Recently, the assault against Israel has morphed from conventional and asymmetric warfare in the Middle East to an anti-Israel disinformation campaign in Western liberal democracies like the U.S. and the UK. This campaign, spearheaded by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), tries to poison hearts and minds against the Jewish state. BDS activists tend to portray Israel as being so evil that it should have no legal or moral right to defend itself, and should be treated as a pariah, excluded from all international activity—cultural, economic, and diplomatic—until, according to the BDS slogan, “Palestine is free.” BDS supporters accuse Israel of practicing some of the worst evils of the 20th century; they claim that Israel alone is responsible for the 100-year-old conflict; and they call for it to be punished.
BDS activists worldwide lobby universities, churches, unions, municipalities and other institutions to divest from companies that have business ties with Israel. They urge retailers and consumers to boycott Israeli products, universities to sever ties with Israeli academia, and cultural institutions to boycott Israeli performers. They besiege performing artists, discouraging them from putting on shows in Israel. This year, the Presbyterian Church in America will once again consider a resolution to divest from companies doing business with Israel, and a core of BDS activists has been lobbying the giant financial firm TIAA-CREF (which manages the pensions of most of America’s teachers) to do the same. Last month, New York’s Park Slope food coop, one of the largest of such coops in the US, had a heated, divisive debate about boycotting Israeli products, and retailers who sell Ahava products have to contend with recurrent demonstrations. While these activists have gotten attention and publicity, they have had little success except in a few cases where anti-Jewish and anti-Israel prejudices have dominated.
It is my opinion that the BDS movement is hypocritical and counter-productive. Despite its claims, it is not merely pro-Palestinian. It is fundamentally anti-Israel. Boycotting Israeli products does nothing to help the Palestinians improve their economy, begin state building, or develop democratic institutions. BDS is a call for destructive, not constructive, action: Israeli products, the fruit of a highly-successful and global economy, have brought innovative solutions to worldwide problems and needs in the areas of technology, medicine, agriculture and more. Furthermore, there are Israeli companies in the West Bank that employ hundreds of Palestinian workers. BDS campaigns should thus be fought vigorously.
StandWithUs (SWU), along with its numerous allies, has been successful in countering BDS by launching joint campaigns to buy Israeli products and invest in Israeli companies. SWU, in partnership with the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce, launched “B.I.G.” (Buy Israeli Goods www.buyisraeligoods.com ), which encourages people to buy Israeli goods on specific days as well as year-round. SWU websites like www.onlyisrael.com and SWU publications have reached millions of people and are an invaluable resource in the misinformation battle waged by the BDS movement. Though they have been defeated time and again, BDS activists will continue their efforts, and we will continue to counter them by educating the public about the reality of modern Israel and supporting its productive economy.
Avi Posnick is the New York Regional Coordinator of StandWithUs