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June 9, 2015 7:32 am

Why Every Jew Must Vocally Oppose the Boycott Israel Movement

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

Email a copy of "Why Every Jew Must Vocally Oppose the Boycott Israel Movement" to a friend
Sheldon Adelson. Photo: Courtesy Sheldon Adelson.

Sheldon Adelson. Photo: Courtesy Sheldon Adelson.

The participants at the anti-BDS conference in Las Vegas this past weekend witnessed a memorable spectacle. Here were Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, a couple ranked among the 20 wealthiest in the world, sitting for two days through 50 presentations by organizations committed to fighting for Israel both on and off campus.

Sitting alongside them and not missing a session were Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl. The sight of some of the world’s most influential Jews totally dedicated to fighting Israel’s enemies was inspiring. The attacks that followed from people like J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami – who attacked me also – were revolting and beneath contempt. But we have come to expect such hatred from J Street toward Israel’s defenders rather than its enemies.

In my presentation at the conference I noted the old joke about the professor who was asked, “What is worse: ignorance or apathy?” To which he replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” The Las Vegas conference took a giant step toward ending both the ignorance and apathy that has allowed BDS to grow.

When I took the stage on Friday morning, I began by telling the crowd that there was a blessing in BDS. For the first time, I argued, a challenge has come forth to bring American Jewish Youth into the ring, and demand them to stand as Maccabees in Israel’s defense. It’s no longer just Israelis age 18-21 who have to battle for Israel’s survival. American Jewish youth have joined the fight.

Hillel’s excellent past President Richard Joel famously coined the Hillel phrase “Do Jewish.” But in the age of BDS, every Jewish student has now been forced to “Choose Jewish.” The BDS assault to destroy Israel and make it a pariah state has raised the stakes and drawn the battle lines more clearly than ever before. Sitting on the fence is, today, no longer an option.

I further offered the definition of a Maccabee. A Maccabee is an individual who will fight against all odds in the firm belief that he can change the course of history. The Maccabee trusts in the sacred words of the great Martin Luther King, Jr., who famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The Maccabee is unfazed by a superior enemy, and is unintimidated by a protracted, uphill struggle. He knows that it is not numbers, but courage that counts. After all, he knows with certainty that, in the end, history will submit to the justice of his cause.

A few years back, I heard legendary Apple Macintosh evangelist Guy Kawasaki say that, at its inception, Apple employed counterintuitive marketing: From the outset they sought to polarize and bifurcate their audience. In essence, they were unafraid of factionalizing the public into those who would love them and those who would not.

It’s a lesson that some of the big Jewish student groups who are reluctant to stand up for Israel on campus have to learn. Don’t be afraid of being controversial. Drop the argument that if you stand up for Israel you’ll alienate left-leaning Jewish students who might not stop by for chicken soup on a Friday night. To the contrary. Courage is courageous. They will be inspired by your example and will follow your lead.

I often hear myself described as “controversial.” No doubt, I am a rabbi who is both loved and hated. A preparedness to be unpopular is what I have learned from Judaism, not to mention the world’s most influential figures. No one experiences greater rejection from the Israelites than Moses, the great prophet who redeemed them from slavery and gave them the Law. Mordechai spares the Jews a Holocaust but is described as being admired only by “most of his brethren.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe saved the Jewish people from spiritual extinction yet even today his legacy remains “controversial.” No American was more hated in his lifetime than Abraham Lincoln, our greatest president, and Winston Churchill was immediately fired by the British right after defeating Hitler. But each of these men saved their nations from extinction. And Jews today must fight to save Israel from destruction, even if it makes them controversial.

And make no mistake — BDS seeks nothing other than the economic annihilation of Israel. As I’ve said many times, BDS is not about opposing occupation. If it were, then none of its proponents would ever use an iPhone since China has been occupying Tibet since 1951 and they would never have a Turkish coffee since Turkey has been occupying Cyprus since 1974. Nor would they drink Stolichnaya since it’s made in Russia, which is occupying Crimea.

Less so is BDS about Palestinian rights because if so, it would be boycotting Egyptian cotton because of Egypt’s destroying hundreds of Palestinian homes on the Gaza border last October to stop Hamas from smuggling weapons.

BDS has no interest in protecting Arab life. If it did it would be boycotting the Assad regime for murdering 200,000 Arabs.

The truth is, it’s about none of those things and holds no values except anti-Semitism, and has no goals except Israel’s economic strangulation. As such, it cannot be fought through passive means.

Many well-meaning pro-Israel activists believe we can fight BDS by pointing to Israel’s nice and cuddly side. They show the world statistics proving how much Israel recycles and show photographs of Israel’s pet friendly restaurant scene. Unfortunately, it won’t work. South Africa also tried to show off a nice side including the world’s first heart-transplant. But nobody cared. All anyone did care about was that South Africa was a racist, apartheid regime.

Israel-haters like Omar Barghouti, co-founder of BDS, want to falsely compare democratic and just Israel to South Africa – a vile, fraudulent, and comparison of a racist regime to the Middle East’s only democracy and the only place in the region where Arabs enjoy full human rights. The only way to fight Barghouti and those like him is to attack their credibility and point out their rancid lies.

Barghouti, for example, is both a hypocrite and a fraud.

Even as he calls for an academic boycott of Israel, Barghouti earned a masters degree from Tel Aviv University, and is currently a doctoral student at the same institution. In effect, he is boycotting his professors, his peers, and even himself.

Though 184,000 people signed a petition calling on the school to expel him, Tel Aviv University has refused to eject a student on political grounds. That speaks volumes about Israeli justice and righteousness. Yet, Omar Barghouti wants every Israeli academic to be ejected from the academic world due his despicable hatred of Israel.

Barghouti was low enough to say that Israeli security checkpoints, designed to prevent Jews from being blown to smithereens by Islamic terrorists, are “reminiscent of common Nazi practices against the Jews.” To Barghouti’s nauseating morality, opening the trunk of a car can is similar to forcing a child into a Gas Chamber.

Leaving no stone unturned, Barghouti compares Israeli policy to South African Apartheid, even as he receives treatment equal to that of any Israeli citizen, including subsidized higher education and the unrestrained right to freedom of speech.

It is time to take Israel out of the defendants dock. It’s time for the Jewish community to embrace its own BDS: Being Bold, Decisive, and Strong in defense of the Jewish State.

Sure, some will accuse us of playing rough. Some will always favor a softer, more agreeable stance.

But to them, we must respond: If controversy is an inevitable outcome of an effective campaign to defend the Jewish State, then it is one we must embrace.

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including the forthcoming “Israel Warrior’s Handbook.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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  • Mitchell

    Interesting that Boteach invokes the Maccabees here, in their battle against Hellenistic civilization. In fact, that was largely a fight among Jews — and it’s certainly arguable that the chauvinists won and the humanists lost.

    Meanwhile, he’s getting in bed with the worst political elements here in the US — and helping to set us up for a populist backlash.

    This isn’t good for American Jews.

    PS: And Schmuley has the effrontery to compare himself to Moses? That’s truly rich!

  • Naomi

    The trouble is that we are constantly on the defensive. The action we need to take is to go far and wide to teach about history and our legitimate rights to this land. Once the venom has been spewed, it takes double the energy to correct and teach afresh.

  • Thank you for your clarity & fearlessness,Rabbi!




  • Aharon Ben Yaakov

    While many of us have become accustomed to Rabbi Boteach’s constant and frankly sickening self promotion (remember his tour de force concerning his own courage and dedication in NOT making Aliyah) we are now subjected to his comparing the sacrifices of our young men and women of the IDF to Americsn Jewish kids on campus speaking out for Israel.

    While cognizant of the toxicity and anti Semitism rampant in campuses across the world an idiotic comparison such as that could only come from someone who never spent a day crawling through the mud on a real battle field.


  • Pinchas Baram in Boston

    It is NOT to the credit of Israel or Tel Aviv University that it allows Omar Bargouti to be enrolled, with a gov. subsidy, i.e., taxpayer’s money, as a graduate student even while he leads the BDS movement and at every opportunity, with unrestrained malice,libels Israel to the max.

    No, it is a mark of STUPIDITY, a false morality, and a lack of self-respect and spine on the part of Israel and TAU in particular. He is inciting and is at WAR with Israel and Israel has played dumb, like it’s all harmless talk, why get excited? Meantime, the BDS movement is thriving and spreading its tentacles and is now negatively affecting Israeli academics who are being boycotted more and more internationally.

    To which I say to them, tough luck charlie, for years you have by default allowed Bargouti and a loud bunch of post-Zionist, Marxist Israeli professors to defame Israel while they abused the principle of academic freedom– and now you are waking up, too late, to the folly of your gutless, passive reaction.

  • Arty Cohn

    Jewish sympathizers od BDS are either ignorant or stupid.

  • Julian Clovelley

    Sometimes what one really wants to say is “don’t go there” – this is such a case. There is a very great danger of turning the BDS Movement (which I personally do not support} into what you accuse it of being

    Zionism is on very shaky religious, historical, genealogical and genetic ground. Its territorial claims are nonsense to increasing numbers of people. The old Jewish fears that Zionism, in connecting Judaism to territory, would be a disaster – are correct. That is what we are seeing. The wise ones of early last century were right

    By treating BDS as an “antisemitic” movement you are in fact redefining antisemitism, categorising as “antisemitic” people who predominantly are against what they perceive and analyse as “racism” and “Apartheid” on the part of Conservative Jewish Zionist Israelis. That same impetus under different circumstances would make many “defenders” of the Israeli people

    There is a counter to the “BDS is antisemitism” attitude – think about it – one could equally argue there is no such thing as a Jew, for we all share genetic heritage and genealogy . When you play these games you need to recognise that in shaping your own force you also shape the opposition to you.

    Or is it really opposition to “you” at all rather than opposition to a predominantly East European eccentric religious culture that has simply got its physical origins hopelessly wrong? Is a religion “racist” when it only allows membership to people of a particular supposed descent? Is that descent really unique when so many over thousands of years have married outside the religion and so many have been brought in as converts?

    like I say – “why go there?”

  • Michael Garfinkel

    A well-intentioned piece in which one must overlook, with difficulty, over-the-top nonsense like this:

    “The Maccabee trusts in the sacred words of the great Martin Luther King, Jr., who famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

    Sacred words? Really?

  • ***************************************
    Hypocrisy of the Anti-Israel BDS Movement
    by Mr. Cohen, 2015 June 7, updated 2015 June 8

    In year 2012 CE, the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report revealed 17 countries that still practice or tolerate slavery: Algeria, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Kuwait, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Papua New Guinea, Yemen, Madagascar, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, DR Congo, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, and Cuba.

    Notice that NONE of these 17 countries is suffers the wrath of the BDS movement, no matter how guilty they are of practicing slavery.

    Also notice that most of these countries are MUSLIM, which means that the Far-Left-dominated news media will NEVER give them the criticism they deserve, because the Far-Leftists are the loyal allies of the Muslims.

    Last but not least, the Far-Left-dominated BDS movement will NEVER target these counties with boycotts, because the Far-Leftists are the loyal allies of the Muslims.

    According to the year 2014 CE Freedom in the World Report, the ten most oppressive countries in the world are: Central African Republic, Somalia, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Eritrea, Syria, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan.

    Notice that NONE of these ten countries is suffers the wrath of the BDS movement, no matter how much they oppress their own citizens.

    Since year 1950 CE, China has occupied the land of Tibet and murdered around one million Tibetans. Does China suffer the wrath of the BDS movement? NO!

    Russia invaded Georgia in year 2008 CE.
    Russia invaded Ukraine in year 2014 CE.
    Is Russian boycotted by the BDS movement?
    NO! And it never will be.

    Learn how to defend Israel from unfair media bias
    and refute inaccurate Israel-bashing reporting:

    Joining pro-Israel organizations might help Israel.
    Pro-Israel organizations include:

    PS 1: I humbly suggest that this web site link to the web sites shown above,
    and write articles about the organizations behind them.

    PS 2: Since Orthodox Jews are increasing as a percentage of American Jews, they should also increase their participation in pro-Israel organizations, to compensate for the declining numbers of non-Orthodox Jews.

  • Sandy Wasserman

    When you eliminate Jew-hatred, Muslim objectives, and ignorance…….there is no longer any foundation for BDS.