Opposition to BDS Intensifies
It has been a bad few months for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
First, the state of Wisconsin adopted a rule in October prohibiting companies that engage in the boycott from receiving local government contracts, joining 23 other American states with similar laws. Then, Australian rocker Nick Cave declared: “I love Israel and I love Israeli people.” He said that his decision to perform in the country in November was an act of defiance against the BDS campaign, which “bullies and censors” artists. And as part of a trade delegation to Israel in December, Florida Governor Rick Scott presented El Al with a Governor’s Business Ambassador Award for its investments in the state of Florida.
For the BDS movement, the bad news keeps coming.
Last month, El Al relaunched the only nonstop flights from Miami to Tel Aviv — with three flights weekly — to meet the increased demand from business people and tourists to visit the Jewish state. Miami is the airline’s sixth North American destination, which already includes nonstop links from New York, Newark, Boston, Los Angeles, and Toronto.
The development is yet another blow to the incitement campaign waged by BDS activists against Israel, who exploit the rhetoric of human rights to advocate for economic and cultural warfare against the only Jewish state in the world, the sole democracy in the Middle East and a steadfast ally of the US.
But thanks to the successful wave of anti-boycott legislation, BDS has been weakened, with US states and companies eager to build strong and lasting business ties with the country.
Florida is a case in point. Governor Scott recently led a trade mission of nearly 70 local business and education leaders to build on Florida and Israel’s intimate and proud relationship. Israel is an important business partner for the state. For example, Israeli company StemRad recently established their US operations in Tampa — and, in return, Florida invested $1.4 million in this program. All told, the state’s economic development and trading partnership with the Jewish state exceeds $286 million a year.
Florida has recognized that the BDS movement directly harms the economies of Florida and the US. Last March, Florida signed SB 86 into law, prohibiting the state from investing in companies that boycott Israel. Governor Scott said at the time that he was “proud to sign this important bill into law and join the Florida Legislature in sending this message: the State of Florida will not waver in our support of Israel, one of our greatest allies and friends. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement is fueled by anti-Semitism, and has no place in Florida or any part of the world that values freedom and democracy.”
The governor stands true to his words. Beyond economic investments, the cultural understanding between Florida and Israel is also flourishing. Last week, Governor Scott tweeted: “Honored to visit Tel Aviv Uni and accept the Friendship Award — we are proud of the strong relationship Florida shares with our friend and ally Israel.” He added: “Florida has no tolerance for anti-Semitism and we will not tolerate BDS.”
He also signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Florida State University and Tel Aviv University — an agreement which will support student and staff exchange programs, and encourage academic collaboration between the two institutions. “Florida’s students are the leaders of tomorrow and these important partnerships are another way that we can provide them with every opportunity to learn and succeed,” Governor Scott said, adding, “I applaud Florida State University and Tel Aviv University for working together to support our students by providing more opportunities for research and collaboration.”
This is a vital and welcome development. As Sarah Stern recently warned in an op-ed published in JNS, the minds of America’s youngest, vulnerable and most impressionable children are being corrupted by poisonous anti-Israel sentiments that are widespread and systemic on American campuses.
Florida should be applauded for sending a strong statement against this form of hatred and bigotry, which demonstrates that the state does not support discrimination against Israel or tolerate taxpayer money being used toward the antisemitic agenda of the BDS movement. The founders of BDS have been nothing but honest about who they are and their intentions. They have stated openly their commitment to the destruction of Israel, and they have made it clear that no change in Israeli policy will ever appease them.
From the north to the south, with strong bipartisan support, lawmakers in 24 states have now declared BDS a virulent form of antisemitism that has no place in our society. This is a great accomplishment for the pro-Israel community, and a resounding defeat for the BDS campaign.
Julie Lenarz is a senior fellow at The Israel Project and the executive director of the London-based Human Security Centre. She tweets @MsJulieLenarz.