BDS Is About Bigotry | Opinion

In the wake of international protests over the murder of George Floyd, we are reminded that hate has no place in civil society. When bigotry is hidden under the mask of human rights, it is important for the real goal be exposed—and for good people do the right thing.

Since its beginning in 2005, the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been hiding behind the façade of a "peaceful" effort to influence Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and forge ahead with a two-state paradigm. This is the narrative espoused by leftist college students, progressive activist groups and mainstream media outlets. But if they would listen to the words of its co-founder, Omar Barghouti, they would know that BDS is about ending Israel's very existence.

In a May 21 interview on The Gazan Voice Podcast, Barghouti clearly explained the goals of the BDS movement.

"If the refugees return to their homes [in Israel] as the BDS movement calls for, if we bring an end to Israel's apartheid regime and if we end the occupation on lands occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, what will be left of the Zionist regime? That's the question. Meaning, what will the two states be based on? International law and the right of return? There won't be any Zionist state like the one we speak about. There will be two states: One democratic for all its citizens here [Palestine] and one democratic for all its citizens there [Israel]. The Palestinian minority will become a Palestinian majority of what is today called Israel."

This is not the first time Barghouti has gone on record admitting unequivocally that peaceful co-existence is the last thing BDS is about.

"Most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine," declared Barghouti at a conference on socialism. "Palestinians and Arabs in general have never, and will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state."

To garner support for his determination to end the Jewish state, Barghouti resorts to blatant lies.

The BDS founder claims that "Zionists" refuse to debate him. Yet civil rights icon Alan Dershowitz has been calling for Barghouti to debate him for years. Barghouti refused to attend an Oxford Union debate about BDS, claiming that he was against "normalization" — which the BDS website defines as "events/projects that are designed to bring together Palestinians/Arabs and Israelis so they can work toward reconciliation."

Barghouti "piles falsehood upon falsehood to present Israel as relentlessly oppressing the Palestinians in violation of human decency, and to hold Israel exclusively responsible for the ills afflicting them," wrote the New York Daily News in a 2013 editorial, noting Barghouti's "skill" as a "propagandist."

While the BDS campaign has had limited success, its advocates among professors and far-left student groups on college campuses have put targets on the backs of Jewish students and groups.

"BDS is designed to incite hatred and inject divisiveness on campus, and it almost always results in the harassment of Jewish students," explained Tammi Rossman-Benjamin to the Haym Salomon Center. "Our latest research demonstrates that the direct targeting of Israel's supporters, especially Jewish students, has reached alarming levels," added Rossman-Benjamin, director and co-founder of the anti-Semitism watchdog group AMCHA Initiative.

Rossman-Benjamin continued, "Academic BDS-compliant behavior and promotion was linked to 86 percent of Israel-related acts of anti-Semitic harassment. And faculty are playing a significantly more prominent role in promoting this hate. Schools with faculty who endorse academic BDS and that host department-sponsored events promoting BDS are significantly more likely to have incidents of anti-Jewish hostility."

Intimidating Jewish students is not new. Back in 2014, I interviewed Jewish students at DePaul University in Chicago. These kids feared walking through campus because of the threat they felt from pro-BDS groups.

At anti-Israel rallies sponsored by pro-BDS groups, it is commonplace for Israel advocates to be compared to the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis. The Star of David equated with a swastika can be found at nearly all BDS events.

Jews praying at Western Wall
Jews praying at Western Wall MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images

Hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, but that doesn't mean taxpayers have to underwrite it.

Currently, 30 states have passed laws that discourage state government from doing business with or investing in companies that advocate BDS. In 2019, the U.S. Senate passed legislation containing anti-boycott stipulations. The House condemned the anti-Semitic campaign last year by an overwhelming majority.

To properly combat the scourge that is BDS, it is important that states adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

"Without a proper definitional tool to clarify the application of existing legal protections, states run the material risk of leaving anti-Semitic crime and discrimination substantially unaddressed and underreported," said Joseph Sabag, executive director of IAC for Action. "Obviously, the tool the states need is the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. Codifying it will ultimately combat anti-Semitism by helping to objectively identify crime and discrimination motivated by anti-Semitism.

Critics of implementing the IHRA definition include the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Civil Liberties Union. They argue the definition violates free speech rights, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

This definition does not prevent anyone from saying anything. You can despise Israel and scream hatred to your heart's content. But just like any form of bigotry, if you resort to violence—breaking the law—law enforcement will now have a working definition as a tool to thoroughly investigate, and potentially prosecute, incidents.

A complicit media and progressive advocates alike must acknowledge the truth about the BDS campaign. Stop calling it a peaceful movement that seeks co-existence. Take Barghouti at his word; he couldn't have made it any clearer. BDS' sole purpose is to delegitimize Israel, end its very existence and demonize those who want peace for the Jewish state and its neighbors.

What does BDS actually stand for? Bigotry, Discrimination and Sophistry.

Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter at @pauliespoint.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.