Last week’s decision by the U.S. State Department to formally designate the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic is a major shift in the fight against the anti-Israel movement. While perhaps common sense to those of us fighting this constant scourge against Israel and the Jewish people, it is not common sense to so many. This designation will hopefully help set a precedent throughout the globe that singling out the world’s only Jewish state is in fact, anti-Semitism. The U.S. State Department will review its funds to make sure none go to entities that support the BDS campaign, including foreign aid funding. On the heels of last year’s executive order by President Donald Trump granting Jews protections under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the significance of the new designation by the State Department cannot be overstated—because in order to effectively fight something it must be defined.
In October, U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism Elan Carr and the Kingdom of Bahrain’s King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence signed a historic memorandum of understanding (MOU) to combat anti-Semitism. This groundbreaking MOU formally marks the first time that an Arab entity has backed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. Bahrain’s Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence has pledged to eradicate anti-Semitism, and critically, anti-Zionism, promoting respect and peace between the Arab and Jewish peoples through educational and other programs. There may be no legal reinforcement to this MOU, but the partnership is emblematic of this ripe moment and signals a bright future for the region.
As some Arab institutions take steps to eradicate anti-Semitism in their societies and a new wave of Middle East peace unfolds between Israel and its once sworn Arab enemies, it is truly confounding to witness the disconnect between the reality unfolding in the region and the reality on the American college campus and cultural and political progressive sphere. While monumental progress unfolds in the Middle East, American college students, professors, cultural and political figures, sit on the opposite side of the world pontificating and declaring their continued commitment to delegitimizing the one Jewish state. Who might have imagined that some in the Arab world would make more of an effort to fight anti-Semitism than the U.S. college campus, which has encouraged and permitted the toxic climate of anti-Israel bullying for years?
This past summer, Rose Ritch, the vice president of student government at the University of Southern California, resigned over a relentless and anti-Semitic campaign of cyberbullying and public attacks on her as both a Jew and Zionist. The USC administration did nothing practical, though USC President Carol Folt did issue a statement condemning anti-Semitism, which is more than State University of San Francisco officials have done on the multiple occasions their university has crossed the boundary into overt anti-Semitism under the guise of free speech. This past summer, SFSU’s cultural studies department hosted convicted Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled in a webinar event which has now brought the university under federal investigation for violation of civil rights rules and the conditions of federal grants the university receives. During the disgraceful Khaled debacle, which ultimately lead to Zoom and other social media platforms refusal to host, Lynn Mahoney, SFSU president said in a statement, “We cannot embrace the silencing of controversial views, even if they are hurtful to others…We must commit to (free) speech and to the right to dissent.” What’s more, last week SFSU’s student body passed a BDS resolution calling on the university to divest from over 100 companies that conduct business with Israeli settlements.
Of those groups at SFSU which identified themselves as voting in favor of the resolution were the Black Student Union, League of Filipino Students and the International Business Society. What this tells us is the global BDS organization is still very good at what it does, namely co-opting groups that have absolutely nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and drawing them in under the guise of social justice and intersectionality, the thought being that all oppressed peoples (in this case the Palestinians are considered to be in that category) need to “join hands”—against Israel.
IHRA, with over 30 member countries, includes in its definition of anti-Semitism, "claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” something BDS has long espoused as a core tenant of its mission statement, amongst other anti-Semitic declarations. The BDSers have long sought to distance themselves from accusations of anti-Semitism, arguing their intention is to pressure Israel though “non-violence,” and they continue to balk at accusations of racism. Their bad faith arguments have unfortunately been very successful indoctrinating countless young and vulnerable minds. Using words, like, “freedom, justice and equality,” they continue to indoctrinate with their extremist agenda designed to demonize and isolate Israel.
For years, the pro-Israel community has fought tirelessly—through so many avenues—yet we continue to witness the BDS onslaught against Jewish students, waging war on their identities as both Jews and Zionists, as the two are intertwined. We have to wonder, are those of us fighting this poison losing the battles but winning the war? We continue to watch as more and more Jewish students across the U.S. confront this toxicity but finally, there are significant strides being made against the messaging of the so-called “peaceful protest” movement.
The U.S.’s formal designation of BDS as anti-Semitic is a knock-out punch and it may signal the end is near. For so long, universities across the U.S. could continue their hostilities against Jewish students unchallenged. It is telling that SFSU went so far as to think that it could freely host a convicted Palestinian terrorist under the First Amendment. For over a decade BDS on campus has had carte blanche to run amok—but those days are now numbered. Between last year’s executive order providing legal recourse to Jewish students to fight back and the designation of BDS as anti-Semitic, the tides are changing.
The time has long come for the architects and organizers of BDS to recognize that their agenda can no longer hide behind the concepts of “free speech” and “non-violent protest.” They must reckon with the fact that their organization is not a “vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements,” but in fact a global movement made up of anti-Semites. For far too long proponents of BDS have manipulated well-meaning progressive minded people, sadly even many Jews, through their language couched in human rights, drawing them deeper into their toxic world view—but enough is enough.
At this point, it no longer falls on the pro-Israel community to dispel the reasons BDS is anti-Semitic. The U.S. State Department declared it as such, as have other countries, such as Germany—a country that knows far too well the dangers of organized anti-Semitism. The debate about whether or not BDS is anti-Semitic is over. The BDSers can continue their tirades but they’ll have to do so living with a new label: anti-Semites.
Rebecca Rose is Associate Director of Development & Special Projects at B’nai B’rith International. She holds an M.A. in Political Science in Security and Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University.
Boris Johnson has finally fulfilled his political ambitions by becoming the U.K.’s 77th Prime Minister. His biggest short-term priority will be ensuring that the U.K. leaves the European Union by October 31st in as orderly a fashion as possible. But it is a fair question to ask whether the new PM, who is an avowed philosemite and admirer of Jewish culture, will look equally with favour on Israel. When one looks back at Johnson’s record, one finds a rather mixed picture and one which reflects the inconsistencies for which he is sometimes accused.
Firstly, it is necessary to dispel a myth: that Boris Johnson is nothing but a British version of President Trump. Certainly, there are superficial similarities. Both have a somewhat maverick and ebullient style, and both are willing to ride a coach and horses through their respective political establishments. But the similarities mask obvious differences.
For one, Johnson is a classically trained scholar whose knowledge of modern history and culture is compelling. For another, he is an experienced politician, having served as an MP since 2001, Mayor of London for 8 years and, most recently, as Foreign Secretary. Moreover, Johnson’s occasionally offensive remarks mask the fact that, as a classical liberal, he champions individual freedom and liberty and has often been positive towards ethnic minorities and LGBT people. He specifically condemned President Trump’s Muslim migration ban. And as a journalist of 30 years standing, he has little time for the incessant attacks on the press which have become routine in Washington.
This makes a difference to the Jews in one important sense. Johnson is a Brexiteer because he believes that E.U. membership is anti-democratic and undermines Parliamentary sovereignty. He champions liberalism, openness and democratic institutions, the kind of political environment in which Jews traditionally thrive and to which they make the most positive contribution. It helps that he is proud of his Jewish maternal great grandfather, a Lithuanian rabbi.
In the past, Johnson has lauded Israel as a ‘great country’ and described himself as a ‘passionate Zionist’. He visited the country as a university student in 1984 and spent some time volunteering on Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi in northern Israel. He would later speak of the ‘bonds of hard work, self-reliance and audacious and relentless energy’ holding together ‘a remarkable country’ and, in a comparison of Israel with Churchill, praised the ‘daring, audacity, derring-do and indomitability’ of the Jewish state. As Mayor of London, he arrived in Israel for a three-day trade mission in November 2015 with a team of high tech entrepreneurs. He later said that London was the ‘natural tech partner for Israeli firms.’ This extensive economic and technological collaboration is likely to increase now that Johnson is Prime Minister.
Johnson has also condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the strongest terms, describing it as a ‘completely crazy’ campaign led by ‘ridiculous, snuggle-toothed, corduroy-wearing lefty academics.’ Those comments, made in 2015, led to a series of meetings in Ramallah being cancelled. He has also understood the endemic anti-Israel bias found within the U.N. In a visit to the U.N. Human Rights Council in its first session of 2018, he urged the body to ditch Item 7 (which singles out Israel for criticism) as it was ‘disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace.’
But at times, he has said things that have offended supporters of Israel. In 2014, at the height of Israel’s war with Hamas, Johnson deprecated Israel’s actions as ‘disproportionate, ugly and tragic’ and described the war as ‘utterly horrifying and unacceptable.’ He has condemned ‘incitement and rocket fire against Israel’ but also called for an ‘independent inquiry’ over 120 Palestinian deaths on the Gaza border. Johnson was also seen as playing an important role in drafting U.N. Security Council resolution 2334, which said that all settlements established since 1967, including in East Jerusalem, ‘were a flagrant violation under international law.’
The resolution was widely condemned within the U.K. Jewish community, whose representatives considered it a betrayal and disgrace. He is a strong supporter of the two-state solution, which marks him out as having a thoroughly conventional perspective on the conflict. But this led to a somewhat nuanced celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, in which he lamented that the Arab population had been denied self determination, even though the declaration did not speak of the ‘national rights’ of the Arab population.
On Iran, it is hard to read the exact contours of a foreign policy. In the past, he has expressed support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Deal, which was signed in 2015. He rallied round the E.U. in rejecting Trump’s decision to leave the agreement. In 2018, he said that Britain had ‘no intention of walking away’ from the nuclear deal and as recently as July 2019, urged Iran not to abandon the JCPOA. In a recent interview with the U.K.-based Jewish News, Johnson continued to defend the agreement but hinted that if there was evidence of Iranian non-compliance, Britain stood ready to re-impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Yet this can only mean that, contrary to all previous positions, the U.K. would be abandoning the JCPOA. Now that tensions between Iran and the West have ramped up in recent months, it remains to be seen whether Johnson’s government will pivot more towards Europe or the USA.
When it comes to terror groups, his record is again inconsistent. He rejected calls consistently to ban Al Quds Day marches in London or to prevent the Hezbollah flag from flying, despite the raucous antisemitic rhetoric on display. Yet when the Muslim Home Secretary did proscribe Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, Boris Johnson tweeted his congratulations.
What are we to make of all this? It is fair to conclude that Johnson is a friend of Israel and a man committed to its peace, security and prosperity. But in his views on settlements, Gaza and Iran, his perspective is largely aligned with that of the Foreign Office.
Jeremy Havardi is a historian and journalist based in London. He has written four books, including ‘The Greatest Briton’, a volume of essays on Churchill’s life and political philosophy, ‘Projecting Britain at war’, a study of British war films and, most recently, ‘Refuting the anti-Israel narrative.’ He is currently working on a project that examines the Jewish contribution to modern civilisation. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
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.
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