Lou Sandler

BDS: Just a New Face to Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israel Activity or Something Else?

There definitely is an undercurrent among a core group of BDS and related operatives in both the U.S. and internationally of deeply held anti-Israel and anti-Semitic beliefs.

It is also true, however, that an increasing number of American Jews, and especially the current generation of younger American Jews, are questioning the unconditional support for Israel they and/or their families have always given Israel. With this, broadly dismissing BDS and related organizing as only anti-Semitic and/or anti-Israel in nature dangerously misrepresents a much larger reality.

And such a  generalization which denies other possible explanations also increases the risk to Israel’s future.

It is, then, remarkably counterproductive to broadly categorize and dismiss BDS and related activities as wholly and almost solely anti-Semitic and directly anti-Israel or, as the Illinois Legislature wrote in a piece of its anti-BDS legislation which is very probably unconstitutional, “…vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state.”

The growing international movement to challenge what are also increasingly self-destructive practices and policies specifically towards the Palestinians by the Israeli hard Right and the most recent Coalition government demands far more serious thought and response.

BDS and related activities also most often confuse Israel with the increasingly disconnected Israeli hard Right led by Benjamin Netanyahu, the sponsored Prime Minister, his new and already widely derided Coalition government.

We have, for instance, a new Deputy Defense Minister who wanted segregated buses (which was not even supported by the IDF). Netanyahu agreed initially then halted the plan when he recognized (for a change) that he had misjudged the intensity of the backlash both in and outside of Israel.

As anybody who has read even a couple of my TOI blogs should know, I have strongly opposed those who call Israel an ‘apartheid’ state and still do.

But that segregated buses have been a long standing ‘apartheid’ strategy in true apartheid states makes the accusation increasingly difficult to counter. Those looking in and, particularly younger observers, can understandably see further justification in protesting what they then define as Israeli ‘apartheid.’

The Deputy Foreign Minister has stated a desire for her ambassadors to tell other countries that God gave Israel to the Jewish people and that all further discussions must accept this as a baseline.

Such an outrageous foreign policy strategy directly sponsored by the government of Israel only serves to further diminish and demean Israel’s geopolitical and global credibility while feeding into and further driving honest and broadly based resistance to such wrongheaded politics.

The Deputy Foreign Minister is free to her own beliefs. An intent to make these beliefs inviolable foreign policy is grossly misguided and damaging.

The new Culture Minister has stated that she won’t ‘allow art that harm’s Israel’ and will ‘censor something’ as she sees fit.

I could certainly understand where others may translate this, too, through an ‘apartheid’ framework. Such a right claimed by a senior government official to overtly engage in unilateral censorship should not be supported by anyone regardless of their political alliance.

This, therefore, becomes yet another reasonable point of contention and protest targeting Israel and cannot be dismissed as nothing more than ‘anti-Israel’ sentiment. To argue that protesting an Israeli government official’s stated intent to engage in unilateral censorship does nothing more than give false cover to what actually is grossly improper political intent.

The new Justice Minister risks undermining the nation’s legal system and independent judiciary based on his plan to ‘return governance to the people.’ This means, in reality, that he wants to deny the Israeli Supreme Court’s authority over legislation coming out of the Knesset.

Since providing senior judicial oversight of national legislation is a fundamental priority of a nation’s Supreme Court, such efforts are reckless and dangerous. Protesting such plans by the Justice Minister are in support of, rather than in opposition to, Israel.

All this, while Netanyahu has continued his own efforts to directly undermine Israel’s free press, both print and televised thereby further diminishing and degrading Israel to include with those who have, or would otherwise, support Israel.

The imprudent building of more settlements and related construction is not only continuing but, under the newly formed coalition government in Israel, will likely surge once again.

And this will happen even as Netanyahu, who certainly knows/should know better, allows such misguided and unwise activity which is also destructive to Israel and Israelis. Protest and resistance, then, is in support of Israel’s future.

Just one major problem with the broader BDS movements and their organizing is that rather than identifying and targeting such relevant details and specific activity by the Israeli government, they tend to make very broad and not always factual statements with demands that present as self-involved and self-serving rather than useful.

Those who protest current Israeli political and policy practices whether under a BDS frame or otherwise must start to far better understand the real time dynamics and increasingly focus in on these specific and interconnected issues.

But broadly writing off the escalation of BDS and related movements as only wanting to ‘destroy’ Israel or nothing more than reconstituted anti-Semitism also provides false strength and cover to the Israeli hard Right government. Such beliefs also deny the need to have a serious discussion about a true and relevant vision for Israel’s future and how current policies and practices of the Israeli hard Right Coalition deliberately block seeking real solutions.

As things stand and continue, part of Israel’s future will be increasing BDS and related protest activity in both the U.S. and globally which certainly is not in Israel’s best interests. Broadly categorizing and dismissing it all as anti-Semitic and/or anti-Israel will only place Israel at even greater political and structural risk.

Unless something is done differently; unless the Israeli political hierarchy honestly self-assesses; until a true and stable Israeli opposition organizes and correctly prioritizes; until Israelis and true supporters of Israel demand real and honest change, BDS and related activities will only continue to evolve and place Israel at still more risk.

The Still Evolving Politics of Israel: A Misunderstood and Unrealized Dynamic

It also needs to be made clear that Netanyahu and his core are not ‘Israel’ but are, themselves, more of a threat to Israel’s current stability and future viability than the PA, Hamas, Iran and these BDS movements combined. It is, in fact, Netanyahu’s lack of real and serious leadership and true vision for Israel which has direct accountability for the surge in BDS and related protest activities towards Israel around the globe.

That Netanyahu and the Israeli hard Right’s intransigence and self-aggrandizing politics continues to diminish Israel’s global credibility while very directly feeding these escalating protest activities both in the U.S. and internationally must be prioritized.

The ever and increasingly serious need to generate an honest and relevant vision for the future of Israel should top that list.

Netanyahu’s Cult of Personality and the Politics of Disintegration

Netanyahu’s Pyrrhic Victory: A Unified, Stable and Self Defined Opposition needs to Evolve

About the Author
I was born in Baltimore, MD and have since had a wide range of experiences including a year plus in Israel. I've been a progressive organizer, writer/media spokesperson, coordinator and freelance. I am a PhD level Clinical Behavioral Analyst specializing in severe behavioral need in children (and adults) and their families. I write through no ‘agenda or special interest’ other than being a passionate supporter of Israel and Israel's future.
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