I was living in Toronto when the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) slowly began to percolate on university campuses around the globe. The Canadian Jewish community quickly coalesced to formulate a response to address this issue. Never the less, the BDS Movement continued to grow.
Briefly, the BDS campaign was organized in July of 2005 by a group of over 150+ Palestinian NGO’s in support of the Palestinian cause for boycott, divestment and international sanctions against Israel.
In short time, it has become a ruse for anti-Semitism in disguise. It has been used to vilify Jews, delegitimize the State of Israel and as an attempt to undermine all efforts for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Many of those who support BDS, including thousands of university students, lack an understanding of what “BDS” really stands for. They also lack an understanding of the myriad of complex issues which make up the “wild Middle East” – in which the Israelis and Palestinians are embroiled, but are not the sole players.
And now, it appears that the voices of BDS are becoming even louder. The rhetoric, vitriol, propaganda and lies these voices spew are cause for great concern. They threaten the emotional and physical well-being of our young people on campus. They threaten our emotional and physical well-being, and that of the entire Jewish people. They threaten the emotional and physical well-being of our beloved State of Israel.
Just this past week, the students at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, voted to support the BDS Movement on Campus. McGill has an overwhelming large number of Jewish students enrolled – so this was an astonishing turn of events. It was seen as an act of betrayal, an act of anti-Semitism, an act of anti-Zionism.
This is just one example of what is happening in so many places all over the world. We need to speak up. We need to educate others about the issues. It doesn’t matter if one is politically conservative or liberal, there is no place for BDS in our world view.
If Israel is at risk, it affects all of the world: Israel protects that region of the world from nuclear disaster, Israel is a key provider of hi-tech and medical innovations, Israel provides expertise in the areas of agricultural and environmental development and so much more.
What You Can Do:
- Write to your Senators and Representatives and urge them to speak out against the BDS Movement. (The Canadian Government just issued a strong statement against BDS this past week. The city of Paris did as well. The US government should do the same. Click here to find your Senators and Representatives).
- Educate yourself about the issues. Read widely. I highly recommend Ari Shavit’s book “My Promised Land”, and Yossi Klein Halevi’s book “Like Dreamers.” They both also write and blog frequently in the media, so you can follow them online. There are many other great resources: Times of Israel, Ha’aretz, Jerusalem Report. Listen to a plurality of voices. The Reform Rabbis are currently having their annual conference in Israel. They’re meeting with the government, religious leaders and many other people of influence. You can follow them online by searching for “CCAR Convention 2016 in Israel.” Please read their recent statement against BDS by the Central Conference of American Rabbis which they just issued earlier this week.
- If you have children on Campus, encourage them to connect with other Jews on campus via Hillel, or Jews for Judaism. Jews for Judaism is an organization that is non-denominational and has as its mission “to strengthen and preserve the Jewish identity through education and counseling” of Jewish young people. Originally, Jews for Judaism was meant to help give young people the tools and education to counteract cults and missionaries. However, these same tools can be extremely helpful in counteracting those in the BDS Movement as well.
- Support Israel! Buy Israeli products: drink Israeli wine on Shabbat, look for Israeli food in the kosher aisle in the grocery store, shop online specifically for products made and manufactured in Israel.
- Visit Israel. Nothing says “we love Israel – ahavat Zion” – more than going to visit. Developing a personal relationship with the land and people of Israel is much deeper than tzedakah. We are offering the gifts of our hearts, minds and souls.
I will be leading a trip to Israel with my Congregation, Temple Isaiah, this coming December 2016. You can find the information about the trip by clicking on the Facebook link of the blog and scrolling down. (Or you can send me a private message to inquire about more information by inputting your info at the end of this blog). Our itinerary is meant to appeal to both those who have never been to Israel before AND to those who have been many times. We’ll be meeting with key leaders and teachers who will help us to understand the complexities of life in Israel and learn about the nuances of the situation.
It is not enough to shake our heads, wring our hands and say, “this BDS Movement is terrible.” We can take action. We can do something. Please join me!