Days before the start of its convention in Cleveland next week, the Republican Party made headlines, especially in the Jewish world, when a subcommittee formally proposed platform language that identifies the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel as inherently anti-Semitic. The proposed addendum does other things, including de-emphasizing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which the National Jewish Democratic Council argued went further to the right of even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Politics aside, the language on BDS affirms what many in the Jewish community have been saying for years: Holding Israel up to a higher standard than that applied to other nations and therefore advocating for commercial boycotts of the Jewish state — essentially treating Jews different from everyone else — is inherently anti-Semitic. And although many of us may hold varying views when it comes to political and strategic questions — over Israeli settlement construction, the peace process, etc. — most of us can agree that Israel has the right to 1) exist within defensible borders and 2) respond with force when provoked with force.
But for all of the agreement on the horrors of BDS, just how successful has the movement been and how dangerous is its presence for the future? Recently, the movement was dealt a setback when the United Methodist Church bucked the trend of mainline Protestant churches and voted to withdraw from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. But BDS has been waning on other fronts as well.
As you’ll read in this week’s JT, state governments across the country either have passed or are actively considering legislation that punishes companies that engage in boycotts of Israel. On Capitol Hill, as well, the Senate Appropriations Committee signed off on a bill that would authorize state and local governments to divest from companies that engage in BDS activity.
And for all of our handwringing over the propensity of college students to fall prey to the canard that Israel has gone from the David of 1967 to the Goliath of the 21st century, it may be that many young adults today are either immune to the pro-Palestinian bloviating or just don’t care.
I would hope that the latter is not the case, because long-term ambivalence can be more dangerous than short-term animosity. But on the whole, it just might be that BDS peaked a couple of years ago and will soon became a distant, if incredibly painful, memory.
Of course, it could also be true that BDS, like anti-Semitism in general, may simmer on the backburner to explode anew at some future date. Still, good news is so hard to come by these days; it’s a pleasant surprise that our community is finally winning some pro-Israel battles.