This is a guest post by Baruch Landa, an activist with Jerusalem U, a pro-Israel organization that works to strengthen Jewish and pro-Israel identity amongst young people and adults through the new technologies of digital and social media. Here he talks about campus antisemitism and BDS activity.
Addressing the Root of the BDS Problem
The rise of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, otherwise infamously referred to as the BDS, perhaps may be a bit over-sensationalized. At least this is the thinking among many pro-Israel groups worldwide. This is primarily due to statistics showing that the global BDS movement has had zero economic impact on Israel. This line of thought further extends into the statement that the BDS is no more than an annoying gnat. But, is this really all there is to it?
Bringing down a nation by focusing on its economy, even under the harshest of sanctions, isn’t easy. We see this with North Korea, Iran and Syria. It could take decades and even then, nothing may ever materialize. However, every situation is unique in its own way.
As of today, the BDS movement may in fact be “over-sensationalized” and hyped beyond what its true capabilities are. But, that doesn’t make it a non-issue. The BDS, even in its current state, is a threat to Israel. There is arguably no other collective group working harder to bring down a sovereign state than the BDS.
Politicians across the political spectrum realize this. Businesses realize this. The world realizes this. That’s why we are seeing states within the US and even the federal government sponsoring bills that legally outlaw the BDS. While these laws are a big win for Israel, it is unlikely to eradicate the problem in its entirety. Throwing money, passing bills, and other counter-measures are helpful, but the BDS won’t die out from these acts. We all need to be using the most effective option in fighting the BDS, which should lead to its ultimate demise.
Let’s take poverty for example. As a human race on a whole and looking at the world from a macro standpoint, we have never been in such a better financial position than we are today. Yet, poverty continues to get worse with each passing year. Money is thrown at the problem – to the tune of over $370 billion in charitable donations in 2015 – a record at the time. And yet, the problem still grew. That’s because most of the global charitable foundations that are meant to eliminate poverty don’t actually address the root of the problem. We need to look at the core issue. For poverty, it would be helping the impoverished get education and ultimately jobs, thus ending the cycle of poverty once and for all.
The same goes for everything in life, and certainly regarding the BDS. If we are to defeat the BDS for good, it starts with focusing our efforts on the core problem: education.
Anti-Israel Activity on College Campuses at its Worst
If you’ve been following the news recently about Israel, it seems like every other story is about the overwhelming anti-Israel rhetoric on US college campuses. From California all the way to New York, there are almost no exceptions. Adding insult to injury, the media further dramatizes it, putting the Israel-BDS fight front and center (hey, the ratings are great, right?). Thereafter, we see millions of user comments taking sides, as the internet has enabled everyone to have a personal opinion.
Now, we’ve all heard that you’re not going to change anyone’s mind arguing with them online. That’s fine. People retreat to their homes or other extracurricular activities, and oftentimes forget about their 15 minutes of internet fame. The real issue occurs on college campuses, where “thought provoking discussions” are the supposed foundations of these institutions.
The problem is that these are anything but thought-provoking conversations. Sometimes, the “dialogue” is outrageous and full of hate speech as seen in this video about BDS on American campuses (Here is the link to watch a similar video about antisemitism on British campuses). It’s flat out anti-Semitism, masking itself as anti-Israel action.
Here is an abridged version of the two videos above:
You may think that most people understand this, and perhaps they do. But then why do we not see many Israel advocates on US campuses? And the students and parents that are currently engaging with these anti-Israel bigots, how are they unable to properly address anti-Israel activity on these campuses? Why aren’t they armed with the proper tools and education? The lack of preparation is at the very least shocking and at worst harmful.
It’s comical because we live in a digital age. Information is right at our fingertips and there are some organizations like Jerusalem U who help prepare students and parents to educate anti-Israel activists. Organizations such as Jerusalem U have online libraries full of resources, such as “Step Up On Campus”, which provide a wealth of useful information about how to engage with these anti-Israel protesters.
Let’s stop trying the ineffective decades old methods of dealing with anti-Israel activism on US campuses. By addressing the root of the problem combined with the proper resources, the BDS is quite literally no match. We have tools to defeat this so let’s use them!
Baruch, thank you for this informative and enlightening article, despite the extremely depressing message in the videos.
Kol hakavod to Jerusalem U for their efforts in providing easy to access and user-friendly information for the digital age which can help students on campus as well as any other Jewish, Israeli or pro-Israel supporter.
I urge my readers to watch the two longer videos linked in the article. Each one is only half an hour long. And send the links, the article and Jerusalem U to any students in your family or among your friends.
I would also encourage you to explore Jerusalem U’s website for much more information about strengthening Jewish identity and increasing your knowledge about Israel.