What Time Won’t Tell You About BDS

The Trump Administration is Cracking Down Against a Global Movement to Boycott Israel. Here’s What You Need to Know About BDS” promises the headline of a Time explainer which abysmally fails to deliver, instead serving up a whitewash that grossly distorts the history, target and goals of the anti-Israel and intrinsically antisemitic BDS (boycott, divest sanctions) movement.

About the movement’s goals, Time’s Sanya Mansoor writes:

The goal is to push Israel to recognize the rights of Palestinian citizens currently living in Israel; allow Palestinian refugees, who were driven out of the country as early as 1948 when Israel was created, to return to their homes; and withdraw from all land that it seized after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, including the occupied West Bank — which is claimed by the Palestinians.

Mansoor fails to share with readers the inevitable implications of a “return” of the original 1948 refugees and their millions of descendants. Those who care about Israel’s continued existence, President Barack Obama among them, widely acknowledge that a “return” of the original 1948 refugees (now numbering at most 30,000) and their millions of descendants spells the end of the Jewish state. President Obama had said:  

. . . if we’re going to achieve a two-state solution the Palestinians are going to have to recognize that the right of return as they’ve understood it historically would extinguish Israel as a Jewish state and that’s not an option.

 

(Echoing the most distorted accounts of 1948 history, Mansoor referred only to the 1948 Palestinian Arab refugees who were “driven out,” ignoring the fact that the vast majority followed directives from their own leaders to clear the way in order to enable the invading Arab armies to wipe out the nascent Jewish state.)

One State? Two States?

Indeed, Mansoor disingenuously conceals BDS’s determination to see the elimination of the Jewish state. On this question, she avers:

The BDS national committee says that it does not advocate for any particular solution to the conflict in terms of a “one state” or “two state” solution but that their focus is on Palestinian human rights and regaining control of occupied territories. “Under international law, no political regime, especially a colonial and oppressive one, has any inherent “right to exist,” said Omar Barghouti, human rights defender and co-founder of the BDS movement, in an email to TIME. “No state, whether apartheid South Africa in the past or apartheid Israel today, has a right to be racist or supremacist, privileging part of its population based on identity, and excluding another part, which happens to be the indigenous nation.”

While speaking to Time, Barghouti dissembles, his words open to the interpretation that if Israel only rids itself of its purported racism, identity-driven privilege and exclusion, Israel may be acceptable. Elsewhere, though, he is more upfront about his desire to eliminate the state of Israel, its very existence an inherent affront, as he sees it. Indeed, on another platform, he was very straightforward:

“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.”

Barghouti’s BDS colleague, Asad Abu Khalil, of Cal State University  concurred:

“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.”

Durban Roots Ignored

No account that tells you “what you need to know about BDS” can ignore the movement’s ignoble roots in the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa. Yet Mansoor says not a word about the Durban ambush, where the NGO Forum, with the guiding hand of the delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and aided by Arab states and Iran, put Israel in its targets, depicting it as an illegitimate, pariah country which ought to be dismantled just like apartheid South Africa. The “hateful language” of the forum’s closing declaration prompted a U.S. walkout from the conference. The infamous declaration stated:

[We] call upon the international community to impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an Apartheid state as in the case of South Africa which
means the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel.

As Dan Diker, author of BDS Unmasked: Radical Roots, Extremist Ends, noted:

…the Durban Conference’s NGO declaration would establish the political and ideological infrastructure for the contemporary BDS movement: economic boycotts,
government sanctions, and the severing of social and cultural links with Israel were all key areas of focus.

But Mansoor’s self-declared BDS explainer skips over this seminal history, twice noting 2005 as the founding year of the BDS movement. “BDS was formally launched in 2005 by a coalition of about 170 Palestinian grassroots and civil society groups,” she writes. And while she ignored the movement’s roots in Durban, she gratuitously mentions another event which does not have any clear connection to BDS’ founding:

BDS started in 2005 — just one year after the International Criminal Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion that “Israel’s building of a barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory is illegal.”

Notably, the 2005 boycott call issued by 170 organizations targeted Israel within its 1948 lines, referring to “Fifty-seven years after the State of Israel was built mainly on land ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian owners…” Perhaps this opposition to Israel’s very existence within any territory was what Mansoor euphemistically meant by the movement’s goals “to push Israel to recognize the rights of Palestinian citizens currently living in Israel.”

Sanitized History of (Anti-Jewish) Boycotts

On the history of boycotts, Mansoor conveniently skips over the Nazi-era boycotts of Europe’s Jews. Her selective account states:

Boycotts, although a common form of non-violent protest and an effective way to raise awareness around an issue, are often not effective in creating a significant or immediate economic dent or policy change. In the late fifties, the African National Congress in South Africa called for foreign governments to withdraw investments, halt trade and enact a broad boycott South African consumer goods, academia and sports. In the 1790s, English and American abolitionists boycotted sugar produced by slaves. In 1945, the Arab League—a collection of close to two-dozen Middle Eastern and African countries began an economic boycott of Israeli companies and goods.

In addition, it should be noted that the Arab boycott of Jews dates back to 1922, when “the Fifth Palestine Arab Congress declared a boycott against Jews
and called on all Arabs to refuse to sell them land and boycott Jewish businesses,” reported JCPA’s Diker.

Germany’s Anti-BDS Resolution Ignored

Germany understands a thing or two about the boycott of Jews. It is precisely for that reason that in 2019 Germany’s parliament passed a resolution denouncing BDS as antisemitic, key information that “you need to know about BDS,” but that Time concealed. As Deutsche Welle reported:

“The pattern of argument and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic,” the Bundestag resolution stated, before adding that BDS’ calls to boycott Israeli artists and the “Don’t Buy” stickers applied to Israeli goods “recall the most terrible phase of German history.” The resolution also pledged not to financially support organizations that question Israel’s right to exist, projects that call for the boycott of Israel, or organizations that actively support BDS.

The resolution was brought by all the centrist parties in the German Bundestag, including Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union, the Social Democrats (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens. …

Speaking in Friday’s debate on the issue, CDU Bundestag member Axel Müller reminded the chamber that upholding Israel’s right to exist remained a basic principle of the German state. He also claimed that the BDS campaign’s social media accounts showed that it was occasionally influenced by the “propaganda of the [Nazi] dictatorship.”

“We hopefully remember the many hate-filled images from the Third Reich, where one could see signs with the writing, ‘Germans don’t buy from Jews’: a first step on the way to genocide,” he added.

Targeting Of Groups, Individuals ‘Simply Because They Are Israeli’

On the question of whether BDS targets individuals or groups simply because they are Israeli, Mansoor engages in he said-she said reporting, ignoring the movement’s actual criteria and history, more reliable benchmarks of its real agenda. Thus, Mansoor reports:

BDS leaders and supporters have vehemently denied that the movement is anti-semitic, saying that they “target the Israeli state” for “serious violations of international law” and do not go after “any individual or group simply because they are Israeli.”

But a quick visit to a leading BDS site makes clear that all Israeli organizations are fair game unless they have specifically denounced Israel and embraced BDS. In its “Criteria For Choosing the Optimal BDS Target,” PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) details:

Every Israeli academic and cultural institution — and we regard choirs, orchestras and dance groups as institutions — is complicit in Israel‘s regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid unless they publicly denounce Israel’s violations of international law and accept the full and equal rights of Palestinians.

Among the countless Israeli BDS victims targeted simply because they are Israeli are a 13-year-old school girl doing a school project on horses, Israeli art students denied bookings at the Louvre in Paris and other French cultural institutions, and any and all Israeli individuals and entities who wished to visit Bradford, declared an “Israel-free zone” by BDS supporters MP George Galloway in 2014.

Opposed to Anti-Jewish Racism?

Mansoor is similarly uninformative when it comes to BDS’ long embrace of antisemitism, relying on he said-she said back and forth, and ignoring actual evidence:

The Palestinian BDS national committee responded in a statement, saying that “the fanatic Trump-Netanyahu alliance is intentionally conflating opposition to Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid against Palestinians and calls for nonviolent pressure to end this regime on the one hand with anti-Jewish racism on the other, in order to suppress advocacy of Palestinian rights under international law.” The committee stressed its opposition to “all forms of racism, including anti-Jewish racism.”

A BDS poster targeting Jewish-American singer Matisyahu

A compelling indication that BDS not only fails to oppose anti-Jewish bigotry but also actively engages in it is the fact that the movement has not limited its targets only to Israelis, but has also ostracized and treated as suspect Diaspora Jews who do not hold Israeli citizenship. In 2015, BDS activists in Spain pressured the Rototom Sunsplash music festival to disinvite the non-political Jewish-American singer Matisyahu when he refused to comply to a BDS demand that he publicly denounce Israel. Matisyahu was the only Jewish artist who had been on the event roster and he was the only artist subjected to BDS’ litmus test. Due to the backlash, which included the Spanish government taking a sharp stance against the discriminatory action, Rototom reinstated its invitation to Matisyahu.

Also in 2015, Jewish-American Rachel Beyda, who was running for student council at UCLA, was subjected to an interrogation about her Jewish identity as a disqualification for her candidacy. ““Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?” she was interrogated. Three of the four students who initially voted against her were BDS activists. In 2015, BDS activists in South Africa’s Durban University of Technology called for the expulsion of all Jewish students.

When President-elect Joe Biden recently appointed Tony Blinken, who is Jewish, as Secretary of State, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a supporter of BDS, tweeted solely on the basis of Blinken’s Jewish identity: “So long as he doesn’t suppress my First Amendment right to speak out against Netanyahu’s racist and inhumane policies. The Palestinian people deserve equality and justice.”

But about BDS’s diverse victims — young and old, Israeli and American, right and left and completely non-political — Mansoor is silent. Instead, the only targets she actual specifies are large corporations: “HP, Puma and Caterpillar are among the targeted organizations.” Later, she also identified Orange and Veolia.

Beyond BDS’s Jewish, non-Israeli casualties — indications of antisemitism on the part of the movement — there is also the relentless stream of antisemitic rhetoric spewing from the BDS camp. Its activists have called for death to Jews, threatening Justin Bieber’s Jewish manager: “the Jew manager will die,” serenading Israeli musician Daniel Zamir with songs of “shoot the Jew,” and taunting former IDF soldiers with shouts of “go back to the ovens!” BDSers have vilified the Jewish religion, opposed the availability of kosher food at the University of Toronto, placed a pig’s head in a kosher food section, and slurred the Israeli rabbinate as “so bizarre and hard to hear that you can hardly believe that it’s real.”

BDS activists have repeated age-old blood libels against Jews; have updated the old theme under the hashtag #CoronavirusRacism, alleging deliberate spreading of the disease; and have pedaled in both Holocaust denial and Nazi-inspired antisemitism.

Silence on BDS’ Ties to Terror

Mansoor utters not a word about BDS’ documented ties to terror organizations. As Times of Israel reported:

The Ramallah-based BDS National Committee had its crowdfunding account on DonorBox shut down after the Shurat Hadin nonprofit revealed its connections to the PFLP, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups. Group leader Salah Khawaja served a yearlong prison sentence on terror charges, the [Israeli Strategic Affairs] ministry said.

The Al-Haq pro-BDS group had its credit card accounts shuttered for its ties to the PFLP. The head of the organization, Shawan Jabarin, was a senior member of the PFLP who served a two-year prison sentence for terrorist activity.

The Interpal organization’s MyDonate crowdfunding account and several credit card accounts were closed due to its ties to Hamas.

Mansoor’s article is accompanied by a photograph (at left) which carries the caption:

Palestinians protest against the detention by Israel of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement campaigner Mahmoud Nawajaa, who was arrested by the Israeli army, on Aug. 11 in Ramallah
Abbas Momani—AFP/Getty Images
According to Agence France Presse:

A Shin Bet spokesperson told AFP that Nawajaa had been “arrested and questioned on security matters… and released at the end of the investigation.” …

Israeli sources had previously told AFP that Nawajaa’s arrest was not linked to his role with the BDS movement.

Lost Irony: Who Gets to Define Antisemitism?

Mansoor gives a platform to the fringe anti-Israel, pro-BDS Jewish Voice for Peace, stating:

Stifling BDS is “not about Jewish safety,” says Stefanie Fox, executive director of Jewish Voice For Peace. “An opposition to Zionism is about an opposition to a specific government that has nothing to do with Judaism,” Fox says. As for Pompeo’s characterization, she says, “We won’t let white supremacists dictate what is and not anti-semitism.”

Leaving aside Fox’s unsubstantiated slur against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, her lack of self-awareness is totally astounding. Later this month, her own Jewish Voice for Peace will be hosting a panel discussion entitled “Dismantling Antisemitism, Winning Justice,” featuring a lineup of non-Jewish activists notorious for their anti-Jewish bigotry. As CAMERA’s Ricki Hollander observed, the panel is

made up of those who seek the demise of the Jewish state, in order to redefine antisemitism.  The panelists include Rashida Tlaib—a U.S. congress member accused of using antisemitic tropes of dual loyaltyspreading anti-Jewish blood libels, singling out politicians for criticism because of their Jewish identity, and having close ties to a Holocaust denying, conspiracy theorist  and terror-supporting anti-Zionist activists; Barbara Ransby — a university professor in History, African American Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies who is prominent player in the BDS movement, supporting violent anti-Israel terrorists and using her platform to spread  false and vicious anti-Israel propaganda; Marc Lamont Hill—  BDS proponent and one-time CNN journalist who advocates the elimination of a Jewish state, justifies anti-Israel terrorism, and is associated with the notoriously antisemitic Louis Farrakhan. The single Jew on the antisemitism panel is Peter Beinart — an “as a Jew” Jew who has made a career of vilifying the Jewish state and advocating its abolition.    

BDS supporter Tlaib makes an appearance in Mansoor’s BDS explainer. But don’t expect the Time reporter to let on about the Congresswoman’s record of blatantly antisemitic remarks. Mansoor whitewashes Tlaib and her colleague Ilhan Omar as “outspoken on Palestinian human rights and fierce critics of Israel.”

In short, Sanya Mansoor’s BDS explainer is about as informative and reliable as Rashida Tlaib’s insights on antisemitism. Those who really “need to know about BDS” should look elsewhere.

Dec. 8 Update: Mansoor Introduces New Misrepresentation on Arab League Boycott

Yesterday Time introduced a new misrepresentation, changing the founding date of the Arab League boycott from 1945 to 1948. As a paper for the Congressional Research Service explained, the Arab League boycott predated Israel’s founding, targeting Zionist businesses from the pre-state Yishuv:

The Arab League was founded in 1944, and in 1945 began a boycott of Zionist goods and services in the British controlled mandate territory of Palestine. In 1948, following the war establishing Israel’s independence, the boycott was formalized against the state of Israel and broadened to include non-Israelis who maintain economic relations with Israel or who are perceived to support it.

So, yes, while the Arab League boycott of Israel could only begin with the country’s founding in 1948, its boycott of the Jews living in the British Mandate predated the boycott of Israel. In that sense, the longstanding Arab League boycott is consistent with today’s BDS movement — targeting Jews and not specifically Israelis, a point that Time has actively glossed over.