For BDS Supporters, Stupid Is as Stupid Does
Forrest Gump perfectly described BDS supporters and antisemitic hysterics, who are also liars and hypocrites. This is exemplified by their constant whining about alleged efforts to silence them, which reached a fever pitch after President Trump signed an Executive Order on Combating Antisemitism in December.
Somehow it escapes their consciousness that while complaining in the mainstream and social media about conspiracies to prevent them from expressing their hatred for Jews and Israel, they are being given a platform to spread their bile. Masha Gessen, for example, wrote in The New Yorker that the “sole aim” of the Executive Order “is to quash the defense — and even the discussion — of Palestinian rights. Its victim will be free speech.” Just a couple of paragraphs earlier, she wrote about going on tour with a group “that aims to show Israelis and foreigners what the occupation looks like.” She visited a Palestinian village overtaken by what she falsely called an illegal Israeli settlement. She concluded, using a classic example of antisemitism, by saying that comparing Israel’s treatment of the village “to Nazi policies may not make for the most useful argument, but it is certainly not outlandish.”
BDS advocate Judith Butler incorrectly wrote in Foreign Policy (a journal for foreign policy experts, something she is not) that Israel’s “biblical claim is one of the founding justifications for the State of Israel, and for the expansion of its borders — the same claims that dispossessed more than 700,000 Palestinians of their land in 1948 and that deprive over four million of them of their rights today.” In the same article, she has the chutzpah to claim that Trump’s “order poses a direct threat to the study of Palestinian and Jewish social and political history, culture, and forms of belonging, as well as potentially suppressing activism and public speech in favor of Palestinian freedoms and rights as well as dissident Jewish views on Israel.” She also speciously claims the order “seeks to regulate the very idea of who is Jewish.”
Don’t they see the irony of complaining of being silenced while criticizing Israel?
The Executive Order explicitly states that agencies “shall not diminish or infringe upon any right protected under Federal law or under the First Amendment” in enforcing Title VI. So as Mark Joseph Stern noted in Slate, “Because political criticism of Israel is plainly protected speech, the impact of the order’s revised definition of antisemitism will likely be limited.”
Despite decades of claiming to be silenced, critics of Israel are everywhere. Thousands of professors are open advocates of the antisemitic BDS movement, and many commit academic malpractice by using their classrooms to indoctrinate students with their personal animus towards Israel. Academic departments and professional associations regularly sponsor panels devoted to attacking Israel.
If critics want an outlet, they can always turn to Haaretz, which has a stable of columnists who regularly smear their own country. Even if Israel’s supporters wanted to shut up their critics, they couldn’t do it. Consider the recent case of Omar Barghouti’s denial of a visa to speak in the United States because of his past actions. Did this stop him? No. He simply appeared via video to spew his usual bile.
A favorite charge of the “silenced” is that their opponents are McCarthyites. They say they must be allowed to criticize Israel as they see fit, but no one should be allowed to disparage them. Again, they fail to see the irony of insisting on freedom of speech “for me but not for thee.”
Hypocrisy is a calling card of these critics. They believe they are the arbiters of what is and is not antisemitic, but would never presume to tell African-Americans what is racist, gays what is homophobic, or women what is sexist. They claim to be human rights advocates but express no concern about the abuses of the Palestinian Authority or even the persecution of Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere, let alone the violations committed by the governments in Syria, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, or anywhere outside the Jewish state.
Opponents of the Executive Order were particularly exercised by its instruction to consider the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as evidence of discriminatory intent. This definition has been adopted or endorsed by 19 countries, including Britain, France, and Germany. Israel’s detractors, however, object to the fact that it distinguishes between legitimate criticism and antisemitism — because many of their views fall in the latter category.
While Germans, for example, have no trouble making the distinction, some of the intellectuals running American universities and entrusted with educating our youth cannot, and routinely dissemble when faced with confronting antisemites on their campuses. You don’t hear any of the First Amendment defenders campaigning for the right of students to use the “N word” or to express other forms of bigotry towards other constituencies.
Antisemites have nothing to fear from the Executive Order, because hate speech remains protected by the First Amendment. Still, as Joel Griffith of the Heritage Foundation noted, “When antisemitic activity breaches the bounds of free speech, universities must comply with their obligations under the Civil Rights Act.”
Mitchell Bard is Executive Director of AICE and Jewish Virtual Library.