BDS: The Brainwashing of the American College Student

A Students for Justice in Palestine poster echoing BDS rhetoric at the George Washington University.
A Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) poster echoing BDS rhetoric at the George Washington University. (credit: StopAntisemitism, Twitter))

Colorful fireworks had lit up the Friday night sky while praises to Allah reverberated loudly through mosques’ loudspeakers. Palestinian flags waved high as jubilant crowds across Gaza, Ramallah, and Jenin took to the streets, cheering, dancing and handing out sweets. What had prompted this joyous occasion?—A soccer team’s victory? A wedding or religious holiday? The signing of a peace agreement, perhaps? Nope. None of that. 

The festivities were in celebration of murder—more specifically, the assassination of seven innocent Israeli civilians gathered for Shabbat services at the Neve Yaakov synagogue in East Jerusalem last month. Similar jubilation ensued again last week after a Palestinian terrorist rammed into a Jerusalem bus stop just before Shabbat, killing two brothers aged six and eight, and a twenty-year-old man. The perpetrator was praised as a “hero” with his actions glorified in a ghoulish cartoon.

These vicious acts had been perversely timed around the Jewish Sabbath, but the attack on the Neve Yaakov synagogue was especially vile as it coincided with that week’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The occasion commemorated the six million Jews among the many other victims slaughtered by the Nazis and honored those righteous among the nations. Yet, the words ‘never again’ rang hollow as we ‘once again’ faced one callous atrocity after another. 

Ask yourself: What kind of society finds pleasure in barbarism and celebrates murder?

Euphoric festivities across Palestinian towns on that solemn day was eerily reminiscent of Nazis holding “victory celebrations” over the mass slaughter of Jews in pits and concentration camps across Europe. Eighty years ago, the betterment of society called for the eradication of subhuman races, Jews most notably; today it’s the erasure of the ‘evil Zionists.’ Except for the actors, not much has changed in the diabolical realm of antisemitism. To Nazis and militant Palestinians, killing Jews is deserving of high honor, including life-time salaries and war decorations. For racial purity and the quest for lebensraum (German for ‘living space’), or Palestinian liberation and the so-called right of return—is killing and celebrating death a virtue?

As an Israeli, I never celebrate the death of a Palestinian, even if it’s one who hates me,” said Israeli journalist Chen Mazzig, a former IDF humanitarian affairs officer serving in the West Bank. “We can never forget to see each other as human beings, because in doing that, we forget to be human ourselves.” 

The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, known as BDS, demonizes those humane and outspoken voices like Mazzig, deeming them members of Israel’s so-called apartheid, racist, genocidal, and criminal apparatus. The organization manipulates world opinion into starving out Israel’s economy and isolating it socially. Since its inception some twenty years ago, BDS has mobilized a large unsuspecting public to boycott Israeli products and engage in aggressive anti-Israel activity by disseminating virulent antisemitic propaganda and fabricated lies

BDS has deep-pockets. While it carefully conceals its funding sources, it is conspicuously sponsored by the American Muslims for Palestine organization. This group, among its key supporters, are backed by the infamous Hamas terror group—an extension of the formidable Muslim Brotherhood. Supplied by Tehran’s Ayatollah regime, Hamas has waged multiple wars against Israel with thousands of rockets fired toward Israeli cities and towns, killing dozens of civilians. Iran’s explicit mission to “wipe out the Jewish state” has been voiced repeatedly over many decades. To this end, Iran supplies terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad with weapons and cash to the tune of 700 million dollars annually.

BDS has conned naive minds worldwide into believing that it promotes the Palestinian cause. Instead, it personifies how “western indulgence of the Palestinian dream obstructs the path to peace.” BDS has ultimately led other nations and entities like Amnesty International to sponsor the enrichment of a corrupt Palestinian leadership while furthering the misery of its people under the guise of humanitarianism, justice, and equality. BDS has brilliantly created a deceptive mirage aimed at a particularly young audience across US universities and many across the globe. 

Just last year, 80% of Middle East Studies Association members voted in favor of a resolution endorsing BDS in solidarity with Palestinian scholars calling for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. BDS infiltrates higher education classroom settings whereby professors propagate a progressive, anti-Israel, narrative. Students are learning distorted accounts of history, that “Jews were voluntary subjects in Nazi medical experiments” and that “Zionists weaponize the Holocaust to further their oppressive agenda.” 

The correlation between the rise in BDS activity and antisemitism on US campuses is no coincidence: In recent polls, 65% of Jewish students reported feeling unsafe while 50% tend to hide their identity. At George Washington University, students in a mandatory diversity course taught by Lara Sheehi, a BDS-affiliated professor, were told, “it’s not your fault you’re from Israel,” and were continually targeted with antisemitic tropes suggesting that Jews use money for nefarious purposes and that Jews “use Tikkun Olam, the Jewish value of bettering the world, to camouflage [Israel’s] oppressive power.” The list of such incidents goes on.

BDS supporters fail to realize that their social justice mission on behalf of Palestinians conceals ill-intent, celebrating murder and encouraging acts of barbarism. BDS conveys that Palestinian emancipation relies on the destruction of Israel and its Jewry: The movement endorses the heinous indoctrination of children with antisemitic and pro-terrorist curriculum in UNRWA schools and the Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund who “pays” Palestinian families up to 300 million dollars annually to “slay” Israeli civilians. Endorsing BDS is an assault on truth, education, and an utter deviation from a path toward the more just, peaceful, and truthful world young leaders aspire toward today.

A 2022 Pew Poll revealed that 84% of Americans don’t know about BDS and 95% of Americans don’t support it. This may appear as good news, however, this high level of ignorance is disconcerting. More unsettling is that younger Americans are almost twice as likely as other age groups to fall victim to this fabricated ideology. Newer generations of college students, seduced by the premises of  social justice and diversity initiatives prove easy targets to BDS’s propaganda. 

BDS has joined the left’s woke ideology, effectively latching onto minority groups such as LGBTQ+ and Black communities, pretending to share common goals of justice and liberation. Little do these students know that homosexuals and similar minorities are persecuted in Palestinian towns, evident by the story of Abu Murkhiyeh, a gay Palestinian who had sought refuge in Israel and was murdered upon his discovery by Gazan authorities.

Students and scholars across American universities fail to appreciate Israel’s exceptionally diverse and inclusive society. As the sole democracy in the Middle East, Israel is home to LGBTQ+ minorities, Arab Muslims, Christians, and Druze, among other groups, offering its citizens opportunities not otherwise available in neighboring Arab countries. Israel has promoted inclusivity by enabling teamwork with Palestinians in its industry and workforce. In 2016, for example, the thriving Palestinian-Israeli partnership at the Israeli Soda-Stream factory was irreparably severed due to the boycott on Israeli companies through BDS activity. This forced 500 Palestinians out of their jobs, depriving them of opportunities to prosper and collaborate with their Israeli neighbors. 

The BDS movement does not seek peace or reconciliation with Israel. Just the opposite: it’s after its destruction. It promotes a ‘one-state solution’–one which does not include Israel or Jews. In the plain words of BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, “There won’t be any Zionist state.” Israel, on the other hand, has made multiple peace attempts with its Arab neighbors and the Palestinians since its founding in 1948. Israel has long promoted Palestinian self-determination since the UN partition in 1947, and has addressed just about every Palestinian demand in return for peace in 2000, 2008, and beyond. The answer was “no” every time. 

BDS promotes a corrupt Palestinian leadership, the likes of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, who established a Palestinian identity parading itself on aggressive rejectionism dressed-up in molotov cocktails, rockets, and human shields. Contrary to its rhetoric, BDS acts against the Palestinian interest. Its every interaction shouts, “free Palestine from the River to the Sea,”—implying the erasure of Israel and its Jews—or calls for “Intifada”—instigating violence and suicide bombing, as opposed to peace and reconciliation. BDS does far more than merely attempt to boycott or sanction Israel: Its belligerent anti-Zionism disseminates hatred, tearing Israeli and Palestinian communities apart locally and abroad. 

Israel’s ‘Start-Up-Nation’ is also a reflection of the very society that younger generations are after. This 75-year-old state is ranked the fifth-most educated country in the world, boasts over 6,000 start-ups, and is the top technology patent holder in the world. Many of the Israeli developments that BDS seeks to cancel have been critical to the advancement of world science, technology, and medicine, including COVID vaccines, the USB interface, mobile phone devices, Waze, the scoliosis treatment Copaxone, and far more—same which, ironically, BDS members derive benefit from!

A true commitment to freedom, truth, and  justice, requires peeling off BDS’s pernicious mask to uncover a mission that is an abomination of progressive liberal values. Behind the veil lies a “21st century blood libel,” said Noa Tishby, renowned author and Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism and Delegitimization of Israel. 

Readily available statistics prove Tishby’s point: Between 2002 and 2014, antisemitic cases in America were on a slow decline. BDS’s rapid spread online and across college campuses since 2005 have contributed to antisemitism’s apex today, where the FBI reports Jews being the most attacked group in the United States. 2021 marked the peak at 2,717 cases, a year where 17 BDS resolutions were considered and 11 were passed on college campuses. 

Statistics from AMCHA, an organization that documents antisemitism incidents on campuses nationwide, reveal that a majority of incidents on college campuses relate to hostile BDS activity.  Jewish students have expressed feeling “distressed,” “unsafe,” “pained,” and “alienated.” Jewish students at Harvard said that Harvard faces a “real risk of losing Jewish talent” if such behavior continues. This is a direct assault on the tenets of diversity, equity, and inclusion that echo through academic institutions’ sacred halls. 

Campus organizations supporting BDS inevitably engender an environment inhospitable to Jews. Throughout history, antisemitism and anti-Zionism resulted in catastrophic consequences for Jews and the societies they inhabited. Each time, anti-Zionism resulted in Jews being forced to flee and abandon their homes. The loss of “Jewish talent” in medicine, business, banking, science, and literature led to a steep decline of the communities they left behind. 

During the Soviet Union and 20th century Pan-Arab era, Jews were labeled not Semites but Zionists. ‘Bad’ antisemitic Nazi propaganda was repackaged into ‘good’ anti-Israel labels with tropes such as “Jewish supremacy from the River to the Sea,”and Zionist propaganda machine.” The blend of anti-Zionism and traditional antisemitic canards suggest that the ‘Jews dominate the world’ or that ‘Jews control the media.’ This comprises the very ethos of the BDS movement, and has become the “shiny way of being antisemitic,” as expressed by former Israeli Knesset member Dr. Einat Wilf.

Those rejecting the notion that BDS’s notorious anti-Zionism is antisemitic lack in fundamental historical fact about Jewish history and the Middle East, having fallen victim to BDS farce and propaganda. Surely, Israel is as imperfect as any free and democratic society. It is not, however, the fantastical apartheid, racist, and genocidal regime that BDS has conjured up. 

BDS supporters have established a deontology that sides with the vulnerable, yet the vulnerable are the result of a self-serving Palestinian leadership who uses its innocent civilians as pawns to preserve the status quo. They ignore that Israel has vied for peace with its Palestinian neighbors for decades throughout its history. The olive branch gets rejected each and every time while the death toll mounts year after year. One thing is for sure: Israel will never celebrate the death of its neighbors despite the daily threats they pose to its security and survival. 

True celebration will occur only when truth forges a path towards mutual respect and recognition between Israel and the Palestinians. The recent Abraham Accords offer a roadmap: These historic agreements established a framework for peace and collaboration with a handful of Arab nations, once sworn enemies of Israel. After decades-long antagonism, it became evident that the perpetuation of BDS-style anti-Israelism was counterproductive and damaging to their societies. As acclaimed journalist Bret Stepehens said, “it’s the difference between wanting your friend to be better or wanting your enemy to be gone.” 

The prized principles of truth, diversity, and equality ring increasingly hollow at colleges and  universities across this country. So long as BDS-promoted anti-Israelism continues to brainwash young American minds under the guise of woke progressivism, any possibility of reconciliation, let alone peace, between Israelis and Palestinians will be evermore out of reach. Further, the cancer of antisemitism will continue its toxic spread to future generations through BDS’s premises of hatred. We will then ‘once again’ ask ourselves what happened to ‘never again’ only to prove that we’ve betrayed all sense of our virtuous values.

About the Author
Sabrina Soffer is an undergraduate student at the George Washington University where she is double majoring in Philosophy & Public Affairs and Judaic Studies. She is the former commissioner of the George Washington University's Special Presidential Task Force to Combat Antisemitism and the Vice President of Chabad George Washington. Most recently, Sabrina was a speaker at the American March for Israel in Washington D.C. She is also the author of My Mother's Mirror: A Generational Journey of Resilience & Self-Discovery, a dual-perspective memoir that offers creative, narrative-based tools based on the USC EDGE Center award-winning Self-Ex Guide, authored by Sabrina and her mother.
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