Calling BS on BDS

On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order directing state entities to divest all public funds supporting the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.  Or, as Governor Cuomo put it on Twitter: “If you boycott Israel, New York will boycott you.”

In a public statement, Cuomo went on to explain that “This state will not stand for the politics of discrimination in any form, and we will continue to demonstrate our unwavering support for the people of Israel in the fight for freedom, liberty and democracy.”

Perhaps Cuomo understands that BDS — which calls for a boycott of Israeli products and companies, divestment of funds from Israel, and urges sanctions in an attempt to harm the economic viability of Israel – is akin to the Nazi boycotts of Jewish businesses or the Arab confiscation of Jewish property and impoverishment of their Jewish citizens. It similarly targets Jews and the Jewish State for discrimination with the same logical goal of death or diminishment followed by death. Indeed, BDS supporters would pressure Israel until it stops defending its citizens or sacrifices its security in the name of Palestinian rights.

One would think self described anti-racists would be applauding this executive order. Alas, it is to the contrary.  Apparently, certain groups claim that Cuomo’s order amounts to “21st-century McCarthyism” and would create discriminatory “blacklists” of Palestinian solidarity activists. Opponents of the order complain that people or entities should not be penalized on the basis of their free expression.

I am confident that many complaining about this order supported boycotting the state of North Carolina after it passed an anti-transgender law. Cuomo did just that. Indeed, he even banned New York state officials from traveling to North Carolina. Just as New York believes all people are entitled to the same rights and protections under the law, New York believes that all countries, especially those considered critical allies, are entitled to be treated fairly and not singled out for economic attacks, especially if it is defending itself from unimaginable threats while genuinely seeking peace.

It is ironic that opponents of this anti-BDS order complain it is McCarthyism. As Roseanne Barr has commented, it is the BDS supporters who are “right wing and fascist.” As Barr explained, “the fact that [BDS] pretends to be of the Left helps to obscure the fact of the ethnic cleansing of Jews and Christians in all Arab states, happening since 1948, when the entire Arab world began its still ongoing boycott of Israel. Those who foster and monetarily support BDS against Israel, are paid directly or indirectly by interests of those same now Judenrein Arab States, where real tribal racial religious and gender apartheid exists, unlike in fully integrated Israel.” Of course, time and again it is BDS supporters and groups like Students for Justice in Palestine who attempt to silence their opponents’ voices on campus and elsewhere.

But, who can blame BDS supporters for their goals? When people are so miseducated and are ignorant of history and facts what can we expect? Just in case they’re following along: There was never a Palestinian state; the territories are disputed, not Palestinian; Jews have lived in Israel for thousands of years, created a nation there, and are indigenous to the region; Israeli security measures are meant to protect their citizens and are a necessary response to terrorism; Palestinians don’t have a state because their leaders and the Arab world refuse to accept that the Jews have a right to their own state.

Some question why any attention should be paid to the BDS movement given its continued defeats in legislatures and elsewhere. However, we must call out hatred, discrimination and racism wherever and whenever we see it.

A final message to those crying foul over Cuomo’s order: Here’s the thing about free speech. You are entitled to exercise it. Others are entitled to respond. You have the right to espouse racist opinions. But, you don’t have the right not to be branded racist. The response to bigoted speech can include the loss of a job, becoming a social pariah, and losing government funds that may support your racist speech. Sorry!

About the Author
Ariel Chesler is an attorney and a writer. His work has been published in various places including Time and the Huffington Post.
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