It’s More Than Ice Cream: How BDS Normalises Antisemitism
Connect Blog - BDS

Written by Alissa Foster

AUJS Conferences Coordinator

August 12, 2021

We are all aware of the recent statement put out by Ben and Jerrys which announced the company will cease operations in the West Bank, and will continue in Israel under a new business agreement. The following week, Algerian olympian Fethi Nourine made a decision to not compete against an Israeli in Tokyo.

Companies have every right to decide where they sell their products, and individuals have free will to decide what they want to do, that is not my concern. However, the priorities of these decision’s was not to pursue peace in the region, it was not to work on making lives better for Palestinian citizens. 

Both of these decisions were influenced and subsequently supported by the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. 

Yes, the Ben and Jerry’s statement put out by parent company Unilever did make a clear distinction between Israel and the West Bank. However Anuradha Mittal, the president of the B&J board, came out and revealed that her board was unhappy that the decision to stay in Israel at all was even included in the statement. Mittal on her personal twitter has expressed her support for the BDS movement. 

The problem is not with the decision made by Ben and Jerrys or Fethi Nourine himself, my concern is giving voice to the BDS movement’s narrative and its impact on Jewish/Israeli university students around the world. 

The BDS movement according to their website describes themselves as “a Palestinian led movement for freedom, justice and equality”. The movement calls for international organisations, governments, businesses, universities and cultural institutions to end all relationships with the State of Israel unless it meets three demands as stated on their website. 

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall. 
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality. 
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. 

At first glance, many individuals with little understanding of the conflict could view this movement as seemingly just, as an easy way to advocate for peace and improve Palestinian lives. Criticising policy of the Israeli government and political debate should be encouraged. However, the BDS movement is not about advocating for solutions. 

The movement does not stop at boycotting Israel’s policies towards the West Bank or Gaza, the movement and its leaders actively calls for the destruction and dismantling of the Jewish state. 

The motivations of the movement and its leaders are hidden behind terms like “justice”, “anti-racism” and “equality”. BDS claims to stand up against antisemitism, however their policies of no engagement, conversation or relationship with anyone who associates with the state of Israel is not only calling for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state, but they are normalizing the targeting of Jews across the world. 

BDS suggests that the only way to achieve peace in the region is through the delegitimization of Israel. There is no push towards initiatives that promote dialogue, there is no acknowledgement of Jewish self determination and our own religious, spiritual and cultural connection to land. The Co-founder of BDS, Omar Barghouti has said “I am completely and categorically against binationalism because it assumes that there are two nations with equal moral claims to the land”. 

BDS normalises applying a double standard towards Israel, holding Jews accountable for the actions of the Israeli government and denying the Jewish people their right to self determination; which are three examples of contemporary antisemitism as highlighted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

The movement has had rising influence on University campuses in the US but also here in Australia and NZ. BDS by encouraging a boycott of all individuals and institutions which support Israel in any form fuels the cancel culture environment we see on campus where Jewish voices are often excluded from conversations. In this context, we are not allowed to define antisemitism, we are gaslighted into silence by groups who claim to have nothing against Jews but are actively denying our connection to land, and perpetuating anti-semitic tropes. When we call this out for what it is, we are shut down. 

Learning about the Palestinian narrative, their history and story is important, and it is something I encourage everyone to do. We should be engaging in constructive dialogue and criticising policy, however, It’s unfortunate when those who stand against us are not willing to do the same. 

My question to BDS supporters is what is your goal, and if it is peace, then how does silencing Jewish voices and boycotting our institutions achieve this? And if it is not peace, then that speaks for itself. 

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