Last year, Rabbi Susan Talve, a longtime activist on race issues in the St. Louis area was told that her advocacy for Israel was incompatible with the objectives of Black Lives Matter: “Solidarity from Ferguson to Palestine has become a central tenet of the movement” she was informed, because “Israeli and U.S. state oppression are deeply interconnected.”
Similarly, a student who attended a Black Lives Matter rally at Northwestern University last year was told “you support Israel, so you cannot also support us.”
Recently, that seems to be the response of many of the activists who dominate so-called “progressive” social justice movements.
The self-described “progressive wing” of the Democratic Party — represented by radical and often repressive organizations such as MoveOn, CodePink, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter — has become openly opposed to the nation state of the Jewish people.
Increasingly, these organizations demand that their members and “allies” renounce support for Israel and for Zionism in order to belong.
Earlier this year, supporters of the LGBTQ community in Israel learned this lesson the hard way, when BDS activists together with a local Black Lives Matter chapter broke up a gay pride event, because it featured a presentation by an Israeli group.
The protesters claimed that the event organizers had engaged in “pinkwashing” the Israeli occupation by showing solidarity with the Israeli LGBTQ community.
Members of the National Women’s Studies Association (“NWSA”) who also support Israel have been similarly excluded. Last year, that organization voted to endorse BDS, and as one pro-BDS activist explained: “What is significant about this particular resolution is the rationale; the fact that the resolution makes it explicit that BDS is a feminist issue … that one cannot call themselves a feminist … without taking a stand on what is happening in Palestine.”
Their hostility towards Israel does not stem from any particular Israeli actions or policies. Even if Israel were to withdraw from the West Bank, destroy the security barrier, and recognize Hamas as a legitimate political organization, it would still not be enough.
For these radicals, it is not what Israel does; it is about what Israel is: the nation state of the Jewish people, or to use hard-left terminology: an imperialistic, apartheid and genocidal, colonialist enterprise. The recently released Black Lives Matter policy platform offers a perfect example of such extreme rhetoric: It states that U.S. military and economic support for Israel makes American citizens complicit in “the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”
The fact that the BLM platform reads like it was lifted from a BDS screed is hardly coincidence: the two groups enjoy a longstanding relationship, and a prominent BDS activist apparently helped draft elements of the BLM declaration. But BLM is far from the only hard-left organization that has been infected by BDS vitriol. In fact, BDS has pressured a wide range of progressive organizations into assuming an anti-Israel posture.
The American Green Party, for example, which has become a haven for disaffected progressive activists this election cycle, recently came out in support of BDS and called for the U.S. to end its support for “the Israeli apartheid regime.”
This trend has been particularly pronounced on college campuses, where a host of academic groups — most absurdly the Native American Scholars Association and the Americans Studies Association — have passed resolutions in favor of BDS.
Many of these organizations have also endorsed the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott (“PACBI”), which encourages participants to engage in McCarthyite blacklisting of Israeli academic institutions, as well as groups and individuals who promote “Brand Israel.” This category apparently includes artists like Matisyahu, and academics like me, as I found out last year when a prominent BDS advocate refused to debate me at the Oxford Student Union.
The PACBI also explicitly denounces “normalization projects,” programs or events aimed at Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation that do not sufficiently emphasize the colonialist nature of the state of Israel.
BDS campaigners want to force any supporters of Israel, no matter their stances on other political issues, outside of the progressive tent.
Now is the time to ride our own wave.