They Say/We Say: "The only way to fight BDS is to attack its proponents and supporters – to name and shame them."

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

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They Say, We Say: BDS & Criticism of Israel

They Say: The only way to fight BDS is to attack its proponents and supporters – to call them out as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, to name and shame – and to pass laws banning boycotts and other economic pressure against Israel.
We Say: Some BDS supporters are certainly motivated by anti-Semitic or anti-Israel agendas. Many more are motivated by legitimate frustration over Israeli policies and actions. Legislative initiatives that treat all BDS supporters as members of the first category are just as misguided and counterproductive as BDS efforts that target all Israelis for the pro-settlement policies of their government. At the same time, efforts to outlaw BDS, even if well-intentioned, represent an unacceptable effort to limit free speech and peaceful political protest – violating our own Constitution as well as the spirit of the American ideal of the free exchange of ideas. As longtime ADL leader Abraham Foxman wrote in 2015:

Legislation that bars BDS activity by private groups, whether corporations or universities, strikes at the heart of First Amendment-protected free speech, will be challenged in the courts and is likely to be struck down. A decision by a private body to boycott Israel, as despicable as it may be, is protected by our Constitution.”

They are likewise misguided, ineffective, and counterproductive. They play into the stereotype promoted by some BDS supporters of Israel and its supporters as aggressive violators of civil and human rights. Indeed, as Foxman also noted,

in light of such legislation, BDS campaigners would undoubtedly portray themselves as victims of efforts to stifle their free expression which would likely win them more sympathy and support from students — even those who are not inclined to be hostile to Israel.”

There is a smarter approach to the challenge of BDS against Israel. This is one that does not conflict with constitutionally-protected rights, will not fuel a pro-BDS narrative, has a real chance of convincing a lot of people –those who are frustrated with Israeli policies but are neither anti-Israel nor anti-Semitic – to adopt a better kind of activism. APN supports such an approach, which includes:

  • Recognizing and rejecting pro-settlement, anti-peace policies that feed the growing support for BDS today, and working publicly and concretely to oppose and change them.
  • Rejecting efforts to conflate Israel and the settlements and instead recognizing the legitimacy and potential value of activism and boycotts that squarely target settlements and the occupation.
  • Ceasing efforts to limit free speech. BDS supporters, regardless of their motivations, are entitled to their views and to their legal, non-violent forms of protest, just as opponents of BDS are entitled to challenge and criticize them in ways that do not trample on the First Amendment rights of any party.
  • Engaging the public and challenging BDS on its merits – through statements and other public messaging – in order to demonstrate why BDS against Israel is a misguided, counterproductive tactic in the fight to end the occupation, and to illustrate how activism focused on settlements and the occupied territories is a better way to achieve that goal.