BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, AND SANCTIONS (BDS)
Recently, The American Studies Association (ASA) issued an ominous proclamation that called for a boycott of Israeli universities. There are about 5,000 members of this influential organization comprised of scholars and educators who are demanding that American universities cease all interaction and cooperation with Israeli educational institutions. Although the ASA acknowledged that they have never boycotted any other country before, their president’s response to the Jewish Anti-Defamation League was: “One has to start somewhere.”
You read that right … that’s exactly what he said! Such a well-educated, scholarly, profound, and humanitarian reason for joining the increasing number of organizations and nations the world over in the growing BDS movement! Nor did the ASA President, Curtis Marez, dispute the clear evidence that other countries, including many in the Middle East, have far worse human rights violations … Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia, just to name a few. In fact: Unless Israel’s strategy of self-defense and protection of its citizens against terrorist attacks from within its borders and from surrounding countries constitutes a violation of human rights, there is no such thing in Israel.
Fortunately, a few American universities condemned the ASA’s official boycott of Israel … such as John Hopkins University, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Texas. But that’s not nearly enough opposition to counteract this mindless, illogical, unreasonable, and hateful animosity toward Israel. Later in this article, we’ll talk about why this boycott (and others like it) are utterly irrational.
Will this boycott adversely affect Israeli educational centers, or inhibit research, or severely limit Israel’s accomplishments in various fields of learning? I seriously doubt it. For example: Although the Jews comprise only two/tenths of one percent of the world’s population, they have been awarded an astonishing 20% of the 850 Nobel Prizes handed out since 1901. There was a justified knee-jerk reaction from Jews all over the world. But, I don’t think the Jewish people will lose much sleep over this boycott, for fear of never again experiencing a life-changing scientific break-through such as the discovery of blood types A,B,O, that revolutionized the understanding of blood composition, transfusions, and genetics. And this was only one of hundreds of remarkable contributions that Jews have made to international economics, science, literature, medicine, politics, education, and religion.
Any real loss will be the ASA’s and American education. It’s tantamount to what happened in Germany during the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich. Jewish scientists, economists, entrepreneurs, educators, inventors, doctors were either exiled from Germany or rounded up, interned, shipped to concentration camps, and eventually murdered. And the ultimate irony is that Germany very well may have won the war or at least prolonged it for another 2-4 years, had they not boycotted, divested, and sanctioned tens of thousands of Jewish intellectuals. No, indeed; Israel will not suffer any educational deprivation or deficiency as a result of this boycott. What is significant, however, is the mindset behind the whole thing. As the saying goes, “It’s the thought that counts.” Only in this case (BDS), with a bad connotation.
No matter that Israel is the ONLY democracy in the entire Middle East; one that allows Israeli Arabs to vote, own property and businesses, move freely throughout the country, and even serve in Israel’s parliament (the Knesset). By all means, disregard the stark reality that Arab/Muslim nations surrounding Israel have no such thing as a republic, or democratic, or even a parliamentary style government. Most of these Muslim controlled Arab administrations suppress their own people and deny many basic liberties commonly afforded in Israel, the United States and a few other nations of the free world.
Why Israel? Did the ASA throw darts at a map of the world and hit Israel? Did they draw names from a hat? Was it alphabetical? Hardly. Yet their rationale for targeting Israel is no less randomly absurd than playing musical chairs or drawing straws. They couldn’t very well start with the USA because that would mean American universities boycotting each other. Yet one of the stated reasons for boycotting Israel was, “U.S. military and other support for Israel.” Other reasons given were violation of international law and U.N. resolutions. They dared not select one of the Arab countries as the ASA would have then been classified as Islamophobic. Besides, which of the Arab nations that specialize in human rights violations would they choose? It would be a difficult choice, because there are so many of them. Alas, the poor ASA didn’t know where to begin, so they “started” with Israel!
But, in the horrible reality of it all, Israel would be the natural place for the ASA to initiate their first official boycott. Why? Because many nations of the world routinely isolate Israel when they feel like flexing their BDS muscles. Since only a handful of countries support Israel (and even then, not all the time), the ASA and other like-minded organizations or nations boycotting Israel would generate the backing (blessings) from all of their anti-Israel comrades. It’s no different from a fashion trend that sweeps a country from time to time. Now days it is contemporarily fashionable to buy and wear BDS T-shirts against Israel.
Which leads us to another source of BDS, this time in the form of sanctions: The United Nations. Which country would you suspect has been the target of the greatest number of UN resolutions (sanctions), by far? Is it China, North Korea, the Sudan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Iran? Not even close. It’s Israel … of course. A few months ago one United Nations employee—who thought her microphone had been turned off—blurted out what she thought was the never-ending, ridiculous (she used a four letter word) stream of sanctions against Israel. Her meaning and implications were unmistakably clear: UN sanctions against Israel had deteriorated into a senseless irresponsible game; albeit a reckless gamesmanship that can be deadly when taken seriously.
BDS … Where did it begin?
So exactly what is BDS? First, it is an actual organization or movement that some 171 Palestinian organizations initiated in July, 2005 against Israel. In theory it is based on a mindset that characterizes Israel as an apartheid state, modeled after the (former) apartheid government of South Africa. As the very name suggests, the purpose of BDS is to deprive Israel of international trade, recognition, and sovereignty. It aims to hit Israel where it hurts … economically, politically, culturally, educationally, socially; in short, to delegitimize Israel as a member of the family of nations.
Boycott? We all know how it works. Just stop buying goods from a retailer, a conglomerate, or even an entire country forever, or at least until the boycotted entity ceases and desist from doing whatever you want them to stop doing. Concerning the Palestinian Arabs and most Muslim nations, they want Israel to cease existing and for the Jews to stop breathing. Or, as with ASA, stop the exchange of ideas and good will between like-minded organizations. Whether for good or for bad, boycotts can be an effective tool to hamstring a company or country.
Divestment? The opposite of investment. Similar to boycotting only carrying it a step farther by overt actions, such as withdrawing or selling of stocks in a company or refusing to buy stock, or to consider any kind of support. Conversely, by supporting and promoting a competitor. Even more harshly, to deliberately discredit a company or nation with public derogatory and inflammatory rhetoric, whether true or not.
Sanctions? We all know what that means. My article two weeks ago (Let’s Make a Deal) contained a great deal of reference to sanctions against Iran. I’m all for them; if, that is, sanctions are used for the right reasons and justifiably against the proper targets such as a rogue company or nation that understands only tough language and actions … so they will stand down from their malevolent intentions of harming a competitor or killing their rivals.
So, what is the big problem with BDS? First we must consider the source: dozens of Palestinian groups that have banded together to humiliate and weaken Israel through more “peaceful” tactics. In the last two decades or so, Muslims in general and Palestinians in particular have switched tactics from hot wars and terrorism to a war of words which even includes rewriting both Jewish and Arab history. The basic premise, however, is nothing new. At its core is pure propaganda with a deceitful premise: the bigger the lie you tell, and the more often you tell it, and the louder you shout it … the more people will believe it to be true.
Because the vast majority of Palestinian Arabs are sworn enemies of Israel, the BDS phenomena shouldn’t surprise those of us who support the existence and well-being of Israel. However, what is both amazing and alarming is the number of people, organizations, and nations who have jumped on the BDS band-wagon without cause, without knowing the facts, without what any reasonable person would consider a rational and logical purpose or motive.
BDS Equals Anti-Semitism
But then, that’s what both the ancient and modern definition of Anti-Semitism is: “Don’t bother me with the facts. I’ll hate Israel and persecute the Jews if I want to. I don’t need a reason … just because they’re Jews is cause enough.” BDS is simply a more subtle form of Anti-Semitism, an irrational hostility toward a people for no other reason than they were born; and then have the perceived audacity to want a safe place to live on this earth in harmony with their neighbors. But in the land given to them by God, himself and later approved by the United Nations in 1947; although the God-given deed to Israel is reason enough. God doesn’t need UN approval!
Hatred and anger are legitimate emotions. They are warranted if directed against something that is truly wrong, evil, and destructive. Take sin for example. The Bible is crystal clear about God’s opinion of and reaction to sin: He hates it. It’s a righteous anger that is pure, justified, and necessary. We’re not talking about hating the individual; rather, despising the behavior of the person who murders someone, or who lies to us or about us, or steals from us. Being against something is an appropriate part of life; if whatever we oppose could and would harm us by distorting the truth of who we are, what we believe, and seeking to destroy us if we don’t agree with them. Hence, a righteous anger expressed through boycotts, divestment, sanctions, and (if necessary) preemptive or punitive military action is understood and accepted as being totally rational and reasonable; if, for example, the object of this retaliatory response were terrorists who flew planes into the Twin Towers of New York City or a nation developing enriched uranium for the sole purpose of wiping Israel from the face of the map.
Which makes Anti-Semitism or BDS totally irrational, illogical, unreasonable, unfounded, and unfathomable. It is the ultimate display of bigotry; an intolerant jealous loathing of people because of the way they look, or where they live, or how they worship, or … the list goes on.
As indicated, the BDS movement is gaining a lot of followers. From individuals such as Roger Waters of the rock group Pink Floyd and world-renown physicist, Stephen Hawking, to the recent efforts of the entire European Union (with the blessing of its leader, Catherine Ashton) to initiate BDS against Israel for construction of settlements in the West Bank. Or Ireland’s BDS against Israel by placing yellow stickers on Israeli products that read, “For justice in Palestine, Boycott Israel.” Or Canada’s largest Protestant denomination, The United Church of Canada supporting the world-wide BDS movement. In response the “Jewish Tribune” a publication of the B’nai Birth Canada Jewish organization stated, “The fact is that a Christian organization, which should appreciate the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Jewish people’s return to the Holy Land, has instead chosen to join common cause with those who seek the very destruction of the Jewish State.”
This is also true of a couple of large American mainstream Protestant churches in the United States. Shame on them. I can tell you one thing for sure: they haven’t read their Bible. Or worse: If they have read the hundreds of Bible passages that foretell the physical and spiritual restoration of Israel and the dangerous risk for those who oppose Israel (when they oppose Israel they oppose God), then their BDS against Israel is nothing short of defying God himself.
For example, Roger Waters seems completely oblivious to the atrocities in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen (to mention just a few countries). Instead is he obsessed by what he thinks is an apartheid regime in Israel. Moreover, it’s all too evident that Waters (and many others with the same mentality) simply doesn’t want to be bothered with the truth and reality of what is actually going on in Israel. Which is the ultimate symptom and expression of prejudice and bias: “I’ve made up my mind, so don’t confuse me with all those facts.”
All anyone needs to do is to take some time (an hour or so) to look up the definition of apartheid, then get on-line to read about the specific things that an apartheid government engages in (such as no voting rights for blacks in South Africa) to demonstrate discrimination-like behavior. For that matter, a citizen of the United States doesn’t need to look half way around the world; just take a couple of hours to read about the civil rights movement in this country in the 1960s. Finally, to compare this evidence to exactly what is happening in Israel and determine if Israel is engaged in this kind of segregation. But, if you don’t have the time or want to take the time to do this research, then please take my word for it (and the word of others who know what’s really happening in Israel): There is no evidence, whatsoever, that the Israeli government is apartheid or is engaging in apartheid-like behavior.
In fact, it’s just the opposite. Israel extends liberties to its Arab citizens that these same Arabs wouldn’t be given under the governments (regimes) of Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. And if someone wants to refer to the existence of Israeli checkpoints and border crossings or the security wall between the West Bank and Israel as an example of segregation, don’t. It won’t hold water. Sure a wall and some barriers exist, but for the sole purpose of preventing terrorists from entering Israel and detonating bombs as they did so often before the wall was erected, leading to the deaths of thousands of Israelis. These security structures are no different from the border fence between US and Mexico or certain border crossings found all over the world. With one major exception: Illegal immigrants from Mexico don’t cross the border for the sole purpose of killing Americans. Most of them just want a job … a better life. But the terrorist Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip don’t want jobs in Israel. They want to kill the Jews.
Then there’s the May, 2012 incident involving world-famous scientist Stephen Hawking. He withdrew his commitment to attend a “President’s Conference” in Israel, and did so “based on advice he received from Palestinian academics.” These various academic groups were affiliated with the BDS movement. Yet Mr. Hawking had visited and spoken in countries like Iran and China without any direct or indirect reference to or thoughts about human rights violations in those two nations. From what I’ve read and heard about Mr. Hawking, he is not political and certainly not an activist; however, when it comes to Israel he suddenly and inexplicably becomes politically correct (according to BDS definitions).
Nowhere in Scripture does God command us to “love” the nation of Israel, as such. Any love that we possess and display for the land of Israel and the Jewish people must be from the heart … willingly. But he does tell us to support the Jews (in whatever way we can), and he issues stern warnings for those who oppose Israel. The Lord does instruct us to, “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). If we love God, we will love the things that God loves, and one of them is Israel. Our love for God is primarily a response to his great love for us. He didn’t love us because he created us. He created us, because he first loved us. As the Bible says, he knew us before he even laid the foundation of the world. So before you and I were ever born, God knew us and loved us.
There’s really only two basic things that God expects in return: (1) to accept the awesome sacrifice that God’s Son made (death on the cross) and to receive Jesus as our personal savior. This sacrifice was the ultimate expression and confirmation of God’s love for every human being. It was necessary because God is a holy God and there’s no way we can spend eternity with him unless our sins are forgiven. And the only means of a complete pardon is to simply accept what Christ did for us; something that we couldn’t possibly do —save ourselves from sin and the guilt of that sin. No amount of good works or effort or innate worth can erase the ugly consequences and stain of the wrong things we’ve done.
(2) Acknowledge and respect the very people through whom God chose to bring Messiah’s salvation and light to the world … the Jews. And, of course, the land God chose to accomplish his magnificent plan of redemption for the human race. Both of these expectations are met by simply trusting and believing in God and his Son. When we do that, then we enthusiastically want to love God and support the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In fact, that is one of the actual names of God … how he was (and still is) known to the world. He said, “I AM The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exodus 3:15).
Things to Ponder
– Consider taking the time to read Chapters 9, 10, & 11 of the book of Romans … for a comprehensive overview of the Jewish people’s history and future as it relates to the Good News of salvation.
– Do you know of any other organizations or countries or individuals who support the BDS movement?
– What are some things we can do to show our appreciation and support for Israel and the Jewish people?
*Note: At the top of this article is an entertaining, but incisive and challenging video about BDS and Israel. Click on and enjoy.