A recent Los Angeles Times editorial (July 8) criticized Israel for barring certain BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) activists from entering its borders. The Times presents the global movement as merely “an opinion in favor of a nonviolent protest movement that is unpopular in the country.”
The Times acknowledged that Israel is “a strong democracy marked by vigorous debate and a tolerance of alternative points of view, at least for its own citizens inside its own borders.” Indeed, Israel’s raucous democratic tent is large enough to include the full spectrum of political and social debate and dissent representing its over 8 million Jewish and Arab citizens. That’s reflected in daily debates in its Knesset and in overheated, hyperactive media.
But democracies also have the right to defend themselves from those seeking their destruction.
Today, the BDS movement serves as the tipping point of an asymmetrical war of demonization, de-legitimization, and ultimately doing away with the Jewish state.
That BDSers use words rather than bullets does not make it goals and tactics less malevolent.
After 9/11, the United States, recognizing the existential threat that jihadists posed to our country, passed the Patriot Act, which curtailed some of our civil liberties. This does not make America less of a democracy; it makes us responsible guardians of it. Democracies around the world block people—including on Social Media— who do harm to the national interest.
The original stated goal of BDSers was clear: leveraging boycotts to force Israel to the negotiating table. But read the fine print of Omar Barghouti, the godfather of the movement. He quickly shifted BDS’ focus to stigmatizing Israel as a “pariah state.” By 2010, Barghouti publicly admitted that the BDS Movement is really a public relations gambit designed to prepare the ground for the ultimate destruction of Israel: “If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two state solution, you’d have a Palestine next to a Palestine.”
Until now, the BDS Movement has succeeded in convincing numerous university student governments (but no university governing bodies), often using questionable election tactics like removing pro-Israel students from discussions altogether. These campaigns often tried to intimidate Jewish and other supporters of Israel on campuses.
Academic boycott resolutions have often been coordinated with anti-Israel votes by extreme labor union bodies. In the area of trade and economics, BDS has struck out. Israel’s hi-tech driven boom stands out as a role model to the world. Don’t bother asking China, India, or Warren Buffet about BDS. They are all in when it comes to investing in and with the Jewish state.
However, we are now witnessing a new stage – the promotion of hatred of Jews. One BDS zealot recently called all Nazi death camp survivors “cowards,” and smearing all Jews who don’t lock-step support BDS as evil “Zionists.” Women displaying the Star of David were told they had to leave the recent Dyke March in Chicago. In 2015, Jewish (but not Israeli) reggae performer Matisyahu was disinvited from the Rototom Sunsplash Festival in Spain for declining to issue a statement supporting Palestinian statehood. BDS activists tried blocking French-Tunisian actor, comedian and screenwriter Michel Boujenah, who is Jewish, from a Tunisian cultural event. Boujenah describes himself “close to Israel, as well as a supporter of a Palestinian state.” The Tunisian Association for Support of Minorities called the boycott organizers anti-Semitic. At Montreal’s McGill University, a student BDS urged followers to “punch a Zionist today.”
Then there is Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd fame, railing against the “Jewish lobby” In 2013, his European concerts floated a pig-shaped balloon branded with a Jewish star. A few days ago, he compared Israel to Nazis, and said that he knew of no more oppressive regime on the planet. Waters admitted was uneasy about Syria where over 400,000 of his its people have perished. (The total dead on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict is about 100,000; over a period of 70 years).
Democratic principles do not include national suicide. Mahatma Gandhi, observing what the Nazis were planning for the Jews, advised them not to resist. “The calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews…. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy.” Maybe for anti-Semites like Roger Waters.
Jews are finished adding memorial days to our calendar. Israel has learned to take seriously threats from wolves wrapped in free speech clothing, and has no obligation to roll out the red carpet for those stoking the flames of history’s oldest hatred.