Monday, August 12, 2019



The most prominent BDS-related story of the last month is Congresses 398-17 vote to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions “movement,” an overwhelming (and bi-partisan) tally reaffirming a long-standing trend within the most representative body of American politics (Congress) to support the Jewish state against efforts to attack it militarily and economically.

In an age of partisan fervor where We vs. They defines most political commentary, it was natural that this vote be characterized along the Left-Right axis that colors all our conversations.  This included a focus on the most vociferous voices against the measure (represented by “The Squad” of Democrats who have generated considerable controversy related to Jewish issues over the last six months). 

While not ignoring the filters that color so many political conversations, it is important to keep in mind some practical matters regarding Congress taking such a strong stand against efforts to harm Israel economically.

First, this vote was one of a series that shores up measures taken by more than half the US states which impose penalties on companies participating in anti-Israel boycotts in the form of refusing to do state business with such companies.  While claims that these anti-BDS state laws were an infringement on free speech proved impossible to support (unless one is ready to throw out the entire anti-discrimination legal apparatus), there was a genuine issue regarding whether states should be allowed to pass measures that imply a role for the states in America’s foreign policy, given that, constitutionally, foreign policy is the responsibility of the federal government.

But that same federal government is allowed to specify what political activity performed by other parts of government are allowed and not allowed, including ones that relate to interaction with foreign nations.  So, with regard to recent Congressional BDS actions, these votes were meant to declare that state are allowed to apply anti-discrimination law to those who participate in discrimination against the Jewish state.

Keep in mind that the federal government has had rules in place for decades that make it a crime for American companies to participate in the century-long Arab boycott of Israel.  What made new rules necessary, at both the state and federal level, was the migration of anti-Israel boycott activity from the Arab states to non-governmental organizations (notably the UN) over the last several decades.  With the UN and allied organizations preparing blacklists of Israeli companies that member states would be asked to comply with, it was only natural that US anti-boycott rules needed to change to take this changed world into account.

In other words, those who have been advocating for boycott measures up and down the NGO landscape have only themselves to blame for America’s natural reaction to their activity.
And by “America” I mean every state and federal representative body that has voted to condemn BDS as a form of bigotry and punish those who participate in this discriminatory “movement.”  Several commenters on recent BDS-related votes have described them as “largely symbolic.”  Putting aside the practical impact of these measures described above, their symbolic value cannot be ignored – especially in the context of the propaganda wars that BDS is part of.

To understand what I mean, consider how the BDSers themselves have treated any attempt to get a representative body to pass one of their boycott or divestment measures.  The tiniest of successes (like a small district in Scotland banning Israeli books) or temporary or failed measures to get local governments to pass divestment measures (as in Somerville) are treated as staggering triumphs, paving the way to ultimate victory for the forces of BDS.  Given such behavior, one can only imagine the celebrations that would be exploding across the globe if a single US state passed anything that could be construed as mildly supporting this or that BDS talking point.

Yet here we have more than half of the states in the country, backed up by a Congress representing the country as a whole, joining in one voice to declare BDS a form of bigotry that must be fought and sanctioned.  If we had the same mindset as our political enemies, we would spend the next twenty years shoving these votes into the boycotters’ faces and declaring they represent the opinion of the nation against their squalid little movement and insisting they recognize it as such.

For better or for worse, we are not our enemies which means we are more likely to focus on the 17 representatives who voted against the recent anti-BDS vote, or engage in arguments on our enemy’s terrain (such as those involving free speech), rather than demand the boycotters live by their own rules and recognize their project as a form of bigotry, and a failure.







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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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