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PictureEric Fusfield

“It’s about Northwestern being held accountable for human rights violations,” insisted a student body leader who successfully lobbied for a resolution calling on his university to divest from Israel. The measure passed shortly after a similar resolution at Stanford University, which condemned Israel for “state repression against Palestinians,” also won approval.

The list of academic groups supporting boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel is growing. The UCLA student body backed such a measure, as have several associations of university professors and numerous individual academics, such as Stephen Hawking.

Is this simply an indication of misguided idealism at work on university campuses? It would be tempting to think so, were it not for the glaring intellectual inconsistency behind such efforts: The concern for human rights on college campuses appears to begin and end with the Jewish state. Human rights offenses committed by the world’s worst abusers go largely unnoticed while Israel sits in the dock for its policies, many of which are aimed at protecting the country and its population from the terrorist groups that line nearly all of Israel’s borders.


Syria has killed nearly 200,000 of its own citizens; the Sudanese government, even more. Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s worst purveyors of radical extremism and hatred, forbids women to vote, drive, or leave the house without a male chaperone. But where are the indignant calls for boycotts? The opprobrium, it seems, is reserved for Israel.

The hypocrisy of “human rights” activists who ignore such atrocities while focusing their ire on the only democracy in the Middle East is overwhelming. We should hardly be astonished, though. The double standard applied to Israel is a core element of the strategy employed by the country’s enemies to alienate the Jewish state and undermine its standing in the international community.

Also lost on BDS proponents is the irony that their enthusiastic embrace of Palestinian nationalism sharply contrasts with their indifference or even opposition to the right of the Jews to a homeland of their own. In fact, a BDS panel at the University of California, Berkeley last fall gave voice to proponents who stated that the goal of BDS is “isolating Zionism” and “bringing down Israel.”


A 2004 State Department report on anti-Semitism included in its definition of the problem, “Strong anti-Israel sentiment that crosses the line between objective criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism.” The following year the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia noted in its working definition of anti-Semitism, “Manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.”

While legitimate policy criticism should never be confused with anti-Semitism, the BDS movement, in singling out the Jewish state for vociferous one-sided condemnation, has morally compromised itself. This became apparent when the student body at the University of California, Davis, recently passed a BDS resolution. Two days later, members of the AEPi fraternity on the UC Davis campus woke to find their house defaced with swastikas.

A new survey by Trinity College and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law has revealed that more than half of students on college campuses, where the BDS movement is on peak display, have witnessed or experienced anti-Semitic harassment or aggression. This comes at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise around the globe and anti-Israel demonstrations in Europe have erupted into anti-Semitic hatefests.

True defenders of human rights and democratic values should not be surprised at the perilous consequences of anti-Israel hatred. Nor should they be seduced by the false earnestness of the BDS movement, whose moral and intellectual bankruptcy is its true calling card.

Eric Fusfield, Esq. has been the B’nai B’rith International director of legislative affairs since 2003 and the deputy director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy since 2007. He has worked in Jewish advocacy since 1998. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.