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Israel's president calls BDS a 'strategic threat'

The resources and attention Israel’s government is investing in fighting BDS indicates that the Palestinian-led boycott movement is making serious inroads.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin holds an ‘emergency discussion’ about academic boycott with the heads of Israeli universities and colleges at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, May 28, 2015. (Photo by Mark Neiman/GPO)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin holds an ‘emergency discussion’ about academic boycott with the heads of Israeli universities and colleges at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, May 28, 2015. (Photo by Mark Neiman/GPO)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin held an “emergency” meeting Thursday with the heads of Israel’s universities and colleges to discuss the academic boycott, which he described as a “strategic threat.”

Israeli institutions and officials have begun addressing the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement more seriously and investing more resources into fighting it in recent months and years.

New Israeli minister of strategic affairs and public diplomacy, Gilad Erdan, reportedly conditioned his entry into the government on the allocation of adequate funds for fighting BDS.

In the meeting with President Rivlin on Thursday, Technion University President and head of a council of university presidents, Peretz Lavie, warned that “it’s still possible to stop the [BDS] snowball but we are in the eleventh hour.”

Rivlin told the university presidents that he has been taken by surprise by the momentum the academic boycott movement is achieving.

“I didn’t think that there would be a real danger to Israeli academia but the atmosphere in the world is changing,” Rivlin said. In the new reality, the president continued, Israel must treat BDS “as a strategic threat of the highest degree.”

Illustrative photo of boycott advocates. (Photo: Brian S / Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of boycott advocates. (Photo: Brian S / Shutterstock.com)

BDS has successfully entered the mainstream in recent years. Whereas Israelis’ contact with the BDS was once relegated to the occasional foreign musicians refusing to perform in Tel Aviv, is now being felt in academic forums across the world, as international corporations pull out of Israeli public works projects, and major investment and religious institutions begin divesting from companies that do business with Israel.

The non-violent grassroots movement modeled on South African anti-apartheid campaigns is viewed by a threat by many in Israel. Of the movement’s three demands — an end to the occupation, full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and a resolution for Palestinian refugees of 1948 — Israelis specifically cite the refugee issue as a veiled attempt to undermine Israel’s Jewish identity.

On the other hand, Palestinians and supporters of the boycott movement argue that BDS simply demands that Israel end the occupation and fully respect Palestinian rights, without prejudging any political outcome.

Up until recently consensus wisdom in Israel was that despite increasing gains and small isolated victories, the boycott is a marginal movement. By allocating significant resources to fighting it and describing BDS as a strategic threat, however, the Israeli government is now telling us that boycott might actually be more effective than previously thought.

President Rivlin said on Thursday that he sees himself “as a soldier” in the war against the boycott of Israel, but he did not define what Israel is fighting for in that war: continued occupation? Inequality? Segregation?

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    COMMENTS

    1. BigCat

      What Is The Goal Of BDS?

      Here is Norman G. Finkelstein answering that question and telling YOU what the author of this article is either unaware of or hiding.

      Part 1:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol8xhTySKfM

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

        Part 2
        Here is part 2 of Norman G. Finkelstein telling YOU in his own words what the goal of BDS: Destruction Of the State of Israel

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONlacD6f1cg

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro S

          Another Israel apologist who hates Dr. Finkelstein… until the Israel apologist can quote something he likes. So Dr. Finkelstein is against BDS. So what.

          Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            BDS-movement is being exposed to the world as an anti-Semitic movement that pursues the elimination of the only Jewish State!

            Got it, moron?

            Btw.

            I see that you now use the name “Pedro S”, huh? Do you feel so inferior that you have to adulterate Pedro X’s name hoping that you might be noticed? Is that what you have reduced your empty self to? Are you really that desperate? Which other names are you going to try to adulterate as well – Jello’s? The Trespasser’s? Gustav’s? Joel’s? Ginger’s (not that someone hasn’t tried that before)? Tomer’s? etc’s ? Oh dear…. this anti-Israel hate-mongers are really deranged and confused. O.M.G…!

            Reply to Comment
          • Bruce Gould

            Great! Now that we’ve established Finkelstein as someone who tells the truth (I’ve heard him speak), let me recommend his book “Method and Madness: The Hidden Story of Israel’s Assaults on Gaza”, as well as his “The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering”.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tony Riley

            Even a broken clock is correct twice a day. BDS is just neo-Nazism.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            But even an ardent critic of Israel like Finkelstein has his limits. Even he is willing to call out BDS for what it stands for. He admits that the goal of BDS is Israel’s destruction.

            I guess there are degrees of hatred. In comparison to the BDSrs, even Finkelstein is only a mild hater. But he IS a hater of Israel too. Like you, Brucey.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            What is this supposed to mean?

            Reply to Comment
    2. manley kiefer

      Who wants to face facts if they do not favor your cause or beliefs.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Peter Beinart:

      “…Consider the president’s response when Goldberg asked him last week to demarcate “the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.” Obama replied that “a good baseline is: Do you think that Israel has a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, and are you aware of the particular circumstances of Jewish history that might prompt that need and desire? And if your answer is no, if your notion is somehow that that history doesn’t matter, then that’s a problem, in my mind.” Given Goldberg’s question, the implication is that Obama thinks it’s “a problem” because it’s anti-Semitic, that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are the same thing.

      Politically, Obama’s answer is shrewd. Inside the United States, anti-Zionism, while still marginal, is growing, primarily via the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which challenges not only Israeli control of the West Bank, but the very idea of Jewish statehood, which BDS activists claim denies Palestinians equality even inside Israel proper. The American Jewish establishment has responded by calling this rising anti-Zionism anti-Semitic. By essentially endorsing that analysis, Obama earns a little goodwill from American Jewish leaders, which he needs as he tries to convince them to support his prospective Iran deal.

      But Obama’s analysis is wrong. Yes, anti-Semitism is rising, in Europe and perhaps the United States as well. Yes, many anti-Semites are also anti-Zionists. But anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. And by implying that they are, Obama isn’t doing American Jews any favors. He’s helping them evade realities they must understand to help Israel survive.

      Conceptually, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are clearly distinct. Virtually all Palestinians are anti-Zionists. After all, Zionism is a Jewish national liberation movement that, while a great blessing for the Jewish people, has caused Palestinians great suffering. But that doesn’t make all Palestinians anti-Semites.

      Take the case of Salim Joubran, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who serves on its Supreme Court. Joubran is clearly not an anti-Semite. To the contrary, many Israeli Jews rightfully consider his service on the court a source of pride. But Joubran refuses to sing “Hatikva,” the great Zionist ode, and, like many prominent Palestinian Israelis, would probably prefer that Israel become a country that does not privilege Jews in its policies or public symbols. In other words, he’s an anti-Zionist without being an anti-Semite.

      Don’t forget the Jews

      There’s also a long history of anti-Zionism among Jews. The Orthodox movement was once largely anti-Zionist because Orthodox leaders believed it violated Jewish law to restore Jewish sovereignty before messianic times. The Bund, a Jewish movement that advocated socialism and Yiddish rather than a return to the Land of Israel, enjoyed widespread support in both Eastern Europe and the United States in the early 20th century.

      In the United States in recent years, this pre-existing anti-Zionism has gained new momentum primarily because of the actions of Israel’s government. By subsidizing massive settlement growth and publicly opposing a Palestinian state near the 1967 lines, Netanyahu has convinced a growing number of Americans that the two-state solution is dead and that a secular state between the river and the sea is the only fair option left. By demonizing Palestinian citizens of Israel and enacting discriminatory laws against them, Netanyahu and former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have fueled a growing American debate about whether Israel can be a Jewish state and a liberal democracy at the same time.

      The New York Times now routinely publishes opinion pieces questioning Zionism. And BDS activists have used this shift to garner converts to their anti-Zionist cause. As BDS leader Omar Barghouti declared late last year at Columbia University: “We’ve got to give credit to Netanyahu. Without him we could not have reached this far.”

      Are some of the people drawn to this new anti-Zionism anti-Semitic? Sure. But to conflate the two, as Obama implicitly did, requires overlooking the fact that a disproportionate percentage of the new anti-Zionists are Jews. A University of Chicago student recently told me that he looked around during a BDS strategy session on campus and realized that Jews constituted a majority in the room. Jewish Voices for Peace, which supports BDS and welcomes anti-Zionists without being officially anti-Zionist itself, has grown from 600 members in 2011 to 9,000 today…”

      Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Actually nothing Peter said contradicts what Francis said. Words matter. Pay attention. Thanks. Anyway what Beinart writes is food for thought, not troll-fodder. I’m not feeding trolls today. Please check back on Monday.

          Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            Very good, Brian Ben David T. Dekkers! If The Pope is saying that “Not recognizing Israel as Jewish is anti-Semitic” and you respond to that by saying:“actually nothing Peter said contradicts what Francis said”, then Peter Beinart agrees with the Pope –in your own opinion.

            But here is another problem, Benny: YOU reject Israel as Jewish. What does that make you? Do the math, Benny!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You can try to put words in my mouth and the Pope’s mouth but that’s all your doing. Per your article, Francis was quoted as saying that “anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel — and their right to exist — is guilty of anti-Semitism.” The TOI headline writers twisted that–gee who’s surprised?–into “Not recognizing Israel as Jewish is anti-Semitic, Pope says.” And I have no problem being linked with Peter Beinart. A good man. That’s all you get today, troll.

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            You are getting confused again, Brian Ben David T. Dekkers. So,
            a) President Obama got it all wrong;
            b) TOI misinterpreted Pope Francis who is saying the exact same thing President Obama said echoing President;
            c) But the little FRAUD with multiple identity disorder: Brian alias “Ben” alias “David T.” alias “Dekkers”, alias etc. got it figured out, huh? Oh dear…
            d) And the Canadian PM, the French FM, etc. and the folks here http://www.thetower.org/2096-pope-francis-not-recognizing-israels-right-to-exist-is-anti-semitic/ also have it all backwards and are misinterpreting Pope Francis, eh, little Benny?

            Btw. Benny, it seems that Peter Beinart is your new fantasy toy, huh? Before Peter, it was…..ehm….some Haaretz guy….remind me of his name again, Benny? You are one messed-up psychotic anti-Semite.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            22 Arab states, no objections to those ethnocentric states by the BDSrs.

            The proposed Palestinian state proudly declares it’s intention to be an ethnocentric Arab state in item 1 of it’s charter. Again, no objections to that by the BDSrs.

            But when it comes to the idea of a Jewish state, somehow according to the BDSrs they object because somehow that is racist?

            I have news for them. The BDSrs are the racists (antisemites) because they loudly object to Jews (an ethnic group) having our own state, but not to Arabs (another ethnic group) having 23 states.

            In case you haven’t heard, Benny, ethnic discrimination is the very definition of racism.

            Reply to Comment