Shalom Life | August 15, 2015

Op-Ed: BDS is a Threat to Israel's Very Existence

Make no mistake: BDS is not a campaign against settlements, but a war on the legitimacy of the Jewish state. All reasonable forces must act against the economic, academic, and cultural boycott which has become a strategic threat

By: Ben-Dror Yemini

Published: June 1st, 2015 in News » World

Photo: Students boycotting Israel


For years the battle of the bagel has been raging in South Africa – another front in the massive campaign against Israel.

BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel) activists have been fighting the Woolworths supermarket chain, which has insisted on importing bagels from the Jewish state. The total value of the imported foodstuffs is a mere million dollars out of the chain's nearly 10 billion dollars in revenues. Pocket change.

But the BDS activists are insistent. For a long stretch of time they protested and disrupted operations. Woolworths, for their part, are just as insistent. The chain petitioned the court and even won its trial.

The BDS activists, however, refuse to concede. The chamber of commerce, a youth league of the ANC (the largest and strongest faction in South Africa), and other institutions are part of the struggle.

BDS supporters in Woolworths in South Africa (Photo: AFP)

BDS supporters in Woolworths in South Africa (Photo: AFP)

Two weeks ago, on Nakba Day, they led some 10,000 students in a protest against Woolworths.

On the other side of the world, in Washington State, another much smaller supermarket chain, Olympia Food Co-op, voted to join the BDS movement and boycott Israeli products. When pro-Israel activists pursued a legal path to justice, they were dismissed out of hand.

Three years ago the state's Supreme Court reversed the decision. In the past, it must be noted, there were other legal victories. French courts clarified that boycotting Israeli products was a hate crime. The State of Illinois passed a precedent-setting law a mere two weeks ago that forbids investments in companies that partake in the BDS effort.

The series of legal victories, however, could create a false impression, since BDS has been winning the battle for public perception. Those who claim that BDS will not affect the Israeli economy are correct. For now.

The BDS movement has been conducting a campaign for awareness on multiple fronts – on campuses, in workers' unions, and in the media. It is amassing troubling victories. More and more student unions in the US are joining the boycott. Leading newspapers like the New York Times are providing a platform for boycott advocates.

Their influence has invaded the Hillel groups on campuses, as BDS supporters exploit the organization's wish for openness to disseminate their campaign. When you tell a young student that "Israel expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948" and he does not know that in those same years tens of millions underwent such expulsions – as that was once the norm – and that more Jews were kicked out of Arab lands… well, he might tend to believe that Israel was born in sin.

Some of the students then become BDS activists. In recent years, it has happened more and more.

Support for Israel in the United States is at its peak. But it's an illusion. On campuses, at research institutes, and in media outlets, there has been a consistent, protracted, and dangerous erosion of support for Israel.

It is already invading politics. Sidney Blumenthal was a senior advisor to Bill Clinton. His son, Max Blumenthal, has become a prominent and venomous activist on campuses against Israel's very existence. This isn't what happens in every Jewish family. Far from it. But that's the trend.

Israel is enduring one of the most systematic attacks against its existence. You don't need to be part of the BDS movement in order to be on the anti-Israel front.

When a member of Breaking the Silence appears at events sponsored by BDS, that is not criticism. That is demonization.

When Peter Beinart, one of the leaders of the Jewish left in the United States, who defines himself as a Zionist and Orthodox, claimed that on Lag BaOmer of 2014 Jews committed a pogrom against Palestinians, he was not working to criticize. He spread a blood libel.

When Richard Goldstone published the report bearing his name, he caused a propaganda hit to Israel, even though he recanted after some time. And the list is a long one.

The success of BDS is particularly impressive because it is a movement that uses the language of rights, but deals in practice with denying Israel's right to exist. The result is a major deception.

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