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Psychologist Group Considers Joining BDS Campaign

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avatar by Dexter Van Zile


A pro-BDS demonstration. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In yet another instance of a civil society institution in the US becoming infected with the virus of anti-Zionism, a group called “Psychologists for Social Responsibility” (PsySR) is currently holding a vote to determine if it should enlist in the campaign to target Israel with boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS).

The Chicago-based organization, which was founded in the early 1980s as a response to the threat of nuclear war, recently promoted and hosted a Zoom presentation where its members were indoctrinated into the ideology of BDS.

Sadly, there is no evidence that Psychologists for Social Responsibility has promoted any real discussion about the issue; instead, they have allowed anti-Israel activists to promote their one-sided and distorted narrative about the Jewish state.

The story PsySR is telling its members about BDS is that it is a call from “Palestinian civil society for those in solidarity to join in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to bring international pressure for Israel to end its oppression and brutal military occupation of Palestinians.”

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Let’s get real. “Palestinian civil society” is a junk phrase used to describe the front organizations that the Palestinian Authority uses to sell its anti-Israel message to gullible Westerners. These organizations are not independent, but operate under the thumb of Palestinian Authority functionaries — or worse.

The membership of the Palestinian BDS National Committee includes an umbrella group called Palestinian National and Islamic Forces. Members of this group include Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or the PFLP for short. These are terrorist organizations whose members have murdered Israeli civilians.

These groups do not support BDS because it is a method of peaceful protest or social transformation — but because it broadcasts a story that justifies their murderous violence against Israeli civilians.

Why would a group of counselors and therapists committed to promoting human welfare want to join such a movement?

It’s not as if BDS actually helps rank-and-file Palestinians. It just puts them out of work. It hurts them. Just ask the folks who used to work for SodaStream before it closed its plant in the West Bank.

And contrary to the propaganda sent to PsySR members, BDS is not rooted in the West Bank, but Iran — a country regularly described as a leading source of lethal antisemitism and Holocaust denial in the modern world.

Bill Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has documented that BDS got its start at a meeting held by so-called human rights activists who gathered in Iran in February 2001. They met seven months before the UN conference against racism took place in Durban, South Africa. At a planning session in Tehran, anti-Israel activists prepared a resolution declaring Israel to be an “Apartheid” state. that needed to be isolated from the international community and the world economy, just as South Africa was in the 1980s.

The unveiling of this resolution in Durban stirred a cauldron of Jew-hatred that bedevils the world two decades later. The words put down on paper in Tehran cast an evil spell at the conference in Durban. Emboldened by the text of the resolution, Israel-haters handed out leaflets which lamented that Hitler did not “finish the job” during the Holocaust. Arab lawyers handed out propaganda that equated the Star of David with the Nazi swastika. The message was clear: Jews are the new Nazis.

The atmosphere became so hostile that organizers told Jews in attendance that they could not vouch for their safety. During the conference in Durban, a Jewish doctor was beat up in Cape Town by two men wearing checkered keffiyehs — the symbol of the Palestinian cause. The attackers said Jews were the cause of all the problems in the Middle East. Local Jewish leaders attributed the attack to the hostile rhetoric coming out of the UN conference.

In the narrative offered by BDS activists, everything is always Israel’s fault. Nothing the Palestinians do is worthy of condemnation. There is no mention of incitement on Palestinian television, nothing about the peace offers Palestinian leaders have turned down. There is nothing about the money the Palestinian Authority gives to the families of terrorists who have murdered Israeli children.

The BDS campaign, which the ADL has declared antisemitic, falsely portrays the refuge for one half of the world’s surviving Jews as a marauding apartheid nation acting out a script of white privilege — as if Israel has not said yes to numerous peace offers, as if Arabs do not serve in its Knesset and Supreme Court, and as if Arabs do not enjoy more rights in Israel than they do in Arab-majority countries.

BDS is not a bandwagon to join. It’s a crazy train to stay away from.

Dexter Van Zile is Shillman Research Fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis.

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