History Lesson

Theodore Fritsch, a 19th century German journalist and publisher, later a founder of the Reich Hammerbund, a precursor of the Nazis, in 1893 published The Antisemitic Catechism, also known as the Antisemitic Decalogue. It addressed Germans about the right way to relate to Jews.

The Palestinian Committee for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has published Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel. In it, boycott leaders address Americans about the way to relate to Jews who support Israel today.

Think for yourself about the parallels and similarities.


Fritsch’s Decalogue emphasized taking pride in being German and recognizing the Jew as “an implacable foe.” It stressed keeping German blood pure by refusing to mingle it with Jewish blood. It called on Germans to favor fellow Germans in all legal matters and to “have no social intercourse” or “business relations” with Jews. Germans were encouraged to “drive the Jew’ from their own breast,” and to boycott Jewish lawyers, physicians, and teachers, shunning them.

“Thou shalt not give credence to the Jew,” Fritsch emphasized, calling on Germans to boycott all Jewish writings, lest their lingering poison affect the German family. But Fritsch believed that the law could be used to separate and subordinate Jews, and so Germans should not use violence against them.

More than a century later, a new antisemitism is appearing, especially on US campuses, which no longer roots itself in assumptions about blood and race. Nor is this animus aimed against all Jews but rather against those who believe in and support a Jewish state. Makes no difference if they are liberal Jews and see in Israel a refuge state or they are religious and see in Israel a miracle. In anti-Zionist circles today, the Jewish state is today what the demonological Jew was in historic antisemitism. Those who support it, even critically, are marked as Jews to be shunned on campus. They are aligned with a racist, grasping, and evil force allegedly opposed to a more peaceful world.

The United States Committee for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), which operates under PACBI and leads the BDS movement, emphasizes that the PACBI guidelines should shape how Americans treat Jews and Israel. For example, after the recent declaration by a BDS faculty at the University of Michigan that he would not write a recommendation for a Jewish student to study in Israel, David Lloyd, a USACBI leader, wrote in the Nation about how faculty should not write recommendations for students to study in Israel. Another USACBI leader, David Palumbo Liu, debated an AAUP leader about what faculty ethics and professionalism require.

David Lloyd insists: “Every Study Abroad program in Israel is discriminatory against significant numbers of our students and is therefore on its face in violation of our campus anti-discrimination and equal opportunity policies.” But this is a charge and an assertion that is untrue. After creating study abroad programs in Israel at Michigan State University and consulting on similar programs elsewhere, I know such programs are open to all who apply – including foreign students. At MSU, Muslim, Palestinian, and African-American students, and Chinese students from China have participated in these programs. They obtain entrance into Israel, and despite some at times uncomfortable questioning at entry, have good experiences studying in Israel.

BDS supporters like to speak in the declarative mode about a lot of things, offering sweeping claims they hope will be believed by the sheer force of being repeated, again and again. Says Lloyd: “No professor should set the unethical example of collaborating with the efforts of an apartheid regime to whitewash its actual practices through such programs.” Lloyd thinks these study opportunities are not legitimate intellectual exchanges with opportunities to meet and talk with people on all sides of the conflict but are efforts at whitewashing. [When it involves LGBT life, of course, it is not “whitewashing” but “pinkwashing,” and when it is environmental activities that are the focus, it is “brownwashing.”]


The PACBI guidelines indicate how BDS believes Americans ought to interact with Jews who support Israel or are connected with Israeli institutions. The guidelines insist that faculty and students ought to participate in an aggressive effort to isolate supporters of Israel and Zionists by boycotting Israeli academics and those who cooperate with them and steering clear of any efforts to bring Israelis and Americans together.

Faculty and students are to work for the cancellation of all forms of cooperation with Israeli academic institutions, including events, activities, agreements, or projects, and to stand against the development of any new forms of cooperation.

Faculty are to write no recommendations for students requesting to study abroad in Israel. Students are to be told not to go on such programs. Faculty are also not to engage in exchange relations with Israeli faculty, bring Israeli faculty to campus as visiting faculty, even invite Israeli faculty as speakers to contribute to the co-curriculum. Faculty are to boycott book events involving Israeli sponsors. The idea is to isolate pro-Israel faculty and students on campus. To end all social intercourse, drive them from our hearts.

BDS demands that no faculty should set an example by collaborating with an alleged apartheid regime.

BDS calls on faculty not to participate in projects supported by the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF), created in 1972 to sponsor research cooperation by Israelis and Americans.

Most important, BDS demands faculty and students steer clear of “normalization efforts”. Academic activities and projects involving Palestinians and/or other Arabs on one side and Israelis on the other (whether bi- or multi- lateral) are not efforts at mutual engagement but are relations between oppressors and oppressed and are morally reprehensible and to be boycotted.

BDS demands that faculty boycott publishing in or refereeing articles for academic journals based at Israeli universities or published (even here) in collaboration with Israeli institutions. BDS also calls on faculty not to serve as external reviewers for dissertations, write recommendations or otherwise referee on hiring, promotion, tenure, and grant decisions at Israeli universities.

Basically, BDS calls on those on the American campuses it seeks to influence to have no academic relations with Jews linked with Israel, Israelis, and Israeli institutions. Although based on different assumptions, as we have seen, BDS guidelines work similarly to the earlier catechism, offering dos and don’ts about how to relate to many Jews who feel deeply connected to Israel in identity or believe in positive relations with the Jewish state. These Jews are to be separated and shunned, their lives made difficult.

About the Author
Kenneth Waltzer is former director of Jewish Studies at Michigan State University and a progressive opponent of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. He a historian of the Holocaust completing a book on the rescue of children and youths at Buchenwald. He currently directs the Academic Engagement Network.
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