Countering BDS From The Ground Up

States across the country—from Rhode Island to California, from Texas to Minnesota—have passed important anti-BDS legislation. To date, 24 states have joined the movement to reject hate, proudly standing up to those who discriminate against Israel.

This legislative process is one that has taken off over the past two years. The first states to pass these laws were Illinois and South Carolina, in 2015.  Since then, in both blue states and red states, these bills have passed either by unanimous votes or by extremely wide margins, indicating strong bipartisan consensus.

We are now entering a new year, and a new election cycle—all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, and 36 governorships are up for grabs. Additionally, there are numerous statewide offices, Secretaries or State, Attorneys General, and more to be decided in November.

State legislators are a ripe repository—think of a farm system—for those seeking higher political office. It is the main breeding ground for future leaders who will ultimately determine the next generation of legislation and policy.

Now that anti-BDS legislation is law in almost half the states, we have a good baseline by which to examine several candidates running in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Most American state legislators and governors, Democrat and Republican alike, understand that BDS is a hateful movement focused not on human rights, but on the destruction of Israel. Taking a stand against BDS must be applauded. We should also be tracking those running for higher office who did not vote in favor of these anti discriminatory bills.

Remember, these bills call out BDS efforts directed at Israel for what they are — a form of economic hate, warfare, and discrimination aimed at the lone Jewish state in the world. While states, foreign countries, and world leaders have rightly decided that BDS is hate, and support efforts to marginalize this discriminatory movement, some have not had the moral courage stand up.

Take for example, Rep. Stacie Abrams, in Georgia.  Rep. Abrams, a leading Democratic contender for Governor in that state, voted against the successful anti-BDS legislative effort that became law in 2016. Rep. Abrams’ opposition to the bill clearly raised some eyebrows and she was criticized for her vote.

Since then she issued a statement stating, “…However, I am now aware that my vote on SB 327 has led to questions about my fidelity to the existence and legitimacy of Israel. Let me be clear: I unequivocally support a two-state solution as the path to resolution of the Israel and Palestinian conflict, with Israel as the national homeland for the Jewish people. Moreover, I reject the demonization and de-legitimization of Israel represented by the BDS narrative and campaign…As a candidate for governor, I commit to pursue the actions recommended by ADL to counter the BDS’s anti-Semitic narrative: know the facts; study and distribute materials on why efforts to isolate and demonize Israel are wrong; get involved and share my personal connection to Israel; gather and publicize public statements that oppose these campaigns and organize or support local initiatives to promote Israeli goods. More importantly, I will proudly continue my efforts to center Georgia as a staunch political ally, economic partner and moral defender of the state of Israel.”

Boycotting Israel for political purposes is unfair and creates a double standard, which the U.S. State Department has deemed a form of anti-Semitism.  There is legitimate criticism of Israel, its government, and its policies. However, the singling out of the lone Jewish nation-state for divestment and sanction under the guise of “opposing occupation,” while not addressing the hundreds of other territorial disputes and various issues around the world, is a form of double standard that should not and cannot be tolerated.

French President Emmanuel Macron echoed this sentiment recently when he stated, “We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.”

This follows U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, who recently said that “The denial of the right of the State of Israel to exist is one of the modern forms of anti-Semitism. “[Israel] should be treated like any other member state.”

Who is elected is important. Elections matter. We should strive to elect the very best of both parties whose worldview includes the very basic understanding that double standards focused on delegitimizing only Israel is wrongheaded and discriminatory.

About the Author
Jacob Millner is the Midwest Regional Director and a Senior Policy Analyst with The Israel Project, a nonpartisan educational organization dedicated to informing the media and the public about Israel and the Middle East. Mr. Millner particularly focuses on issues pertaining to legislative action and leads TIP partnerships and coalitions department.
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