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‘Time's’ reporting on anti-Israel boycotts badly misses the mark - opinion

The article all but dismisses concerns about antisemitism.

The Jerusalem Post


DECEMBER 14, 2020

Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler /

On December 4, Time magazine published a misleading article about the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. Although different sides of the issue are quoted, criticisms of the movement are undermined at every turn, and BDS leaders are given free rein to mislead readers. It is important to understand crucial facts that were ignored or glossed over in the piece.

The problems start with the claim that “BDS started in 2005.”

Anti-Israel boycotts have their roots in the 1920s. Back then, figures like Haj Amin al-Husseini (who later collaborated with the Nazis) promoted boycotts of Jewish businesses in the Mandatory Palestine. Arab states imposed similar boycotts in 1945, and expanded them when Israel declared independence in 1948. Arab League official Mohamad Ali Allouba Pasha made the purpose of their boycotts clear in 1964: “[Israel] is not an easy thing to destroy by military means. But there is a force which is not steel and fire, with the aid of which we can win, namely, the economic boycott.” In 2019, the German parliament labeled BDS as “antisemitic” because it is reminiscent of “the most terrible chapter in German history,” reviving memories of the Nazi motto “Don’t buy from Jews.”

While the modern BDS movement publicly claims it was founded in 2005, leading BDS activist Ilan Pappe has admitted this is “not true.” In fact, boycott and divestment campaigns began many years earlier. For example, on November 30, 2000, as Palestinian leaders unleashed a wave of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians in the Second Intifada, American professor Francis Boyle called for “the establishment of a worldwide campaign of disinvestment/divestment against Israel.” At the time he was a legal adviser to the Palestinian government. He has since stated that “the Palestinians should sign nothing with Jewistan/Israel,” declared that America is run by Zionists and Rothschilds, and become a frequent guest on the show of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. This has not stopped prominent BDS groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine, from inviting Boyle to speak at their events.

The article all but dismisses concerns about antisemitism, ignoring the fact that Boyle is not alone in his extremism. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has repeatedly called for the elimination of Israel, saying that, “we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine… [only] a sellout Palestinian would accept a Jewish state in Palestine.” He argues that Jews “are not entitled to self-determination,” and that the only just solution is one where “by definition, Jews will be a minority.”

Time paraphrases the BDS movement’s political platform, which sounds less extreme. However, its central demand is a “right of return” for all Palestinian refugees. In 1949, former Egyptian foreign minister Muhammad Salah al-Din Bey stated “it is well-known and well understood that the Arabs, in demanding the return of the refugees to Palestine... mean the liquidation of the State of Israel.” Former US president Barack Obama understood this when he said that the right of return would “extinguish Israel as a Jewish state, and that’s not an option.” Barghouti himself has recognized “a return for refugees would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.”

This is why even Noam Chomsky, one of Israel’s harshest critics, acknowledged that BDS calls for “the destruction of Israel,” and argued “if you really hate the Palestinians it’s a good step, because it’s going to harm them.” Indeed, official BDS policy seeks to shut down dialogue and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, and thus harms efforts to build a more just and peaceful future for both peoples.

According to a 2020 study commissioned by the American Jewish Committee, an overwhelming majority of Jews see BDS and its goal of eliminating Israel as antisemitic. Instead of reporting that fact, Time claims that Jews are “not united on the issue.” To prove their point, they cite an organization responsible for an antisemitic campaign that falsely blames Jewish groups and Israel for police brutality in America. The Palestinian BDS National Committee is also repeatedly quoted, promoting itself as “nonviolent” and opposed to anti-Jewish racism. In fact, according to the New York Times, antisemitic terrorist groups like, “Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” are part of the BNC.

The truth is that BDS has failed in all but one respect: misleading good people around the world with what Times reporter Marc Tracy once called “strategic bulls***.” While Time magazine and many BDS supporters may not intend to promote antisemitism, their intentions do not determine what this movement truly stands for. Demanding violations of Jewish rights in the name of Palestinian rights is a recipe for endless injustice and conflict, and that is what will happen if BDS gets its way. It’s up to all of us to defeat this campaign of hate and help Israelis and Palestinians build a better future.

Max Samarov is executive director of research and strategy for StandWithUs, an international Israel education nonprofit. Yitz Santis is senior writer and analyst for StandWithUs.

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