BDS Puts Jews and Israel Under Attack | #students | #parents

A pro-BDS demonstration. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

One of the most significant and sinister BDS developments in recent memory occurred in June with the release of the ‘Mapping Project,’ which created a literal diagram of Boston area Jewish institutions and entities purportedly involved in “local institutional support for the colonization of Palestine and harms that we see as linked, such as policing, US imperialism, and displacement/ethnic cleansing.”

The map, which was endorsed by the Boston BDS movement and by Jewish Voice for Peace, includes 483 entities such as schools, synagogues, communal groups, NGOs and philanthropists, as well as an immense range of public and private institutions, from major corporations like Apple and General Dynamics to local police departments and firms.

The map goes far beyond the usual BDS emphasis on multinational corporations, universities, and police departments by accusing unexceptional entities of unique evil thanks to connections with Zionism. One example is the Jewish Teen Foundation of Boston that “hosts events for Boston area teenagers which promote and normalize Israel’s ongoing colonial subjugation of Palestinians and theft of Palestinian land and resources.”

Another, the Kleinfelder Northeast construction and design firm, is accused of providing services to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and proposing to construct a prison for the Commonwealth that “attempted to whitewash over the inherently violent and dehumanizing realities of caging human beings in prions (sic).” The Harpoon brewery is accused of “propaganda/normalization” and “Zionism” for partnering with an Israeli firm that specialized in desalinization.

The project’s stated goal, to “reveal the local entities and networks that enact devastation, so we can dismantle them,” explicitly targeting Jewish entities and individuals.

Though several Massachusetts politicians support BDS, the map drew widespread condemnation including from Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Representatives Ayanna Pressley, and others. A bipartisan group of 37 House members also called on Federal law enforcement officials to investigate the project and its potential use by extremist groups.

Local and national media and Jewish leaders also denounced the project. Local FBI officials claimed to be aware of the project and were investigating, but stated that no direct threat had been identified.

Finally, in a surprising twist that reflected the unanticipated reaction, the National BDS movement sent a letter to the Boston BDS franchise demanding that it remove the Mapping Project from social media. The letter complained that the project “indirectly advocates for armed resistance,” which “inadvertently but gratuitously opens the door wide for the ear Israel lobby to intensify to unprecedented levels its legal warfare (lawfare), smears and bullying.” Even more surprising was the refusal to do so by BDS Boston, the project itself and a series of supporters, including Code Pink, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)-associated Samidoun.

There were a number of BDS developments on campus last month. A recent University of Illinois graduate, Sayed Quraishi, was charged with a hate crime after throwing a rock at students outside the Hillel building during a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) protest that targeted the organization.

At Yale University, the Yale Postdoc Association published a statement pushing back against a BDS endorsement issued in 2021 by the association’s Racial Justice Subcommittee. At Oxford University a group called Jewish Students Against Antisemitism protested the appearance of Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, deeming her racist.

The student government at Simon Fraser University adopted a BDS policy. The statement noted that “Anti-zionism fits in the wider anti-colonial framework globally, including within Turtle Island,” a term for North and Central America. In contrast, the student government at La Trobe University adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) antisemitism definition.

At the Harvard University commencement, BDS supporters heckled actor Ashton Kutcher at an event over his support for Israel. Duke University deleted photos of a student Birthright Israel trip from an Instagram page after complaints from BDS supporters.

In response to the continuing antisemitism crisis at the City University of New York (CUNY) Law School, City Council member Inna Vernikov redirected funds earmarked for the school. The move came after the student government and the entire faculty endorsed BDS and a commencement speaker condemned Israel. The CUNY chancellor issued a statement that did not condemn the student or faculty moves, noting merely that “We believe the best way to counter the resulting discord is to expand upon the work we do across our campuses to encourage scholarship, dialogue, tolerance and civil engagement that fosters understanding and a way forward.” The New York City Council’s Higher Education Committee scheduled a hearing to discuss the antisemitism situation at CUNY, which was held on June 30.

The spread of BDS and antisemitism into K-12 education was also evident in June. Concerns continue in California regarding the use of a Liberated Ethnic Studies curriculum despite the opposition of the state legislature and governor. Reports indicate that the curriculum, which labels Jews as “privileged” and vilifies Israel as a “colonial” state, is being marketed quietly to school districts while labeling opponents as part of a Zionist conspiracy.

This type of grassroots anti-Israel activism was also seen in the Passaic County Education Associations’ email to members promoting an “Educators for Palestine Summer Series” scheduled for July, and hosted by the “Democratic Socialists of America BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group.” One session, “Palestine: The History of a People,” notes that “In order to teach about Palestine authentically and critically, we must understand the history of its people and their heroic resistance to Zionism.”

Another session notes that “Learning Toward Liberation discusses some best practices for helping students understand how Palestine fits into historical and contemporary discussions of concepts from settler colonialism to water rights.” A third promises to prepare teachers “for the all too frequent backlash we can face from various sources and directions. We will hear from several educators who have navigated this difficult part of the crucial work of teaching about Palestine, as well as from organizations with the expertise and resources educators will find helpful should they encounter opposition, as Learning Toward Liberation discusses important issues for educators of conscience.”

In the economic sphere, the connection between BDS and rapidly emerging environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards is becoming clearer. After criticism from a Jewish investors group and the State of Illinois’s Investment Policy Board, the ratings firm Morningstar dropped a product called Human Rights Radar, which it had acquired in its purchase of Sustainalytics.

Morningstar had retained the White & Case law firm to investigate Human Rights Radar after critics noted that it had placed a number of Israeli firms on a watch list. While the White & Case report claimed to find no “pervasive or systemic bias” it noted that Human Rights Radar “sometimes used inflammatory language and failed to provide sourcing attribution clearly and consistently.” In a statement, Morningstar’s leadership added that the firm does not support BDS.

After receding, the issue of Ben & Jerry’s support for BDS came again to the forefront with reports that new employees of the ice cream company are required to watch four video lectures on the Arab-Israeli conflict as part of their on-boarding. One of the videos features Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s “Israel and Palestine” director, who had been the original source of the recommendation that the company cease operations in Israel.

In other business news, General Mills sold a small Israeli subsidiary, which set off claims by the BDS movement that the conglomerate had done so as a result of pressure. General Mills then issued a clarification that the move was part of a global restructuring and had nothing to do with BDS. Even after the company’s statement, however, the BDS movement insisted that the decision had been a result of pressure and that the company was dissembling to avoid political ramifications.

In the political sphere, the second round of primaries continued to highlight the role of BDS in American politics. But while prospective Squad members and allies such as scandal ridden Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) continued to be defeated, there are signs that other Democratic candidates, such as the four currently competing in Chicago to replace retiring Rep. Bobby Rush — either through conviction or self-interest — are declining to support the BDS movement.

Elsewhere, in its list of resolutions the North Carolina Democratic Party included a call for individual Israelis to be sanctioned for “human rights violations” and to condition aid to Israel on “on Israeli authorities taking concrete and verifiable steps towards ending their commission of the crimes of apartheid and persecution.”

In the cultural sphere the BDS movement threatened to disrupt singer Justin Bieber’s South African concerts after he announced that he would be performing in Israel later this year. The band Big Thief — which has an Israeli member who resides in Tel Aviv — was also pressured into canceling its performances in Israel. A new book has detailed the BDS movement’s pressure aimed at artists who plan to perform in Israel, including death threats. It notes that younger artists are dominated by social media and obsessed with reputational harm.

The author is a contributor to SPME, where a version of this article was first published.

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