Becca Wertman
Managing Editor / Canada Liaison at NGO Monitor

The Members of Israel’s BDS Blacklist

The Israeli government has prepared a list of 20 organizations that lead BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns, such that officials of these groups will not be allowed to enter Israel. Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not banning activists who seek to harm the country they desire to enter is the best policy approach or not. To be sure, the critiques of this policy and similar legislation tend to be highly political instead of substantive.

The organizations listed by Israel include the leaders of BDS against Israel – groups that through their “anti-normalization” and selective application of the universal principles of human rights, fail to promote peace and a two-state framework. Likewise, many of these groups go beyond simple critiques of Israel and instead aim their frustration at the very existence of the Jewish State.

For 15 years, NGO Monitor has tracked the funding and activities of self-proclaimed human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that promote BDS and other delegitimization campaigns against Israel. NGO Monitor’s years of research into many of the organizations on the Israeli government list exposes that many of these groups advocate for a total boycott of Israel – including Israeli-made products, as well as academic, cultural, and sports institutions. This research also demonstrates that these groups are active in campaigns that promote hatred, antisemitism, and even utilize violent language regarding Israelis.

For example, the France Association Palestine Solidarity (AFPS), which receives French government funding, calls for the end of financial ties between French banks and insurance companies with Israeli banks and enterprises, accusing them of being “actors of colonization.” It also legitimizes the use of “armed struggle” against Israelis, as stated in its 2013 charter; in 2017, the group clarified that “support of popular resistance includes attacks against soldiers of the occupation…” AFPS also advocates for the removal of the terror groups Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) from the European list of terrorist organizations.

The American Friends and Services Committee (AFSC) is active in promoting BDS on campus, at the Presbyterian Church in the US, and in advocating for divestment from Hewlett Packard and Sodastream. According to its “Palestine-Israel Program Director, AFSC rejects “any project, initiative, or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal opposition and resistance to the Israeli occupation and structural inequalities.”

The NGO accuses Israel of “apartheid” – an accusation that fits under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism – and promotes a Palestinian “right of return” that, if implemented, would effectually mean the elimination of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. AFSC is also a leader, along with the PFLP linked Palestinian NGO Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), in a campaign that exploits Palestinian children for political gain.

Another group, War on Want, is a leader and mobilizer of BDS campaigns in the UK and has accused the British government of “Arming Apartheid.” War on Want co-sponsored two events during Apartheid Week 2017, tellingly explaining that “IAW 2017 marks 100 years of Palestinian resistance against settler-colonialism, since the inception of the Balfour declaration.”

While it states that it simply seeks to “education the public about the just cause of Palestine and the rights of self-determination, liberty and justice,” American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) denies the self-determination of the Jewish people to their state, stating that “Palestinians are more determined than ever to fight on until total liberation, until every refugee can return, until the land of Palestine is free from the river to the sea!”

AMP provides significant support to the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) by funding the group, speaking at SJP campus events, reposting SJP statements on its website, organizing conferences and seminars for SJP chapters, and facilitating the SJP National Convention.

On campus, SJP is a leader in proposing that their schools divest funds from various companies doing business in and/or with Israel. Through its use of “intersectionality,” SJP campus branches regularly try to hijack various liberal causes for their political goals. For instance, in 2015, SJP at CUNY latched on to the issue of student protests over debt and tuition to promote university divestment from Israel.

SJP’s usual on campus partner, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), is likewise active in raising the issue of campus divestment. A joint April 2016 event at Columbia University hosted by JVP and SJP “Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising,” labeled terrorists, responsible for the deaths of numerous civilians, as “freedom fighters” and completely disregarded the real violence and loss of life – both on the Israeli and the Palestinian side – during the uprisings of the early 2000s.

At another joint event, “The Case for Academic Boycott,” in February 2016, when questioned (by yours truly) why, as a graduate student, under the academic boycott framework, I would be limited in my ability to conduct research on human rights in Israel, the professors on the panel responded by informing me that there was already enough research on the Arab-Israeli conflict, to choose another research interest, and that the importance of the boycott outweighs such research.

In playing a leading role in such divisive campus events, JVP’s strategy is to drive a “wedge” within the American Jewish community, while working towards the goal of eliminating US economic, military, and political aid to Israel. Between March 31 and April 2, 2017,  JVP held its “2017 National Member Meeting” that included workshops such as, “What Makes HP Such a Brilliant BDS Target?” and “BDS: Everything you Want to Know about Municipal Campaigns.” One of the featured speakers included Rasmea Odeh, a PFLP operative convicted for immigration fraud after concealing her role in two terrorist bombings in Israel and who in March 2017, agreed to a plea deal in which she will be deported from the US to Jordan, admitting that she failed to disclose her terrorist activities on her visa application. Similarly, in January 2017, JVP San Diego endorsed a campaign lobbying for the release of Ahmad Sa’adat, the General Secretary of the PFLP terror group.

Additionally,  JVP’s “Deadly Exchange” platform alleges that Israel is implicated in the mistreatment of American persons of color by law enforcement officials due to joint Israeli-American training programs. This argument is simplistic as it is absurd. To suggest that Israel is in any way responsible for centuries-old tensions surrounding the intersection of minorities and policing in America is not only willfully ignorant of history, but hints at a villainous Zionist cabal that is truly to blame.

There are 14 other groups on Israel’s list of NGOs. What they have in common, similar to the NGOs discussed above, is leadership in international campaigns that single out and demonize Israel. Their goals are the isolation, if not dissolution, of the Jewish State, not peace, human rights, or Palestinian sovereignty.

About the Author
Becca Wertman is managing editor and responsible for the Canada portfolio at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute. Born in Vancouver, Canada, Becca earned her BA in international relations from the University of Southern California and her MA in political science from Columbia University. Her articles have appeared in The Hill Times, The Province, The Georgia Straight, Jerusalem Post, Canadian Jewish News, Algemeiner, and The Tower.
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