There has been considerable pushback from many in the chattering classes–and some public officials, like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg–to those who have stood up to the BDS campaign against Israel. As I wrote earlier in the week, the mayor thinks we should pipe down when it comes to complaints about Brooklyn College or other institutions of higher learning hosting conferences devoted to supporting the effort to wage economic war on the State of Israel. Others have denigrated the position we’ve taken, on the necessity for Jewish groups to refuse to work together or co-sponsor events with BDS campaigners, as both intolerant and extremist. But this issue is not about academic freedom or the Jewish establishment repressing idealistic dissent against unpopular policies of the Israeli government. It is about hate speech and anti-Semitism.
That is a hard sell for many American Jews who think anti-Semites only come in one package. They think anti-Semites are only neo-Nazi troglodytes or conservative Christians (a terrible slander since the overwhelming majority of evangelicals and other conservative Christians in this country are fervent supporters of Israel and friends of the Jewish people). They refuse to believe that academics and students that couch their rhetoric in the language of human rights and the cause of the downtrodden and oppressed Palestinian people are acting from prejudice and promoting hatred. But they are wrong. And it is nice to know that the American group that is tasked with the responsibility of monitoring anti-Semitism is willing to say so. That’s why we must applaud the Anti-Defamation League for its ad in today’s New York Times refuting Bloomberg and calling the BDS movement by its right name. The ad, an essay by ADL national director Abraham Foxman, framed the issue in the same manner as I have done here at Contentions:
The BDS movement is not merely advocating boycotts of Israel, which in our mind is hateful on its own, but in its support for the “right of return” of refugees, they are advocating something even more hateful, the destruction of the Jewish state through demography. Anyone who is serious about the survival of Israel knows what this is about.
So we are talking here about hate, not mere criticism. The BDS movement at its very core is anti-Semitic.
Many American Jews purport to disagree with the policies of Israel’s government. But most of those who adopt this position have a rather shaky understanding of why it is most Israelis believe the Palestinians have no interest in making peace. But when the argument stops being about how Israel should be governed and becomes one centered on whether the Jews have a right to a state or to defend it, that goes beyond legitimate dissent and becomes part of an effort to deny Jews rights that are accorded every other people and nation.
In the case of Brooklyn College, Foxman is exactly right when he says that BDS supporters have a right to expound their hateful views just as members of the Ku Klux Klan (the same analogy I made here on Wednesday) cannot be prevented from articulating their views. But they do not have a right to expect public universities supported by the taxpayers, as is the case with Brooklyn College, to subsidize their efforts or to offer them a platform, let alone give them the stamp of legitimacy that such an event provides. Bloomberg would not use the police to stop the KKK from speaking at a forum they paid for in his city, but he would not tolerate a Klan conference at Brooklyn College for a minute. Nor would he tell African Americans who protested such an event to “go to North Korea,” as he did those Jews who spoke up about the BDS event.
The distinction made by some between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is a distinction without a difference. Denying rights to Jews to have their own state and to defend it, and seeking to destroy it by the means of economic warfare proposed by the BDS crowd, is fundamentally prejudicial since it sets up a double standard applied to no other country or people in the world. Contrary to the narrative of the BDS advocates, justice is not on the side of those who wish to destroy Israel or to support Palestinian efforts led by the Fatah and Hamas terrorist groups to wage war on it.
This is a simple truth that must be understood by all those who wish to give a pass to the BDS campaign or to try to see it as merely a disagreement about settlements or where Israel’s borders should be placed. As with racism directed at African Americans, a line must be drawn in the sand between persons of conscience and those seeking to boycott, disinvest and sanction the one Jewish state in the world.
That is why there can be no compromise with BDS or its supporters. The litmus test here is not about Benjamin Netanyahu but the survival of the Jewish people and their state. Those who oppose the existence of the latter may not act the part of traditional anti-Semites, but their cause is just as much rooted in bias as those articulated by neo-Nazis.