Few issues are of more concern to the Jewish community than the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). Some have argued that this concern is misguided. They claim that its effect on Israel’s economy is minimal and we should use quiet dialogue behind closed doors to ensure its failure when needed. Others seek to make the claim that, while you may not agree with all their arguments, those who believe in BDS are legitimate political actors.
Both arguments are mistaken. While BDS does not pose immediate danger to Israel, the long-term effects of this movement could be devastating. There is a place for quiet diplomacy in fighting this scourge, but this is not enough. If we fail to speak out publicly, if we are silent when it rears its ugly head, then we run the risk of allowing a slow, chilling effect to take place regarding international public opinion about Israel.
Similarly, the attempts by some to belittle the threat of BDS and allow for some legitimacy for their arguments is especially alarming. It is like when people try to associate anti-Semitic acts we have seen recently with the political right. Stalin was not a leftist who championed the working people, and Mussolini was no rightist promoting free markets. By associating vile acts with legitimate political movements we run the risk of legitimizing the illegitimate.
The vandalization of Jewish cemeteries and the attempts to boycott the Jewish state must be recognized for what they truly are – pure anti-Semitism. The Jewish community and the world at large must stand up and unequivocally condemn hate wherever it appears.
The forces of BDS hope that apathy will slowly and subtly sway the world against Israel. This is what we must stop.
Those who stand up for the truth about Israel should be proud. The BDS movement has been dealt a series of devastating failures over the past year. Banks have closed down accounts of key BDS activists, and more and more states have enacted legislation taking serious steps against any company or institution seeking to use the despicable threat of boycotting the Jewish state.
Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that our fight has fallen short at times. All too often the pro-Israel voices on campuses are drowned out, and too many companies reevaluate their business dealings with and in Israel.
Similarly, the boycott movement has made inroads in infiltrating the United Nations. The UN’s Human Rights Council is creating a blacklist of companies and corporations operating in parts of Israel, including the Golan Heights and Jerusalem. This would mean that any bank with a branch in a neighborhood of Jerusalem built after 1967, and every company seeking to make a delivery to the Old City, would be subject to international boycott or sanctions.
This is why it is so important that we are fighting back. We know that many people are ready to stand up for Israel at all times. Similarly, we know that the bigots and anti-Semites will never be fully vanquished. Our fight is for all of those in the middle and the leaders of tomorrow who we know we will need for Israel in the future.
BDS has the power to cower too many people into silence. This is the real threat. Students without the proper tools may lower their heads rather than stand up for Israel during Apartheid Week on campus. Business executives considering an investment in Israel will choose another market rather than face protests outside their headquarters.
This is what the forces of BDS want. They hope that apathy will slowly and subtly sway the world against Israel. This is what we must stop.
We must counter this animosity with the facts and the truth about Israel.
Our answer must be to speak out every time and everyplace there are calls to boycott and delegitimize Israel. We need activists standing up at demonstrations and speaking out across social media. We must counter this animosity with the facts and the truth about Israel.
We know that we are not alone. Across the world, people of all nationalities, religions and race are standing up on behalf of Israel. This week thousands of students and activists were together at the United Nations to amplify this important message. Together with our partners from across the political spectrum, we educated and empowered all those eager to triumph in the ongoing battle against BDS.
We demonstrated our strength and declare our ironclad support for Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy and the eternal home of the Jewish people. In a symbolically significant moment, we displayed this unwavering commitment from the heart of what is often referred to as the parliament of nations.
In times of adversity the Jewish people always bands together. Joined by friends from around the world we stood proudly in the General Assembly hall of the UN and put the forces of hate on notice with a simple message: we will never be silent when standing up for the truth. We will never be silent when standing up for Israel.
Danny Danon is Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations. The Israeli Mission to the UN and more than 20 pro-Israel groups sponsored a conference, Ambassadors Against BDS, at the UN on March 29.