BDS’ers are usually careful to criticize “Zionists” and “Israel” rather than “Jews,” believing they can conceal their prejudice with politically correct linguistics. They frequently hide behind spokesmen who were born Jewish. And they frequently hide behind a familiar straw man: Not all criticism of Israel is anti-Jewish. Of course it isn’t. But there’s a difference between fair criticism, on the one hand, and unfairly singling out one group for criticism deserved much more by other groups, on the other hand.
BDS’ers exaggerate the plight of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, and ignore the Palestinians’ own responsibility for it — particularly, their refusal to drop their “armed struggle” to destroy Israel. Given that the Palestinians are literally lodged in Israel’s wafer-thin midsection, it is unavoidable that some of the steps Israel must take to protect itself will be intrusive. BDS’ers have no sympathy for the right of Israel to defend itself like any other sovereign nation, which exposes the underlying assumption of the BDS movement: Israel has no right to exist. And once again, BDS’ers single out Israel unfairly: They could question Pakistan’s right to exist, because that nation’s creation as a Muslim state displaced millions of Hindus and Sikhs from their ancient homelands. They could question Bangladesh’s right to exist, for the same reason. They could question Jordan’s right to exist, because it was created by colonial Brits gifting 78 percent of Palestine to create a non-Palestinian monarchy. They could even question America’s right to exist on the homeland of Native Americans. But they only question Israel’s right to exist.
Penn student Shlomo Klapper, writing in the Daily Pennsylvanian (on whose editorial board I once served), coined a term that captures the real meaning of BDS: Bigoted Double Standards. I’d like to see Shlomo’s phrase tattooed, figuratively, on the forehead of every BDS supporter. Israel’s supporters should launch a massive branding campaign so that people will associate BDS with what it really stands for: Bigoted Double Standards. It would be one branding campaign genuinely devoted to truth in advertising — people are free to join BDS, but we can also insist that they confront their bigotry.
David B. Cohen served in the administration of President George W. Bush as U.S. Representative to the Pacific Community, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, and as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He is the author of Left-Hearted, Right-Minded: Why Conservative Policies Are The Best Way To Achieve Liberal Ideals.