The Germans Get It; Why Don’t Pro-BDS Democrats?


On May 17, the German parliament passed a resolution that designates the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel as anti-Semitic, and said that the government would not fund any organizations that question Israel’s right to exist, call for a boycott of Israel, or actively support BDS.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats do not even want to vote on legislation passed by the Senate that would make it illegal under federal law to boycott Israel, and grant federal protection to state and local governments that refuse to invest in or contract with companies that boycott Israel.

“The pattern of argument and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic,” the Bundestag resolution stated flatly. The Germans know anti-Semitism when they see it, likening the BDS campaign to the Nazis’ call to boycott Jewish businesses and stores.

House Democrats prefer a milquetoast resolution, as opposed to legislation, which would condemn the BDS movement without acknowledging it is anti-Semitic, all while throwing in a totally unrelated commitment to a two-state solution. The Democrats’ squeamishness is not surprising after their failure to condemn Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for her anti-Semitic remarks, and their continued defense of her and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), both of whom are BDS supporters.

One of the main excuses given for opposing the BDS legislation is that it impinges on freedom of speech. But it does not. Israel’s detractors can continue to say whatever they want. Moreover, those making this argument ignore what the Germans recognize: it is the BDS movement that seeks to restrict freedom of speech, interfere with cultural and academic exchanges, and place obstacles in the way of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Of course, BDS advocates have no interest in peace; in fact, it’s not even part of their vocabulary. Their goal, as expressed by leaders such as Omar Barghouti, is a one-state solution in which Israel ceases to exist.

Two years ago, I wrote that students in Germany had no trouble recognizing BDS as anti-Semitic. I quoted the student parliament at Goethe University in Frankfurt, which said: “The call by the BDS campaign to boycott products from the parts designated ‘occupied territories’ of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Golan Heights stands clearly in the tradition of the national socialist Jewish boycott and the slogan ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’”

American groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and other boycott proponents proudly carry on the legacy of the Germans who vandalized Jewish businesses and enforced a boycott against them — for the sole reason that they were owned by Jews.

If you doubt it, consider some of the BDS crowd’s recent actions:

At Emory, Jewish students found eviction notices on their doors that said they had three days to vacate their apartments or all of their belongings would be destroyed. SJP has used this tactic on several campuses to promote their propaganda about Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians. The Emory administration concluded that the notices were not anti-Semitic.

During “Palestine Awareness Week” at Stanford, SJP and JVP posted anti-Semitic cartoons that were compared to the Nazi publication Der Sturmer. The flyers were taken down after provoking an uproar, but JVP stood by its invitation of the cartoonist to speak on campus. The Stanford administration condemned the cartoons for invoking anti-Semitic stereotypes and tropes, and suggested “dialogue” was the remedy for the ongoing problem of antisemitism on the campus rather than taking steps to prevent its recurrence and punish the miscreants.

NYU chapters of SJP and JVP organized a resolution signed by 51 student groups expressing support for the BDS movement and pledging not to cooperate with pro- Israel student groups and several off-campus Jewish and pro-Israel organizations. More recently, the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis voted to boycott NYU’s own satellite campus in Tel Aviv.

We all know the saying, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The Germans understand this, but too many Americans do not. The problem is bipartisan, and afflicts those on the left and the right.

Most people have already forgotten, if they paid attention at all, that white nationalists marched with torches through the University of Virginia’s campus shouting “Jews will not replace us” in a scene that brought back memories of Nazi marches in Nuremberg.

Will anyone but Jews remember the murders at the Tree of Life Synagogue and Chabad of Poway a year from now?

I am reminded of Heinrich Heine’s quote, “Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too.” He proved prophetic. I would add a corollary: When hateful rhetoric against Jews becomes commonplace, violence against them inevitably follows.

By refusing to acknowledge the BDS movement as anti- Semitic, officials allow bigots to make attacks on Jews part of normal discourse. They should be aware that their inaction will have serious and perhaps deadly consequences.

Mitchell Bard is executive director of American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) in Chevy Chase, Maryland and the Jewish Virtual Library.





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