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January 8, 2019 9:29 am

Brazen Support for BDS: A Troubling First in the New Congress

avatar by Ezra Bernstein


Congresswoman-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). Photo: Screenshot.

Last week, new members of the US Congress were sworn in. While there were a few “firsts” to be celebrated, there was one that should not be: the first time that a member of Congress has proudly and openly endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Both Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar now brazenly support the BDS movement, although they equivocated on the issue during their campaigns.

The founders of the BDS movement sometimes try to claim that they support a “two-state solution,” but in reality, they seek the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. Why? Because the boycott movement calls for all Palestinian refugees to be absorbed into Israel, which would mean the end of the Jewish state.

I have no problem with refugees returning to a future Palestinian state. However, the return of the Palestinian refugees to Israel, now numbering in the millions (because the UN has uniquely assigned refugee status to descendants of Palestinians), would mean an end to the Jewish majority, and thus Jewish self-determination in Israel.

One of the main goals of establishing a state with Jewish sovereignty was to create a place for Jewish refugees to go in times of persecution, and to have a country to protect them.

As with all arguments, particularly those within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is important to be open to other perspectives and to empathize with them. Many Palestinians, likely including Congresswoman Tlaib, see Israel as a colonialist illegitimate entity from its birth, and consider Israel not only an occupying power in the West Bank, but also in Israel “proper.”

While I don’t agree with this view at all, I can empathize with it.

But, in addition to empathy, people must also be reasonable. Congresswomen Talib and Omar — and the founders of the BDS movement — should also empathize with the “opposing” narrative and understand why Israel is, and must remain, a Jewish state. Until this occurs, and BDS clearly supports Israel’s right to exist, they will never have my support. And they should never have the support of anyone in the United States.

Ezra Bernstein is a graduate of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a former Fulbright scholar in Israel. He is co-host of the podcast “Israel-Palestine: Beyond the Headlines with Alec and Ezra.”

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