NOTE: This article was originally published in The Algemeiner.
In recent years, the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) movement has gained significant ground in their war against Israel.
They have a strong presence on many university campuses across the world, including in the United States. Many of the groups most actively involved in anti-Israel activities are offshoots of radical Muslim organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, and Hamas, and even though these groups are officially considered terrorist groups by the US government, they are allowed to function nonetheless.
These groups are typified by student organizations such as “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP), Muslim Student Associations on many campuses, and even “Jewish Voices for Peace” (JVP). They work hard to include more “leftist” Jewish students in hopes of appearing to be inclusive and to refute claims that they are, at heart, anti-semitic.
Their more well-known activities include “actions” such as placing fake eviction notices on and under student dormitory doors, holding annual “Israel Apartheid Week” activities complete with “die-in’s”, checkpoints, and propaganda walls, organizing very loud and vocal protests, working to pass divestment resolutions in student governments, pushing to exclude Jewish and pro-Israel students from any discussion, posting billboards and posters equating Israel with Nazi Germany or as an “Apartheid” nation, and preventing speakers trying to present objective or pro-Israel perspectives from speaking on campuses. This activity has spilled over to other “leftist” oriented groups such as “Black Lives Matter”, LGBT networks, and women’s rights groups, as well as the more “traditional” leftist groups and organizations such as the Communist party, Socialist groups, etc.
Their “claim to fame”, so to speak, is that they are loud, vocal, reject civil discourse with holders of any oppositional views, and work very hard to prevent presentation of any objective facts, since those conflict drastically with their own versions of “truth”, most of which are quite easily controverted, since objective history does not support their contentions in the least.
To date, opposition to these tactics has been scattered, disorganized, and largely ineffective, in spite of some successes such as the recent passage at University of California of a somewhat watered-down anti-semitism policy.
I believe that we, as a community that supports a strong, democratic, tolerant Israel, must do a much better job of combating the BDS movement.
The short version of what we need to do is:
Promote the hell out of Israel through advertising campaigns, public relations, free trips to Israel, movies and television shows showing positive images of Israel. Show positive images of Israel at every opportunity. Put up billboards advertising travel to Israel, showing as often as possible the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nature of Israel. Enlist prominent advertising and public relations firms to assist in any way possible. They are experts at this, let them help
Organize strong and large rallies in every major city in support of Israel. Utilize existing organizations, recruit on campuses, bus in participants from other cities in order to make rallies LARGE, march on Washington DC in mass numbers, making sure to have great pro-Israel signs and slogans, based 100% on incontrovertible truth.
Mount large and very vocal, well-organized counter-demonstrations to EVERY BDS-related event, whether on campus or anywhere else. When a BDS-related or anti-Israel event is announced, show up en masse outside with protest signs, loudspeakers, signs, banners, and provide the truth. Don’t let them get away with simply presenting their lies without opposition, which is largely what happens now. When they have prominent BDS and anti-Israel speakers, make sure to have large “anti” demonstrations with huge numbers of people. Always obey the law, don’t prevent the speaker from speaking, but ask pointed, probing questions during Q&A sessions, and, if possible, set up speakers directly opposite to present truths to counter their lies.
Lawfare – sue them for slander, have them arrested for disturbing the peace when they invade and disrupt speakers at events, and pressure university administrations to shut them down when they violate campus policies on both anti-semitism and free speech. Enlist the help of “The Lawfare Project” (thelawfareproject.org) in understanding what is possible and how to start the process. If, as frequently occurs, BDS groups break campus rules or laws, use EVERY possible measure to go after them with campus authorities and have them prosecuted by local law enforcement. If they initiate physical contact (assault), file complaints with both campus and local police. Make sure to have video of EVERYTHING, and provide it as evidence as well as publicizing it on social media.
Go after (legally) primary supporters of BDS. Find out who they are, expose them, and encourage supporters of Israel to avoid doing business with these people and their companies. Some of the supporters of BDS are very wealthy people with vast business interests. We need to learn about them and understand where their vulnerabilities lie, then exploit those vulnerabilities.
Support organizations such as Amcha, Stand With Us, Canary Mission, Stop BDS on Campus, Fighting BDS, Stop BDS Now, and others, while at the same time pushing them to coordinate activities more effectively.
Involve the Israeli government to a much larger extent in support of these activities. Utilize the resources of the Israeli Intelligence community to expose the backers of BDS. So far, Israel has not seemed to take BDS as seriously as it I think it should. While I’m sure there are “behind the scenes” activities going on, they are clearly not as effective as they need to be. Israel needs to be a key player in this fight.
The bottom line is that we need to shine a light on the lies promulgated by the BDS movement. Their entire movement is based on untruths, and the voices raised in opposition are, so far, largely ineffective.
While it is unlikely that we can win in organizations like the UN Human Rights Council, where Israel is excoriated on a daily basis, or in the UN General Assembly, the support of the masses, including politicians on the right AND on the left, is critical. The support of the major churches is critical, and the support of university faculties, especially in the Middle East Studies departments, many of which are now hotbeds of anti-Israel activity and anti-Israel “education” funded by Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations, is also critical.
The atmosphere on many campuses across America is toxic to Jewish students, many of whom cannot even identify themselves as Jewish without feeling threatened. This must stop, and the only way to do it is to be organized along the lines of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s in the United States.
Pro-Israel groups should study the Civil Rights movement and work to promote an understanding that it is no more acceptable to discriminate against Jews than it is to discriminate against Blacks. The tactics of Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders have been largely effective, and we need to emulate them.