BDS Hotlist: February 2016

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 - 9:28am

The past month of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment movement (BDS) related news was marked with ups and downs, victories and defeats. On the domestic front, a number of states advanced anti-BDS legislation, marking a win for supporters of Israel, who rely on US legislators to put the best foot forward when it comes to the issue. However, BDS is still as prevalent on US college campuses as ever, and safety concerns over borderline-violent and hateful protests from BDS supporters continue to be cited across the US. On the bright side, a new national campus group -- Students Supporting Israel -- has arisen to combat the toxic and deep-seated presence of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Internationally, anti-Israeli sentiment continued to be espoused by numerous countries and institutional bodies over the past month, but there were key victories in two European states that sought anti-BDS legislation. And at the eleventh hour, a key ally to Israel lambasted the United Nations (UN) for their clear bias against the Jewish State.

Find out who it was, and learn more about the global fight against BDS by reading on below:

Anti-BDS Laws

Both chambers of Congress introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at bolstering states' abilities to adopt anti-BDS legislation last week. The bills protect state and local governments' right to dissociate pensions and contracts from entities that boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel. Following a string of state-level anti-BDS legislation introduced in numerous states in recent months, and modeled after the successfully executed anti-BDS laws of South Carolina and Illinois, these new Congressional bills are aimed at showing support for anti-BDS measures and at providing a legal backing for them.

And some more good news from across the pond: the United Kingdom passed its own anti-BDS bill, which will prevent any public body from imposing a boycott on a World Trade Organization member. Israel has been part of the WTO since 1995. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rightfully praised the UK for making the move.

The municipality of Paris followed suit last week, when the Paris City Council adopted two nonbinding resolutions condemning attempts to boycott Israel, which are already illegal in France.

And in Germany, the Munich-based DAB Bank plans to discontinue the account of one of the top BDS campaign websites in Germany.

UN Condemnation

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power accused the UN of harboring a deep-seated bias against Israel during a speech she gave in Netanya. Power went as far as to say that “Bias has extended well beyond Israel as a country,” and that it is now “Israel as an idea.” She emphasized that “Israel is just not treated like other countries.”

Some see Power’s trip to Israel as a sign that the US has renewed interest in restoring peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, but at the very least, her strong words represent a much needed showing of support from a key UN member state amid months of anti-Israeli bias from both the UN and the European Union.

States

Back on the domestic front, the Indiana House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill banning the state from conducting business with entities that boycott Israel. It now lies in the hands of the State Senate.

And after the New York State Senate passed a bill that would prohibit the state from conducting business with pro-BDS organizations last month, the future of the legislation now lies in the hands of the New York State Assembly, which is considering two different versions of the bill: one that would specifically prohibit the state from conducting business with BDS supporters, and another that would more broadly bar the state from doing deals with organizations that adopt a boycott against any ally of the United States.

The American Jewish Congress is currently running a petition campaign urging the New York State Assembly to pass one of the bills.

Research

A startling report released in late January indicates that 2015 saw a 40% surge in violent anti-Semitism globally, and that more than 40% of EU citizens hold anti-Semitic views. The report discusses the rise in anti-Semitism as following a “triple alliance against the Jews: an increase in anti-Semitism on the part of Muslim immigrants, a rise in the extreme right, accompanied by xenophobia and violence against minorities; and a rewriting of Holocaust history, mainly in Eastern Europe...and in Western Europe, dissemination of hate-filled propaganda by radical left-wing movements, which promote boycotts and the delegitimization of Israel and create a climate that encourages attacks on Jews for their identification with Israel.”

Associations 

Late last month, a group of British doctors submitted a request to have the Israel Medical Association expelled from the World Medical Association, in a clear showing of support for BDS. Their motives seemed not to take into account the fact that Israel, nicknamed the “Start-Up Nation,” is home to many medical facilities that conduct crucial research and develop innovate medical technology. Ultimately, however, the WMA decided not to expel Israel.

Colleges

In a sign of protest to the growing (and stifling) presence of BDS on US college campuses, a pro-Israel professor at Connecticut College, Andrew Pessin, has taken a leave of absence to study Jewish philosophy and Israeli history. This is the second semester Pessin has missed since receiving death threats over a 2014 Facebook post criticizing Hamas.

Oberlin College, a prestigious left-leaning liberal arts school located in rural Ohio, has long harbored a student population with a strong support for BDS, but as of late January, the hateful rhetoric has apparently gone too far; a group of Jewish Oberlin alumni wrote an open letter to the school administration citing concerns over the inflammatory language used by student organizations on campus, several of which have “assumed the role as the mouthpiece of the BDS movement.”

The Columbia University chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) is hard at work combatting the efforts of the pro-BDS group, University Apartheid Divest -- a joint organization formed by Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace -- whose disruptive behavior has alienated many students. SSI Columbia founder Alexandra Markus, said that the lack of tolerance for Israel supporters from the radical leftwing campus group is overbearing and hypocritical, considering that the social justice issues for which most left-wingers advocate inherently involve promoting tolerance -- whether it be racial, gender, or sexual orientation issues. She also said that supporting BDS is becoming “the cool thing to do” on college campuses.

And York University, in Toronto -- a city that has certainly not been quiet about BDS -- is at risk of losing “thousands of dollars” in funding from Canadian businessman Paul Bronfman, who has threatened to end his patronage of York until they remove what he refers to as an “anti-Semitic mural” of a Palestinian protest hanging in the student center.

Pop Culture

Pop icon Jennifer Lopez has received a barrage of backlash over the announcement that she would perform in Tel Aviv for the first time ever this summer. The hashtag #CanelTelAviv has flooded social media feeds for the past few weeks, but no word has come from the L Jo camp as to whether or not she will alter her tour dates.

BDS supporters have also gone after Bruce Springsteen for the past couple of weeks, as he too will perform in Israel this summer. The same hashtag, #CancelTelAviv, has been employed in this instance as well.

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