The United Nations Delegitimizes BDS
The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, just released a report titled, “Combatting Antisemitism to Eliminate Discrimination and Intolerance Based on Religion or Belief.” Sadly, it came as no surprise to read about the proliferation of antisemitism across the globe, and about its multiple sources from across the political spectrum.
But when I read the Rapporteur’s recommendation that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s “Working Definition of Antisemitism” be regarded as a source of guidance for identifying future acts of antisemitism, I recognized that a new chapter in the opposition to the BDS campaign against Israel had arrived.
As noted in the report, the IHRA’s Working Definition defines antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.” The definition continues: “Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The report also provides the definition’s multiple examples of “contemporary antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere” — two of which could have been taken from the BDS playbook. They include:
Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
In concert, these two examples clearly reveal the antisemitic nature of the BDS campaign.
By deeming Zionism a racist endeavor — and Israel a racist country — the BDS movement denies the Jewish people their right to self-determination. And by singling out and condemning Israel for acts both similar to and less egregious than those of other nations, the BDS movement most certainly engages in the application of double standards.
However, it is the second part of the “double standard” example that goes beyond characterizing BDS as an antisemitic project, and shatters the very foundation on which it is built. With the words, “by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,” the second example dispels the BDS myth that Israel is an oppressive “apartheid” regime that denies the Palestinian people their basic human rights.
The apartheid falsehood is BDS’s big lie. Indeed, despite fundamental distinctions that render a comparison between apartheid South Africa and Israel meaningless, the BDS campaign is almost entirely based on this false analogy.
A quick look at the opening page of the BDS website reveals the word “apartheid” no less than four times. In addition, BDS recruiters frequently allude to the boycotts of apartheid South Africa to glorify their unfounded actions against democratic Israel. And each spring, they proudly construct and stand by their “apartheid walls” on college campuses across the world. They try to trick students with their verbal and visual attacks and their lies about the real history and purpose of Israel’s security wall — to protect Israeli citizens against an onslaught of terrorist attacks that killed over 1,000 innocent Israeli men, women, and children.
Without their “Big Lie” that Israel is a tyrannical, oppressive, and racist state, the BDS campaign loses its ability to simplify a complex political conflict into a racialized “good guys versus bad guys” scenario. Simply put, without their Big Lie, the BDS movement loses its meaning as well as its allure for young activists seeking a cause.
The UN has just delegitimized BDS. Now that’s what I call poetic justice.
Melissa Landa PhD has been addressing the pernicious tactics and goals of the BDS campaign for four years. Most recently, she founded and directs the new anti-BDS organization Alliance for Israel.