Recently in Chicago, progressive activists embarked on an LGBT conference to voice their disdain for Israel. Advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement did not approve of two Israeli gay rights activists speaking at a reception during the “Creating Change Conference,” despite the Jewish State’s international leadership on gay rights.
During the reception, Jewish attendees found themselves cornered by a mob of protesters, physically preventing them from leaving – calling for Israel’s demise as well as using anti-Semitic slurs. Ultimately the police were called and the Jews had to leave by police escort through a back door.
This is the BDS movement. And discrimination is its core value.
For over a decade, anti-Israel forces have hidden behind the “human rights” label to delegitimize the Jewish State’s right to exist. The BDS movement was born when progressive activists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) hijacked a UN conference on racism, seeking to equate Zionism (the return of the Jewish people to their homeland) with racism. The 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa set the stage for anti-Semitic forces to attack Israel through economic, political and cultural means. But these days, anti-Israel rhetoric and anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses, coupled with the European Union’s recent adoption of product labeling that singles out the Jewish state, make it imperative to call out and confront the BDS threat.
Make no mistake, there is nothing peace promoting or humane about the BDS movement. Their purpose is not to better the lives of Palestinians. Their one and only goal is to deny the right of the Jewish state to exist. Employing tactics frighteningly reminiscent of 1930s Europe, they promote negative public perceptions of Israel with the same false, demonizing canards used throughout history to vilify the Jewish people.
This crime against decency has economic implications that the U.S. cannot afford to ignore. Israel’s water technology is arguably California’s last hope before becoming a permanent desert. In New York, trade with Israel brought in over $6 billion in 2014 alone. Over the past 20 years, New York exports to the Jewish state totaled almost $67 billion. This is why the New York General Assembly should follow the example of the Senate and support anti-BDS legislation.
The Empire state is not alone in its efforts to combat discrimination.
Recently California introduced legislation prohibiting state government from contracting with entities that support the discriminating practice of boycotts on the basis of national origin. Republicans and Democrats have already come together in Illinois and South Carolina to pass similar measures and Florida last week unanimously passed anti-discrimination legislation in the state senate.
It’s important to note that this legislation respects the right to free expression and therefore does not violate anyone’s First Amendment rights. It protects the taxpayer from funding discrimination, thus prioritizing values New Yorkers hold dear while protecting the state’s economic interests.
While the BDS crowd is spewing their hate and hypocrisy on various college campuses, obstructing academic freedom and threatening the very existence of the only democracy in the Middle East, I hope that Republicans and Democrats in the New York General Assembly will come together as they did in the Senate and say no to discrimination by supporting this legislation.
Paul Miller is President and Executive Director of the Haym Salomon Center, a news and public policy group. Follow @salomoncenter