(April 19, 2018 / JNS) I was contacted last year by Jewish students from George Washington University who were preparing to defend Israel against a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution that night. The resolution demanded that the educational institution divest from all companies that do business with Israel.
The students sent me the resolution, and I knew that even reading it would be a waste of my time. I’ve already seen more than 100 of these cookie-cutter anti-Israel resolutions. (There have been 117 BDS resolutions at colleges and universities.) The GW proposal was no different.
The students wanted responses to all of the claims made against Israel. I said that continuing to defend the Jewish state against anti-Semitic BDS resolutions was a losing strategy and a major reason that we’re losing the BDS war on campuses.
BDS, which is led by Islamic fundamentalists and pushed forward by extreme-left progressive and Jewish groups, creates a narrative through lies that we continue to try to defend against. Each time they bring another anti-Israel resolution to a university, BDS gets a new forum in which to spread its vile propaganda.
The problem with BDS is reminiscent of the stereotypical loaded question: “Have you stopped beating your wife?” The question itself contains an assumption that is taken for granted: Whether you answer “yes” or “no,” you are admitting having beaten your wife. Similarly here, any response is simply giving credence to the lies that the BDS promoters are trying to propagate. We are not educating the other side nor influencing impartial bystanders. The debates only give a platform to promulgating the usual anti-Semitic tropes against Israel.
Continuing to stay on the defensive means we lose at every turn. So I told the students that they should use a different approach—one that has yet to be implemented at any college or university where an anti-Israel BDS resolution was introduced. I first published my strategy to place BDS on the defensive in The Los Angeles Times:
“Pro-Israel students should take the offensive by introducing multiple divestment resolutions against companies that do business in human-rights violating countries. Students should use the same BDS resolutions previously introduced against Israel and change the wording from Israel to [offending nation], then list the grievances: state executions of homosexuals; burying alive or throwing LGBT people from buildings; female genital mutilation; governmental gang rapes; mass child labor deaths; ethnic cleansing and hacking to death of children and pregnant women; political gulags for dissidents and journalists; public stonings of adulterers.”
However, since the BDS resolution at George Washington University was up for a vote that night, there wasn’t time for a coordinated counterattack. I told the students that they should not respond to the resolution, but rather challenge the very idea of the resolution itself through questions. I wrote to the students:
Do not try to defend ONE point in the resolution. If you attempt or even open that up, you will immediately be on the defensive; it’s a battle you cannot win, especially in a hostile environment. Even if you can show that “X” or “Y” in the resolution is a lie, they will respond that it isn’t, and you will be on the defensive.
Your entire platform must show that this is a politically (and even religiously) motivated and anti-Semitic resolution specifically targeting the Jewish homeland of Israel. Then, all of your questions must back that up. Ask how many resolutions the GWU Senate passed to protect the people in:
- Syria, where tens of thousands of people were gassed by their own government?
- Saudi Arabia, where state executions of homosexuals exist?
- Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, where honor killings of women are acceptable?
- China? Russia? Egypt? Sri Lanka? Kenya? Sudan? Bangladesh? Libya? Yemen? Zimbabwe? Pakistan? North Korea? Brunei? Somalia?
If, with all the horrors and atrocities committed in the world, the Senate is only interested in the well-being of the Palestinians and the condemnation of the Jewish State of Israel, that is defined as anti-Semitism and targeting a country based on religion and ethnicity.
Although intrigued by the idea, the students made it clear that they were not going to do it that night. They preferred to respond to the litany of accusations made against Israel. I said that they were making a mistake, and that even if they defeated the resolution, another would follow.
The resolution at GW was ultimately defeated by one vote: 15-14-1. The pro-Israel community couldn’t have been happier, proclaiming yet another defeat for BDS! As is generally the case in the pro-Israel world, a defeat against BDS is considered a win for Israel. Unfortunately, as I’ve written endlessly, nothing could be further from the truth. In most cases, the BDS movement wants to lose. BDS has only one timeframe: the ultimate end of Israel. By losing a vote, BDS has more opportunities to attack Israel.
So it came as no surprise that this week, another anti-Israel resolution is being introduced at George Washington University.
A quote attributed to Albert Einstein says: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I’m sure the pro-Israel students, with all good intentions, will again try to defend Israel. But the final vote is irrelevant. The mere fact that Israel is even being debated at a university means that Israel and the Jewish world lost.
The war against BDS on campus will only change when one student in one university decides that it’s time to stop this madness, go on the offensive and put BDS on trial instead of Israel. Until that happens, expect the same results.
Jack Saltzberg is the founder and president of The Israel Group. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.