As I travel across the country, I’m frequently asked why the IAC is engaged in the fight against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. What is the connection between building a coast-to-coast community with focus on the young generation of Israeli and Jewish Americans and this advocacy issue?
For years, we have given a simple and straightforward answer focused on the mission of the IAC. Strengthening Israel has always been a core pillar of our work, driven by the belief that the Jewish state is a great source of strength for Jewish people wherever they may live, and also a source of strength for America – because our two countries share, safeguard, and advance the same values.
We also believe that our community has a unique role to play in strengthening this relationship. As Israeli-Americans, we are positioned to serve as a living bridge that connects our two great nations, translating one culture to another, and helping to tell Israel’s story to Americans in a much more personal and effective way.
When we speak about Israel, we speak about a place where we grew up – a place where our parents or grandparents live, where some of us served in the army, where we went to elementary school and university, and where we continue to visit often.
In other words, BDS attacks on Israel are very personal for Israeli-Americans, particularly because this hate movement specifically singles out Israeli-Americans members for harassment, discrimination, and worse.
Yet, increasingly, I’ve come to see that the BDS threat extends far beyond our identity as Israeli-Americans, or even the personal harassment and discrimination we face as individuals of Israeli descent. At its core, this a danger that threatens us first and foremost as Jews and Americans.
This became very clear for me one evening not long ago when I received a photo that had been posted on a pro-BDS group.
It was titled: “Know your parasites”, featuring rhetoric and illustrations very similar to how classical anti-Semites have depicted Jews for centuries. It showed photos describing a tick, a flea, a leech, a mosquito, and an ugly photo of a Jew, with the caption “Zionist”.
I saw in that photo the same evil ideology as the images I’d seen from Nazi Germany in my high school history class.
This is the moment that BDS and anti-Zionism made me feel personally attacked, not just as an Israeli-American, but as an American Jew.
This is when the issue for became not only about Israel, but about my 2-year-old son, Eitan.
My stomach turned as I thought about his future growing up in America with radical anti-Semites threatening him. Will he need to hide his love to Israel? Will he need to hide the fact he is Jew and a Zionist?
This is the reality facing all Israeli American parents today.
Many first come into contact with the reality of the BDS movement when they send their kids to college in the U.S. Until college, most of the children in our community are more or less sheltered from the hate of BDS, especially those who are educated within the Jewish community. In college, the story is different, and this is when parents and students realize they are going to be the targets of harassment simply because they are Jewish and support Israel.
We at the IAC gets calls frequently from worried parents first encountering this reality. When we get their calls, our team is very proud to offer solutions.
Through IAC Mishelanu, we are providing a home on campus for their children on more than 80 campuses, which supports students to stand for beliefs and to be proud of their identity. We fight hate and anti-Semitism online by training activists in the Act.IL media rooms.
We train, equip and energize our community to get engaged as advocates, taking a stand and fight for our future here in America, as well as for the State of Israel. Our sister organization, the IAC for Action has led the efforts to advance anti-BDS legislation at the Federal, State, and Local Level, and has become the undisputed leaders in providing information to different States to help them enforce BDS laws.
Fighting BDS is not a choice for our community and our organization. It is a reality we must face, not only for the future of Israel, but also for the sake of our own children, here in the US, and the safety and future of our community here in America. Ignoring this danger is simply not an option.