Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is correct in his assessment at the Cabinet earlier this week that Israel faces a tsunami of international campaigns to blacken its name. But he isn’t right that nothing can be done about it, or in his words, “it is not connected to our actions.”
Much can and must be done to combat the boycott movement in all its evil manifestations, which include economic pressure, academic isolation for Israeli researchers and harassment (and worse) for thousands of Jewish students across the campuses of America and the world.
According to a report in the Forward, U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is known to be extremely close to the prime minister, will be hosting a closed-door meeting in Las Vegas this coming weekend to devise, and fund, successful strategies for countering anti-Israel activity on campus.
To this end, Adelson and other philanthropists will be bringing together Jewish student groups, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federations of North America and others to brainstorm.
Such efforts are important because they signal Jewish students on campus that they aren’t alone, that the community at large is behind them, working to first understand the problem and then trying to solve it. It is clear that the line between virulent anti-Israel rallies and campaigns calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions, and anti-Semitism is paper-thin (if it exists at all). And there is no excuse for abandoning Jewish students on campus to threatening campaigns of intimidation.
At the same time, it behooves Netanyahu, who, it can only be hoped, has finally set up a stable government that can focus on the issues of the day instead of on political survival, to enter the fray. Chaim Saban, an Israeli-American billionaire who is a major force behind the upcoming meeting in Las Vegas, has spent the past year trying to convince Israeli officials to set up their own task force to deal with the problem, according to top Foreign Ministry officials cited by the Forward.
Hopefully, there will be progress, both in the American Jewish community and in Israel, with task forces working independently and in tandem to help address the issue. This may involve creating a legal fund to underwrite the costs of taking boycotters to court. It may require an intensive advertising/PR campaign to balance the Palestinian narrative of victimhood with some reality.
There is no doubt that ignorance combined with deep-seated anti-Semitism provides fertile ground for Palestinian lies to take root. The job of an anti-BDS campaign is to counter the ignorance with knowledge.
Facts have to be brought to light as to what Israel has done to try and advance the “peace process,” including freezing building in Yehudah, Shomron and parts of Yerushalayim and, inexcusably, releasing many hundreds of terrorists who murdered Jews.
Facts have to be brought to light about how it is the Palestinians who have turned down one overly generous peace offer after another, including one from former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that gave in on practically everything, even a token return of refugees, if only PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas would sign on the dotted line. He wouldn’t.
Facts have to be brought to light about who suffers the most when factories that operate in Yehudah and Shomrom — employing thousands of Palestinians under conditions that are infinitely better than anything they could find in their villages — are forced to close down by “liberal minded” boycotters.
Eloquent voices from South Africa, people who lived through apartheid, can be brought to the United States to speak out on the absurdity of comparing Israel today to pre-Mandela South Africa. It is a travesty to call Israel an apartheid state and the likes of Jimmy Carter are being dishonest when they do so.
To a large degree, Netanyahu is correct when he says that the international campaign against Israel will continue, no matter what Israel does, because “it is not connected to our actions; it is connected to our very existence. It does not matter what we do; it matters what we symbolize and what we are.”
However, Israel’s actions do count. In order to ensure Heavenly protection, the steady erosion of core Jewish values for the sake of becoming a liberal democracy must be halted. These values are an integral part of our existence — “what we symbolize and what we are.”