World attention has recently been focused on the shameful passage of an anti-Israel resolution on settlements at the U.N. Security Council. Resolution 2334 contains a litany of criticism of Israel while absurdly striking a tone on incitement and terrorism that puts the onus on both sides of the conflict.
The resolution condemns all building beyond the 1949 Jordanian-Israeli armistice line—a line created after Jordan and other neighboring Arab states invaded the newly independent State of Israel in an attempt to annihilate it from existence. The armistice line (also known as the “Green Line”) stood in place until 1967, when Jordan and other Arab states again tried to destroy Israel, only to lose significant territory in the Six-Day War, when Israel liberated the eastern part of Jerusalem (including the Old City) and Judea and Samaria (which Jordan had by then re-named the “West Bank”), among other territories.
The section in Resolution 2334 that could prove to be the most problematic in the long term is a vaguely worded passage that calls on states to “distinguish” between their dealings with Israel and territories Israel gained during the Six-Day War. It’s not clear how states should “distinguish” their actions, but it is clear how the Palestinians and the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement will read this phrase—they will clearly try to use this as international cover for a boycott.
More on the Latest Anti-Israel U.N. Resolution
On the same day that the Security Council passed Resolution 2334, the General Assembly’s 5th Committee (the U.N.’s administrative and budget committee) decided, by its usually lop-sided anti-Israel majority, to fund a Human Rights Council (HRC) decision from March to create a database of companies doing business in areas beyond the Green Line. There is no ambiguity about what is happening with this decision—the U.N. is being willingly co-opted to become the secretariat of the BDS movement, creating a list of companies that activists can draw upon for divestment campaigns.
Israel submitted an amendment to this 5th Committee resolution to strip the funding from the mandate, but only Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Palau and the United States sided with Israel. The European Union (EU) gave a statement saying that EU member states would vote against the amendment as a bloc (even though the EU did not support the original HRC decision in March, albeit only by abstention), because it was important to stand by a principle of not letting policy discussion distract from the budgetary process, which is often run by consensus. Apparently that principle is more important than the principle that the United Nations should not be co-opted for anti-Semitic purposes.
The EU has been trying on this issue to have its cake and eat it too. Some EU members have laws against boycotts of Israel (and EU leaders pay lip service to opposing a boycott), yet the EU Commission put out guidelines by which member states should label all Israeli products from the disputed territories. While the guidelines do not explicitly call for a boycott of goods from the settlements, it seems only reasonable to deduce that it is meant to enable one.
The U.N.’s database will contain Israel companies based in the disputed territories, of course, but it will also likely target outside corporations that do business in the territories, multinational corporations that help bring security for Israeli citizens regardless of whether they reside within the Green Line or not. And it could very well be broadened to include Israeli businesses not even based in the territories, but those such as banks and stores that operate wherever their Israeli customers reside.
These recent U.N. actions may have created an overreach that provides an opportunity to move the U.N. in the right course. The Security Council resolution has created a furor in Congress and the incoming administration, which has led to threats of action against the U.N. Because of this, we’re now hearing the use of a word that we have not heard in a while at the U.N.—“reform.” If there is to be any reform at the U.N., one of the first priorities must be to reverse the barely concealed anti-Semitic efforts to boycott Israel that so many member states seem willing to either promote or at the very least tolerate.
ICHRPP Deputy Director Eric Fusfield on U.N. and MEP Visits to Israel, The Harmful Effects of Labeling West Bank Goods
B'nai B'rith International Deputy Director of the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy Eric Fusfield discusses a recent trip to Israel with Members of European Parliament, and the impact of the European Union's decision to label goods made in the West Bank.
On Feb. 3, a few minutes after three Palestinians who lived in Jenin murdered a young Israeli police officer who was19-yearsold, and also seriously injured two more, the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas hosted in his office, in Ramallah, a delegation of families of those who in the last four months have killed 34 Israelis—mostly civilians—and have left hundreds of wounded people from babies to seniors, in tens of terrorist attacks.
Abbas had no shame to deliver to world media a short video showing how he hosted the families of the terrorists. Very close to Abbas it was possible to watch Jabel Mukaber, father of Baha Alyan, who murdered three Israeli civilians inside a bus in Armon Hanatziv, Jerusalem, four months ago.
During the meeting, Abbas underlined that the sons of those who were visiting him are “martyrs.”
Not far from there, in Gaza, Husam Badran, speaker of the terrorist organization Hamas, said publicly that the attack on Feb. 3, “Has been a blessing action in the ‘holy intifada’, and that the terrorists have had a lot of ‘courage’.” He also added that “the attack with knives and guns made by our ‘rebels’ show that our people want the intifada to move on.”
But the rest of Latin America, or runs behind the hate speech of the Venezuelan government (followed with strength by Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador) or stay in ambiguity (Caribbean) or stay “neutral” (Chile and Peru).
Brazil, the largest power in the region is confronting Israel in several fields. The controversy of the nomination of the Israeli ambassador in Brazil has frozen political relations but not the economic ones. But the political relations influence fully in Brazilian speeches, which follow the Palestinian stand and are not clear with the Quartet demand of both sides sitting at the peace table and starting a dialogue.
With Latin America divided in its opinions; with Europe close to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), Abbas and Hamas feel encouraged. Terrorists are “martyrs,” their families receive money as compensation; and murderers are glorified in streets and squares.
There is no possible or viable dialogue when both sides are so far from one another. But if the Security Council would be serious with its obligations, and the Quartet would be real and executive, Abbas could not be praising terrorism.
But if a member of the Quartet believes that terrorism can be justified due to “frustrations,” the only step in the path of peace is the step backwards. Nothing on earth can justify terrorism. There is no “good” or “bad” terrorism. There is terrorism. Period. And the U.N. must be serious in this regard, because with such statements, not only are terrorists encouraged to go on, but countries, like many Latin Ameican ones, fall in deep confusion and finally endorse what they should never endorse: terror.
Is there any member of the Security Council who really believe that in a democracy like Israel, people and government can stay still forever, while terrorists kill its citizens in the streets every day? No country in the world would accept it.
Why Israel? What is the U.N. waiting for? To wake up one morning and accuse Israel of “disproportionate use of force,” as it has happened each time Israel has defended its citizens?
When the government and people of Israel will say enough of terror, Israel will pay again the price of permanent international hostility. But those who are going to suffer much more, will be the Palestinians, which are victims of their own so called leaders and of the most used exchange coin of today´s world: international indifference.
One of the privileges of living in a vibrant Jewish community, such as the one in the city where I reside, Chicago, is that there are always unique programs available. On my own time outside of work, politics and activism haves always been a part of my life, and I do like to attend events that interest me. An important interest of mine is equal rights and the LGBTQ community. I have several friends, some of those who are very close, who happen to be part of that community, and I have been passionate about equality for them for a long time.
I also am a staunch and proud Zionist, as that has run in my family for generations. My great grandfather, Louis Vickar was a rabbi in the Douglas Park neighborhood on the “Vest Side” or the West Side of Chicago and sought to expand rights within the fledgling Chicago Rabbinical Council to balance the modern life of the 1920s and 1930s to fit the laws of Judaism and promoted Zionism as well. My great grandfather also passed that love of Zionism and Israel to my grandmother, and to her son, my father who passed it to me, as well as my younger sister.
When I became a Hillel president at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. in 2006, one of the challenges I encountered was the Boycott Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement. On one occasion, we hosted Israel’s 60th birthday celebration on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commons, which was an apolitical event. There was Israeli dancing and free food on the Commons. While the event was going on, several members of the Muslim Student Association walked to the other side of the Commons and started protesting and chanting against Israel. There was a tension that day, especially when their chants turned to: “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” among others. Luckily, a brother in my chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi (a partner of B’nai B’rith International), went up to them and hilariously engaged the protestors on a common love of falafel and disengaged the BDS protest after 20 minutes. However, this would not be the last time I engaged BDS protesters.
On Jan. 22, I decided to go to an event at the Hilton Chicago Hotel, which was a LGBTQ and allies Shabbat being hosted by “A Wider Bridge” and “Jerusalem Open House” at the Creating Change Conference, hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force. It is basically the LGBTQ version of the megaconferences we are accustomed to in the Jewish community (B’nai B’rith Policy Forum, AIPAC Policy Conference, etc.). However, the Friday before, the board of the Task Force, which was running the event, sensing a “conflict” disinvited A Wider Bridge and the Jerusalem Open House from participating in the Conference. Several organizations from both the Jewish and the LGBTQ communities monitored the situation, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of Chicago, which B’nai B’rith is a part of, and by the next Tuesday, the groups were reinvited by the Task Force at the behest of the Task Force directors, Sue Hyde and Rea Carey.
I arrived that night to support my colleagues who had suffered enough from BDS. A rabbi from Temple Sholom in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, Shoshanah Conover, was co-leading the event, and more than 100 people were going to attend. Those in attendance included the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, Roey Gilad, and high ranking leadership and colleagues of the Jewish Federations in Chicago and Milwaukee, an Illinois state representative amongst many others. The service was fine and very well done; however, in the hallways of the Hilton Chicago, we could hear the familiar voices of BDS chants, along with members of Black Lives Matter Chicago who joined in the protest. More than 200 supporters of the BDS movement chanted those now familiar, hateful chants, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free,” and “No Justice, No Peace” as well as “Hey hey, ho, ho Pinkwashing has got to go,” and “2, 4, 6, 8, Israel is an apartheid state” as they marched through the lobby, holding signs like “Zionism Sucks” and “US stop funding Israel” among others.
Half the attendees, including the Consul General never made it into the reception, and a few protesters got into the reception and, following the chant “shut it down,” proceeded to indeed shut down the event, first by taking the stage and the microphone, and then walking around the room , yelling and shrieking at attendees who tried to reason with them, and shouting down anyone on the microphone, about Israel’s “pinkwashing,” Chicago police brutality, lies about Israel forcing sterilization of Ethiopian and Palestinian children, and several charges of oppression and outright anti-Semitism from those who ended the event by “heckler’s veto,” as attendee Tony Verona wrote.
It was bad enough that some people left the room in tears.
Colleagues of mine from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago were literally restraining people from the protest from getting into the room, and I chose to watch a side door to try to not let agitated protestors from getting into the room and causing something bad to happen. The hotel security could not manage to remove the crowd from the narrow hall and did not get into the room itself for 10-30 minutes. The Hilton Chicago Hotel staff eventually had to request support from the Chicago Police Department which had to declare a fire hazard. Attendees of the reception had to leave out of side doors to escape the crowd.
The Task Force on January 25, officially condemned anti-Semitism at the conference, with Director Rea Carey stating “I want to make this crystal clear: the National LGBTQ Task Force wholeheartedly condemns anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic statements made at any Task Force event including our Creating Change Conference. It is unacceptable.” While we applaud the sentiment, steps will need to be put in place to avoid this happening in future years
As we know, BDS is growing on campuses and in certain political elements of the country. While it is not a mainstream majority view, we as the Jewish community have to stand up to it now. Today’s activists in movements such as BDS could very well end up being tomorrow’s policy makers.
B’nai B’rith and the Jewish community at large will continue to reach out to do “Hasbara” or outreach to show why Israel is a beacon of light in the Middle East for its citizens and why it is the leading democracy in an unstable part of the world. We also need to reach out to the younger generations, who are growing in influence in the political movements as well as engaging those who are not traditional “allies” of the Jewish community. If we can do this, the U.S.-Israel relationship can remain bipartisan, and sacrosanct in these unstable times.
As another year’s U.N. General Assembly’s General Debate session has recently wrapped up, B’nai B’rith has concluded our annual round of meetings with presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers at the sidelines of the UNGA session.
This week of meetings gives B’nai B’rith leadership access to world leaders and an opportunity to engage in advocacy on core issues of importance to B’nai B’rith, most critically: the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people throughout the world, and our concerns about the Iranian nuclear deal and Iran’s continued support for terrorism.
Oren Drori is the Program Officer for United Nations Affairs at B’nai B’rith International where he supports advocacy and programming efforts that advance B’nai B’rith’s goals at the U.N., which include: defending Israel, combating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and promoting global human rights and humanitarian concerns. He received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2004 and an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago in 2006. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
A movement by European governments to label products made in the West Bank is gaining traction, even as Israel argues that such a policy would cause great economic and political harm to the Jewish state.
In April, 16 of 28 European Union foreign ministers signed a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini asking her to move forward on labeling goods that are produced in the West Bank and sold in European grocery chains.
“European consumers must indeed have confidence in knowing the origin of goods they are purchasing,” the letter said. If a product is made in the West Bank (which Europeans do not consider part of Israel proper), according to the argument, then anyone purchasing it has the right to be notified.
So is this simply a case of truth in advertising? Of course not. The same letter from the 16 governments revealed another motive. “We remain of the view that this is an important step in the full implementation of EU longstanding policy, in relation to the preservation of the two-state solution,” the ministers declared. “The continued expansion of Israeli illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory…threatens the prospect of a just and final peace agreement.”
If the goal, then, is to advance the two-state solution by repudiating Israeli businesses in the West Bank, why does Europe bother to promote the tertiary argument about inspiring “confidence in knowing the origin of goods”? Because doing so allows European officials to maintain that they are not participating in the sinister Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
BDS is a campaign to isolate Israel economically and politically through boycotts and other discriminatory tactics. Its aim is to delegitimize and ultimately cripple the Jewish state.
Germany, which was not one of the 16 governments that signed the letter to Mogherini, has nonetheless announced its intention to label goods manufactured by Israelis in the West Bank. Andreas Michaelis, Germany’s ambassador to Israel, flatly asserted in the Jerusalem Post that his country is not “in the business of calling for boycotts. Germany decidedly rejects any such attempt.”
But to Israelis, the labeling of West Bank products is a blow to the economy not only of the region, but of the entire country. A labeling regime that is applied to West Bank products, some argue, could eventually lead to a broader and potentially catastrophic boycott of all Israeli goods, as Israel increasingly becomes tarred as an illegal occupier and a pariah state. As Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid told Mogherini in a phone call, the demand by the 16 European foreign ministers was “effectively a call for the de facto boycott of Israel,” one that could “bring disaster to the Israeli economy.”
The Palestinian economy would feel the effect, as well. The West Bank currently is home to some 800 Israeli business, which cumulatively employ about 15,000 Palestinians, whose wages are markedly higher than what they would earn working for Palestinian employers. The recent decision by the noted Israeli beverage company SodaStream to move its operations from the West Bank to the Negev will mean its Palestinian workers will face a much longer commute and need to apply for permits to work in Israel.
In the end, the implementation of labeling policies may significantly influence their impact. The European Commission is expected to publish advisory guidelines for EU member-states, but whether and how vendors will be required to label certain products will vary from country to country. A label such as “Made in the West Bank” may be perceived differently than a label that reads, “Made in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” for example. And whether Palestinian-owned businesses will receive similar treatment to Jewish-owned businesses will be a key consideration in evaluating the intentions behind the labeling regime.
Meanwhile, Israel, as it does so often, braces itself, while the Palestinians repose and wait for the EU and the rest of the international community to continue to apply pressure on the Jewish state, in lieu of calling for an end to Palestinian incitement and a return by the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table. If a two-state solution is indeed what the EU seeks, it would do well to hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and encourage direct bilateral talks, rather than devising new means of isolating Israel and undermining its existence.
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.
The following piece was originally printed in Times of Israel and can be read in its entirety below:
You can't un-ring the bell.
Yes, international telecom giant CEO Stephane Richard did sort of apologize this weekend for his statement last week that "[o]ur intention is to withdraw from Israel..." and further saying if it were financially feasible, he would terminate his company's relationship "tomorrow" with Partner, the Israeli company that licenses the Orange name in Israel.
After a huge backlash, from the Israeli government and a variety of business and Jewish groups, including B'nai B'rith, Richard tweeted this weekend:
This is a clear case of being disingenuous. The pandering to the BDS camp (the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement), which is encouraged by the Palestinian authority, appears to have backfired in this case and it looks as if Orange is scrambling for needed cover. Backed by the Palestinian Authority and deeply active among a range of non-governmental organizations and on college campuses, BDS aims to single out Israel for unjust discrimination and harm.
This insidious movement's goal is to undermine Israel at every turn.
Both the arrogance and shamelessness of Richard are noteworthy for his absolute lack of pretense: the original statement said he would leave Israel tomorrow if Orange wouldn't be sued.
The fact that he was in Egypt when he made his original statement about cutting ties with Orange's Israeli partner only adds to speculations about his actual motives.
Orange's statement that Richard soon will visit Israel may not necessarily undo the damage.
In Israel, many major figures across the political spectrum called the comments by Richard an outrage. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called "on the French government to publicly repudiate the miserable statement and miserable action by a company that is under its partial ownership."
With the French government holding a 25 percent stake in Orange, protests have poured into French government offices at the highest level, prompting Foreign Minister Laurent Faubius to say France is against boycotts of Israel.
It took a huge, international outcry for Richard to retreat and tell the media: "We love Israel," and that this is not a boycott, but a "business decision." But whatever he calls it now doesn't really make a difference.
We don't yet know what result will come from his visit to Israel, but terrible damage has already been inflicted by Richard, giving aid and comfort to the BDS movement, and giving additional incentives to the Palestinians to keep driving for international pressure on Israel, rather than negotiating an end to the conflict.
This kind of rhetoric and "business decision" aimed at punishing Israel economically has a whiff of the 1930s to it. Whatever one might think of the Israeli settlement enterprise, globally isolating Israel is a non-starter. The BDS movement now includes corporate and other bullying. Israel will surely not be intimidated by such activity. A wide range of issues needs to be worked out through face-to-face negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. BDS, now bolstered by Richard, seeks only to intimidate, bully and delegitimize the State of Israel and its standing in the world. Boycotts and business pull-outs don't advance the idea of a peaceful resolution of this conflict; they only set it back further.
As France works on proposing what appears to be a United Nations Security Council resolution that would impose a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict--through an expected U.N. Security Council resolution--it might learn from the Orange fiasco. It's easy, when you're living thousands of miles from the region, to move pieces across a chessboard. And as it should know from its own history, the surest route to peace and stability lies through negotiations, tough though they may be.
France and Orange might better expend their energy on encouraging Palestinians to go to the negotiating table rather than have them believe they can achieve their aims by having countries and companies do their heavy lifting.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is the Executive Vice President at B'nai B'rith International, and has spent nearly all of his professional life working on behalf of Jewish organizations. As the organization's top executive officer, he directs and supervises B'nai B'rith programs, activities and staff in the more than 50 countries where B'nai B'rith is organized. He also serves as director of B'nai B'rith's Center for Human Rights and Public Policy (CHRPP). In that capacity, he presents B'nai B'rith's perspective to a variety of audiences, including Congress and the media, and coordinates the center's programs and policies on issues of concern to the Jewish community. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
The following piece was originally printed in Algemeiner and can be read in its entirety below:
Daubing swastikas on walls has always been a deliberate way to convey hostility— a short-hand for inspiring hate, fear and intimidation.
A college fraternity at Stanford University was vandalized with swastikas and other written epithets in late April.
Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., also suffered recent attacks, with swastikas found in a campus library in April and one scratched into a student’s car in January 2014.
Reading of this vandalism, I was reminded of an incident I experienced in the fifth grade, some 55 years ago. Our teacher, Mrs. Kellom, called me over to the classroom doorway, and told me, in hushed tones, that a swastika was found on the wall in the boys’ bathroom. She assured me that the custodian had washed it off, and wanted me to know. I was the only Jewish student in that school, and even then I was astounded that Mrs. Kellom, in her own way, did not want me to think she took such things lightly. That was only 15 years after the Holocaust.
More than five decades later, anti-Semitic attacks are more prevalent worldwide than ever. And these odious incidents are manifesting in a variety of new and exceedingly disturbing ways.
In the Jewish community, we have to be vigilant on so many levels.
This wrenching reality is in our backyard. And here we must be citizen advocates to fight for justice.
In the United States, college campuses are at the forefront of a growing hatred of Jews and Israel. Make no mistake—these are not separate things.
Too often, the haters claim they are against Israel’s policies, not against Jews. Any suggestion that the anti-Semitism we are seeing is legitimate criticism of Israel is a false justification—it’s anti-Semitism masquerading as something else. But we are not fooled.
In Nashville, Tenn., in March, Vanderbilt University’s Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) chapter was vandalized; swastikas spray-painted in the basement and elevator of the fraternity house. B’nai B’rith has partnered with AEPi on a number of programs for the betterment of the communities in which we live. The maturity and fortitude of these young men is heartening, facing this hatred head on. It is shameful that college students have to face such indignity. But at the same time, we have an opportunity to recognize and commend our allies in fighting such hatred.
It is a testament to the school that hundreds of students came out to publicly support AEPi, and many fraternities and sororities publicly and loudly stood with AEPi against hatred.
Unfortunately, the vocal minority is loud and ominous in its efforts.
To be sure, swastikas are a sinister and potent, threatening symbol, telling Jews they don’t belong.
But there have been incidents that go beyond symbolism, and question the very foundation of what it means to be a Jew in America.
At the University of California, Davis, campus, epithets were hurled at Jewish students who opposed a boycott Israel resolution put forth by the student council. That campus also was hit with a swastika on a fraternity house.
At the University of California, Los Angeles, in March, when a Jewish student applied to be on the university’s judicial board, she was grilled about her assumed lack of objectivity due to her religion. Fabienne Roth, a member of the Undergraduate Students Association Council, asked Rachel Beyda during Beyda’s confirmation proceedings, “Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”
This line of thought is chilling and unacceptable. It is menacing to say to someone they can’t serve on a board because they are Jewish. This is eerily reminiscent of discriminatory systems in place in the middle of the last century, when the number of Jews in certain professions was limited or when Jews were not admitted to certain clubs or hotels.
At first, Beyda was rejected from the committee. A faculty adviser later helped lead the students to another conclusion and she was eventually accepted. But at what cost?
In its reporting on the situation, The New York Times wrote of the debate over Beyda’s ability to serve that the discussion “seemed to echo the kind of questions, prejudices and tropes—particularly about divided loyalties—that have plagued Jews across the globe for centuries.”
College is a place to develop critical thinking skills. And in an educational setting, it is expected, and in many ways, a cherished tradition, that students will disagree. But “conversations” about Judaism and Israel are no longer dialogues in far too many places.
To fight anti-Semitism, we need allies; people of goodwill, like Mrs. Kellom, to be engaged. In the Jewish community, we have tolerance programs, such as our own Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge. In this education and awareness program, high school students write original books promoting tolerance, diversity and equality. Winning entrants earn college scholarships and have their books published and distributed to local school libraries, so tolerance and respect for others can be taught at an early age.
The virus of anti-Semitism is spreading. Partnerships are required to excise it. Mrs. Kellom clearly understood that people of goodwill need to act when confronted by these symbols or expressions of hatred. Now, 70 years after the Holocaust, together with friends and allies, we need to ensure that the passage of time doesn’t dull the collective consciousness to this scourge.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is the Executive Vice President at B'nai B'rith International, and has spent nearly all of his professional life working on behalf of Jewish organizations. As the organization’s top executive officer, he directs and supervises B’nai B’rith programs, activities and staff in the more than 50 countries where B’nai B’rith is organized. He also serves as director of B'nai B'rith's Center for Human Rights and Public Policy (CHRPP). In that capacity, he presents B’nai B’rith’s perspective to a variety of audiences, including Congress and the media, and coordinates the center’s programs and policies on issues of concern to the Jewish community. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
“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.
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