This is a response to a recent local editorial submitted by one of my colleagues who wholeheartedly expressed his support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and why he believes this worldwide initiative against Israel for alleged crimes against Palestinians in Gaza justifies his current position.
Like my colleague, supporters of BDS say that boycotts historically have been used by aggrieved parties. Likewise, to some BDS is a nonviolent alternative to war. However, as H.L. Mencken – a nationally recognized and renowned German-American journalist, satirist, cultural critic and scholar of American English in the early and mid-1900s so noted: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” With that said, I will make my case to explain why BDS is dead wrong and a misleading movement:
Firstly, BDS hasn’t helped a single Palestinian and has only punished Israelis. The BDS movement seeks to cripple Israel’s economy, demonize her academicians and delegitimize her very existence. It attempts to shut down enterprises where Palestinians and Jews work together, even when that means hundreds of Palestinians can no longer support their families. Tying a boycott noose around Israel’s neck would destroy the spirit of compromise and trust needed for peace in the region.
Second, New York benefits from a robust relationship with Israel in bilateral trade annually. Like most countries, the critical operational prerequisites for successfully conducting effective research and development (R&D) are one’s access to growing markets/customer base, talent, intellectual property protection, stable economy/government and information technology infrastructure. Accordingly, many countries are promoting optimization of R&D operations, including relocation as part of their innovation-led economic development strategies. R&D tax incentives are an important component of these strategies. As such, the strengths of Israel’s R&D enhance the lives of New Yorkers daily.
A prime example of these innovation-led developments is Israel’s high-tech hardware and apps that are a part of our community’s daily lives. From ATMs, to advanced computers, to cutting-edge software that safeguards us from digital attacks – have any BDS supporters pulled the plug on any of these advances?
Barring Israeli academics from New York conferences and shunning Israel’s dynamic universities are unwarranted draconian moves appropriate perhaps for state-controlled Iranian and North Korean institutions, not the United States’ most reliable friend and ally in the Middle East.
BDS also feeds pernicious anti-Semitism. In a 2015 report focused on the University of California system, it concluded that “BDS activity is the strongest predictor of incidents that target Jewish students for harm, the factor with the most deleterious effect on campus climate… In 95% of schools with BDS activity, one or more incidents of anti-Semitic expression occurred, while in schools with no evidence of BDS activity, only 33% reported such incidents…The chilling effect on the climate for Jewish students have been even more far-reaching”.
New York isn’t immune from anti-Semitism. Jewish students on New York State college campuses have faced intimidation and hate from extremist campaigns against the Jewish State. Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has warned, “I think BDS is an unfair, discriminatory movement based on a moral double standard that is, in the final analysis, anti-Semitic”.
The toxicity of the BDS/Israel-Apartheid State canard was on full display at the United Nation’s 2001 World Conference Against Racism in South Africa. It was there where the international campaign to demonize Israel was canonized amidst 3,900 nongovernmental organizations. On the Friday of the conference, Durban’s Police Chief warned Jewish leaders, “Please tell your people not to attempt to walk over to the nearby Jewish Community Center. I cannot guarantee your safety”. These leaders would soon understand why. Thousands were loudly protesting – not Israeli policies – but the very existence of the Jewish State. A large banner proclaimed, “HITLER WAS RIGHT”!
We should applaud anyone who cares about both Jews and Arabs. Uncertainty is far better than indifference. However, BDS is both morally wrong and practically bankrupt, while it solely and unfairly holds Israel to a standard that other nations in the region are excluded from.
Concerned New Yorkers should continue building trust in the Holy Land while committing to combat the oldest form of racism at home. What can we do to make a real and tangible impact as it relates to this matter? We can help by nurturing economic and educational ties with Israel, and by investing in, not divesting from peace-building initiatives by brokering joint Israeli-Palestinian undertakings – especially environmental ones. That is an approach that Dr. King would have been proud of and that would benefit every American, Israeli, Palestinian and the global community as a whole.