Supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement often describe the campaign against Israel as a form of social justice, an activist struggle to defend the Palestinians from Israeli oppression. Efforts to oppose the BDS movement, these voices say, are therefore morally wrong and stifle one's right to free speech. At a glance, the argument sounds innocent enough, even if it is factually inaccurate, if not deceitful. But would these social justice warriors portray anti-Semitism in the same way? What about Nazi Germany's campaign to target Jewish businesses? Of course not, but that is, in effect, what they are doing. The BDS movement is fundamentally anti-Semitic, comparable to the Nazi regime's efforts to isolate and weaken the German Jewish community.
Those who support, or at least are sympathetic to, the BDS movement will surely dismiss and excoriate my thesis, but I would point them to Germany, which has some familiarity with Nazis and anti-Semitism. On Friday, the German Parliament passed a non-binding resolution condemning the BDS movement as anti-Semitic and comparing it to Nazi-era campaigns targeting Jewish businesses. A majority of German legislators supported the measure, titled "Decisively Oppose the BDS Movement and Fight Anti-Semitism."
"The pattern of argument and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic," the measure said, before comparing the campaign to boycott Israeli products to Nazi oppression of German Jews. "The 'Don't Buy' stickers that the BDS puts on Israeli products inevitably prompt associations to the National Socialist slogan 'Don't Buy From Jews!' and the corresponding smears on facades and shop windows."
The resolution, which noted "growing unease" in the German Jewish community amid an increase in anti-Semitism, also said German Parliament, known as the Bundestag, will not fund BDS-related events or organizations that support the movement.
With Friday's vote, Germany took an important moral and symbolic step to denounce a sinister movement disguised as legitimate activism, and to stand up for what is right. Indeed, other legislatures in the European Union should use Germany as a model and pass their own versions of the resolution.
Naturally, supporters of the BDS movement will decry the Bundestag's vote as an effort to suppress free speech and perpetuate Israeli crimes. In reality, the Bundestag simply called out anti-Semitism. Indeed, the anti-Israel effort is inherently anti-Semitic as it singles out the world's only Jewish state for boycott and condemnation when, by all relevant standards, other countries are far more deserving. But there are more fundamental reasons why the BDS movement is anti-Semitic. As I wrote last month, the movement is
nothing less than a form of economic warfare against Israel meant to destroy the Jewish state. Read or listen to any prominent supporter of the BDS movement, and this truth becomes painfully obvious … [T]he movement does not advocate Israel's destruction through violence, but its proponents, anti-Zionists who do not believe in Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, seek to undermine Israel to the point that it [cannot] survive as the world has come to recognize it.
By demonizing, delegitimizing, and isolating Israel, supporters of the BDS movement hope to bring the world's only Jewish state to its knees.
Israel's basic purpose is to protect the Jewish people, both by serving as a place of refuge and by maintaining a standing military to defend the nation. The BDS movement corrodes and would, if its leaders had their way, destroy this foundation, pushing ideas that would end the Jewish state. Supporters of the BDS movement try to impose crippling double standards that would prevent Israel from defending itself like any other state, and they push the right of Palestinian refugees—not just those displaced following Israel's founding, but also all of their descendants—to return to Israel, making Jews a minority. The implications for Israeli Jews, and for the Jewish people more broadly, would be disastrous. Oh, and the BDS movement works with known terrorist organizations and operatives that seek Israel's destruction to promote its agenda.
Regarding the comparisons to Nazi Germany, Benjamin Weinthal, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Asaf Romirowsky, the executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, put it well in an opinion piece from last year: "The Nazi efforts to strangle Jewish companies in order to isolate and dehumanize German Jews was a nascent phase of the Holocaust. Hence the boycott campaign against Israel is just another dangerous recurrence of history in a new form." Take the BDS movement, replace the word "Israeli" with "Jewish," and then try to argue that it is not comparable to the Nazi regime's economic warfare against Jews.
So are all supporters of the BDS movement anti-Semites akin to the Nazis? Do the social justice warriors walking the University of California, Berkeley's campus want to exterminate the Jews? No, of course not. Many of the BDS movement's defenders, especially younger activists in the West, are unaware of the campaign's wicked foundations. They want to help the "oppressed" and are attracted to calls to fight imperialism, or colonialism, or the occupation, or whatever the buzzword of the day is. Ignorance, however, would not be an excuse to absolve them if the BDS movement's vision became reality, and all of its inevitable, attached violence came to fruition. And to the leaders of the movement who cannot plead ignorance, here is a question: is lamenting the Arab failure to destroy Israel in 1948 morally better than lamenting Hitler's failure to destroy European Jewry? Seriously, I want an answer.