BDS activism from within has become unhinged

Ironically, BDS activists play a salutary role: They unite the rest of society, from Left to Right, in contempt for them.
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A woman wearing a T-shirt which reads, "Boycott Israel", takes part in a demonstration in favour of the occupied Palestinian people of Gaza in Brussels December 27, 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS/SEBASTIAN SCHEINER/POOL)

A woman wearing a T-shirt which reads, “Boycott Israel”, takes part in a demonstration in favour of the occupied Palestinian people of Gaza in Brussels December 27, 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS/SEBASTIAN SCHEINER/POOL)

Two recent initiatives by mostly Israeli Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement activists and BDS sympathizers shine an intense light on how warped and detached they have become, and how willing they are to throw their own country and countrymen under the bus in the name of their ideological agenda.

In one case, 37 Jewish academics, including 29 Israelis, signed a letter demanding the dismissal of Felix Klein, Germany’s antisemitism commissioner. Klein’s sin was to disinvite a highly anti-Israeli and pro-BDS professor from Cameroon to speak at a publicly funded cultural event in August.

Klein’s rationale was a simple one. The professor, Achille Mbembe, espoused views that Klein deemed to be antisemitic.

Not surprisingly, there was outrage and pushback among those who thought that Klein should be disinvited from continuing in his position. However, it is the rationale for the outrage that illustrates how dogmatic, unthinking and downright hateful BDS activism has become.

The “scholars” resented the idea that BDS could be equated with antisemitism. Now these are professors, so one might think some astute, if not critical thinking would be in order. Granted, neither a boycott, divestment or sanction is, in and of itself, antisemitic.

However, the real issue is how, when and against whom these tactics are being deployed. BDS does not exists to call out human rights abusers around the world. It is not used, for example, to tilt at the Chinese oppression of the Uyghurs.

BDS is used solely and exclusively as a way of attacking Israel; not just Israel, but Israelis; not just Israelis, but Jews, Jews who have chosen to operate businesses, or to live in Judea and Samaria.

The signatories accused Klein of the “weaponization” of antisemitism to attack BDS advocates and advocacy, with which he is “clearly obsessed.” In other words, Klein’s crime was that by seeing through the tactics to the real import of how BDS is used to single out and to delegitimize Israel, and only Israel, he was using charges of antisemitism to thwart the “noble” purposes of BDS.

Best of all, with total, unintended irony, the signers decried the disinviting of Mbembe as “contributing to the marginalization of non-white voices and minorities in Germany.”

In other words, in the name of racial tolerance, we should foster antisemitism.

Let’s put aside for the moment that 22 of the 29 Israeli scholars are affiliated with Israeli universities, and are therefore being paid, at least indirectly and in part, by the state and citizens that they are seeking to delegitimize. Let’s put aside the reality that those whose cause they are championing are still intent on driving these self-same academics and their families out of the country, if not into the sea.

It is particularly perplexing how these people do not see that they, like those in the second recent initiative, are serving as the “useful idiots” for those who would love nothing more than to destroy Israel. They provide legitimacy and validation to Israel-haters everywhere, particularly because 29 of the 37 signers are Israelis.

THE SECOND initiative is perhaps even more surreal than the first. Here, prominent Israelis, former political officials and recognized academics, have appealed to the Irish government to pass and implement a pending bill that would boycott companies based in Judea and Samaria.

Supposedly motivated by the horrific prospect of the application of Israeli sovereignty over 30% of Judea and Samaria, the signatories – including seven Israeli professors, and former MKs Colette Avital, Avraham Burg and Mossi Raz – called for the final passage of a bill, which passed the lower house of the Irish Parliament back in January 2019.

That bill would not only boycott businesses in Judea and Samaria, but also in east Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. So all those who would be so dastardly as to operate a business in these areas should be punished as a way of preventing Israel from becoming “an apartheid state,” while “enabling the two-state solution, leading to peace, security and prosperity for all.”

Well, maybe not those whose businesses would be ruined in the process. These were all Israeli signatories. Do they not remember the example of SodaStream, a Samaria-based business that employed 250 Palestinians who enjoyed equal pay and benefits to their Israeli counterparts?

Following public pressure, SodaStream relocated to the Negev, and all the Palestinian workers lost their jobs. How did that further the cause of bringing peace, security and prosperity for all?

There is much to be revolted about from these two incidents: hypocrisy, ingratitude, obtuseness and giving support to our enemies, among others.

But it is the willingness to disparage, denigrate and delegitimize one’s one fellow citizens, one’s own country, all in the name of a sanctimonious conviction that BDS activists are the bearers of justice, truth and fairness that is truly galling.

Ironically, BDS activists play a salutary role: They unite the rest of society, from Left to Right, in contempt for them. We can all discuss, debate and disagree about the right way forward, and the best way to assure the best future for Israel and its neighbors.

But to decide that some of us are so certain in their convictions as to imperil the rest of us is to place themselves outside of the tent of decency and credibility.

The writer is the chairman of the board of directors of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at [email protected]

BDS activism from within has become unhinged

Ironically, BDS activists play a salutary role: They unite the rest of society, from Left to Right, in contempt for them.
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