MARCH 31, 2016
The New York Times op-ed about the BDS movement by Eric Alterman is at times both accurate and deceptively misleading. Yes, not all BDS activity at universities are antisemitic. Characterizing them as such, while many Jews promote BDS, is ridiculous. However, what Alterman fails to say is that the foundation of BDS is 100% antisemitic and anti-Zionist. The establishment and direct roots of BDS originated with the Palestine Liberation Organization, representatives of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, and Arab states, including Iran.
It is unfortunate that Alterman paints the Zionist Organization of America as “far-right Zionist,” while not referring to Jewish Voice for Peace as far-left, but rather as “pro-boycott.” He also negatively singles out Republicans, yet the fight against BDS crosses all party lines. Few, if any, have more articulately and passionately spoken out against BDS than Democratic New York City Councilman David Greenfield on the floor of the New York City Council, when BDSers raised a Palestinian flag.
Alterman’s parroting of BDS’ talking points (“brutality and self-defeating nature of Israel’s nearly 50-year occupation” and “goal of a peaceful, two-state solution”) without giving factual context or debate is inexcusable, and it falsely promulgates BDS lies. BDS’ founders and leadership have no desire for a two-state solution. Rather, they support a “One State Declaration” that will become one more Arab-majority state (with their demand for a right of return for millions more Arabs today than were living in the area in 1948). BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti himself has stated that there will be a “Palestine next to a Palestine.”
Alterman paints the entire landscape based on his experience at CUNY. This resembles the six blind men asked to describe an elephant. One holds the tail and says it is like a snake, the other, holding the tusks, says it is hard like a tree… It so happens that CUNY took care of the antisemitic incidents behind the scenes, but what about the other universities that are not taking care of it? Presently, there are more than 40 anti-Israel divestment initiatives pending in US universities, and the AMCHA Initiative’s latest study shows that anti-Zionism (such as the BDS movement) fuels an escalation in campus antisemitism.
It is wrong and misleading for the controversy over BDS to become merely an argument over whether it is antisemitic or not. Although its foundation is indeed antisemitic, most students marching for BDS do it based on ignorance. While legislation at the university, city, county, and state levels seems the solution, it is no more than a Band Aid. The only way to overcome true ignorance is through the education of our youth.
Jack Saltzberg is the founder and executive director of The Israel Group (TIG), a nonprofit dedicated to protecting Israel in the Diaspora. TIG’s High School Speakers Program effectively assists high schools to educate and prepare their students about BDS before they arrive to universities.