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February 6, 2014 1:27 pm

How The New York Times Whitewashed the Anti-Semitism of the BDS Movement

avatar by Petra Marquardt-Bigman

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CAMERA's billboard in front of New York Times headquarters. Photo: Screenshot / Twitter / @JCCWatch.

CAMERA's billboard in front of New York Times headquarters. Photo: Screenshot / Twitter / @JCCWatch.

A few days ago, anti-Israel activists noted with considerable satisfaction that several recently published New York Times (NYT) articles seemed to justify the conclusion that the paper might be “entering a new era on Israel.” Particular excitement was caused by the NYT decision “to print an oped by BDS leader Omar Barghouti.” Writing on his own blog, Jonathan Cook hailed this decision as “quite a milestone,” and explained:

“Omar includes many issues usually unmentionable in the NYT. But more so than the content of his article, the fact that the NYT is prepared to give a platform to him and the boycott movement – currently viewed by Israel as an enemy potentially even greater than Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons – would truly constitute a revolution in what can be said in the US establishment’s paper of record.”

Cook is absolutely right here. By providing a platform to Barghouti, the NYT has published a not-so-veiled call for abolishing the world’s only Jewish state and, at the same time, allowed Barghouti to falsely claim that the boycott movement he leads is not ant-isemitic. Barghouti’s article is entitled “Why Israel Fears the Boycott,” though the URL tells us that the original title was “Why the Boycott Movement Scares Israel.”

The answer to this, in whatever variation, is very simple: just like earlier boycotts under the motto “The Jews Are Our Misfortune,” the BDS movement employs similar tactics of slandering the Jews – nowadays the Jews of Israel and those who support the Jewish state – by falsely presenting them to be solely responsible for the “misfortune” of other people, in particular the Palestinians.

Since the long list of lies and slanders Barghouti usually employs when he travels the world to promote the boycott movement has been often described and refuted, I will focus here only on two crucial points that Barghouti tries to obfuscate in his NYT op-ed. The first is that, as far as Barghouti is concerned, the so-called BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement is not campaigning for a negotiated two-state solution and an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Instead, it denies Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, irrespective of the borders of the state.

As Barghouti himself explained, even if Israel gave up its control of all the territories captured in 1967, this would not end the BDS campaigns, because BDS embraces the same rejectionist positions that led to the Arab refusal to accept the UN partition plan in 1947. Barghouti likes to talk a lot about “Palestinian rights,” and while he is careful to use language that conforms to today’s human rights discourse, the most fundamental Palestinian “right” he advocates is the “right” to undo the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state.

But while Barghouti and his fellow BDS activists usually feel very confident asserting that Palestinian refugees and their descendants have a unique status and “rights” that no other group of refugees enjoys, they do seem somewhat worried that people might conclude that the boycott movement is, in effect, anti-semitic.

BDS activists may well have Jewish friends or may even be Jews themselves, but the boycott campaigns they advocate target the Jewish state for being Jewish – as Barghouti himself acknowledges when he says that BDS campaigns would go on even if Israel no longer controlled the West Bank. Barghouti complains that “Israel and its lobby groups often invoke the smear of anti-Semitism, despite the unequivocal, consistent position of the movement against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.”

When you click on the link he provides, you get to a post from 2010 on a BDS website, which essentially claims that BDS cannot be anti-semitic because it is supposedly supported by “many Jewish organizations and prominent Jewish academics and cultural figures around the world.”  That is a recipe also advocated on the website of David Duke – whom the Anti-Defamation League describes as “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite.”

An article there has much to say about the usefulness of Jewish activists in “anti-Zionist” campaigns and the writer eventually acknowledges freely: “We often cite Jewish writers in order to avoid the anti-Semitic label.” Unfortunately for Barghouti and David Duke, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, explained only recently that even if you are Jewish, you “can be an anti-Semite if you talk like anti-Semites.”

And, as David Hirsh pointed out in a relevant paper on “Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism,” anti-semitism doesn’t necessarily mean hating all Jews: “Most forms of antisemitism in history have allowed for ‘exceptional’ Jews. It is not a necessary attribute of antisemitism that it must target every Jew and so there could exist an antisemitism which exempts those Jews who do not identify as ‘Zionist’ from hostility.”

What is really interesting in this context, however, is the fact that Barghouti didn’t try to prove his opposition to antisemitism by linking to a declaration he signed in 2012. Under the title “The struggle for Palestinian rights is incompatible with any form of racism or bigotry,” this declaration, posted by Ali Abunimah at the Electronic Intifada, asserts that the Palestinian “struggle for our inalienable rights is one opposed to all forms of racism and bigotry, including, but not limited to, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Zionism, and other forms of bigotry.” Omar Barghouti is signatory no.5 on this resurrection of the “Zionism is racism“ calumny.

While the infamous UN resolution is nowadays widely regarded as an embarrassing part of the Soviet-Arab Cold War effort to undermine Israel, it is hardly surprising that anti-Israel activists yearn to recreate this effective weapon to delegitimize the Jewish state – after all, in the wake of the UN’s “Zionism is racism” resolution, Zionism became “a metaphor for universal evil“ and it was considered perfectly legitimate to boycott Jewish groups or individuals suspected of Zionist sympathies.

This must truly seem like the good old times if you are a BDS activist.

The inconvenient truth is that as long as BDS activists like Omar Barghouti remain firmly opposed to a two-state solution that would result in the peaceful coexistence of a Jewish and a Palestinian state, their activism has nothing to do with human rights. Try as he may, Barghouti cannot conceal that he is actually campaigning for what he regards as the most fundamental and non-negotiable Palestinian “right:” the supposed “right” to finally achieve what the Arab war against the emerging Jewish state failed to accomplish.

The Palestinians who fled this war that was supposedly waged on their behalf have served as pawns ever since, clinging to their refugee status and the illusion that it could be passed on through generations reared in the belief that the Jews of Israel are their “misfortune.” But then as now, their misfortune was the unwillingness of the Arabs to acknowledge the simple fact that the Jews are one of the Middle East’s most ancient peoples who, in modern times, could claim as much of a right to self-determination as the Arabs. People like Omar Barghouti are still unwilling to acknowledge this simple fact and are devoting all their energies to convince the world that Jewish self-determination is the misfortune of the Palestinians and that it is therefore their “right” to insist that the Jews in the Middle East should be forced to once again live as a minority under Arab Muslim rule.

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  • Towe Egeland

    actually the Palestinians have a homeland aka Jordan, Israel dont ow the muslim arabs a thing as they thrive in killing jews and christians, and they shall NOT come to Sweden we load you arab scum!! God bless the people of Israel and the Holy land 😉

    • Toku Betsu

      Wait, so who was there when the UN created Israel out of a portion of Palestine in 1948?

  • Mel

    ‘The New York Times’ always knew how to ‘Cook the Books!’

  • The NYT isnt saying anything that isnt written every day in the Israeli HaAretz.

  • NLKatz

    Thank you very much for this article!!

  • Jane

    How come the New York Times and all the other newspapers that continue to go after Israel for its “occupation” do not also go after countries that have ACTUALLY occupied other territories? How come the New York Times and the American government are not screaming that CHINA MUST GET OUT OF TIBERT? oh right . . . no Jews involved . . .

    • Toku Betsu

      China doesn’t use weapons paid for by US taxpayers to occupy Tibet. I think there’s a slight apples and oranges difference right there…..among other fundamental differences. Also, the US government gets embarrassed when they have to explain to people where Israel got the idea white phosphorous ordinance can be used against civilians, when it’s supposed to be a indiscriminate weapon and the use of which is supposed to be against international law as all other WMD’s are.

  • J.E Hay

    The So-Called Palestinians Who In Reality Are Bedouin Arab Murderers And Thieves By Nature Are Now And From The Beginning Have In Reality Been Squatters On Land That Is And Always Rightfully Belonged To Israel And To The Israeli People Who Has Used Terrorism To Advance Their Illegitimate Agenda And Effectively Intimidate Governments Like The Spineless And Morally Deprived Europeans And Others Worldwide Into Submission To Their Evil Will. Then You Have These Well Schooled Muslim Arab Demons Who Spew Out Anti-Israel-Israeli Filth That The Majority Of Right-Minded People Who Rejects These Statements Outright As They Should. If Israel Is To Survive As An Sovereign State It Should And Must Expel Every Single Arab Within It’s Borders Without Any Hesitation.

  • Jonathan Mishkin

    The same day as the Barghouti article appeared (and on the same page) the NYT published an article by a well regarded Israeli journalist, Hirsh Goodman, who argued that those supporting the BDS movement are making false statements and drawing false analogies to South Africa. They are just wrong, he said. Nevertheless, many Europeans are accepting of these facile analogies and that is a reality that Israel must face. (BTW, that is exactly what his many critics wanted Kerry to say.)

    Since Ms. M-B made no criticism of the (more relevant) Goodman article, I presume that she 100% supports his conclusions. No matter how ill-informed the BDS supporters are (and I am not counting the anti-Semites, merely the “useful idiots”)Israel must deal with its implications. And not try to shoot the messenger.

    • I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying: Israel must deal with the implications of BDS activists spreading falsehoods and insisting that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state without trying “to shoot the messenger”??? And anyway, I’m not “shooting” Barghouti, I’m simply saying that he and the BDS movement are not interested in peace, but in undoing the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state. The other point is that it seems only in the case of the world’s only Jewish state that the NYT sees fit to publish calls for the elimination of this state supposedly in the interest of human rights.

      • Jonathan Mishkin

        I was not suggesting that Barghouti was the “messenger” you (and others) are shooting. Could even be persuaded that notwithstanding his rhetoric, he wouldn’t mind undoing Israel as a Jewish state. My larger question concerns the (lack of serious) response to Goodman’s position. And similar ones expressed by Lapid and Friedman. And, yes, even that noted anti Semite, John Kerry. The BDS movement is not gaining momentum because of Barghouti’s efforts, but because of Israel’s tone deaf reaction.

        The success or failure of the BDS movement will be decided by the mass middle of the Europeans who pay less attention to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict than they do to Bayern Munchen, the Sochi Olympics, and the Eurovision contest. And the risk is that they make the same mistakes that so often happens in setting policies for non core matters, like say, global warming. When you don’t have a lot of time (or intelligence) to think about matters, you go for the simple sound bite. Or the pretty picture. In this case, the Barghouti/BDS people are saying that the Israeli “occupation” of Judea and Samaria is equivalent to the South African system of apartheid. People remember what that was about and they conflate that with Israel’s legitimate security needs, such has the wall (very effective, BTW) or the contrast between modern settlements such as Maale Adumim and various, poorer Palestinian villages.

        Many serious people (Israeli and non-Israeli) have made various suggestions regarding Israel’s alternatives to the BDS problem. Rather than taking their words out of context, as too many did with Kerry, deal with them. Those are the messengers that too many are shooting. Could it be that those will require some difficult compromises?

        Final point. You complain that the NYT publishes calls for the elimination of Israel. Why don’t you at least acknowledge the simultaneous article (same page; same day) by Goodman. That was by far the more relevant and Zionist position. What are you afraid of?

        • Sorry for the belated response. The fact that the NYT also published an article expressing reservations about/opposition to BDS is a well-worn media routine when it comes to Israel. I used to contribute for a while to the Guardian, and they’d publish a piece I wrote and a piece written by a Hamas official… It’s not “balance” to publish a voice expressing mainstream positions and a voice that is utterly beyond the pale. Nobody would dream of this kind of “balance” when the bigotry and hatred is directed against any other group than the Jews.

          Re. your other points, all I understand is that you’re somehow dissatisfied with Israel’s response to BDS. If you think Israel needs to behave “better” to have a chance against BDS, I would remind you of the withdrawal from Gaza: when there were still Israeli settlements in Gaza, the whole world cried that if only Israel withdrew from Gaza, we wouldn’t be blamed anymore for what was going on there. But once we were out of Gaza, the goal posts were moved swiftly.

  • Fritz Kohlhaas

    New York Times is a left-wing yellow rag run by imbeciles.

  • Emanuel

    I just made a small donation to CAMERA, if you add “NY TIMES” in the instruction line on the donation page your donation can go directly to this effort. I encourage others to do what they can, even $10 is worth it to help fight this disgrace in America. As Americans we should not have to suffer this disgusting abuse. Here is the link:

  • Emanuel

    The NYT is overpriced toilet paper or something to use to line a bird cage with. BDS isn’t Antisemetic, what a joke! BDS helps Palestinians, what a lie! There are Jewish BDS supporters, they are all confused idiots who belong in the dump for advocating the murder of Jews, inciting violence and intimidating Jewish students in America. BDS is a loser it always has been and it always will be. Omar went to University in Israel and studied Zionism – without Israel he would be nothing! I will do anything to help Palestinians in Palestine who want peace and statehood and from now on, whatever I can to make sure NYU, NYT and BDS end up in the dump with the other garbage.

  • Herb Glatter

    According to Barghouti – Boycott for thee,not for me. Although Barghouti actively lobbies for worldwide economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel, Barghouti himself holds a masters degree in philosophy (ethics) from Tel Aviv University. Born in Qatar, BTW.

  • michaelgarfinkel

    Congressman Peter King recently referred to the New York Times as a “left-wing rag.”

    He was far too generous in his characterization.

  • Lone Star

    The NY Times has that condition that is endemic to liberals, they confuse a total lack of moral criteria with open-mindedness and tolerance. The Talmud said it better: “Woe unto him who has no friends, but beware of him who is everybody’s friend.”

    • Efram Paul

      Not liberals, worshipers at the shrine of politically-coerced censorship. True liberals would never support bigotry and harm to innocent people. The Times is anti-Semitic, that is NOT a liberal opinion, but an opinion of the left-wing politically-coerced censorship coven.

  • Golum

    the NY Times hasn’t been true to their Jewish roots for many years…If they now want bro break completely and embrace the arabs…I wish them everything they deserve!!!

    • Julian

      The NY Times played down the Holocaust. They may have been owned by Jews, but have never supported Jews.


    Thank you for your insight and support of our people. I love what you do!

  • Jerry Forman

    Very well said. Thank you.

  • Stan Squires

    I am from vancouver,canada and i supports Omar Barghouti and the BDS Campaign against israeli apartheid.The two state solution didn’t work in South Africa and it won’t work in Palestine.It was the reactionary United nations that partitioned Palestine in 1947.It also made a similar blunder in 1961 when Patrice Labumba president of the Congo asked for united nations troops to help him against attacks against the legitimate gov. of the Congo the united nations troops stood by while President Labumba was brutally murdered by supporters of the imperialist Belgium gov.
    Palestinian People never wanted a two state solution no more than the Black People in South Africa wanted a two state solution.
    Most of the Jewish people in Palestine today are from europe not the middle east.Most people with any knowledge at all knows that.The BDS Campaigne is making good progress and will continue to do so while the israeli apartheid gov. lasts.