The anti-Jewish bigotry that characterizes the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has become even more apparent as BDS leaders and members seize upon the Covid-19 pandemic to fuel anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism with libels against Jews and the Jewish state. Statements by BDS leaders have ranged from accusing Israel of responsibility for Palestinian deaths that might arise from the Covid-19 virus to comparing Zionists themselves to the coronavirus to accusing Israel and Jews of deliberately spreading the virus in order to kill non-Jews. BDS’ latest campaign, which uses the hashtag #CoronaRacism falsely charges Israel with victimizing the Palestinians with racism in response to the pandemic – constituting the latest version of the medieval blood libels/conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic attacks that have nurtured and fueled anti-Semitism for so long.
CAMERA’s backgrounder documents the fundamental anti-Jewish nature of this movement and how it has become a haven for anti-Semites to indulge their racism.
(To go directly to a specific chapter, click on the headings
Calling for Death to Jews
Attacking the Jewish Religion
Targeting People for Being Jewish
Promoting Blood Libels
Holocaust Denial, Holocaust Approval and Nazi-Inspired Messages
Coronavirus Lies & Libels
The Palestinian BDS campaign calling for broad boycotts, divestment initiatives, embargoes and sanctions against Israel was launched in July 2005, four years after the idea was first raised at the United Nations-sponsored World Conference on Racism in Durban. It was an attempt to demonize the Jewish state as an apartheid country akin to South Africa and make it into a pariah state among the nations of the world.
The comparison of Israel to South Africa is a patently false one that has been rejected and thoroughly debunked by civil rights leaders and people who have lived or suffered under actual apartheid rule, but BDS has become a magnet for anti-Semites who use the South African analogy to gain adherents to a movement that seeks an end to the Jewish state.
The BDS movement promotes itself in terms of Palestinian human rights and justice, using the pretense that its campaign constitutes “non-violent” criticism of Israeli policy toward Palestinians. But the inherent anti-Semitic nature of the movement is evidenced by the anti-Jewish actions and hate rhetoric of the movement’s leaders who justify, promote or themselves engage in violent rhetoric and, at times, even physical violence against Israelis, Jews, or Jewish supporters of Israel.
The BDS campaign serves as a propaganda tool to delegitimize the Jewish state in the eyes of the world and as a vehicle to mainstream anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Zionism, or, as one scholar has described it, BDS is a form of “ideological polemical warfare.”
To cover the anti-Semitic nature of the movement, its leaders and proponents campaign to redefine anti-Semitism, enlisting other progressive groups to fight legislation against anti-Semitism by claiming it muzzles activists’ free speech and impinges on their civil rights.
Almost a year before the launch of the BDS campaign, Soviet dissident and human rights activist Natan Sharansky proposed a test to indicate whether a movement, organization or campaign is anti-Semitic in nature: It was defined by what he called the three D’s of antisemitism—double standards, discrimination and delegitimization. The BDS campaign employs all three: it uses double standards to single out the Jewish state for delegitimization and discrimination.
The goal of BDS, as articulated in its slogan (“From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free), is to eliminate the Jewish state and replace it with a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea.” This goal is also clearly acknowledged by its Palestinian leaders and activists.
BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti declares
“A Jewish state in Palestine, in any shape or form, cannot but contravene the basic rights of the land’s indigenous Palestinian population…definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian – rational Palestinian, not a sellout Palestinian—will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”
Cal State University political science professor/BDS proponent Asad Abu Khalil confirms
“That [the real aim of BDS is to bring down the Jewish state] should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”
Political commentator/ BDS activist Ahmed Moor makes clear that:
“BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state…Ending the occupation doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t mean upending the Jewish state itself.”
BDS activists justify their campaign by branding Israel as apartheid and decrying the state’s “Law of Return” that allows Jews to freely immigrate to the country and ensure that Jewish refugees from anywhere at any time can find a safe haven in their ancestral homeland.
Yet at the same time, the BDS campaign promotes the right for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees to move to Israel and turn Jews into a minority there.
The denial of immigration rights for those with Jewish ancestry while promoting rights for those with Palestinian ancestry is the sort of hypocrisy that evidences the movement’s inherent anti-Semitism that seeks to annihilate the Jewish state through demographic means. As BDS spokesperson Omar Barghouti explains
“You cannot reconcile the right of return for [Palestinian] refugees with a two-state solution. That is the big white elephant in the room and people are ignoring it — a return for refugees would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.”
Underlying the rejection of a Jewish state while promoting Palestinian nationalist aspirations is the denial of Judaism’s roots in the Land of Israel and even the notion of Jewish nationhood. The BDS movement instead represents Palestinian Arabs as the indigenous people of the land. This historical revisionism is in itself a glaring example of anti-Semitism, as are the double standards, delegitimization and demonization tactics used by the BDS campaign to make its case.
Non-Palestinian promoters of the BDS campaign prefer to dismiss the movement’s anti-Semitic foundation, glossing over or denying its goal of eliminating the Jewish state, while promoting themselves as advocates for Palestinian rights and critics of Israeli policies. The movement’s anti-Jewish DNA is nonetheless evident in the actions and words of its proponents.
Denial of Jewish Nationhood and Homeland
BDS leaders, literature and website routinely refer to Palestinians as the “indigenous” people of the land and to Jews as the “colonizers”. They view all of Israel as Palestinian land colonized by Jewish interlopers.
Lara Kiswani, for example, a movement leader addressing workers at a United Auto Worker’s BDS caucus meeting explained how the BDS movement views the relative rights of Jews and Palestinians in Israel:
“We’re resisting colonialism in Palestine, and colonialism entails all of occupied Palestine, from Haifa, to Jerusalem, to Ramallah…”
The Palestinian BDS National Committee’s literature falsely claims that Palestinian refugees “were ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias, and later the Israeli army, during the 1948 Nakba,” and that United Nations Resolution 194 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights decreed they had “the right” to “return to their homes and lands of origin.”
That the cited documents enshrine a Palestinian right of return is as false as is the implication that Palestinians, rather than Jews, are the indigenous people whose descendants are legally entitled to the land of Israel. The 1948 UN General Assembly Resolution suggested that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors… be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.” It was a recommendation, as opposed to a legal directive, that was predicated upon the refugees’ acceptance of the state from which they were displaced and their willingness to live at peace with their neighbors. Arab leaders repeatedly rejected this resolution precisely because they refused to accept the Jewish state. Nor did they acknowledge that the same resolution pertained equally to Jewish rights of refugees in Arab countries from which they were displaced.
Regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it applies to citizens or legal residents of a country. The majority of international legal scholars consider it inapplicable to Palestinians who were never citizens of Israel. In CAMERA’s backgrounder, “The Palestinian Claim to a Right of Return”, Dr. Alex Safian explains how the declaration actually argues against a Palestinian right of return to Israel. (See. “The Palestinian Claim to a Right of Return“)
BDS leaders deny the entire concept of a Jewish nation and homeland. Hatem Bazian, who founded Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) re-tweeted an article claiming, “The ‘Jewish nation’ is the central myth of Zionism. It needs to be dismantled.”
In another tweet, Bazian asserts, “Sorry American Jews, you don’t have a birthright” to convey that Jews have no historical rights or connection to Israel.
BDS activists have adopted the “Khazar” theory promoted in The Invention of the Jewish People, a book by BDS supporter Shlomo Sand, to invalidate the foundation of Zionism. Sand, who renounced his own Jewish identity, argues that there is no such thing as a Jewish people; that today’s Jews have no connection to biblical Israelites or to Jews who inhabited Israel during the time of the Second Temple; that they are descended from a nomadic Turkic tribe — the Khazars, and other disparate groups of people who converted to Judaism without any ties to the land of Israel. Conversely, he claims, there was no exile of Jews from the land of Israel; that most Jews remained in the land, converted to Islam and were the progenitors of present-day Palestinians.
Lacking any scholarly credentials in either genetics or Middle East history, Sand’s sole qualifications for authoring the book are his hard-core, anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist sentiments. To support his outlandish ideas, Sand maintains that it was only recently that the concept of a “Jewish people” was “invented.” He dismisses as inconsequential the long Jewish history, writings, prayers, customs, rituals and longstanding, shared consciousness that forms the core of nationhood. The very fact that for thousands of years, Jews shared the same bonds to the land of Israel and regarded themselves — and others regarded them — as a people, itself invalidates Sand’s contentions to the contrary. Unequipped to dismiss this salient fact and the genetic studies that demonstrate a shared Jewish genealogy, Sand engages in meaningless straw man arguments that bear no relevance to Jewish nationhood while heaping ridicule on any facts that belie his theory. His preposterous ideas have been thoroughly debunked and his book was widely panned by both geneticists and history scholars. BDS proponents, however, have latched on to it as evidence to support their contention that Jews have no right to the land of Israel.
For example, a conference promoting BDS that was hosted by SOAS Palestine Society at the University of London included an “educational” handout produced by the Hamas-linked Europal Forum endorsing the false Khazar claim. The propaganda pamphlet, entitled “Basic Facts on the Palestine Issue” was authored by Dr Mohsen Mohammad Saleh, who under the guise of presenting the history of the conflict claims that today’s Jews are not descendants of the Israelites, have no historic ties or roots to the land and that today’s Jews are racist interlopers. He writes:
“…The vast majority of Jews today trace their origins to the Khazars (Ashkenaz), who inhabited the northern Caucasus region and were judaized during the eighth century CE…
…The Zionist movement is a racist movement founded on the basis of the Jewish religion, heritage and nationalism. The condition for its success is dependent upon the abrogation of Arab Palestinians’ rights in their land and replacing them.”
Shuaib Ismail Manjra, a prominent BDS activist who lectures and serves as a council member at the University of Cape Town likewise repeats Sand’s discredited Khazar claim to justify and explain the BDS movement.
Using the argument that Jews are descended from Khazars with no ancestry or roots in the Middle East, he rejects any Jewish rights and claims to Israel. In one of his tweet, he tells Jews to go to “Khazaria” if they are “looking for a homeland” and on his blog, he asserts that “most Jews are not even Semitic, they are European– so I’m not sure whether they are really children of Isaac.”
Given its anti-Jewish foundation, it is no wonder that the BDS movement provides a society and haven for anti-Semites of all stripes to freely indulge in Jew hatred. Below are just some representative examples of the numerous cases of classic, hard-core anti-Semitism by the haters drawn to the BDS movement.
Calling for Death to Jews
- Regarding a Tel Aviv performance by singer Justin Bieber, BDS activists reportedly threatened Justin Bieber’s Jewish manager with “the Jew manager will die“.
- BDS activists protesting the performance of Israeli jazz musician Daniel Zamir at Johannesberg’s Wits University, chanted and sang “Shoot the Jew” – actions that were justified by the BDS chapter coordinator, Muhammad Desai.
- BDS groups protesting the presence of former IDF soldiers speaking on the York University campus shouted at the speakers and Jews attending, “Go back to the ovens, go back to Europe!”
Attacking the Jewish Religion
- Interviewed by a fellow BDS proponent, celebrity activist Roger Waters (who claims that some of his best friends are Jews) revealed that BDS’ antagonism is directed toward the Jewish religion rather than just Israeli government policy. He describes Israel’s rabbinate as “so bizarre and hard to hear that you can hardly believe that it’s real,” and goes on to elaborate:
“They believe some very weird stuff you know, they believe that everybody that is not a Jew is only on earth to serve them and they believe that the Indigenous people of the region that they kicked off the land in 1948 and have continued to kick off the land ever since are sub-human. The parallels with what went on in the 30’s in Germany are so crushingly obvious that it doesn’t surprise me that the [BDS] movement that both you and I are involved in is growing every day.”
Beyond the obvious anti-Semitic comparison of Israel’s religious establishment with Nazism, Waters’ justification of BDS echoes the type of propaganda that was used to justify the Nazi regime’s Jew hatred by alleging that the Jewish establishment treated non-Jews as sub-human.
- The BDS-affiliated University of Toronto Graduate Student Union refused to support efforts by the Hillel organization to make kosher food available for Jewish students on campus on the grounds that an accomodation to Jewish religious requirements would be condered “pro-Israel” and thus unacceptable to the union’s BDS members.
- A BDS group in South Africa placed a pig’s head in the kosher aisle of a Cape Town supermarket, taking aim at Jewish religion under the guise of protesting against Israel.
- The BDS movement — and its social media pages — provide a haven and gathering point for those who demonize the Jewish religion as well as the Jewish state. Posts on BDS sites attack Judaism as a Satanic cult and its religious teachings as evil texts instructing Jews to unethically and immorally profit from non-Jews. Below are three examples from a MEMRI study documenting the racist social media posts on the BDS site “Boycott Israel…Support the BDS”.
Targeting People for Being Jewish
- BDS activists in Spain pressured organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash reggae festival to exclude singer Matisyahu from performing unless he publicly denounced Israel and declared his support for a Palestinian state. No other performer was approached with this requirement. Matisyahu, an American-born U.S. citizen and resident, was singled out solely because of his Jewish identity. When the singer refused to cooperate with a condition that required him alone, of all the performers, to prove BDS purity by denouncing Israel, his performance was canceled. But following fierce international criticism, the festival’s organizers were forced to reinstate the Jewish singer’s participation in the festival.
- The BDS-aligned Student Representative Council of South Africa’s Durban University of Technology called for the college to expel its Jewish students, “especially those who do not support the Palestinian struggle.”
- BDS activists at UCLA blocked the nomination of a Jewish student to the judicial council of the student union, raising questions about her Jewish identity and affiliation with Jewish organizations. A New York Times article about the student’s questioning by the activists and subsequent closed door discussion described how it “seemed to echo the kind of questions, prejudices and tropes — particularly about divided loyalties — that have plagued Jews across the globe for centuries…” Complaints about the manner in which she was singled out as a Jew prompted a second vote in which the student won.
- The BDS Action Network at Montreal’s McGill University launched a campaign called Democratize SSMU (Student Society of McGill University) to remove Jewish students who support the existence of a Jewish state from leadership positions in the university’s student society. They barred a Jewish student who had been voted onto the board of directors of the society from assuming his position. The same BDS group, two years later, singled out another Jewish student for censure, demanding she resign from her position on the student council student because of her intention to visit Israel.
Promoting Blood Libels
For centuries, blood libels and conspiracy theories have played a tragic role in Jewish history, inciting pogroms, and responsible for the torture and murders of countless Jews. These libels have taken on multiple forms, variations on the same theme: Jews as a collective – or, in modern times, the Jewish state as a collective – conspire to kill, destroy or otherwise harm non-Jews for ritual purposes or for monetary gain and power.
- Prominent BDS activist Jenny Tonge, a British politician notorious for her anti-Semitic rhetoric, evoked the classic blood libel accusing Jews of murdering Gentile children in order to use their blood for the Passover matzos. Tonge posted an article on Facebook headlined, “Army Injures 27 Palestinians, Including a New Born Baby, In Nablus” and captioned it, “All to celebrate the Passover?”
- A pseudo-documentary on YouTube entitled “Jewish Kabbalistic Occult Ritual Child Murder Throughout History” was posted to the “Boycott Israel…Support BDS” Facebook group. (Although the anti-Semitic propaganda video was removed from YouTube, it is still available on the internet, uploaded by neo-Nazis and Jew haters.)
- Miftah, a prominent Palestinian BDS group led by Hanan Ashrawi, carried on its website an article by Palestinian journalist Nawwaf Al Zaru that presents the anti-Jewish blood libel as fact:
“Does President Obama know the truth about the connection between ‘Passover’ and ‘Christian blood,’ for example?! Or between ‘Passover’ and the ‘Jewish blood dances’?! Or is this a matter of pandering to the Jewish Council in order to please it or to make up for the declarations about a ‘two-state solution’…?!”
After initially responding by denouncing what it called the “smear campaign” against it – and attacking the Jewish blogger who had exposed the BDS group’s blood libel – Miftah was subsequently pressured to remove the article from its website and as condemnation mounted, to apologize.
- Miftah did not, however, remove an article promoting a different form of blood libel popular among BDS activists — the false charge that Israel murders Palestinians to steal and sell or use their internal organs for scientific research, à la Mengele. The article, using the debunked conspiracy theories of a discredited journalist, alleges:
After the Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom wrote about the Israeli army killing Palestinian youth in order to harvest their organs, there were other media reports about Israelis stealing Ukrainian children in order to harvest their organs. Once again there are documented reports from Haiti that organs are being stolen by Israelis without international justice intervening to put an end to such criminal practices against innocent vulnerable people.
BDS leaders who hold academic positions at American universities use their platforms to promulgate similar blood libels on campus. For example:
- A member of the BDS advisory board, Rutgers Professor Jasbir Puar, gave a lecture sponsored by BDS groups at Vassar college to promote the movement and promulgate organ theft and similar blood libels against Israel. Representing BDS “as part of organized resistance and armed resistance in Palestine,” Puar smeared Israel with a variety of false charges, including the killing of Palestinian youth to “mine” their bodies “for organs” for scientific research and the deliberate “maiming” and “stunting” of Palestinian youth with physical, psychological and cognitive injuries in order to render them impotent. The lecture garnered legitimate outrage regarding the use of blood libels.
Professor Hatem Bazian, founder of the BDS group Students for Justice in Palestine promotes similar libels, endorsing the smear with retweets:
and repeating anti-Semitic memes that include the libel:
After retweeting the above overtly anti-Semitic mime, Bazian was called out and condemned by officials at his university UC Berkeley and forced to apologize.
Holocaust Denial, Holocaust Approval and Nazi-Inspired Messages
BDS social media groups carry both posts that applaud the Holocaust and those that deny it. Even though these are intrinsically contradictory messages, all anti-Semitic memes – denial, approval, Nazi-inspired propaganda – find a welcome home in BDS social media forums which provide a platform to Jew haters across the spectrum. Below are just a few of the numerous examples documented in a MEMRI study monitoring American BDS Facebook pages from January 2016 through April 2019. (For more examples, see here and here.)
Anne Frank’s diary account of her family’s attempt to hide during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands is a frequent target for Holocaust deniers. Some deny that she ever wrote the diary at all, while others suggest that her death was due to disease unrelated to the Nazi concentration camp to which she was deported.
- A derisive photo of Anne Frank posted to the BDS Facebook page “Anti-Zionist…Boycott Israel” includes the sarcastic message, “When you get sent to Auschwitz where children are executed on arrival except you aren’t executed on arrival for some reason and then you get transferred to a second death camp because apparently transfers between death camps was a thing and then you get sick so the Nazis put you in a hospital they built inside a death camp for the people they were allegedly exterminating then you die of Typhus but still get hailed a ‘holocaust victim’ because your needs to use your diary to get shekels,” suggesting that claims of Nazi responsibility for Jewish deaths in concentration camps are just a fabrication for Jews to make money.
- A post in the BDS group “Stand With Palestine” denies the personal accounts of survival by Holocaust survivor and Nobel-winning author Elie Wiesel. It reads: “Elie Wiesel claims this is him in the famous Buchenwald photo. He also claims to have the number A-7713 tattooed on his left arm (although no one has seen it). This is Miklos Gruner in the same photo. According to Gruner this man is not Lazar Wiesel (the person who actually has the A-7713 tattoo) nor is it ‘Elie Wiesel’…”
- A post in the BDS blog Anti-Zionist-Boycott Israel suggests that reports of Jewish massacres, whether the Holocaust or the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, are all fabricated:
- A meme depicting Hitler surrounded by Nazi soldiers with the caption, “They told you that we were monsters. We were the last warriors who fought the satanic Jewish banking cartel that rules you today” was posted on two different BDS Facebook group pages,on the “Stand With Palestine” site under the comment “I KNOW Hitler was right” and on the Boycott Israel…Stand with BDS page.
And a thread on Stand With Palestine included this:
- Several popular Nazi-inspired, anti-Semitic posts depicts Jews — or the Jewish state as a Jewish collective — as vermin, sub-human, untermenschen, as in the following posts in the group Boycott Israel…Support BDS:
A post in the BDS group Stand With Palestine with the same theme was lifted directly from the Holocaust-era Der Sturmer:
Another Nazi theme that is popular in the anti-Semitic posts in BDS forums is that Jews have orchestrated and fomented wars and terrorism around the world:
Coronavirus Lies & Libels
BDS leaders and activists have seized on the coronavirus pandemic to promote hatred against Jews and the Jewish state. In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in rare cooperation and coordination between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel has provided the Palestinian Authority with nearly 2000 testing kits and more than 2000 swabs from its own equipment and has facilitated the transfer of additional donated testing kits, ventilators and protective gear for healthcare workers. Israeli medical centers and ambulance services have held training workshops for Palestinian healthcare professionals and has conducted joint monitoring groups to discuss methods to contain the pandemic in the region, with Israeli and Arab physicians working side by side. Even Nikolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, a group accused of “systemic anti-Israel bias,” praised the excellent coordination and cooperation between the Israeli and Palestine authorities regarding the pandemic.
But the good press commending Israel was apparently too much for the haters in the BDS movement to bear and so they launched a campaign with hashtag #CoronaRacism to combat the notion that Israel was in any way meritorious. The new BDS campaign falsely charges Israel with victimizing the Palestinians with racism in response to the pandemic and is filled with their standard litany of long-debunked charges. (See here and here.) It constitutes just the latest version of the blood libels/conspiracy theories that have nurtured and fueled anti-Semitism for so long.
Activists like Cleveland-based BDS leader Abbas Hamideh have similarly latched onto the pandemic to hook their anti-Jewish abuse. Hamideh’s twitter feed obsessively heaps abuse on what he calls “Zionists,” to mean Jews who support a Jewish state. In one example, he attempts to be clever by using the neologism “zionavirus” to equate Zionism with the coronavirus pandemic. In another, he uses the “greedy Jew” meme to suggest that “Zionists” are attempting to profit from the pandemic to the detriment of Americans.
And in another he uses an outdated picture to falsely claim that Zionists alone, unlike the rest of the world, are spreading the virus by not heeding social distancing guidelines.
The picture and article he disingenuously tweets, however, date back to mid-February, more than a month before his tweet and long before social distancing became the norm. Hamideh adheres to the modus operandi of BDS activists who manipulate facts to fuel hatred of Jews and the Jewish state.
But truth is of little matter in the BDS service of defaming Jews and the Jewish state.
Links to Palestinian Terrorists
BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has justified and even declared pride in the use of terrorism against Israeli Jews in his speeches about BDS. “The media focuses only on one form of resistance, which we’re proud of,” he declared at a 2011 Chicago conference where he promoted his movement. “We’re not ashamed to have armed resistance in addition to peaceful resistance throughout our existence.”
His pride in terrorism is not at all surprising, given that members of designated terrorist organizations are part of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) leadership. Heading the list of the 29 Palestinian NGO members that comprise the leadership committee is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine which includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), PFLP-General Command, Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, among other designated foreign terror organizations. The U.S. BDS wing, which calls itself the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, does not merely advocate “to stop US support for Israel” as it claims, but facilitates U.S. donations to the terrorist-member BDS National Committee. A Tablet investigation documents how this branch, registered as a 501(c)3 charitable organization, enables tax-exempt fundraising in the U.S. for the foreign terrorist-member entity.”
An Israeli government report on BDS movement’s terrorist links names some of the terror group leaders who have taken prominent roles in the BDS movement abroad, while downplaying or concealing their affiliation with the illegal groups. Among them are senior Hamas operative, Muhammad Sawalha, who heads Muslim Brotherhood front organizations and promotes BDS in the UK; PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled, notorious for her role in the hijackings of international airlines, who has worked on behalf of the South Africa BDS chapter to raise funds and advocate for BDS; and Khalida Jarrar, a senior PFLP member who has been indicted for inciting attacks on Israelis.
BDS groups everywhere glorify terrorists, inviting them as guests to speak at their events. One of their darlings is Rasmeah Odeh, a PFLP terrorist who was convicted and sentenced to a life sentence in Israeli prison for carrying out terror attacks, including a Jerusalem supermarket bombing that killed two university students. Odeh served 10 years in jail before being released in a prisoner exchange and moving to Jordan. She subsequently emigrated to the US but was subsequently found guilty of immigration fraud for lying about her earlier conviction and imprisonment. Although she was granted a new hearing on appeal, she chose to forego the trial because it would have required her to provide evidence to support her claims of innocence. Instead, she gave up her US citizenship and was deported back to Jordan.
Until her deportation, BDS groups campaigned on Odeh’s behalf and she was a featured speaker on the BDS circuit. Even after her deportation from the U.S. she is invited to speak at BDS events in Europe.
Then, there are the campaigns launched by BDS groups for terrorists, including the Free Marwan campaign for Marwan Barghouti, founder of the designated terrorist organization Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, who is serving time for the murders of five people in attacks he orchestrated; the Freedom for Ahmad campaign for Ahmad Sa’adat, General Secretary of the PFLP who was convicted of organizing the murder of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001; the Free Georges Abdallah campaign for the terrorist leader of a Lebanese offshoot of the PFLP-External Operations terror group convicted for the 1982 murders of a US military attaché and an Israeli diplomat, as well as the attempted assassination in 1984 of an American consul in Paris.
With BDS founders and leaders supporting terrorism, it is no wonder their followers often feel justified to intimidate or use violence against supporters of the Jewish state under the guise of “protest”, regardless of their attestations that BDS is a”non-violent” movement.
Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), the BDS group with chapters on various Canadian campus, has a history of anti-Jewish violence. In 2009, members of its York campus forced Jewish students to shelter inside the Hillel office as the BDS activists tried to storm the room, hammering on the doors and shouting, “Die Jew. Get the hell off campus” and “Die bitch. Go back to Israel.” The Hillel president was similarly threatened with abusive, anti-Semitic slurs,as “f***ing Jew” and “dirty Jew.” Students were eventually escorted by police to safety.
In November 2019, the same group tried to shut down a speech on campus by former IDF soldiers, physically attacking Jewish and students who had come to hear the speech and reportedly shouting, “Intifada, Intifada, go back to the ovens.”
Examples abound of intimidation and violent tactics by BDS activists targeting Jewish students or attempting to disrupt and shut down Jewish and Israeli speakers on campus with whom they do not agree (See, for example, here, here, here, here and here.)
Nor are violent incidents by BDSers limited to campuses. In Pretoria, BDS activists attacked a Jewish-owned store, destroying property and equipment, looting merchandise, throwing rocks and attacking employees. In Berlin, BDS activists assaulted filmgoers at an Israeli film festival in Berlin, injuring several of them. In Madrid, BDS activists yelled insults at and tried to physically attack a delegation of Israeli Jews and Arabs who had come to discuss the EU decision to label settlement products.
Campaign to Redefine Anti-Semitism
As it becomes increasingly evident that the BDS movement is anti-Jewish at its core, efforts to defund the movement and legislation to combat its anti-Semitic actions are increasing. In response, BDS activists have launched campaigns to redefine anti-Semitism and present themselves as political victims of those seeking to suppress their free speech and civil rights.
In 2004, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) conducted a study of anti-Semitism in Europe and produced a “working definition of antisemitism” intended as a guideline for identifying the growing number of antisemitic incidents there, and for legislation against antisemitism.” The EUMC defined antisemitism as follows:
“A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews… Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.”
The examples given included both classic anti-Semitism and anti-Semitism that targeted the state of Israel “conceived as a Jewish collectivity.” It included, among other things:
- Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews or the power of Jews as collective — such as the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government, etc.
- Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, by claiming, for example, that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
- Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
In 2009, the EUMC was replaced by a different organization whose mandate did not include defining anti-Semitism, so the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), a global organization that combats Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism, took formal ownership of “The Working Definition of Antisemitism” with just minor changes from the original EUMC document. This definition was adopted by Austria, the UK, Canada, France, Belgium, Germany, and other European countries.
In the US, the definition was first adopted by the State Department and the Commission on Civil Rights and was used as the working definition in a bipartisan bill introduced in the House and Senate to combat antisemitism on campus. Under the bill, called the Antisemitism Awareness Act, the IHRA definition was to be used to help the Department of Education determine whether incidents of harassment in schools and on campus are anti-Semitic in nature and thus in violation of Title VI, the US anti-discrimination law.
The bill was first introduced in 2016, during the Obama administration, and passed the senate unanimously. It was then referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where it got stuck after several witnesses spoke out against it, attacking the bill as infringing on free speech rights. Since then, the Antisemitism Awareness Act has been reintroduced several times – once in 2018 and twice in 2019 – and remains mired in debate spurred by those who want to narrow and limit the definition of anti-Semitism.
In February 2016, Canada’s Parliament passed a motion to “condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad,” explaining that BDS “promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel.”
In May 2019, the German parliament passed a resolution designating the BDS movement as anti-Semitic and defunding any organizations that “actively support” BDS. The resolution called the arguments and methods of the BDS movement anti-Semitic, recalling ‘the most terrible phase of German history.” Some parliamentarians noted how reminiscent BDS words and slogans were of Nazi propaganda that was “a first step on the way to genocide.” Germany became the first EU country to do so.
In October 2019, the lower chamber of the Czech Republic’s parliament adopted a resolution condemning the BDS movement and calling for the Czech government to defund pro-BDS and anti-Semitic groups.
In December 2019, Britain’s newly-elected government announced plans to outlaw the BDS movement and boycott of Israel.
Also in December 2019, France’s National Assembly passed a resolution adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism that considers BDS’ anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism.
In February 2020, the lower chamber of the Austrian parliament adopted a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and the BDS movement.
In response to the growing anti-BDS legislation, the BDS movement is waging a global #RighttoBoycott offensive against what it labels “Israel’s anti-democratic war of repression,” describing it as “a dangerous challenge to fundamental freedoms.”
Worldwide efforts to combat anti-Semitism are portrayed as an extension of Israel’s “anti-Palestinian” and “anti-democratic” war that “undermines the right” to freedom of expression, and the right “to advocate and campaign for Palestinian rights under international law through BDS.”
The #RighttoBoycott polemical crusade involves redefining anti-Semitism to exclude anti-Zionism. It casts Zionism as the illegitimate “political ideology behind the establishment of an exclusionary, supremacist Jewish state” and therefore renders legitimate the BDS goal of eradicating it.
Like the entire movement, the campaign to redefine anti-Semitism is based on anti-Jewish racism, villification and vicious lies. To defeat this dark movement a light must be shed on its hate-filled motivations and actions. May the truth prevail.