Documenting the BDS Movement’s Undisputed Ties to Terrorism
Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs just released a study called “Terrorists in Suits,” which documents the ties between the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and terrorist organizations.
Part of the BDS campaign is a network of NGOs that are hostile to Israel, and whose members always manage to find Israel guilty of one human rights violation or another.
According to the report, “numerous members and terrorist operatives have become leading figures in NGOs which delegitimize and promote boycotts while concealing or downplaying their terrorist past. Some continue to serve as members of terrorist organizations to this day.”
The ministry found that in 13 groups that it examined, there were 30 past or current members of terrorist groups, most notably the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The findings of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs aren’t new. In 2016, research by both NGO Monitor and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) found a strong presence of PFLP operatives involved in anti-Israel NGOs and the BDS movement.
One of the notable examples of this phenomenon is Shawan Jabari, a former PFLP operative, who now heads the NGO Al Haq. In 2007, Israel’s Supreme Court described Jabari as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” on account of both his documented membership in the PFLP and leadership of an NGO. (Jabari has denied his involvement in the PFLP.)
Another PFLP member who advocates for BDS around the world is Leila Khaled, a woman who was involved in armed hijackings in 1969 and 1970. Khaled, according to the Israeli ministry’s report, still coordinates activities “between a PFLP command center in Syria and operatives in Jerusalem planning lethal attacks against Israelis.” Yet she travels freely, often to Europe and South Africa, to promote boycotting Israel.
And the ties don’t stop there.
In 2016, Congressional testimony by Jonathan Schanzer, a former US Treasury Department official and current Senior Vice President for Research at FDD, showed that individuals who had raised millions for Hamas were leading BDS efforts in the US.
Schanzer explained that members of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), and KindHearts for Charitable Development — all of which have been implicated in fundraising for Hamas — later joined a Chicago-based organization called American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). AMP was described by Schanzer as “a leading driver of the BDS campaign.”
A recently released British study also showed a strong correlation between support for BDS and holding antisemitic attitudes. One of the takeaways of the study, which was commissioned by Community Security Trust and the Jewish Policy Research Institute, was that “among those who agreed with five or more antisemitic statements, 58 per cent believe Israel is an apartheid state.”
This isn’t exactly surprising. BDS singles out Israel, demanding standards of it that are asked of no other nation in the world. One of the benchmarks in the widely-accepted working definition of antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, is “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” This is exactly what BDS does.
A recent news article described the BDS movement as seeking to “pressure Israel into ending the occupation of the West Bank.” This is an odd way to describe the campaign. For one thing, it is the Palestinians who at least twice (in 2000 and 2008) rejected peace deals with Israel. Why doesn’t BDS seek to pressure the Palestinians? It is also strange because leaders of the BDS campaign have openly said that they are seeking the end of Israel, not to change its behavior.
In an interview last week, British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis identified this problem: “Whereas peacemakers seek dialogue and common ground, for more than a decade the BDS movement has pursued a campaign of division and demonization.”
With the repeated revelations of terrorists serving in BDS-aligned organizations and promoting BDS — and that BDS correlates with antisemitism — we must acknowledge that BDS is not a benign political movement, but rather a bigoted, malevolent effort targeting the one Jewish state in the world.
David Gerstman is senior editor of The Tower, the news blog of The Israel Project.