This week’s “Buy Israel Week” is a good example of how to combat the insidious boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement that for nearly a decade has sought to delegitimize Israel by equating it with apartheid and urging economic warfare.
“Buy Israel,” of which the Jewish Exponent is a proud sponsor, employs the simple concept that instead of boycotting Israeli products and institutions, splurge on them instead.
But using your purchasing power to buy Israeli products shouldn’t be confined to one week alone. The widespread availability of such goods makes it easier than ever to seek out the “made in Israel” label. But don’t stop there. Support Israeli artists and performers. Better yet, plan a trip to the Jewish state this year.
This won’t, of course, stop the BDSers, who spend all their time blaming Israel for the region’s ills. They worry not at all whether their call for the “right of return” for all Palestinians who left their homes in the wake of Israeli independence would, if carried through, spell the demise of the Jewish state.
The good news is that the movement has been less effective than its leaders hoped. Yes, boycotts of Israeli professors continue to stain the international landscape. And cultural figures periodically cancel appearances in Israel, or, as in Stevie Wonder’s case, at a fundraising event for Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
But smart businesses know a good place to invest, which is why companies like Apple are setting up new R&D centers, and why the technologies and innovations for which Israel is renowned continue to command respect internationally.
Still, the purveyors of this twisted philosophy continue to stir trouble, especially on American college campuses. Most recently, public controversy erupted when Brooklyn College’s political science department sponsored an appearance by Omar Barghouti, a founder of BDS. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighed in supporting the school, and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League declared in a New York Times ad that BDS is anti-Semitic hate speech that threatens Jews everywhere.
Interestingly, Barghouti spoke at the University of Pennsylvania a few weeks ago with little fanfare and a relatively small audience.
Sometimes it’s hard to judge how far to go to protest the anti-Israel forces among us. The Jewish community is right to continue to challenge them but sometimes the most effective approach is the example set at Penn last year, when pro-Israel activists used constructive engagement and education rather than confrontation to counter the national BDS conference taking place there.
Buy Israel Week is part of that same spirit of fighting back with positive action. Buy Israel and boycott the boycotters. That may be the smartest approach of all.