Sally Abrams
Sally Abrams
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Before you join the BDS movement, read this

Considerations for those who genuinely want justice for the Palestinians and aren’t just out to harm Israel and Jews

Like old wine in new bottles, anti-Semitism has found a fresh delivery system via the international Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement.  BDS activists falsely charge that the world’s only Jewish state and the Middle East’s sole democracy, is an apartheid-ethnic cleansing-racist nation. BDS does not labor toward a peaceful, negotiated, mutually agreeable solution to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Rather, the movement aims for the elimination of Israel and its replacement with a single, Palestinian Arab state, while it’s activists wrap themselves in the cloak of “human rights”.

I realize that the hardcore BDS crowd is animated by the kind of Jew hatred that is impervious to reason. However, there are others, especially college students, who might consider aligning themselves with BDS to fulfill a noble intention — justice for Palestinians — without understanding how radical and hate-filled the BDS agenda truly is.

It is to these well intentioned people that I direct the following thoughts:

  • BDS singles out just one party for demonization and punishment in a two-party conflict. Does that strike you as fair?
  • BDS claims a moral high ground because they seek change through non-violent means. But non-violent is not the same thing as moral. Working to bring about Israel’s international isolation and financial ruin is an immoral act, regardless of whether the actions taken are non-violent. Non-violent does not equal “good” and in this case, it is evil.
  • BDS hurts Israelis AND Palestinians. You don’t need to take my word for it. Here are the words of Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist, living in East Jerusalem, who says:

BDS spokespeople justify calling for boycotts that will result in increased economic hardships for the Palestinians by asserting that Palestinians are willing to suffer such deprivations in order to achieve their freedom. It goes without saying that they themselves live in comfortable circumstances elsewhere in the world and will not suffer any such hardship. It would seem, in fact, that the BDS movement in its determination to oppose Israel is prepared to fight to the last drop of Palestinian blood. As a Palestinian who actually lives in east Jerusalem and hopes to build a better life for his family and his community, this is the kind of “pro-Palestinian activism” we could well do without. For our own sake, we need to reconcile with our Israeli neighbors, not reject and revile them.

Before you lend your time and talent to BDS, ask yourself, “What do I know that Bassem Eid doesn’t?”

  • At campuses across the country BDS activists are disrupting and, at times, shutting down, invited Israeli speakers. If you believe that freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas are worth preserving, then these tactics should give you pause.
  • When BDS activists succeed in closing down Israeli factories operating in the West Bank, such as SodaStream, and hundreds of Palestinians lose their high-paying jobs, it is clear that hurting Israel is what matters, regardless of the “collateral damage” to Palestinians. Those BDS activists probably feel great about themselves for their “victory” against Israel. But there is a big difference between feeling good and doing good. If you use that as your yardstick, BDS will not measure up.
  • A quick perusal of the Freedom House rankings will provide you with a depressing catalogue of just how many tyrannical, corrupt, unfree countries there are in the world. Even countries that are not among the worst of the worst have human rights records far below what they ought to be. Yet there is no global BDS movement against any of these countries. Out of all the countries in the world, only Israel is singled out for this kind of treatment. The Jewish country. Coincidence? I think not.

So if the Israeli-Palestinian issue matters to you, what is your alternative to BDS?

First of all, take the time to learn about this long-running conflict from as many credible sources as possible. Let reason, not emotion, guide you. The two state solution — Israel and Palestine living peacefully side by side — is the only solution that creates a homeland for each people. Why has this been so hard to achieve? Prepare for a level of complexity that requires nuanced thinking. Grapple with the challenges and awful compromises that each side faces in order to make peace. Ask questions and more questions. Reject the one-sided blame game that lies at the heart of BDS.

Listen — to Palestinian stories, to Israeli stories, to Muslim stories, Jewish stories, and Christian stories. Find out why this place matters so much to so many. If at all possible, travel to Israel and see it for yourself.

Most of all, seek allies among “fanatical moderates,” people who strive to make life better for everyone in the region — through investment, through cultural exchange, through education, through friendship.

Then you will be engaged in the kind of activism that both feels good and does good.


About the Author
Sally Abrams co-directs the Speakers Bureau of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. She has presented the program “Israel and the Middle East: the Challenge of Peace” at hundreds of churches, schools and civic groups throughout the Twin Cities and beyond. Sally speaks fluent Hebrew, is wild about the recipes of Yotam Ottolenghi, the music of Idan Raichel, and is always planning her next trip to Israel. Visit:
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