Here’s What You Can Do to Help Fight BDS
Last August, after an American Jewish reggae singer was banned by pro-BDS activists from singing at a Spanish music festival, I penned an article titled “BDS is not pro-Palestinian, it’s antisemitic.”
The article did the rounds on the Internet, and I was the recipient of some pretty opinionated feedback– not all of it positive, as you might imagine. Over the past few months, the message conveyed by the article’s title has become much more mainstream, as it has become evident to an ever-widening array of people, even those not hugely supportive of Israel, that at its core the BDS movement is not interested in forcing Israel to the negotiating table or achieving a two-state solution. Not at all. It is principally interested in delegitimizing Israel so that it becomes considered a pariah, with no chance of rehabilitation. Essentially, they seek the destruction of Israel without using bombs and guns.
So when Bernie Sanders appointed Simone Zimmerman as his “Jewish Outreach Coordinator” earlier this week, the reaction from his left-wing Jewish fans was one of complete horror, and many immediately and publicly disavowed their support. Why were they so horrified? Because Zimmerman is well known as an avid support of BDS. What makes this negative reaction so interesting is that Bernie’s Jewish supporters are unlikely to be hardcore supporters of Israel, and yet the message that BDS is beyond the pale — even for them! — seems to have filtered through.
The Zimmerman incident means that the battle to “out” BDS-ers as antisemites is being won. But what about the battle against BDS itself? Their insidious activism continues unabated. The aggressive campaigns on college campuses to drown out any voice that is even vaguely connected to Israel are gathering pace, while people who promote the most ridiculous conspiracy theories against Israel are feted and celebrated. All of us generally live in a community bubble, or in a social media bubble. We are rarely exposed to this kind of raw hatred — but be sure of one thing, it is out there, and it is a clear and present threat to Israel, and to us here in the US.
So what can we — you and me — do to fight BDS? How can we ordinary people make a difference? First, you can find out if your former college currently has a strong BDS presence on campus. If it does and you offer any kind of regular financial support, you can withdraw that support and write a strong letter that explains why you have made this decision. Even if you don’t donate money, you can write to the President and the Dean of your alma mater expressing your disgust at their tolerance for such a vicious extremist group on their campus. After all, you can say, would they be so tolerant of KKK or neo-Nazis on campus? BDS is the same as KKK and neo-Nazis. It is as simple as that.
Secondly, you can show your support to politicians who are willing to actively and effectively oppose BDS by supporting legislation against it. Here in California, the anti-BDS Act of 2016 passed the first of many steps in California’s legislative process on Wednesday, as a result of the hard work and activism of three Republicans and two Democrats on the state’s Assembly Accountability Administrative Review Committee. If the bill is passed — and there is still a long and tortuous road ahead — the State of California will not be able to do business with companies that boycott Israel, or with investment funds that divest their money from Israeli companies or companies identified as BDS targets on the BDS website. Four legislators on the committee abstained. Contact them and express your disappointment. And get in touch with the five who supported the vote and express your gratitude. Every email and every phone call matters.
Meanwhile, follow the bill’s progress as the process unfolds in Sacramento. Make sure to offer any help that you can to the legislators who are active in getting the bill passed. Share their names with your social network, as well as the names of those who refuse to support the bill, so that you can let them know how you feel about their stance. In short, we need to raise the anti-BDS noise level to an unbearable, un-ignorable crescendo. This week, I co-wrote an article with a friend of mine from New York. The article urged Jews in Long Island to put anti-BDS at the top of their list of priorities when deciding who they vote for in a local New York election next week. Sadly, in Albany, the anti-BDS drive has become a partisan issue between Democrats and Republicans. We wrote: “There is no justification for this [issue] having become a partisan issue. In California, as in many other states, we managed to bring both parties together.”
As has been the case on so many other occasions, Israel is always the first to endure destruction strategies. What begins against Israel ultimately becomes the methods used against countries and people who have nothing to do with Israel. Those who refuse to recognize BDS for the dangerous terrorism that it represents are not just endangering Israel and Jews, but ultimately themselves. Every one of us has to do what we can to protect the world from this scourge. Next Friday night, when we sit down at the Seder, we will all utter the words, “In every generation they have risen up to destroy us, and God has rescued us from their hands.” In our generation it is the BDS campaign that aims to destroy us. Let us do what we must, and with God’s help we will be saved from their evil hands.