conference would not be held in Malaya, since that country refused to grant visas to Israeli.
Senegalese Musician Babba Maal canceled performances in Israel after attacks from BDS supporter. But British diva Joss Stone did perform and was quoted criticizing the BDS movement for its singling out of Israel, as did members of the alternative rock band Garbage after their performance in Tel Aviv.