Click here to view this email in your browser

Image imported from Mailchimp

Boycott Movement Undermines American Support of Israel


A decades-long history of boycotts against Israel are intended to block all support of Israel, destroy the Jewish state and intimidate Jews. Two important studies reveal an “extraordinarily high correlation” between BDS activities on university campuses and anti-Jewish hatred and that faculty-support for BDS fuels anti-Jewish hostility. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement presents itself as an advocacy organization to help Palestinians. In reality, the movement calls for the economic isolation of Israel and spreads evil lies that spark an increase in attacks even against American Jews.


Objective of BDS: Poison Support of Israel


One of the most damaging outcomes of the BDS movement is spawning global opposition to Israel. BDS activists raise awareness for the Palestinian cause by spreading malicious, anti-Israel lies. Their intention is to paralyze Israel’s economy and make it impossible for Americans to support the Jewish state by repeating heinous terms: racism, apartheid and genocide. BDS activists think this will help them in their ultimate goal to destroy Israel.


The BDS movement was launched at a 2001 United Nations conference in Durban, South Africa. The U.S. and Israel did not participate because of a draft document reviving the malicious lie that ‘Zionism is racism.’ Then Secretary of State Colin Powell denounced the “hateful language that singles out only one country in the world.” International organizations unleashed the false charges that fraudulently labeled Israel as a ’racist, apartheid state’ engaged in ‘genocide and ethnic cleansing.’ 

McDonald’s Surrenders to Arab Boycott


Some Arab consumers in the region boycotted the restaurant chain because the franchise owner in Israel provided free meals to Israeli soldiers immediately after the 10/7 attack. It is common in Israel for soldiers to receive reduced prices on products. The boycott pressured McDonalds to take action against its Israeli franchise as sales for its restaurants in several Arab countries reportedly plunged between 50% and 90% following the boycott. The company’s recent announcement to buy all 225 restaurants from its Israel franchisee will give it more control of its brand.


Starbucks also is a target for boycotts – “Starbucks, you can’t hide! You make drinks for genocide!” – even though the coffee chain does not have any locations in Israel. The coffee chain provoked boycott calls after filing a lawsuit against its employee union for misusing the company’s name and logo in social media posts. The Starbucks Workers Union thinks it is being targeted for tweeting its support for the 10/7 terrorist attack and peddling the same anti-Israel BDS lies.


An Arab League boycott began in 1946 – two years before the establishment of the modern state of Israel: “Jewish products and manufactured goods shall be considered undesirable to the Arab countries.” In 1955, the Arab League distributed questionnaires to potential trading partners, including: “Do you have any Jewish employees in your company, if yes how many and what are the positions held by them,” and “What is the number of Jewish laborers in your factories and offices.”


The BDS movement calls for investors to withdraw from Israeli companies as well as American corporations that have businesses in Israel. American pension funds and investment firms that run 401k’s also are targeted if they invest in Israeli companies.


Anti-normalization efforts against Israel continue today. Many Arab and Islamic nations do not have formal ties and even prevent their athletes from competing against Israelis. However, the Abraham Accords prove that peaceful relations are possible. Saudi Arabia – leader of past Arab boycotts – is increasing its diplomatic contacts with Israel.


‘BDS goal: eliminate Israel’


Another part of the BDS campaign against Israel includes financial services companies that use environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores to assess a company's sustainability and ethical performance. The Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director – who doubles as a BDS activist – admitted that the movement wants ESG to be manipulated for “human rights advocacy.”


A coalition of 18 state attorneys general are investigating the MSCI investment firm to determine if it is “embracing the BDS movement.” Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody: “Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East and we unequivocally support their right to exist. The BDS movement has one goal, the complete elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.” A similar investigation into Morningstar’s financial ratings led to the firm announcing steps to address its anti-Israel bias.


Dozens of states have passed legislation against BDS because of discrimination based on ethnicity, religion and nationality. Most of the 38 state bills passed with broad bipartisan support.


Universities Are the Hub for Anti-Israel BDS Action


BDS activists were emboldened by the 10/7 attack and are intensifying their efforts across America. Activities that begin on campus usually spread to other areas as students graduate. BDS campaigns on campus are common and are linked to anti-Israel resolutions at local city councils and boycotts by labor unions. Even two museums in San Francisco were targeted with a call to remove “Zionist funders.”


There have been a flurry of recent BDS campaigns on campus. Vanderbilt University canceled a planned student government vote in support of BDS because it might violate a Tennessee law preventing anti-Israel discrimination. About two dozen students responded by illegally occupying the university’s main administrative building. Three students were arrested for assault and bodily injury to another and 16 were suspended.


Jewish student Ryan Bauman: “Jewish students say they don't feel comfortable wearing their Jewish star necklaces, they don't feel comfortable walking on campus to Jewish organizations and that's awful and that has nothing to do with their stance on Israel.” The Univ. of California at San Diego also passed a divestment resolution. Professor Thomas Levy: “They are trying to make it uncomfortable for Jewish faculty and students.”


Students at the State University of NY at Binghamton are demanding “an end to SUNY’s relationship with the state of Israel.” The university forcefully responded: “We will not tolerate racism, hatred or bigotry – nor will we tolerate attacks of any kind on individuals or groups, nor incitement to violence.”


A few months ago, CA’s Hayward City Council voted to divest the city’s investments from four BDS “top priority boycott targets,” including Intel and Hyundai. A local Jewish teacher responded: “My students ask me, ‘Why do they hate us so much’ and ‘When will it be over?’ These kids aren’t even 10-years-old yet. They know what they see and feel. And they feel terrified.”

A BDS supporter wearing an Anti-Zionist Social Club shirt addresses the Hayward City Council at the Jan. 23 meeting. (Screenshot)

1. Leaders of the BDS movement intentionally target Jewish students

Advocating for Palestinians loses its legitimacy when it spills over into harassment, intimidation and discrimination against Jews. Leaders of the BDS movement not only seek to isolate Israel, but often create a hostile environment for the American Jewish community. This is most prevalent on university campuses. No student should feel targeted or marginalized based on their ethnicity or religious affiliation. Criticism of Qatar’s billions of dollars in university donations and China’s Confucius Institutes on American campuses did not lead to an explosion of attacks against Arab or Chinese students. Jews are solely targeted for harassment under the guise of political activism.

2. The ultimate goal of the BDS Movement is to destroy Israel

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement claims to be a pro-Palestinian initiative. It is a misconception to believe that BDS seeks to improve the lives of Palestinians. At its core, BDS does not foster peace or advocate for Palestinian rights, but fuels division and conflict. Its purpose is to delegitimize and ultimately dismantle the Jewish state. BDS demonizes Israel while turning a blind eye to the responsibility of Palestinian leaders to promote peace, coexistence and prosperity for both Palestinians and Israelis.

3. Boycotts do not help Palestinians or support peace

The BDS movement actually harms Palestinians. BDS attacks against SodaStream caused the company to relocate its main factory out of the West Bank, resulting in the loss of jobs for hundreds of Palestinians. The BDS movement claimed victory, but in reality, it left Palestinian workers unemployed and deprived them of stable incomes that supported their families. The closure of the factory not only undermined the economic livelihoods of Palestinians, but also eroded meaningful cooperation and coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis in a shared workplace.

4. BDS seeks to erase the connection of Jews to Israel

The BDS movement represents a dangerous attempt to erase the deep-rooted historical, cultural and spiritual connection between Jews and Israel. Recently, a University of North Carolina at Charlotte student BDS resolution sought to end the university’s 16-year Jerusalem archeological project that proves these connections. Throughout millennia, Israel has been the focal point of Jewish identity. The Land of Israel serves as a homeland and a symbol of resilience in the face of adversity. BDS supporters deliberately ignore these ties and delegitimize the Jewish people's rightful claim to their ancestral homeland. This distortion of reality perpetuates harmful stereotypes and antisemitic conspiracy theories.

A. Hold your alma maters accountable

Press universities to immediately call out instances of anti-Jewish hatred and to oppose BDS resolutions whenever they surface on campus. Contact chancellors, regent boards and other campus administrators and urge them to strengthen protections for Jewish students. Reach out to campus Hillels, which often have relationships on campus with key administrators. Use civil, respectful language.


B. Respond to ignorance in your conversations

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is a call for the destruction of Israel. Nearly 90% of university students support the phrase, yet only 47% of supporters correctly identify the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew thinks that the growing hostility toward Israel on university campuses stems more from student ignorance than hatred. Individuals who lack an understanding are more susceptible to adopting one-sided and biased perspectives. Every conversation with family, friends and colleagues is an opportunity to educate and inform.


C. Ask your national, state and local officials to oppose BDS

Contact your U.S. Representative and Senators to support legislation and policies to combat anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hate at the national level. Also, contact your state representative, senator and other elected or appointed officials to support adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism and opposition to BDS. Consider similar actions at the county and city levels.

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres at a house in Kibbutz Nir Oz, Mar. 31, 2024 (Gabriel Sod, Courtesy of UJA-Federation)

Progressive U.S. Congressman Visits Israel, Rejects Lies and Libels

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) is a staunch supporter of the Jewish state, which causes some opponents of Israel to label him as ‘bought’ and ‘controlled’ by Jews, common anti-Jewish tropes. He often defends Israel on X. Excerpts from a Times of Israel interview:


For me, the notion of Israel as a sanctuary for historically oppressed people is profoundly progressive.


Even by its own logic, the intersectional critique of Israel fails, because it ignores the reality of Israel as a multiracial, multiethnic, multilingual democracy.


The greatest threat to the U.S.-Israel relationship, the greatest threat to liberal democracy, is not the far left or the far right. It’s the cowardice of a center that lives in fear of the extremes.


In the Bronx, I represent one of the poorest areas in the country. We are hit hard by gun violence. I have constituents who live in fear of bullets. But no one in the U.S. lives in fear of rockets.


Oct. 7 was a crime against humanity so barbaric that it cannot be ignored. It cannot go unpunished. Hamas must be brought to justice.


Gaza is a hellscape of terror tunnels and booby-trapped buildings and combatants camouflaged as civilians. It’s staggering to me that the tunnel network is like one-half of the NY subway system.

Stories Impacting American Jews

Stories Impacting the U.S. and Israel

Children of fallen IDF soldiers celebrate their bar mitzvah at the Western Wall in a collective celebration on April 4, 2024. (Kobi Koenkas/IDF Widows & Orphans Organization)

Shlomi Nahumson, CEO of the IDF Orphans and Widows Organization, assists a child as he says the blessing for putting on tefillin for the first time at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on April 4, 2024. (David Metzler/ Widows & Orphans Organization)

President Isaac Herzog is pictured with the children of fallen IDF soldiers who celebrated their bar and bat mitzvahs on April 4, 2024. (Kobi Koenkas/IDF Widows & Orphans Organization)

f66b7869-09e6-4ad9-bfaf-827d6b8f09bb image

The Focus Project develops and distributes news, background, history and weekly talking points on timely issues to inform individuals and organizations about issues affecting the American Jewish community and Israel, and help readers speak with more consistency and clarity. The editions also provide potential responses for addressing incidents of antisemitism and anti-Zionism. With input from a spectrum of major American Jewish organizations, we focus on that which unites us, rising above political and individual agendas.

Recognizing that hatred of Jews comes in many forms and directions, we strive to address all sources as they arise, and educate our growing audience on topics ranging from inter-religious relations to relevant international developments. From week to week, we may focus on issues arising from the political left, university campuses, from the political right and from institutions, government, and corporations. We don’t try to address all issues in each edition. We hope you will find this information useful in your writing and/or speaking. We are always open to your feedback:

Copyright © 2023 The Focus Project, All rights reserved.