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The BDS Campaigns: New Tactics, Ancient Hatred

In 1932, the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, more commonly known as the Nazi Party, identified and mapped Jewish businesses in Berlin. The goal was to single-out Jews as a targets and boycott them. Ninety years later, another mapping of Jews occurred in the United States​​, carried out by activists from the infamous BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign. Falsely claiming to promote human rights, the BDS movement has once again exposed its antisemitic nature.

Earlier this month, the BDS faction in Boston published a detailed map, which outlines Jewish and Zionist institutions in Boston that they claim are “structurally tied” to US media, police, government, and other national institutions – recalling the antisemitic slur of a Jewish conspiracy that controls the world. High schools, media outlets, cultural programs, Jewish institutions and Jewish charities were all regarded as being part of an “evil” network, encouraging “the colonization of Palestine and worldwide violence”. According to some BDS activists, this “Zionist” network also controls a broader umbrella of companies such as Apple, Pfizer, the FBI, Google, and others.

Mapping and listing Jews and Jewish businesses was used by antisemitic groups in the Middle Ages and Nazi Germany, and we can see it is currently being utilized by modern-day antisemites – in all instances, this kind of mapping followed eventually by physical violence. The Spanish Inquisition and England’s King Edward I systematically profiled the Jewish communities before expelling them, and Nazis and their allies conducted one of the most thorough Jewish mappings in history, followed by years of propaganda on how Jews control the world and are responsible for its worst evils. In 1979, the Iranian Islamic regime mapped the Jews whose family members escaped to Israel or who showed any sympathy towards Zionism or Israel. For instance, my grandfather was attacked and severely injured after his neighbor identified his business as part of a list of company owners who assisted their children in fleeing to Israel.

This Jewish “mapping” pattern, recurrent throughout the ages, shows us that there are very little nuances between the different types of antisemitism. In the Middle Ages, antisemites hated Jews because of their religion, just like modern day radical religious groups that use the same theological discourse. Throughout the 19th century up until World War II, antisemites hated Jews because of their race, similar to today’s right-wing antisemites who believe in racial supremacy, perceiving Jews as an inferior race. Since World War II, Jews have been hated for their nation-state, and the State of Israel is the main target of left-wing antisemites, who believe that all peoples are entitled to self-determination – except for Jews. The wording is different – the inferior religion, the wrong race, or the sinful nation (Israel/Zionism) – but the pattern is clear: that of the conspiracy theory according to which Jews control the world, are responsible for its evils, and are therefore not entitled to any rights among the nations.

But the immorality of the BDS movement is not limited to “mapping Jews”. This movement emerged from the antisemitic UN World Conference Against Racism of 2001. Throughout the conference, mass antisemitic marches were held across the streets of Durban, South Africa. Hate material was distributed, including flyers praising Hitler’s plans and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Marchers carried signs showing a Star of David alongside a swastika. Some NGO representatives threatened Jewish speakers who countered the anti-Israel protest, and then issued a final declaration singling out Israel repeatedly with accusations of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, apartheid and even genocide, introducing an action plan for “the complete and international isolation of Israel” – and only Israel.

The BDS campaign is one of the consequences of the Durban conference: a network consisting of NGOs and radical activists, who coordinate their activities at various levels. Their campaigns are facilitated by tens of millions of dollars that they receive from governments, religious institutions, and private donors. It is particularly striking to note that some governments that are officially opposed to BDS and even adopted the new IHRA working definition on antisemitism, nonetheless provide substantial funding to highly biased and politicized groups.

The BDS Boston map shows us once again that rather than promoting peace and coexistence, and paving the way for a more productive Palestinian economy, BDS campaigns primarily seek to harm any entity tied with Israel or Jewish organizations in any shape or form. This is their true nature. The proclaimed goal of the BDS movement is to end the “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” and to promote the “right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.” These goals undermine the Jewish people’s fundamental right to self-determination.

Although it is unquestionably more sophisticated than before and refers to concepts that include universal human rights and international law, the BDS mapping project in Boston, as well as other BDS campaigns, are a direct continuation of other antisemitic campaigns throughout history.

About the Author
Itai Reuveni is the Director of Communications in NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem based non-profit research institute. Previously, he was the director of the Israel Research Desk in the institute for more than 7 years. Alumnus of the International Visitor Leadership Program, a prestigious program run by the United States State Department that deals with issues relating to the promotion of human rights. His areas of expertise are Social Movements and Civil Society, NGOs role in conflict, Foreign funding and Antisemitism.
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