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January 15, 2018 1:08 pm

How Boycotting Israel Promotes Violence

avatar by Peter Reitzes

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Signs at a pro-BDS protest in New York following the US decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri.

Many proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel unconvincingly state that BDS is nonviolent. Indeed, the BDS movement website boasts that BDS is “a form of non-violent pressure on Israel.” However, the positions of senior BDS members and organizations often speak much more toward eliminating Israel — and promoting violence — than seeking peace.

The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) is a leading BDS advocate organization. Endorsed by more than 1,500 academics, the USACBI claims that it supports “non-violent punitive measures” against Israel, aimed at “[e]nding its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands.”

While some supporters say that BDS targets only the West Bank and Gaza Strip, clearly “all Arab lands” includes all of Israel. Some recent USACBI social media posts are representative of their position:

“All Israel is occupied Palestine.”

“It is time to get rid of the racist two state solution [and] renounce the Oslo Accords.”

“All Zionism is racism.”

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” — meaning that the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean — Israel — will become Palestinian.

The goal of the USACBI, and of many in the BDS movement, is clear: Israel must cease to exist.

To this end, the USACBI repeatedly compares Israel to Nazis, which demonizes Israel and Jews — and trivializes the Holocaust. Such hate speech likely works to support and buttress violence, intolerance and antisemitism.

Typical offerings from the USACBI on social media include such nuggets as: “Israel-Nazi collaboration today echoes Zionist-Nazi collaboration in the 1930s-1940s”; Zionism has a “long history of collaboration with Nazism”; “#Zionism = white supremacy”; and a description of Gaza as an “Israeli extermination camp.” Why, the USACBI asks, “is the ‘Jewish state’ apparently so reluctant to speak out against Nazis?”

On their website, the USACBI requests that donations be made to their “fiscal sponsor, Al-Awda (Palestine Right to Return Coalition),” co-founded by Abbas Hamideh.

“Israel does not have a right to exist,” and “End Israel now!” Hamideh has tweeted. On Facebook, Al-Awda posted the text of an article that refers to Gaza as “the present day Auschwitz,” accused Israel of attempting to “exterminate as many [Palestinian] refugees as possible,” and concluded that, “The Zionists in the end will have the same fate as Nazis and for more compelling reasons.” I

n 2015, Al-Awda shared a post on Facebook that commemorated Hugo Chavez by quoting him: “Israel criticizes Hitler a lot, so do we, but they’ve done something very similar, even worse, than what the Nazis did.”

The USACBI’s Twitter profile features a picture of a hand grenade — hardly a symbol of nonviolence and peace.

Furthermore, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a virulently anti-Israel organization that supports BDS, has publicly embraced violent and murderous individuals.

In 2017, JVP featured a quote and portrait of Marwan Barghouti in one of their advertisements. Barghouti, an outspoken boycott supporter, is a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which has carried out suicide killings in Israel, and has attacked Israeli soldiers. Barghouti, is currently serving five life sentences in Israel for his participation in five murders.

One featured speaker at JVP’s 2017 National Member Meeting was Rasmea Odeh. As a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization — Odeh was convicted of participating in a 1969 bombing that killed two students at a Jerusalem grocery store.

The Anti-Defamation League has slammed JVP for being antisemitic, and accused it of “anti-Israel radicalism.”

As I have written in recent weeks, Duke University (near where I live) is home to many faculty members who have signed BDS-related initiatives. In Duke’s Cultural Anthropology Department alone, seven out of 10 full professors have signed BDS-related initiatives.

A number of current and former Duke academics support and work with the USACBI. A series editor of the Duke University Press, Jasbir Puar, is a member of USACBI’s Advisory Board. How can Duke employees publicly support such a vile, hateful, antisemitic initiative? It makes me wonder if boycotting Israel is so “in vogue” on some college campuses that faculty members and staff unwittingly sign initiatives without fully understanding whom they stand in solidarity with — and what they are endorsing (of course, this would be a best case scenario).

Current Duke faculty listed as endorsing the USACBI include: J. Kameron Carter, Frances Hasso, Tsitsi Jaji, Nancy Kalow, Kimberly Lamm, David Need, Diane Nelson and Kenneth Surin. My question to them and other endorsers of the USACBI is: Will you continue to allow your names to be used to endorse hate speech and the goal of eliminating Israel?

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