Eyal Bitton
Cantor, composer, lyricist.

The BDS’ Common Purpose

Having a common purpose can be a beautiful thing. For example, do you remember the pop supergroup Band Aid from 1984? They were formed primarily of British and Irish recording artists for a project that would benefit the starving people of Ethiopia, which was undergoing a harsh famine at the time. They recorded a song written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure entitled Do They Know It’s Christmas? The song made millions and millions of dollars – £8 million in one year.

The impact, actually, far exceeded that amount. The project inspired others to create their own charity projects to benefit the Ethiopians: American pop and rock stars (USA for Africa) recorded We Are the World, heavy metal acts (Hear N’ Aid) recorded We’re Stars, and the Canadian musicians (Northern Light) released Tears Are Not Enough. It also led to a famine relief concert dubbed Live Aid.

These recording artists joined forces for a common purpose and the good that came of their efforts was immeasurable.

BDS and Israeli Apartheid Week

In the last two months, various universities around the world held Israeli Apartheid Week, part of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). It is a prime example of the Theatre of the Absurd. The title itself is nonsensical and flies in the face of reality. However, enough people have been pushing it for so long that more and more people accept the offensive terminology.

In this case, having a common purpose can be an ugly thing.

What is the common purpose of the BDS? People commonly believe that it is to support the Palestinian cause, to help the Palestinians seek justice. They are wrong. The BDS’ common purpose is hate.

Go ahead and visit the BDS website. Scour it for calls for peace. Scour it for calls for a two-state solution. Their efforts are about weakening and delegitimizing Israel.

About five years ago, I marched in Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade with Kulanu in order to counteract Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, another organization with the same ideology as the BDS: hate. QuAIA was borne out of Toronto’s Israeli Apartheid Week in 2008. These individuals were united in a common purpose – to condemn and delegitimize Israel. And so I was delighted to read that, as of February 26, this group had officially disbanded.

What a farce! Gays do not enjoy any rights at all under Palestinian rule – not under the Palestinian Authority and certainly not under Hamas in Gaza. What is the only – THE ONLY – Middle East country in which gays have full rights? Israel. What is the only – THE ONLY – Middle East country where you can have a Gay Pride parade? Israel. The absurdity of members of the LGBT community demonizing the only Middle Eastern country that embraces them has only grown clearer with the savage homophobic brutality of the Islamic group ISIS.

Parashat Vayak’hel/Pekudei

This week’s parasha, Vayak’hel/Pekudei, gives us an example of a common purpose as a beautiful thing. The people of Israel join together in the building of the tabernacle, the mishkan. They all contribute in whatever way they can – providing abundant materials and labour. Take a look at a few excerpts between verses 20 and 29:

• So the whole community…
• And everyone who excelled in ability and everyone whose spirit moved him…
• Men and women, all whose hearts moved them…
• And everyone who had in his possession blue, purple, and crimson yarns…
• Everyone who would make gifts of silver or copper…
• And all the skilled women spun with their own hands…


• And the chieftains brought…
• The Israelites, all the men and women…

Exodus 35:20-29

They are united in a common purpose and they are truly dedicated. In fact, they give so much that God says:

The people are bringing more than is needed…

Exodus 36:5

The people of Israel are brought together in the common purpose of building the tabernacle, the mishkan. They are united by construction. They are building something. They are bringing something new into their lives and the lives of their children.

A common purpose is a beautiful thing when that purpose is to build something.

Building vs. Destroying

But building something is not what the BDS seeks. They don’t even seek to build a Palestine. All their efforts are not FOR something but AGAINST something – against Israel.

Roger Waters, one of the leaders of the BDS movement, is the brilliant mind behind Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Waters would do well to stop building a wall against Israel. Indeed he is building a wall. When popular artists like Alan Parsons, Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, and others are scheduled to perform in Israel, he lobbies against them. Roger Waters hates walls yet he seeks to build a wall against Israel – a wall of censorship, a wall of intolerance, a wall of hate.

The BDS movement that Roger Waters champions is not about creating peace. It is not about building bridges. It is not about constructing a tolerant and open Palestinian society. It is about destruction – the destruction of Israel.

Where are its peace initiatives? Where are its efforts to bolster, promote, and safeguard Palestinian human rights within Palestinian society? No, these are not what motivates the BDS. It is hatred of Israel.

A common purpose such as this is indeed an ugly, ugly thing.

As they seek Israel’s destruction, we must be encouraged by the example set by our forebears who found joy and fulfillment in building something holy for themselves and for their children. Every Jewish community in the world requires our dedication and our involvement. Every Jewish community requires our efforts to build and improve. And so too does our beloved Israel. Indeed, a common purpose such as the continued building of Israel is a beautiful thing.

Now, could you imagine if people currently supporting the BDS stopped seeking to destroy Israel and stopped speaking the language of hate and instead reached out to Jewish communities around the world and to Israel itself and started speaking the language of peace? Could you imagine if they sought not to replace Israel with Palestine but to establish two states, Israel AND Palestine, at peace with one another?

This would be a common purpose truly worthy of being called beautiful.

About the Author
Eyal Bitton is the cantor of Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Oregon where he incorporates Sephardi/Moroccan music, Ashkenazi music, popular adaptations, and original compositions into the service. As a composer and writer, his theatrical works have been produced in the US, Canada, Kenya, and China.
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