BDS Hotlist: March 2016
American legislatures are coming out strong against the BDS (Boycotts, Sanctions, and Divestment) movement, as an anti-BDS sensation seems to be sweeping across the United States. Multiple state legislatures have passed anti-BDS laws in recent months, and the number will continue to rise in the coming weeks as considerably more states have opened up to the idea of opposing BDS with formal legislation, and have pending bills in their respective state houses.
This, of course, comes in the heels of mounting anti-Semitism at colleges across the United States and in Europe, and in the wake of one of the biggest anti-Israel showings in the past few years: “Israel Apartheid Week,” which was celebrated by proponents of BDS across the world late last month and into March.
Overall, the past month of BDS-related news saw more victories for Israel than defeats, and ended with a boom as a well-known critic of Israel -- and a powerful member of the international political arena -- changed her stance and decided to come out in support of the Jewish State and against BDS.
Find out who it was, and learn more about the global fight against BDS by reading on below:
The US Congress introduced yet another piece of anti-BDS legislation at the end of February. A new resolution aimed at encouraging the Obama administration to invest in Israeli security technologies and other tech sectors -- including those that could prevent cyber security attacks and other national security threats -- is being spearheaded by a bipartisan group of Congress members from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The resolution implores the Obama administration “to explore new agreements with Israel, including in the fields of energy, water, agriculture, medicine, neurotechnology, and cybersecurity.” Congressional insiders indicate that the resolution is intended to send a message to the Obama administration, as well as anti-Israel groups, that the United States is Committed to Israel.
And following the introduction of another congressional bill aimed at legally strengthening states' abilities to pass anti-BDS legislation last month, a multitude of state legislatures passed or introduced bills aimed at supporting Israel in recent weeks. Among other things, the bill protects state and local governments' right to disassociate pensions and contracts from entities that boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel.
Colorado passed a law that directs its Public Employees Retirement Association to divest from foreign companies participating in BDS just last week. The Indiana legislature -- both the State Senate and the state House of Representatives -- passed a measure that would prohibit the state from conducting business with entities that support the BDS movement, and the bill now awaits Governor Mike Pence’s signature to become law. He is expected to sign. In late February, the Iowa House of Representatives passed a bill similar to the one from Indiana, which is now pending in the State Senate.
And last week, both Florida and Virginia passed resolutions condemning the BDS movement, after Florida already passed an anti-BDS bill -- which was signed into law by Governor Rick Scott last week -- earlier this year.
And in Spain, where a couple of cities have shown support for BDS by passing anti-Israel measures, the municipality of Aviles distanced itself from a pro-BDS motion it passed in January, and denounced it as discriminatory.
International Political Arena
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström -- who made numerous headlines for her unabashed criticism of Israel in recent months -- had a change of heart after meeting with Israeli Knesset Member, and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tzipi Livni. Wallström committed to publicly denounce the BDS movement after the meeting, and will publicly support Israel’s right to defend itself as well. She also expressed hope that Swedish-Israeli relations will be normalized following her concession.
This is certainly a big win for Israel, not just because Sweden is competing for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, but because Wallström is a powerful political figure in Europe and could surely play a role in condemning the ongoing wave of anti-Semitism there.
A troubling new report by an official committee of the Presbyterian Church USA shows that the church is actively promoting the BDS movement while downplaying the extent of Palestinian terrorism. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, said that the “report...promotes boycotts under the guise of religious responsibility,” and that for years “some factions of the Presbyterian Church have [been]....promoting discriminatory attacks against Israel, while ignoring murderous Palestinian terror.”
And in late February, the BDS movement kicked off their annual “Israel Apartheid Week,” which aims at spreading awareness to the Palestinian side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and drawing support for BDS. The anti-Israeli movement is celebrated during different weeks in different regions, but kicked off in the UK during the week of February 22-28. The first day made a sizeable media splash when hundreds of anti-Semitic ads were discovered in over 500 London tube trains, where over 4 million people saw them. Luckily, London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has spoken against BDS in the past, demanded that the posters be taken down, and they were. Transport for London, the group that oversees the London Underground transit system, called the “Israel Apartheid Week” ads an act of vandalism, implying that the posters were not sanctioned to be put up by the organization. “Israel Apartheid Week” is currently being acknowledged in the Arab world, and will be held in the United States from March 27-April 3.
In a similar situation, albeit domestic, a pro-BDS billboard in Chicago is scheduled to be taken down. The advertising agency responsible for the anti-Israel poster, Lamar Advertising, said that it had received a “large number” of social media comments and hundreds of telephone calls protesting it. The billboard is located on a major highway near O’Hare Airport.
And late last month in Los Angeles, the entertainment magazine Variety reportedly refused to publish an anti-Israel advertisement that says “Don’t endorse Israeli apartheid,” proposed by the group Jewish Voice for Peace. Oscar nominees were given a free trip to Israel as part of their “swag bags,” and the advertisement -- whose top line reads “Free Trip to Israel at the Expense of Palestinians” -- called on them to reject the offer. Ultimately, however, the ad will never see the light of day. The Israeli government is sponsoring the $55,000 all-expense paid, 10-day travel package to Tel Aviv for all Oscar nominees for best actor/actress, best supporting actor/actress, and director categories, as well as Oscar host Chris Rock.
Three major victories against BDS unfolded on US college campuses in recent weeks:
A resolution in favor of BDS passed in a vote by the Student Association at Vassar College last week, however, a concurrent amendment -- which would have required the VSA to restrict funding from the Vassar Student Activities Fund, did not receive the two-thirds majority needed in order to be implemented. Late last month in Boston, Northeastern University’s Student Government Association rejected a pro-BDS resolution for the second year in a row.
And the Student Senate of the University of Indianapolis rejected a pro-BDS measure with a slim margin -- just two votes shy of passing it.
And up north, students of McGill University -- a liberal arts college in Montreal, Canada -- voted against a BDS motion by a sizeable margin -- 57% to 43%. Pro-BDS forces at McGill have tried and failed three times over the past 18 months to pass a BDS motion.
More troubling news out of Oberlin College -- the ultra-liberal liberal arts college, which has played host to a variety of startling pro-BDS and anti-Semitic events in recent years: the president of the prestigious Ohio school is defending a professor who has been posting a barrage of anti-Semitic rants and strange 9/11 conspiracies on social media. In defense of professor Jay Karega’s freedom of speech, President Marvin Krislov released a letter emphasizing the importance of academic freedom. Although the school did release a brief statement saying that Karega’s views do not represent those of the college.