For all its bluster, the BDS movement continues to fizzle out

by Mitchell Bard

The antisemitic BDS movement never had a serious impact on Israel; it had no impact whatsoever on Israeli policy, and has failed to accomplish its objectives of isolating Israel, turning it into a South Africa-like pariah state and denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination in their homeland. Last year, the movement failed on an epic scale and were humiliated by the very people they claim to represent and were rejected by Arab states that were the original boycotters.

It has always been farcical that people thousands of miles away would claim to speak for Palestinians who want nothing to do with them. Palestinians prefer jobs in settlements that allow them to feed their families to pretentious pseudo-intellectual claptrap spouted by professors about colonialism and intersectionality. Palestinians and Israelis interact every day and know that impotent nudniks from abroad won’t do anything to improve their plight, and appear all the more sanctimonious by ignoring the corruption and human rights abuses of Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials, not to mention the slaughter and displacement of Palestinians in Syria.

We know that some of the loudest Palestinian voices excoriating Israel have not hesitated to “collaborate” when their lives are at stake. The Palestinian Authority’s leaders continue security cooperation with Israel for one principal reason — to protect themselves from Hamas. Those same leaders have prevented sick Palestinians from getting access to Israel’s world-class health care, but when Saeb Erekat (a serial liar, who, for example, falsely claimed Israel committed a massacre in Jenin) got Covid, where did he go for treatment? Hadassah Hospital in Israel’s capital.

Speaking of Covid, the latest calumny coming from BDSers and other antisemites is that Israel is denying the Palestinians medical equipment and vaccines. The truth, of course, is that Israel has provided both — but the Palestinian Authority has refused to accept most of the aid it has been offered. Just chalk up one more blood libel to the demonizers.

Yes, BDS advocates continue to make noise on college campuses, but they have been just as ineffectual as the Palestine Solidarity Movement that came before and the various Arab student groups that preceded them. Forced off campus, they have been whistling into the wind. Sure Jewish students face discomfort, but my generation and others that faced the antisemites of our time didn’t need safe spaces or Title VI protection to face them down. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that students today have more support than we did, but I fear that we are encouraging more snowflakes than warriors.

Much of the support for students today is an outgrowth of the hysteria when it seemed BDS was gaining a foothold on campus. The movement reached its apex in 2014-2015 when 27 universities adopted divestment resolutions. That number has dwindled to three in each of the last two academic years. Meanwhile, university presidents have condemned the resolutions and said they would not change their relationships with Israel, many of which have grown stronger in recent years. The futility of these divestment campaigns has led to their gradual abandonment as a tool of demonization.

As I’ve written many times, the greater threat is from faculty. We were given reminders of that in the last few weeks as the antisemitic ravings of some professors were publicized.

More important, the real impact of the BDS movement in the United States has been to produce a backlash that has rippled beyond the campus. This year South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Missouri joined the group of 32 states that have now adopted laws, executive orders, or resolutions to discourage boycotts against Israel.

Also this year, the Trump administration issued an Executive Order clarifying that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act protects Jews — just as it does every other race, color, national origin, and ethnicity — from discrimination at taxpayer-funded universities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the BDS movement is antisemitic, and that the government would bar any groups that participate in it from government funding. The U.S. “strongly opposes the global discriminatory Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign,” a statement from Pompeo said, “and practices that facilitate it, such as discriminatory labeling and the publication of databases of companies that operate in Israel or Israeli-controlled areas.” He also asserted that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism.”

The State Department also now uses the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which includes examples of when attacks on Israel cross the line from legitimate criticism to antisemitism.

Thank you BDS movement, for helping our government clarify its position. Hopefully, universities that cling to the intellectually dishonest position that they cannot eradicate antisemitism from their campuses because they can’t or refuse to define it, will adopt the IHRA definition as well.

The incoming Biden administration should be expected to remain vigilant and unrelenting in fighting antisemitism. A year ago, Joe Biden expressed his opinion, which he reiterated throughout the campaign: “I’ve been clear: the calls here in the United States to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel are wrong. Period. The BDS movement singles out Israel — home to millions of Jews — in a way that is inconsistent with the treatment of other nations, and it too often veers into antisemitism, while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.”

The BDS movement never had a chance of gaining a foothold in the United States. Elsewhere, especially Western Europe, the situation has been different. Even there, however, BDS advocates have been put on the defensive, most notably in Germany, where the Bundestag condemned the BDS campaign in 2019, and Austria did the same in 2020.

I regularly tweet #BDSFails. Here are a few examples from 2020:

  • Spanish Court Strikes Down Another “Discriminatory” Municipal BDS Pledge.
  • Microsoft to establish major cloud data center in Israel.
  • Israel and Australia sign water deal.
  • Norwegian MPs reject bill seeking to label settlement goods and announces it will ignore UN “blacklist” of companies that do business with Israel.
  • Balearic Islands passed a bill condemning any form of antisemitism.
  • Universal becomes first major music label to open a branch in Israel.
  • Germany prosecutes BDS activists who interrupted speech by Israel Knesset member.
  • Spain adopts International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.
  • Israeli companies sign military and commercial contracts with countries around the world, including India, Switzerland, Greece, the UK, Italy, and the Czech Republic.
  • Bahrain refused special labels for Judea and Samaria goods.

Not only have the BDSers failed to make Israel an outcast, but the Jewish state also now has relations with more countries than ever before — at least 167 of the 193 UN member states — with Bhutan becoming the latest in December.

The biggest, if not last nail in the BDS coffin, was the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. These countries that once participated in the Arab League boycott are rapidly building commercial ties with the Jewish state. The Palestinian veto over peace between Israel and the Arab/Muslim world has been shattered.

If this were a sporting event, the crowd would be singing, “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.”

Mitchell Bard is a foreign policy analyst and authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby,” “Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews,” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”