For over sixty years those who could not destroy Israel on the field of battle have sought to delegitimize her among the nations of the world. This campaign reached its ugly apex in the infamous United Nations resolution equating Zionism with racism and racial discrimination. While this ugly canard was finally repudiated in 1991, this campaign was reinvigorated at the 2001 UN Conference Against Racism in Durban.
This campaign, which is being driven by NGOs in the Middle East and the world, distorts the history and national aspirations of the Jewish people to live in peace in a homeland to which we have been connected continuously and profoundly for more than three millennium. The legitimate right of Israel to defend itself from terror often is not only ignored but denied. There have been obscene comparisons of Israel to apartheid South Africa and even to Nazi Germany.
Increasingly, these attacks on Israel have included a false depiction of international law, in which misinformation is used to accuse Israel of violating universally accepted conventions and norms. Such attacks are then used as a basis for justifying international isolation, economic sanction, and the threatened prosecution of Israeli officials. Any deficiencies in Israel's record are magnified while those of its adversaries are minimized or forgotten. The many ways in which Israel has sought, not only, to comply with international norms and conventions but to exceed them, often to its own disadvantage, are overlooked.
This reality is blatant at the United Nations, particularly in its Geneva-based Human Rights Council, which has become a major source of material utilized by the delegitimization activists. One egregious example is the biased “Goldstone Report,” as it is known, which placed unwarranted blame on Israel for its conduct during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza (December 2008-January 2009). Largely overlooked in the Report were Israeli efforts to protect innocent human life while conducting an asymmetric war against an amoral adversary, the terrorist organization Hamas, which routinely employed non-combatants as human shields. Another recent example of this perfidy was the recent action by UNESCO to declare the Ma’arat HaMachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs) to be an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories and Kever Rachel (The Tomb of Rachel) to be a mosque. (The Orthodox Union commended the Obama Administration for its opposition to this measure and noted the strong statement in opposition by the U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO, David Killion.)
It is within this framework, in which Israel is repeatedly blamed regardless of the truth, that anti-Israel activists have honed in on Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (“BDS”) as a strategy to isolate and delegitimize the State of Israel. Common to most BDS calls are distortions and outright fabrications of facts, misrepresentations of international law, and a false assertion that the proposed anti-Israel sanction will improve the prospects for Israeli-Arab peace. Often the very existence of a state for the Jewish people is perceived as the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The spheres in which the BDS movement operates include, but are not limited to, campus/academic, church, civic, corporate, labor and culture. The danger of the movement is not that it will have significant short term impact in these various spheres. Rather, unless effectively countered, over time it may have the corrosive effect of changing the culture of political discussion and making it harder for people of goodwill to publicly support Israel. If support for Israel and Zionism is seen as racism, this will be fertile ground for the growth of anti-Semitism.
• The promotion of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel evidences an unacceptable double standard – singling out Israel for blame. It polarizes individuals, Israel, and Jewish communities in such a way that the proposed actions themselves, and not peace, become the central issue, thus making real contributions to peace more difficult to achieve.
• The use of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict is an effort to reward Arab intransigence by suggesting that international pressure can replace efforts to negotiate in good faith. These activities detract from the goal of a lasting and solid peace based on co-existence and productive economic relations.
The Orthodox Union Resolves to work with other partners in the pro-Israel community, including AIPAC, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish Federations of North America and others on a comprehensive strategy to counter the campaign to delegitimize Israel, which includes effective responses to the BDS movement. Components of this strategy include:
• Confronting boycott campaigns with campaigns to purchase Israeli goods or partner with Israeli organizations, with the aim of ensuring that every boycott campaign is a net failure, in so far as it results in enhancing cooperation with Israelis;
• Responding swiftly to false or distorted media statements about Israel;
• Educating professional and lay leadership in the OU community as well as high school and college students about the nature, tactics and dangers of the BDS movement, and train them to effectively counter BDS initiatives nationally and in local communities;
• Utilizing the OU’s resources on the internet and in social media to combat BDS messages;
• Ensuring that NCSY, JSU and JLIC are engaged in efforts with their constituents to educate against BDS;