As the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement gains notable traction, the pro-Israel lobby and representatives of 25 countries met recently to discuss how to push back.
The “exponential” growth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — as defined by Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni last December — has led to equally expanding pushback.
For example, a bill that would deny state funding for New York state colleges and universities that support the Israeli boycott was withdrawn from the state Assembly after its companion bill passed the state Senate. In Illinois, Maryland and Florida, similar bills have been introduced in protest of the American Studies Association’s endorsement of BDS. In Washington state, the state Court of Appeals upheld a 2012 ruling last week that ruled that a lawsuit against a food co-op for supporting BDS is frivolous.
Despite resistance from both sides of the Israeli and Palestinian dispute in finding a lasting peace, and despite the long litany of international crimes that have been committed during this long-simmering feud — including the armed occupation of sovereign territories and alleged human rights violations — Israel has enjoyed being shielded by both an active pro-Israel lobby and by the political influence of fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, who see a Jewish Israel as being an essential prerequisite for their end-of-days scenario.
The BDS movement, however, is exposing holes in this shield. This is especially apparent in regards to weakening American support to Israel, which is denying Israel control over the way the world sees Israel and Palestine. Additionally, the public outcry against Israeli goods and services — especially those produced in the occupied territories — have weakened the business ties that have helped to establish “the Israeli brand” internationally.
In London, a meeting was held recently to help address this issue. In a three-day closed meeting in the Hilton Metropole Hotel, representatives from approximately 25 nations — including the United States, Canada and Australia — met with Israeli officials, the Jewish Leadership Council and the World Jewish Congress to discuss means toward countering the BDS movement, as originally reported by thejc.com.
“It is not a burden or even a challenge. It is an honor,” World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder told the 140-member congregation during a dinner at the event. Lauder suggested to the audience that fighting the boycott movement may be the most important work they would ever do.
“We will send the message that a campaign against Israel is a double-edged sword. We are not powerless — far from it. We have the resources. We have the intelligence. Most important, we have unbounded determination.”
Lauder indicated that the World Jewish Congress will increase its efforts in fighting BDS. In 2013, the congress formed the Global Campus Initiative to empower Jewish students to fight anti-Israel boycotts at their colleges and universities. Lauder pledged a push toward drafting and lobbying for model legislation that would establish federal-level anti-discriminatory statutes against banks, businesses and governments that target only Israel. He also promised to “follow the money to find out just who is funding these attacks on Israel and if there is any connection to terrorism.”
Many — including The New York Times — are calling the current round of peace talks a failure, as neither side is willing to give up ground toward reaching a permanent truce. It seems more than likely that, if change is to come to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it will probably be from the outside. While Israel is in no danger of collapsing under the weight of BDS, the movement is serving to isolate Israel from the international community. As this tactic gains traction, the next fight in this continuing struggle may be a war of words.