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April 14, 2016 10:22 am

How to Beat the BDS Movement

avatar by John Poris

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An anti-Israel protest at a college campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

An anti-Israel protest at a college campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

In recent years, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement has gained significant ground in its war against Israel.

It has a strong presence on many university campuses across the world, including in the United States. Many of the groups most actively involved in anti-Israel activities are offshoots of radical Muslim organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Hamas, and even though they are officially considered terrorist groups by the US government, they are allowed to function nonetheless.

These groups are typified by student organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Muslim Student Associations on many campuses and even Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). They work hard to include more “leftist” Jewish students in hopes of appearing to be inclusive and to refute claims that they are, at heart, antisemitic.

Their more well-known activities include “actions” such as placing fake eviction notices on student dormitory doors, holding annual “Israeli Apartheid Week” activities, replete with “die-in’s,” checkpoints and propaganda walls, organizing very loud and vocal protests, working to pass divestment resolutions in student governments, pushing to exclude Jewish and pro-Israel students from any discussion, posting billboards and posters equating Israel with Nazi Germany and preventing people with pro-Israel perspectives from speaking on campuses. This activity has spilled over to other “leftist”-oriented groups, such as Black Lives Matter, LGBT networks and women’s rights organizations.

To date, opposition to these tactics has been scattered, disorganized and largely ineffective, in spite of some successes, such as the recent passage at the University of California of a somewhat watered-down antisemitism policy.

I believe that we, as a community that supports a strong, democratic, tolerant Israel, must do a much better job of combating the BDS movement.

The short version of what we need to do is:

  1. Vigorously promote Israel through advertising campaigns, public relations, free trips to Israel, movies and television shows showing positive images of Israel. Show positive images of Israel at every opportunity. Put up billboards advertising travel to Israel, showing as often as possible the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nature of Israel. Enlist prominent advertising and public relations firms to assist in any way possible.
  2. Organize strong and large rallies in every major city in support of Israel. Utilize existing organizations, recruit on campuses, bus in participants from other cities in order to make rallies large, march on Washington DC in mass numbers, making sure to have great pro-Israel signs and slogans, based 100% on incontrovertible truth.
  3. Mount large, well-organized counter-demonstrations to every BDS-related event, whether on campus or anywhere else. When a BDS-related or anti-Israel event is announced, show up en masse outside with protest signs, loudspeakers, signs and banners, and provide the truth. Don’t let them get away with simply presenting their lies without opposition, which is largely what happens now. Always obey the law, don’t prevent their speakers from speaking, but ask pointed, probing questions during Q&A sessions, and, if possible, set up speakers directly opposite to present truths to counter their lies.
  4. Lawfare – sue them for slander, have them arrested for disturbing the peace when they disrupt speakers, and pressure university administrations to shut them down when they violate campus policies on both antisemitism and free speech. Enlist the help of “The Lawfare Project” in understanding what is possible and how to start the process. If they initiate physical contact (assault), file complaints with both campus and local police. Make sure to have video of everything, and provide it as evidence as well as publicizing it on social media.
  5. Go after (legally) primary supporters of BDS. Find out who they are, expose them, and encourage supporters of Israel to avoid doing business with these people and their companies.
  6. Support organizations such as AMCHA Initiative, StandWithUs, Canary Mission, join Facebook groups such as Stop BDS on Campus, Fighting BDS, Stop BDS Now, and others, while at the same time pushing them to coordinate activities more effectively.
  7. Involve the Israeli government to a much larger extent in support of these activities. Utilize the resources of the Israeli Intelligence community to expose the backers of BDS. So far, Israel has not seemed to take BDS as seriously as it I think it should. While I’m sure there are “behind the scenes” activities going on, they are clearly not as effective as they need to be. Israel needs to be a key player in this fight.

The bottom line is that we need to shine a light on the lies promulgated by the BDS movement. It is a movement based on untruths, and the voices raised in opposition are, so far, largely ineffective.

This is, effectively, a war. It is a war for the survival of Israel as an independent nation accepted by the majority of the nations of the world. Just like any war, we have to have an effective strategy to defeat the enemy. Our tactics need to line up with our strategy, and we need to fight to win. Winning is crucial in this war, and so far, our strategy and tactics are unclear and ineffective, as can be seen by the successes of the BDS movement.

The worst thing we can do is to underestimate the capabilities and resolve of our enemies, or believe that this will just “blow over.” It won’t. It’s time to fight strongly, smartly and effectively, and to mobilize all the resources at our disposal.

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  • Iman Annab

    Never seen such a biased article in my entire life. The Boycott Movement is nonpartisan and secular and acts only apply pressure on countries or systems that abuse human rights. Israel happens to be one of them, and this particular branch of the Boycott movement is run by Palestinians and supported by many Jewish Israelis too, especially in Academia. It has zero to do with anti-semitism. Do you even know what anti-semitism means? An irrational hatred of Jews. Israel does not own world Jewry and therefore this movement is pressure on Israel, not Jews per se. For the record, I believe there are other nations that are equally abusive of human rights, and they ought to be boycotted too. But Israel is the last ongoing racist, colonial project left in the world today and as such much be boycotted.

    • By all means, please educate me as to how this article is “biased”. Present evidence showing that the facts presented are false.

      NONE of what I’ve presented is false, ALL of it is easily proven.

      And, please, present us with evidence of ANY “BDS” movement active in the world today that is acting against ANY country other than Israel.


    • Sally Mock

      If BDS existed only to apply pressure on Countries or Systems that abuse human rights, they would be boycotting, as their PRIORITY: – IRAN, Saudia Arabia, Yemen,The Gulf States, Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan,
      SYRIA, Egypt, etc. There are an enormous number of Countries who have No Human or Civil Rights at all, for Women, for Journalists, For any type of Free Speech, for the L/G community.

      It is obvious to any intelligent, thinking individual that BDS does not care about Human Rights whatsoever.
      They are instead obsessed with the one Sovereign State of Israel who has one of the best Human & Civil Rights Record in the World. Where Palestinian/Israeli Arabs serve in Parliament, in the Justice System: Where Israeli/Palestinians have an equal education to Israelis, and graduate to become Doctors, Scientists, and actually work in Israeli Hospitals, Clinics & private practice. Where there are equal opportunities for Israeli/Palestinian Women. Where there is a Gay Pride Parade each year. Where there is Total Freedom of Speech (even to criticize their own Government).

      Name one other country of the above I have named, where this type of Human & Civil Rights exist in the Middle East, other than Israel?

      So BDS, if you are indeed serious, Boycott the Countries that deserve it. Israel needs to be commended not boycotted.

      BDS you are a group of PHONIES, who are too incompetent to do the actual research on your Subject, or are just blinded by hatred of Israel and resentful of its dazzling success in the field of Science, Medicine, Technology and Human & Civil Rights.

    • A.M. Gilbert

      The only reason you’ve never seen an article this biased must be because you are new to this site. It is a dependable soldier in Israel’s ubiquitous and unrelenting hasbara (propaganda) army. As with any criticism of today’s Israel, first comes the anti-Semite smear, repeated and compounded, then taken for granted in pieces like this. Somehow, Israel is now the victim. Never, ever do these essays even approach the question that maybe, just maybe, it’s the Occupation and the miserable existence imposed on the Palestinians that we should look at. You won’t be reading about that here.

      • @ A.M. Gilbert – I have to laugh at you (and the other) accusation of bias and claims that I’ve used the “anti-Semite” smear. I haven’t, although it is all too easy to do with relation to the BDS movement.

        The fact that there simply don’t seem to exist any equivalent movements to protest (or boycott) countries like Turkey, China, Russia, Morocco, etc. who are all currently occupying territory they took by force in wars (or invasions) they initiated is a pretty good indicator that something other than concern for the “poor, poor Palestinians” and their “miserable existence” is behind it.

        One has to ask oneself WHY the “Palestinians” have such a “miserable existence”. WHY did Israel enact checkpoints in Judea and Samaria? When did that happen?

        And, one also has to ask how is their existence so “miserable” when the vast majority live under PA rule in Areas A and B (defined under the Oslo accords) and most never see an Israeli in their day to day lives.

        As for never addressing the question of whether “the Occupation” is to blame for the plight of the “Palestinians”, it’s something I have addressed a great many times in various essays and articles.

        Clearly, the land conquered by Israel in 1967 in defense against Jordan’s attack on Israel is NOT the cause of the problem. If it were, what could possibly explain the terror attacks on Jews in that region going back long before even the founding of the state of Israel in 1948?

        Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria for millennia – continuously. They were slaughtered simply because they were Jewish. I really can’t think of a more apt phrase than “anti-semitism” in that context….

        • A. M. Gilbert

          You know, Mr. Poris, you and the others responding here to Mr. Annab’s first quite appropriate comment are, in my view, so far removed from reality that there’s really no point in arguing the matter. We’ll see how it all works out in the end now that the Kahanists have, since Rabin’s assasination, captured control of Zionism. But, in addition to the anti-Semite label so readily deployed against intelligent critics of Israel, you provide another of the standard hasbara responses: why pick only on Israel? Look at all the other colonialists. In the first place this is an admission of culpability (see we’re not the only bad guys). More importantly, unless its trying to deflect criticism, Israel loves to say how it’s the only democracy in the Mid-East. a free nation in the great Western tradition, a light unto the world. But you can’t have it both ways. Great democracies don’t maintain an ugly military occupation of their of millions of indigenous people for five decades. Let me put it to you this way, Mr. Poris, after a long and varied life, only the current government of right wing thugs governing Israel has manged to make me ashamed to be a Jew.

          • Mr. Gilbert – asking why there are no “BDS” movements seeking redress of occupations in other lands is not an admission of “guilt”.

            Yes, Israel controls the West Bank (or Judea and Samaria). It has annexed Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

            However, to legally have an “occupation”, one must be “occupying” land that is owned by another nation.

            In the case of Israel and the West Bank, the Palestinians have no NATIONAL rights to the land.

            On an individual basis, of course there are landowners who own individual plots of land, but that is not the same as a national identity.

            The Palestinians, as a “nation”, have never existed throughout history. Israel captured these territories from Jordan in 1967, who captured them in 1948 when the British withdrew.

            Before that, this land was controlled by the Ottomans for 400 years, and before that, a succession of various conquerors, all the way back to two Jewish kingdoms.

            So, the word “occupation” is not really apt.

            Controlled? Yes, no question – at least in Area C (per the Oslo agreements). Areas A and B are controlled by the Palestinian Authority, with joint security administration with Israel.

            I have no issue whatever with the creation of a Palestinian national identity. We have done something similar here in the United States – most Americans came from other places, just as many “Palestinians” came from other Arab countries prior to 1948 (witness the numbers of names such as “Al Masri” (The Egyptian), etc.).

            The fact that they have developed this identity since the mid-1960’s is fine by me. I don’t care one way or another.

            Whatever they NEGOTIATE as boundaries for a new state/country is fine by me, as well.

            BUT, they have no intrinsic national or legal rights to any specific territory, since they never lost it as such.

            You may be ashamed to be a Jew – I am not. I am proud to be a Jew. Israel IS the only democracy in the region. It DOES offer a level of freedoms to all its citizens that is unthinkable in any other country in the region, where most of the Jews were killed or driven out many years ago, and Christians are meeting the same fate today (along with gays).

            Israel is in Judea and Samaria today because it has no alternative but to be there.

            They have no one with whom to negotiate, since Abbas steadfastly refuses to sit down and negotiate (with good reason – he’d be assassinated pretty quickly if he reached a deal with Israel).

            They COULD, in theory, withdraw unilaterally from lands, but unfortunately, experience (with Gaza) has shown that to be critically dangerous. It is likely that if they did, Hamas would overthrow Fatah very quickly, creating a VERY hostile border a stone’s throw from central Israel, it’s population centers, and it’s international airport.

            You seem like a reasonably intelligent person, but your perspective is fatally flawed, since you seem only to want to look at the “ugly, military occupation” without considering what CONCRETE steps Israel might take without putting their citizens at major risk. That, in my mind, is inexcusable.

            Most Arabs in “the territories” never see an Israeli or a Jew in their daily lives. They do see soldiers if they have to go through a checkpoint (although the number of checkpoints has been reduced drastically over the last few years). They live a pretty decent life, especially when compared to Arabs living in other countries.

            And, as B. Ivel said below, the BDS movement spends an awful lot of energy calling for the destruction of Israel, something that, as a Jew, should scare the living crap out of you.

      • B. Ivel

        A.M Gilbert, there is ample evidence that BDS is funded and staffed by extreme antisemites. Its true goal is not helping Palestinians build anything but rather to destroy Israel.

        The only beacon of hope for Arabs in the Middle East happens to be Israel and I say this after having been in most of these countries. Only an irrational idiot can keep this lie going. Statistics about Arab population show without the shadow of a doubt that Arabs living in Israel are the most well-off educated Arabs in the ME.

        Denying the Jews the right to have a state, a Jewish state, is truly racist. The Jews are again single out specifically as time and time again in history. And at the end of the day, the irony is that many of these haters will owe their livelihood and health to progress made possible by Israel, and not by a longshot from a single Arab state.

        I wonder how the world would change if all these righteous people all of the sudden realized the irony of applying standards to Israel that no other nation on earth is exposed to while Israel has to deal with decades of persistent irrational attacks from the most violent and backward societies on earth…

        • A. M. Gilbert

          Thank you, (Mr. Poris) for this measured response. Let me, in parting peacefully from these pages, make a couple of points. I’m not ashamed to be a Jew; in fact I am proudly Jewish. It’s what I perceive as Israel’s more recent gratuitous arrogance and brutality that, alone, induces shame.

          We also both know that any sincere attempt to address the Palestinian issue, one that delivers a viable state, will immediately suck the blood out of the BDS movement. We all know there will be no right of Palestinian return. This will be a negotiated solution paid for and borne by a wide alliance of countries.

          And finally, I can assure you I have little fear of BDS. I live in the safest and freest place in the world for Jews — California — where the non-orthodox can marry in the synagogues of their choice and live without fear that, sooner or later, the circle of hate built around Israel will overcome all the checkpoints and walls.

          May we, somehow, find a way to peace.

          • Gerry Schaffer

            A.M Gilbert, I believe you are one naive Jewish Californian.. possibly Los Angeles where I used to hang out. I don’t know how many states of the USA you have resided but to claim that California is the safest and freest place in the world is somewhat over the top. Try coming to Florida for a beginning.

            If you really want to support the Palestinians get in touch with their leaders. I can assure you that most Palestinians would prefer to live under Israeli rule than survive in Gaza under Hamas. I don’t have a lot of information on the organization BDS (boycott, defund, sanctions) though as other readers have suggested they are most vocal when attacking Israel. Possibly our learned friend from California can inform us of some of their other exploits?

            Yes the PLO has to come to terms with Israel and settle a statehood for the nation of Palestine and like all treaties following a war the Palestinians can live in harmony and peace with their neighbor, Israel. It may never happen in your lifetime because Arabs believe in the long haul – hundreds if not thousands of years living in misery for the salvation of owning Jerusalem and the destruction of Israel.

          • Mr. Gilbert, you said “We also both know that any sincere attempt to address the Palestinian issue, one that delivers a viable state, will immediately suck the blood out of the BDS movement.”

            What would you consider a “sincere attempt” to address the Palestinian issue?

            Given that whether or not the Palestinians form a state of their own is a Palestinian problem, not an Israeli problem, what are Israel’s obligations, in your mind?

            Israel has made a number of concrete offers of peace, including giving up the vast majority of the West Bank and a big chunk of Jerusalem, yet the Palestinians have walked away without any kind of counter. Instead, they make demands they know NO Israeli government could possibly agree to (such as a “right of return” for 5 million people).

            The truth of the matter is that the crux of the problem is an unwillingness on the part of the Arab world, including the newly minted “Palestinians” to accept the existence of a Jewish state.

            If the issue were the “territories”, there would have been no wars in 1948, 1956, and 1967. No war of Attrition. No terror activities prior to 1948, or even prior to 1918. Yet, there were.

            Personally, I couldn’t care less if the Palestinians have a state or not. They are responsible for their own destiny, including statehood.

            I DO care how such a state might impact the safety and security of Israel.

            I believe that, by international treaty and international law, Jews should have the right to live wherever they choose to live. The idea of a Palestinian state whose leaders have trumpeted the policy that “No Jews Will Be Allowed” frankly makes my blood boil.

            Why should Jews not be allowed to continue living on land they legally purchased?

            Some of the land in the West Bank (in Hebron, Jerusalem, Gush Etzion, etc.) was purchased long before Israel became a state, and lost to the owners only when the Jordanians captured it in 1948. Why shouldn’t the legal owners (Jews) of that land be entitled to live on it?

            Sorry, Jews have rights in that area, too.

            As for not living in fear of BDS because you live in California, you should perhaps peruse some of the sites dedicated to bashing “Zionists” and Jews. Learn about how Jewish students are being treated on UC campuses these days. You should be scared out of your wits.

            The fact that you can marry in any synagogue of your choice is irrelevant, really. So what? Can you walk onto campus at Berkeley at profess that you are a proponent of the state of Israel? Safely? No, you can’t… That would not make me as smug as you appear to be….