OpinionBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

Attention, BDS’ers: Israeli-American community has the right to vote

We are entrepreneurs, engineers, researchers and doctors contributing to the betterment of society. And we won’t let you intimidate us.

Boston protesters in support of the BDS movement on July 1, 2020. Courtesy: CAMERA.
Boston protesters in support of the BDS movement on July 1, 2020. Courtesy: CAMERA.
Robert Mayer
Robert Mayer

Bostonians will hit the polls on Tuesday like other Americans, but in this race, they will elect their next mayor. This year, the city will make history with the expected election of the first female mayor and the first mayor of color to serve the city. This election is a moment when the city’s diversity will shine—exemplified not only in the candidates but in the city’s electorate, which is energized and engaged.

Stakeholders, including business owners and residents from across the Greater Boston region and the Commonwealth, are exercising their civic rights and duties to engage in the process to elect the next mayor, including volunteering in campaigns and making campaign contributions, both common activities during election season.

So it was with great disappointment that in the weeks leading up to the election, the Israeli-American community came under an uncommon attack from BDS proponents in an effort to delegitimize our efforts and undermine our ability to exercise our right to civic engagement.

Members of the BDS movement—radical anti-Semitic anti-Israel activists—published a series of articles and social-media posts detailing support from Greater Boston’s Israeli community leaders to a candidate for mayor. The underlying message of these posts was clear: Israeli-Americans do not possess the right to engage civically in the United States, especially when it comes to supporting a candidate for public office.

This fringe position from leaders in the BDS movement attempts to justify discrimination targeting Israeli immigrants living in the United States, who, just like any other immigrant community, seek to become more civically integrated into American life. To leaders in the BDS movement, Israeli-American immigrants should be held to a different standard. Our voices shouldn’t be heard, and our votes, apparently, shouldn’t count.

Greater Boston’s Israeli-American community is comprised of Israelis who immigrated to America, our children and the families we have raised here. We are Americans, and we are immigrants. We represent about 10 percent of the total American Jewish community across the United States. We are entrepreneurs, engineers, researchers and doctors contributing to the betterment of society.

Through their efforts to chill civic engagement in the Israeli-American Community broadly, the BDS movement targeted two individuals specifically, pillars of our community—well-known philanthropists Shira and Jay Ruderman. Bob Feldman, a BDS activist, wrote a column in The Patch claiming to tie the Rudermans’ support of Michelle Wu, a candidate for mayor, with his pro-Israel activity. The two activities are separate and unrelated in timing, activity and objective. One can support more than one cause and hold opinions on multiple issues.

Feldman writes, “According to Wu Committee financial disclosure forms, on Jan. 25, 2021, Councilor Wu’s campaign committee accepted $1,000 campaign contributions from each of the two Ruderman Family Foundation executives, Jay Ruderman and Shira Ruderman, who were honored at a March 21, 2019 event held by the Israeli-American Council Boston (a group that opposes the BDS campaign).”

The same tactic is taken by the BDS movement on Twitter: “Former AIPAC New England Deputy Director Jay Ruderman boasts his support for Wu. Wu stated she opposes ending BPD participation in ADL-sponsored police exchanges w/Israeli & other foreign military forces … .

Through their work at the Ruderman Family Foundation, the couple promotes the inclusion of all people in all aspects of life, especially people with special needs or disabilities. They support a stronger and deeper relationship between the State of Israel and the American Jewish community, and practice their brand of impactful strategic philanthropy. We’re proud and blessed to have the Rudermans as members of the Greater Boston community.

The Patch article and social-media posts seek to invalidate the voice of Israeli immigrants in America and delegitimize our rights to civic engagement. This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

This campaign led by the anti-Israel BDS movement is a clear effort to marginalize Israeli Americans in the eyes of candidates and elected officials, minimizing our identity and cultivating false controversy around our community.

We strongly condemn this attempt to intimidate and exclude our community, and we will not let anyone stop us—or any other minority group—from actively engaging in our civic duty, participate in the electoral process and promote our values at the ballot box, whether that is in the fight against climate change, combating hate and strengthening the diversity of our communities, or promoting a strong economy for all.

Robert Mayer is an Israeli-American high-tech entrepreneur and chair of the Israeli-American Civic Action Network (ICAN).

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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