by Micha Danzig
On Dec. 4, Time Magazine published an article titled “Here’s What You Need to Know About BDS,” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. This title would lead most readers to conclude the magazine was simply publishing an educational or (or at a minimum) a balanced piece on this controversial campaign.
Instead, Time whitewashed the campaign, legitimizing anti-Zionism and ignoring how harmful BDS is to the people it purportedly seeks to help — the Palestinians.
First, the article flat-out lies about the “goals” of BDS. It claims BDS aims “to push Israel to recognize the rights of Palestinian citizens currently living in Israel; allow Palestinian refugees, who were driven out of the country as early as 1948 when Israel was created, to return to their homes; and withdraw from all land that it seized after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.”
Setting aside how misleading this description is (in particular with what caused the Jewish and Arab refugees from the Arab-Israeli conflict), this description ignores that BDS’s actual goal is to destroy Israel. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has repeatedly stated that BDS’s goal is to eliminate Israel. For example, in a 2009 interview with Electronic Intifada, Barghouti said, “You cannot reconcile the right of return for refugees with a two state solution… a return for refugees would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.” And BDS activist and Cal-State professor As’ad Abukhali wrote in a 2012 Al-Akhbar article that “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel… That should be stated as an unambiguous goal.” Pro-BDS activist and author John Spritzler also wrote in a piece in New Democracy World, “I think the BDS movement will gain strength from forthrightly explaining why Israel [the one Jewish state in the entire world] has no right to exist.”
The Time piece’s author, Sanya Mansoor, introduces yet another misleading claim when she writes that “BDS was formally launched in 2005.” Although this is technically true, Mansoor brushes past the fact that BDS is a continuation of the Arab League’s boycott of Israel, which was actually initiated in 1945 to boycott the entire Jewish community in British-controlled Palestine. The Arab League boycott of the Jewish community itself was a continuation of the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses, which was itself a continuation of the boycott against Jews initiated in 1882 by the first International Anti-Jewish Congress in Dresden. Antisemitic boycotts are nothing new. The only thing that changes is the rationalizations and justifications for boycotting Jews. The hate underlying these boycotts remains the same.
Mansoor then deplorably claims BDS “was born out of the lack of alternative ways to express Palestinian grievances” because “[e]very other form of Palestinian resistance has been criminalized and made unavailable.”
Given that the Palestinian leadership has turned down every partition and peace plan since 1937 because it also required saying “yes” to an independent Jewish state, one can reasonably conclude that the principle “Palestinian grievance” is the existence of one Jewish state.
But the worst part of Mansoor’s euphemism of “Palestinian grievances” is not how it masks the antisemitic rejectionism of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination — it is how it glosses over the horror of the other alternative ways to express those “grievances,” and why they have been “criminalized.”
Long before the Jews began to seek self-determination in their indigenous homeland, Arab and Islamic Supremacists in the Middle East from the 7th to the 19th century regularly mass-murdered Jews in pogroms for the “crime” of being Jewish. Once Zionism developed by the end of the 19th century as a political ideology to match the Jewish people’s millennia longing for a return to sovereignty in Zion (the land of Israel), and as Jews began to move in larger numbers to Ottoman and British-controlled Palestine, the local Arabs often found similar ways to “express their grievances.”
As early as 1919, there were regular pogroms in the Levant to try and murder Jews. From Nebi Musa to Jerusalem to Hebron, between 1919 and 1939, over 730 Jews were murdered in these pogroms, which were mainly organized by Haj Emin al-Husseini, the man considered the Godfather of Palestinian Arab nationalism. Husseini also was an infamous Nazi collaborator who helped the Nazis find and murder Jews in the Balkans after the British deported him from Palestine.
After Israel declared its independence in May 1948, the “other forms” of “Palestinian resistance” that have “been criminalized” have been terrorism. Since 1948, over 4,000 Israelis have been murdered in various Palestinian terrorist attacks. After the Palestinian leadership rejected an offer at Camp David in 2000 to have the first-ever independent Arab state in over 90 percent of Judea and Samaria and all of Gaza, they launched the Second Intifada, during which over 1,100 Jews were murdered, and over 8,000 were badly wounded from bombs exploding in school buses, restaurants, supermarkets, discos and even at Passover holiday dinners.
In 2008, the Palestinian leadership rejected yet another offer to have the first-ever independent Arab state west of the Jordan River (this time in 94 percent of Judea and Samaria and all of Gaza). This rejection was followed by more “expression of Palestinian grievances,” such as the massacre of the entire Fogel family — including a three-month-old baby — in Itamar in 2011 or the massacre of four rabbis praying in a synagogue in Har Nof in 2014. Since 2008, this “criminalized” expression of “Palestinian grievances” has murdered over 200 Israelis.
The Time Magazine article then proceeds to mislead and outright lie about Jewish support for anti-Israel boycotts and BDS. Mansoor argues that BDS — the campaign to uniquely and only target the one Jewish state in the world for a boycott — is not considered antisemitic by many Jews:
“Jews and Jewish groups are not united on the issue about whether BDS is antisemitic. While many conservative Jewish groups criticize BDS for unfairly singling out Israel and worry that [its] ultimate aim is to delegitimize any notion of a Jewish state, dozens of progressive Jewish groups have taken issue with the characterization of BDS as antisemitic, fearing that doing so overshadows ‘legitimate critiques of Israeli policies’.”
But the “dozens of progressive Jewish groups” is actually a list of fringe far-left groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, which quite unlike the overwhelming majority of Jews and all mainstream Jewish organizations, believes being against Israel’s existence (i.e. being “anti-Zionist”) and pro-BDS, is somehow not antisemitic.
But Mansoor citing JVP for the proposition that many Jews are “not united” about whether BDS is antisemitic is akin to citing Candace Owens and Diamond and Silk (or the 13 percent of African-Americans who voted for Trump) for the proposition that the African-American community is “not united” over Biden.
Mansoor’s nod to JVP’s assertion that recognizing BDS as antisemitic “overshadows legitimate critiques of Israel” is also a classic red herring. Almost no one claims that “legitimate criticism of Israel” is antisemitic. After all, most Israelis regularly, openly and often vociferously criticize their government. Unlike its neighbors, Israel is an open democracy with a free and often highly aggressive press. Criticism of the government and government policies is a national pastime in Israel.
What makes BDS antisemitic is not “legitimate criticism of Israel.” It is Natan Sharansky’s famous “3 D’s” — Demonization, Delegitimization and Double Standards.
It is the violent demonization of Israel as an evil equivalent to Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa. It is the delegitimization of Israel as the only nation-state of the Jewish people, while no one seeks to delegitimize the existence of 56 Muslim countries, dozens of countries that identify as Christian countries, as well as numerous countries that formally identify as the nation-states of other historically oppressed peoples (such as Armenia, Poland or Latvia).
What also makes BDS antisemitic is its double standards — focusing unique opprobrium only on the Jewish state and calling to boycott only the one Jewish state — literally, the only state in the region where Arabs citizens have freedom of speech, religion, assembly and have served as Supreme Court justices, high ranking military, police officers, legislators and even as the CEO of the country’s largest bank. BDSers do not seek to boycott the worst human rights abusers in the world, including China, which is literally imprisoning people for being Muslim, or even Mauritania or Qatar, countries that are still engaging in slavery.
And if this dissembling about whether “Jews and Jewish groups are not united” on BDS’s antisemitism is not enough, Mansoor outright lies when she claims: “Almost one quarter of American Jews under 40 support the boycott of products made in Israel, according to a National Jewish Survey of 8000 Jewish voters in the 2020 election from J Street, a ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ group that identifies as progressive—they oppose Israeli occupation but are also against the global BDS movement.”
This figure stands in sharp contrast to almost all other studies about the attitudes of American Jews toward Israel and the 136 American Jewish organizations that all signed a letter condemning BDS. As it happens, the J Street survey referenced did pose a misleading question about BDS (describing it as only seeking to pressure Israel “to withdraw from the West Bank and end its control of Palestinian territories”); even with that misleading question, nowhere does the J Street survey contain any evidence of, or even make reference to, a claim that 25 percent of any group of Jewish voters support boycotting Israel. What it does provide — notwithstanding the misleading question about BDS’s goal — is that 89 percent of surveyed American Jews oppose a “campaign that calls on people to boycott products that are made in Israel.”
But perhaps the biggest sin in the article is what it omits: that BDS hurts the Palestinians. BDS, for example, forced SodaStream to move one of its plants out of Judea and Samaria, thereby costing the local Palestinians 500 jobs.
In addition to actually causing Israeli companies to divest from operations that would employ Palestinians, BDS is harmful to the Palestinians because it prevents peace. BDS, just like the Palestinian leadership (since at least 1937), has an all-or-nothing approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It does not offer or encourage any compromise. It just seeks Israel’s complete capitulation to its own destruction, which will never happen.
As a result, BDS is only a recipe for continuing the conflict. Now, that may bode well for the Palestinian Arab leadership in Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, who have made (stolen) billions of dollars as a result of the conflict, but it does nothing to help the average Palestinian living under either the PA or Hamas kleptocracies.
The Arab-Israeli conflict took on its current dimensions based on the Palestinian leadership repeatedly saying no to any compromise. That resounding and repeated “no” was based in large part on the belief that the Arab League, with its promised annihilation of Israel, would make such compromise unnecessary. BDS continues to hold out this false hope for the Palestinians and their corrupt leaders, and just as it did in 1948, it will only cause more suffering.
Ultimately, despite BDS being plainly antisemitic and seeking Israel’s destruction, the campaign’s biggest sin is that it works to perpetuate the conflict and discourages compromise by the Palestinians and their leaders.
On its website, Time Magazine claims that it is “one of the most authoritative and informative guide[s] to what is happening in current affairs, politics, business, health, science and entertainment.” Although this article’s title presents it to be “informative,” its anti-Israel bias is far from it. It not only misleads, it outright misrepresents. If Time Magazine wants to be even a semblance of how it describes itself, then it must do better — much better.
This piece originally appeared in the Jewish Journal and is reprinted by permission of the author.