On BDS, Kansas is on the right side of history
By Jacob Millner, Guest Columnist
Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
March 22, 2018
There have been numerous efforts made throughout the years to delegitimize the state of Israel and its core connection to Judaism — a campaign so systemic and enduring that the U.S. State Department considers it a modern-day form of anti-Semitism.
The most insidious of these efforts are not always obvious to the casual observer. Case in point — the push for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Hiding under the laudable rhetoric of human rights advocacy, proponents of BDS are far more interested in advocating for economic warfare against Israel than they are in promoting the rights of Palestinians.
What is the motivating factor behind this initiative?
The answer is simple — it’s hate. Hatred for Jews and hatred for Israel.
BDS hate is directed solely against Israel because Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. BDS advocates consistently turn a blind eye to the plight of people in Iran, Syria, Sudan, Russia, China, and North Korea — nations where human rights abuses are widespread and well-documented. They do not seem to care about the Russian invasion of Crimea, the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar, the Iran-generated slaughter in Yemen and Syria, or Poland’s attempt to rewrite the history of the Holocaust.
Fighting back against BDS discrimination is not easy, but that’s exactly what we’re doing — one state at a time. In fact, 24 states — including Kansas — have passed some form of law acknowledging that BDS is discriminatory and directing states not to engage in business or enter into contracts with companies that participate in BDS initiatives.
BDS proponents argue these new laws inhibit free speech and violate the First Amendment — an interesting, if not hypocritical, argument given the movement’s fundamental aim is to deny the rights of others to freedom from discrimination. It’s also incorrect. States have always been able to determine where state funds are invested and to whom state contracts are awarded. In fact, many states already have existing requirements related to contracting — rules that are designed to ensure that state funds are not being used to support discrimination against minorities, women and the LGBT community. These are American values and the new BDS laws are consistent with those values.
The founders of BDS have stated openly that their true goal is the destruction of Israel, and they’ve made clear that no change in Israeli policy will satisfy them. But BDS hurts Palestinians, too.
BDS hurts the Palestinian cause, and it hurts individual Palestinians. Israeli businesses that operate across the green line do so in order to employ more Palestinians. If these companies were forced to relocate, large numbers of Palestinian workers would lose their jobs.
A lack of steady and well-paying jobs is already a problem in the West Bank, and positions with Israeli companies are among the most sought-after. The loss of a steady paycheck, catapulting more and more people into unemployment, will only make life more difficult for the Palestinian people and make compromise more difficult for the Palestinian Authority.
In fact, BDS does nothing to actively help Palestinians. It does not encourage Palestinian business or civil society in any way, shape or form.
BDS is a movement whose bedrock principal is the destruction of the Jewish state. Those who believe in peace must understand that efforts like this to undermine Israel’s legitimacy make that goal harder to achieve.
We must be able and willing to call out hate and discrimination when we see it. BDS is just that. It is hate. It is discrimination. By rejecting hate, the State of Kansas is firmly on the right side of history.
Jacob Millner is senior policy analyst and Midwest director at The Israel Project.