While the skies across Israel are silent once again as a ceasefire holds, for over a week Israelis’ have been subject to over 4000 rockets and artillery shells that have bombarded cities and towns in the country. Fired from Gaza by Hamas terrorists, many of these deadly projectiles are intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system. Tragically, however, not all can be stopped, and many lives have already been lost to these attacks. As Israelis and Palestinians endure their struggle, here in Australia, a political fringe is hoping to use this spike in conflict to benefit their own agenda.
Chief among the goals for these activists is wider support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The formal BDS campaign was born in 2005, founded by a group of Palestinian organisations who sought greater international cooperation to demonise and delegitimise Israel. The movement and its supporters have sought to increase anti-Israeli, and by extension, antisemitic sentiment among those outside of the conflict by calling for boycotts, divestment from and economic sanctions against Israeli made goods and services, often targeting prominent Israelis or supporters of Israel. The campaign also encompasses cultural boycotts of Israel, a noted example of which was the attempted boycott of the movie Wonder Woman and its lead actress Gal Gadot, an Israeli Jewish veteran of the IDF.
The campaign’s organisers argue that they simply seek to influence Israeli policy; to permit greater freedom and agency for Palestinians. Their own words and actions contradict this message. BDS founder Omar Barghouti has publicly said that he opposes the existence of any Jewish state in the region.
Tapping into biased media coverage and a lack of understanding of the issue among Australians, political activists are pushing a radical and anti-Semitic agenda under the pretext of supporting peace.
The movement has normalised discrimination and hatred against Israelis and Jews in Australian academia, infecting universities across the country with propaganda and influencing students with a message of hate, while leaving Jewish students vulnerable to an increased barrage of antisemitic commentary and attacks students and academics alike.
At the University of Sydney in 2015 a video of an Associate Professor of the University showing the academic protesting a visiting speaker went viral. The video depicted the academic shoving money in the face of an elderly Jewish woman. A later internal report by the University found that it was not satisfied the conduct constituted anti-Semitic behaviour.
These attacks are not only confined to our universities but have served as part of a phenomenon of growing anti-Semitism in the wider Australian public. A 2020 study conducted by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry found a marked increase in the number of the most serious acts of anti-Semitism including an increase in physical assault, verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation and an increase in the sightings of antisemitic propaganda.
The increase of anti-Semitic incidents has grown together with BDS in Australia, and continued its creep into the mainstream of political debate and throughout left-wing political parties.
At recent pro-Palestinian protests in Sydney, at which NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi was a speaker, BDS campaigners ‘Palestine Action Group Sydney’ encouraged attendees to support the BDS movement.
This isn’t new form for the Greens. In 2017, former Leader of the Greens Richard Di Natale echoed BDS activists in calling for economic sanctions against Israel, including that all military trade between Australia and Israel should be stopped. In the same year, NSW Young Greens announced that they would boycott the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, the peak body for Jews on campus in Australia and New Zealand.
The escalating anti-Israel mentality has sadly also begun to consume mainstream political organisations. At its national conference in March, the Australian Labor Party stepped away from years of bipartisan support for a negotiated two-state solution, passing into its platform support for unilateral recognition of a Palestine state – a move which can do little but strengthen the international legitimacy of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
For there to be peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there must be engagement and diplomatic cooperation between the parties.
BDS stands in the way of moves toward peace. Those who support this movement must understand that calling for the boycott of Israel is nothing other than yesterday’s anti-Semitism in today’s clothes. We must reject every form of BDS, condemn these activities as anti-Semitic, and continue to support the Middle East’s only democracy whilst actively supporting a peaceful solution to the conflict. The BDS campaign has no hope or interest in achieving any of these goals or in building a stable future for the region. We all must play our part in supporting peace and rejecting antisemitic behaviour wherever we see it.
Clark Cooley is Federal Vice-President of the Young Liberal Movement of Australia. He tweets @ClarkCooley.
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