The Washington Post Bungles BDS, Again

When it comes to misreporting the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, The Washington Post is nothing if not consistent. BDS seeks to unfairly malign the Jewish state, singling it out for opprobrium. And The Post, it seems, seeks to obfuscate on BDS at every turn. A Dec. 18, 2018 opinion column by Post blogger Paul Waldman is but the latest example.

Calling for a “complex debate” over BDS, Waldman claims that a proposed piece of legislation called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act is “part of a national effort — once again, driven by the right but supported by many Democrats — to silence opposition to Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.” Those who support the legislation, he charges, are guilty of “something ugly and undemocratic.”

Waldman doesn’t tell readers what that alleged “Israeli policy” is. Indeed, for someone calling for a “complex debate,” the author seems intent on omitting as much key information and context as possible. He doesn’t even provide any details about the proposed legislation nor does he offer specifics about why it is “undemocratic.” Instead Waldman quotes concerns by the ACLU that the bill would “would impose civil and criminal penalties on companies, small business owners, nonprofits, and even people acting on their behalf who engage in or otherwise support certain political boycotts.”

But as Eugene Kontorovich, an international law professor, noted in a July 27, 2017 Washington Post blog that Waldman links to, but doesn’t quote from: “The ACLU’s claims are as weak as they are dramatic.” Kontorovich pointed out: “If the anti-boycott measures are unconstitutional, as the ACLU argues, it would mean that most foreign sanctions laws are unconstitutional. If refusing to do business with a country is protected speech because it could send a message of opposition to that country’s policies, doing business would also be protected speech. Thus, anyone barred from doing business with Iran, Cuba or Sudan would be free to do so if they said it was a message of support for the revolution, or opposition to U.S. policy, or whatever (“Israel Anti-Boycott Bill does not violate free speech”).”

As the law professor highlighted, the Israel Anti-Boycott is merely an update to an already existing anti-boycott law which was first adopted in 1977 and aimed at the Arab states boycott of Israel—a boycott that was initiated in 1948, long before the Jewish state acquired the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War. Indeed, Arab states called to boycott Jewish businesses in British-ruled Mandate Palestine as early as 1945—three years before Israel was recreated.

Further undercutting Waldman’s argument, Kontorovich noted: “The current law’s ban on ‘support’ of the Arab League boycott has never been used to punish opponents of Israel simply for expression. The expansion of the list of covered boycotts in the new bill would not make it any easier to go after ‘boycott activists.’ Anti-Israel divestment campaigns unlinked to foreign boycotts clearly ‘support’ the Arab League boycott in the sense of promoting the same views and seeking the same goals. But they have never fallen within the scope of the existing prohibition, and they would not under the new bill.”

Failing to tackle the law professor’s argument, The Post blogger also sidesteps the objectives of BDS, writing, “I’m not going to bother trying to adjudicate the issue of BDS’s merits,” but then adds: “But when you step back and think about it, it’s utterly bizarre that this relatively small movement has been met with such a fierce response from both the federal government and state governments, to the point where some are eager to silence and punish people for being too critical of a foreign government’s policies.”

BDS, Waldman asserts, merely “opposes the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestinian territories and treatment of Palestinians.” The leaders of the BDS movement, however, disagree.

BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has openly called for the end of the Jewish nation of Israel. As The Jerusalem Post has reported, other activists have disrupted Holocaust commemorations, clearly illustrating the antisemitic nature of BDS, which targets one state and one state only—the Jewish one—for economic boycotts.

As CAMERA has noted, BDS seeks to delegitimize the world’s sole Jewish state, singling it out for opprobrium. And its advocates include U.S. designated terrorist groups like Hamas, whose charter calls for the genocide of Jews and Israel’s destruction. Indeed, Hamas has exhorted “we salute and support BDS” and high ranking officials of the Fatah movement that controls the Palestinian Authority (PA) have admitted that they have financial ties to this movement that is misleadingly depicted as being “grassroots.”

According to U.S. Congressional testimony by a former U.S. Treasury Department terror analyst named Jonathan Schanzer, some BDS groups have links to terrorist organizations like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

In short: a “fierce response” by the U.S. Congress to an antisemitic movement that calls for the end of a U.S. ally, Israel, and has ties to U.S.-designated terrorist groups is hardly “bizarre.” Particularly when, as secret recordings have revealed, U.S.-supported entities like the PA have ties to BDS—a violation of the Oslo Accords that remain the basis for U.S. support, financial and otherwise (“Palestinian Authority VP: Our People Are Working in Israel Boycott Movement,” Washington Free Beacon, Oct. 24, 2017).

In fact, in contrast to Waldman’s misleading description of BDS, the modern organized movement emerged in the years after Palestinian leaders rejected U.S. and Israeli offers for an independent Palestinian state living in exchange for living in peace with Israel. BDS made its debut in September 2001 at the Durban Conference—months after the PA refused, without so much as a counteroffer, U.S. and Israeli offers made in 2000 at Camp David and 2001 at Taba. Durban, analyst Gerald Steinberg noted, “was hijacked by many of the over 1,500 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in attendance, as well as by governments that reject Israel’s right to exist. Multiple instances of anti-Semitic imagery and language were reported at the UN-sponsored NGO Forum, and Jewish attendees were intimidated and excluded (“Fifteen Years Later, The Durban Conference’s Hatred Still Affects Us,” The Tower Magazine, Sept. 18, 2016).”

Nor does BDS care about the “treatment of Palestinians.” BDS leaders—and the media for that matter—largely ignore the human rights abuses that Palestinian leaders inflict on their own people.

Its supporters and co-founders have said as much. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one can’t criticize Israeli policies or Israel itself—the small country is frequently the subject of inordinate attention in the form of numerous editorials, reports, movies, books and newspaper columns. Indeed criticism of Israel is endemic, and in some academic and media circles, seemingly a requirement.

As CAMERA has frequently highlighted, there seems to be a “national effort” by major media outlets like The Washington Post to misrepresent the objectives of the BDS movement. The newspaper has run no fewer than six reports in the last year on BDS, all of which omitted the movement’s expressed goal of eliminating Israel and the support it receives from genocidal terror groups. And “complex debates” on anti-BDS legislation can’t be had without these facts.

Of course, reporting on the abuses inflicted on Palestinians by non-Israelis is much harder to come by—curiously there seems to be little inclination by the press to highlight them. Meanwhile, efforts to target the Jewish state continue unabated—aided considerably by a delinquent media.


(Note: This post was updated on July 22, 2019)

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