BDS IN THE PEWS
Church groups’ attacks on Israel occasionally contain echoes of classical theological antisemitism, in particular, supersessionism (replacement theology). Identifying Palestinians with Jesus’ suffering – for instance, referring to the “Israeli government crucifixion system” – can be seen as a revival of the accusation that Jews killed Jesus (deicide). The implication is also made that Israel is inherently unjust and against God’s will. Another manifestation of this phenomenon is the use of Scripture to deny the Jewish connection to Israel or to highlight the rejection of the Jewish people by God.
NGOs falsely portray the Arab-Israeli conflict as a dispute motivated by alleged Jewish race-hatred of Arabs, rather than one based on competing national and territorial claims. Referring to Israel as an apartheid state is the latest manifestation of the 1975 UN “Zionism is racism” resolution. The goal is to generate international boycotts that were implemented against apartheid South Africa and condemn Israel as a pariah state.
College campus BDS campaigns, in particular calls for divestment and academic boycotts, create a hostile and divisive atmosphere. In the case of divestment, this primarily takes the form of non-binding resolutions by student groups and lobbying to remove Israeli companies from university investment portfolios. Support for BDS is also expressed during Israel Apartheid Week programming, at rallies, and surrounding “guerilla theater” events such as mock checkpoints that ignore terror attacks. BDS on campus is often masked by a façade of respectability and intellectual rigor, for instance in pseudo-academic conferences that advance an anti-Israel agenda.
Co-opting Networks (church groups)
Churches that pursue BDS are empowered by their connections to Palestinian co-religionists that share the same agenda. For instance, the Kairos Palestine document, which was composed by Palestinian clergy and calls for BDS against Israel, has been embraced in solidarity by churches throughout the world. This message is also disseminated by representatives from Palestinian churches who speak in churches in America, Europe, and elsewhere. One important element of this tactic is blaming Israel for the dwindling number of Christians in the West Bank, completely ignoring intra-Palestinian violence and Muslim attacks against Christians and the fast-rising Christian population in Israel.
Co-opting Networks (unions)
Activists present BDS as support for Palestinian workers and attempt to mobilize BDS campaigns through international union networks. Yet, they are more zealous about boycotting Israel than their Palestinian counterparts, who would be directly harmed by economic attacks against Israel. The anti-Israel agenda of some unions includes false claims against the Israeli workers union (Histadrut) and attempts to exclude Israelis from workers solidarity.
Activists engage in “direct actions” targeting businesses with connections to Israel. A common tactic is protests and flash mobs, sometimes involving awkward and cringe-worthy song-and-dance routines. The negative message of these activities have proven counterproductive: the stores and Israeli goods receive free PR, and videos and news accounts show extreme activists harassing employees and shoppers, turning off neutral observers. Pro-Israel groups and individuals have also effectively countered this tactic with “buy-cotts,” specifically purchasing the targeted Israeli goods.
This PR and political tactic, conducted under the guise of humanitarian aid and human rights, instigates violent confrontations with the Israeli army that appear brutal in the media. While boat convoys to Gaza are the most infamous version, similar tactics are employed at weekly violent demonstrations near the security barrier.
By comparing Israeli officials and soldiers to “Nazis,” and Gaza to a “concentration camp” or “ghetto,” activists unmistakably seek to label Israel as evil and genocidal. Inasmuch as Jews were the primary victims of the Holocaust, the use of this rhetoric to demonize Jews and the Jewish state is highly immoral. In fact, it violates the EU’s Working Definition of Antisemitism – “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” Statements such as “the victims have become the victimizers,” while not explicitly mentioning the Holocaust, are no less vicious and offensive. Similarly, the claim that the Palestinians are paying the price for European crimes minimizes the importance of Israel in Jewish history and is designed to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish presence in Israel.
Holy Land Missions
Interest in the Holy Land and the Land of the Bible is natural. However, many church-run trips to Israel and the West Bank are highly politicized. When visiting Bethlehem, which holds unique relevance in Christianity, the impact of the security barrier on Palestinian life is emphasized, without noting the reason for its construction: massive terror campaigns against civilians in Israel. Similarly, missions may work with impoverished Palestinians in rural areas, adopting a narrative that blames Israel alone for the social and economic woes in the region.
NGOs utilize international legal rhetoric in their campaigns to add a veneer of credibility and expertise to their political objectives. They routinely distort existing international law and also try to invent new standards in order to portray Israel as an illegal aggressor and guilty of war crimes.
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