US President Biden’s whirlwind visit to the Middle East produced few tangible gains in terms of restoring Israeli-Palestinian negotiations or promises to increase Saudi oil production. But in an interview Biden, long regarded as a heartfelt supporter of Israel, stated his firm opposition to calling Israel an “apartheid state” and declared that those who do so are “mistaken.” The ramifications of this and the joint declaration by the US and Israel which made it clear that US policy is to ‘firmly reject’ BDS have yet to be seen.
BDS in July was shaped by the upcoming midterms. One key development occurred during President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel. In an interview he commented on Democrats who characterize Israel as an ‘apartheid state,’ saying “There are a few of them… I think they’re wrong. I think they’re making a mistake. Israel is a democracy. Israel is our ally. Israel is a friend. And I think that I make no apologies.”
Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Lapid also signed the “Jerusalem U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Joint Declaration” which states the two countries’ determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The declaration added
The United States and Israel affirm that they will continue to work together to combat all efforts to boycott or de-legitimize Israel, to deny its right to self-defense, or to unfairly single it out in any forum, including at the United Nations or the International Criminal Court. While fully respecting the right to freedom of expression, they firmly reject the BDS campaign. The two countries will use the tools at their disposal to fight every scourge and source of antisemitism and to respond whenever legitimate criticism crosses over into bigotry and hatred or attempts to undermine Israel’s rightful and legitimate place among the family of nations. In this context, they express their deep concern over the global surge in antisemitism and reassert their commitment to counter this ancient hatred in all of its manifestations. The United States is proud to stand with the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, and with its people, whose uncommon courage, resilience, and spirit of innovation are an inspiration to so many worldwide.
The administration’s forthright condemnation of BDS drew a sharp line for Democratic candidates. As midterms approach Democrats remain divided over Israel, with the results of redistricting complicating campaigns especially for incumbents. In New York, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a strong Israel supporter, faces a challenge from State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, who has been endorsed by Squad leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Biaggi distanced herself from AOC’s overt hostility over Israel claiming that she supported Israel “because I am progressive.”
In contrast, New York State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou, a candidate in the newly redrawn 10th District, stated that she is a firm supporter of BDS. Niou is one of several candidates to replaced Rep. Jerry Nadler, who will be running in a different district. Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, at one point a candidate in NY-10, sharply criticized Niou for her stance on Israel. After media attention focused on her BDS support, Niou posted then quickly deleted a photo of herself holding a challah on social media. The redrawn 10th District now stretches improbably from Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan and to the Upper West Side.
Most BDS supporting candidates come from the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party, which has been colonized by ‘Democratic Socialists of America’ and the ‘Working Families Party.’ But media outlets like CNN and the New York Times insist on framing the issue as right wing pro-Israel groups, namely AIPAC and Democratic Majority for Israel, intervening in primaries against J Street supported candidates that are uniformly represented as centrists or as virtuous supporters of Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Media reports thus described AIPAC’s support of Glenn Ivey, who defeated incumbent Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), as “pro-Israel money” and a ‘Trumpist’ effort to attract Jewish voters. Similarly, CNN’s depiction of Rep. Andy Levin’s campaign against fellow Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens highlighted J Street’s accusation that AIPAC is “a group that endorses 109 insurrectionist-aligned Republican (sic).” This echoed a new J Street ad buy attacking Stevens for taking AIPAC contributions, which stated, “No campaign cash is worth abandoning our democracy.”
Both news and J Street accounts depict Jewish political participation as abnormal, covert, plutocratic, and solely focused on Israel as viewed through a right-left lens. Compounding this are accusations that AIPAC support is “driving a wedge between communities of color, especially progressives, and the Jewish community” and targeting “women of color.”
Such accusations of Jewish ‘racism’ have been important to the tactic of entryism, wherein extremist candidates elide or misrepresent themselves in order to reach office through mainstream parties. It is well established in Britain where it has allowed numerous Islamist and Communists to become established through the Labour Party. The process was illustrated by the enthusiastic reception given Rep. Ilhan Omar during a visit to Britain by London Mayor Sadiq Khan and a host of antisemitic politicians including Sayeeda Warsi, Haz Shah, and Zarah Sultan. The international validation for Omar suggests a determined program of mutual support.
New reports also indicate that 2018 campaign events for Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s 2018 were organized by individuals who had previously been found liable for a Hamas financing scheme. Those individuals had been indicted in the Holy Land Foundation case and had been ordered to pay a $156 million judgment to the family of an American citizen killed in a Hamas terror attack.
The Holy Land Foundation was shuttered without payment being rendered. The same individuals then launched American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the leading US Muslim supporter of BDS. AMP support for Squad member Rep. Cori Bush was also evident in reports that showed fundraising for Bush by Hamas supporter Neveen Ayash, who stated on social media that she would “set Israel on fire with my own hands & watch it burn to ashes along with every Israeli in it.’
The presence of three BDS supporting Democratic candidates in different races for the Maryland General Assembly, the anti-Israel resolutions in the North Carolina Democratic Party platform, and the prominence of antisemites such as Maher Abdel Qader in Democratic fundraising nationa-wide, continues to demonstrate anti-Israel radicalization at the grassroots level. The endorsement of Lt. Gov. Jon Fetterman’s candidacy for Senate by the BDS group Peace Action raised similar concerns. Conversely, Jared Moskowitz, the leading candidate to replace retiring Rep. Ted Deutsch (D-FL) accused the Republican Party of embracing “white supremacy,” stating “We’ve got some anti-Zionists on our side. But it’s nowhere near what’s going on with Republicans.”
In the academic sphere, the antisemitism crisis at the City University of New York (CUNY) continued. A group of Jewish students at the CUNY Law School filed a discrimination charge with the American Bar Association (ABA) alleging “ the law school’s recent unanimous faculty adoption of a formal BDS policy that vulgarly and blatantly discriminates against students, prospective students, faculty and employees, and prospective faculty and employees on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and nationality.” This violates the ABA’s accreditation standards. A civil rights complaint was also filed with the Department of Education on behalf of Jewish students and faculty
Fallout also continued from the refusal of CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos to appear at a City Council meeting on antisemitism at the institution called by Councilwoman Inna Vernikov of Brooklyn, a move that was condemned by Jewish leaders. While the committee heard testimony regarding the school’s antisemitic atmosphere, a CUNY official refused to discuss the antisemitic incidents, the institution’s response, or whether CUNY denounced BDS as a whole. The faculty union head also stated falsely that he had not supported the BDS campaign in the union and that he had reached out to members who had resigned over the policy.
Several weeks later Matos met Vernikov privately and reportedly stated that CUNY would initiate new Israel exchange programs and that antisemitism would be included in the institution’s diversity and inclusion training. When questioned about the CUNY situation New York City Mayor Eric Adams commented “As we work to combat a spike in hate crimes, especially antisemitic ones, it is important to support and uplift all New Yorkers to ensure no one is targeted for hatred.”
The combination of dishonesty and disdain shown by CUNY administrators and faculty towards Jewish concerns reflects a sense of near impunity. With the rise of ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ bureaucracies in institutions like CUNY, which appear resolute in their determination to ignore Jews, and the decline in Jewish political power in New York City, the CUNY situation is a bellwether for the larger position of Jews on campus.
The recent announcement of a CUNY campus group that promises to help Jews ‘unlearn Zionism’ reflects the hostile grassroots campus environment. The group, which is comprised of Jewish and non-Jewish students and staff, describes Israel as a ‘settler colonial state’ which supports “fascist regimes and white supremacists globally” and the IHRA definition as “ploy to demonize anti-Zionist and Palestinian freedom of speech.” Attacks on the IHRA definition were also central to a webinar hosted by the Institute for Holocaust Studies, Genocide and Remembrance at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst that featured Jewish studies faculty.
Elsewhere in the academic sphere, the Association for Israel Studies voted to disaffiliate itself from the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) as a result of the latter’s endorsement of BDS. For its part, MESA has continued to push BDS and anti-Israel policies, including in a letter to the Department of Education stating its opposition to the IHRA definition.
The growing opposition to any restrictions or commentary on BDS continues to produce hostile campus environments that must be negotiated by pro-Israel faculty and Jewish students, and managed by university administrations. An investigation into antisemitism and ‘Islamophobia ‘at McGill University pointed to BDS campaigns as uniquely polarizing that resulted in harassment and feelings of persecution by both Jewish and Muslim students. The McGill report came as the student government suspended a pro-Palestinian group for three months for a publication protesting the school’s refusal to adopt a BDS policy.
A unique situation of student suppression of faculty speech continues to play out at Goldsmiths College in London. The student government accused David Hirsch, a leading scholar of contemporary antisemitism, of being a “far right white supremacist,” for his expressions of concern over ‘decolonization of the curriculum.’ The students’ characterization of Hirsch as something tantamount to a Nazi were then endorsed by the school’s faculty union, which has long seen him as an unwanted voice. After an initial expression of support for Hirsch, the administration pivoted to state adherence to the ‘Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism,’ which explicitly legitimizes BDS and equations of Israel with Nazism.
Fallout continued over the ‘Mapping Project’ that charts Boston area Jewish and other entities, alleging a conspiracy to ‘suppress’ Palestinian rights. An analyst observed that the Mapping Project uses similar language to the ‘California based ‘Jisr Collective,’ with peculiar locutions suggesting Farsi to Arabic translations. This lead to the suggestion that both are Iranian backed information operations. Analysis also showed that the ‘Mapping Project’ is hosted by a company based in Iceland, leading to a demand from the ADL that the Icelandic government take the site down.
Finally, the annual conference of British Methodists voted to renew its support for BDS. Jewish leaders condemned the move. Similarly, the Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA) voted to declare Israel an “apartheid state,’ to allege that Christians have no freedom of worship in Jerusalem, and to declare May 15 as “Palestinian Nakba Remembrance Day.” Jewish leaders and others condemned the move. PCUSA’s own statistics show continuing dramatic drops in membership over the last decade, partially as a result of increasingly liberal policies over gender.