Combating the Anti-Semitism of the BDS Movement

The latest attempt to boycott Israel on a North American college campus was made over hummus. The Strauss Group, Israeli co-owner (with PepsiCo) of Sabra brand hummus, supports the Golani and Givati brigades with gift packages, and was thus accused of human rights abuses against Palestinians. Princeton students were urged to demand that other brands be offered on campus in addition to the offending hummus. The attempt failed but this is only but one of the latest examples of how the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement and its accompanying “apartheid” rhetoric is being disseminated, one plate of hummus at a time.

The BDS movement is de facto anti-Semitism. BDS targets Israel. Its stated goals vary but all include the "right of return" for Palestinian "refugees" and thus the end of Israel. It is cloaked to give the impression that ending specific Israeli policies such as the “occupation” will also bring an end to efforts to ostracize Israel. Their maximalist demand -- the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state -- is carefully hidden.

I recently completed a tour of college campuses sponsored by CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) and confronted many of these issues first-hand. I witnessed on the one hand a great deal of energy by pro-Israel students to combat this latest wave of anti-Semitism. On the other hand, despite their noble and well meaning actions, they fall short in the face of apathy among Jewish students at large and the vitriolic activities of the pro-Palestinian camps. The latter have devised ever more vigorous means to demonize Israel, such as model “check points” and apartheid walls, that disrupt campus life.

For example, while speaking at the University of Oklahoma I was challenged by two pro-Palestinian students who read off 3x5 cards a prepared question with the “correct” answer which they thought would illustrate Israel as a colonial force that wants to rid the region of Arabs and Muslims. The question was about the two blue lines that bookend the Star of David in the flag of Israel. It was phrased to anticipate an answer that the goal of Zionism is to expand from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea, eradicating all Muslim presence. Ironically, this reflects a common protest chant used by many pro-Palestinians during demonstrations: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

But after hearing a long explanation about the origins of the flag of Israel, which comes from the colored stripes of the Jewish prayer shawl, they left the room confused yet determined to come back with more “facts.” Such information is easily found but BDS supporters use assertions, no matter how absurd, to portray Israel as an aggressive force that robbed Palestinians of their land and threatens the entire Middle East.