The goal of the BDS movement is the same as the late, unlamented Arab League boycott: the economic strangulation of Israel. Just like the collapsed boycott, the latest one has had minimal impact on the Israeli economy.
Yet BDS has scored a direct and effective hit on the hearts and minds of Jewish college students.
The anti-Semitic rants of BDS activists, coupled with the unresponsive ambiguity of college administrators, has left many Jewish students feeling vulnerable and completely outmatched by Israel’s foes. By making it seem scary and inhumane to identify as being Jewish, BDS is connecting where it counts the most. Jewish students can now check the “fear box” as a reason to ditch their faith and all connected with it.
Yet the driver of this trend is not so much the efforts of the Israel-haters, but what the Jewish community has failed to do in reaction to the threat. This failure applies to the entire Jewish political spectrum, whose lethargic response has created an ideological vacuum into which the hateful venom of anti-Zionism has flowed. Unless that changes, the damage will spread.
The plain truth is that the BDS movement is, at its core, rabidly anti-Semitic. It survives only because it has been allowed it to masquerade as a human rights issue. That false front is based on a distorted narrative of Palestinian victimhood. By failing collectively to recognize the grossly duplicitous nature of the narrative, we validate an obvious falsehood.
The quest for a two-state solution was born in a pre-Arab Spring world. But the aftermath of the Oslo Accords has provided indisputable proof that the Palestinian yearning for the liquidation of the Jewish state far exceeds any desire for sovereignty. In the last 24 years, a crippling mix of Palestinian Authority kleptocracy and the spread of radical Islamist doctrine by Hamas has overshadowed their national aspirations.
The problem with the Oslo process is that its advocates have been too determined to prop it up in the face of Palestinian terror and broken promises. They have failed to notice that Yasser Arafat wasn’t interested in peace and neither is his successor, Mahmoud Abbas. By failing to note this gap between the hopes the peace process engendered and the stark reality of Palestinian rejectionism, it has become possible to accuse Israel and its supporters of being responsible for the dysfunctional condition of Palestinian society.
The pro-Israel community expended a great deal of effort on supporting the passage of anti-BDS statutes by 24 individual U.S. states. This achievement is designed exclusively to address the corporate violators of the statutes. Contrary to the assertions of the critics of these laws, like the laws enacted in the past against the Arab League boycott, they penalize discriminatory commercial conduct, not advocacy for BDS.
College administrators who blithely turn away while Jewish students are verbally brutalized and intimidated are not targeted by such legislation. Nor should they be, since the First Amendment protects even the hateful speech of anti-Semitic BDS proponents. At this point, the only countermeasure that can hinder the efforts of people like Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters or Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour from succeeding is to spread the word that their message is one of hate, not freedom or justice.
The problem is that the seemingly unobjectionable support for the now dead-in-the-water peace process has the effect of obscuring the truth about Israel’s supposed partners for peace. Indeed, the myth that the only thing separating us from a resolution of the conflict is making compromises to enable a two-state solution prevents many otherwise reasonable people from seeing the reality of a toxic Palestinian political culture. That impulse to glorify murder has led its people to consent to their children becoming suicide “martyrs” in the name of a cause whose purpose is a repugnant drive to ethnically cleanse Jews from their ancient homeland.
The real struggle for American Jews lies not in the endless moralizing about the lack of peace, but in how to protect our children and keep them from abandoning their heritage in the hope of escaping the opprobrium the BDS movement and its enablers direct against our community. The first step toward defeating these efforts is to sever the lifeline that continued advocacy for a failed peace process has given the duplicitous Palestinian narrative behind this anti-Semitic movement.
Andrew D. Lappin serves on the board of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and is a trustee of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is a member of the Illinois Investment Policy Board, which monitors international compliance of the state’s anti-BDS statutes.