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The problem is Israel’s set of policies that deny Palestinians freedom and basic rights.
[/pullquote]On Sunday June 5, Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York announced via Executive Order that the state of New York will boycott companies and organizations who boycott Israel. Later Chuck Schumer, the New York Senator and one of the foremost Jewish politicians in the country endorsed the Governor’s move and said he wants the Federal Government to replicate it.
This is coming fresh off the heels of the #StopBDS summit at the UN General Assembly hosted by the Israel Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon.
BDS — Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions — refers to efforts to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel due to its policies that deny Palestinians basic human rights.
BDS is a non-violent tactic of resistance with plenty of historical precedent. The American Civil Rights Movement and the international campaign against Apartheid South Africa both used a form of BDS to advance their causes of justice. And most recently the tactic has been used towards North Carolina — including by Governor Cuomo — because of their anti-trans bathroom bill.
Unfortunately, Danon’s summit and Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order miss the mark. BDS is a response to a problem. It is not the problem itself — the problem is the occupation. The problem is Israel’s set of policies that deny Palestinians freedom and basic rights.
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These leaders ask ‘are you for or against BDS?’ when the more important question is ‘are you for or against the occupation?’
[/pullquote]The leadership of our institutional American Jewish community have reframed the conversation to demonize a tactic, BDS, instead of the problem, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people. They have successfully deflected our attention away from a grave injustice by characterizing BDS as an inherently anti-Semitic movement.
These leaders ask ‘are you for or against BDS?’ when the more important question is ‘are you for or against the occupation?’
For those of us against the occupation, we must also ask ‘how are we going to end it?’ Some have chosen BDS campaigns, others lobby elected officials on Capitol Hill, and others work in Jewish communities to shift institutional support against the occupation.
I do not spend the majority of my time strengthening the BDS movement but I see it as a legitimate tactic to fighting the atrocities of the occupation. I choose to spend most of my time with IfNotNow, organizing to end the American Jewish community’s support for the occupation.
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I truly understand why BDS is a very triggering tactic for many people in the Jewish community.
[/pullquote]Are some people who support BDS anti-Semitic? I’m sure some are; bigotry lives in most groups but that doesn’t mean the tactic of BDS, or the leaders of the movement are inherently rooted in anti-Semitism. Boycotting North Carolina for passing discriminatory legislation didn’t make those people Anti-Christian or Anti-North Carolina. They were anti-hate.
I truly understand why BDS is a very triggering tactic for many people in the Jewish community. Our history is filled with forced isolation and exclusion. Jews have historically established independent communal institutions as a response to being excluded from public ones. Jews have been forcely isolated in civil life, housing and educational institutions.
But Israel is not being called out solely because Jews live there — it is being called out because it has maintained an occupation over millions of Palestinians for decades.
And because the dominant institutions in our community have successfully hidden the horrors of occupation from us, we are currently unable to hold both our history of oppression and simultaneously act against those horrors.
If the Jewish community faced night raids in our homes, dehumanizing checkpoints on our way to doctor’s appointments or indefinite imprisonment of our family members, we would welcome a diversity of non-violent tactics to oppose the injustices.
Instead of focusing the bulk of our resources and political clout actively fighting BDS, our community must begin actively fighting the occupation.