Anti-Israel activists are exploiting the Russian invasion of Ukraine in an effort to make a (dubious) political point about their (even more dubious) cause. Supporters of the controversial Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement appear to view the ongoing world crisis as little more than an opportunity to attack the Jewish state, and they've found at least one mainstream news outlet willing to provide a platform for their outlandish grievances.
A real article published by THE POLITICO on Monday alleges that Republican lawmakers are "completely hypocritical" for supporting sanctions against Vladimir Putin's regime but opposing economic warfare against Israel. The headline reads: "‘Hypocrisy': Lawmakers fighting Israel boycott now all-in for Russia sanctions." The report earnestly touts the concerns of BDS advocates who feel "iced out of public debate" and are annoyed that sanctioning Russia for its unprovoked attack on Ukraine is far more popular than sanctioning Israel for existing as an "apartheid state."
In fact, the BDS movement is about as unpopular as Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The article accurately describes the "anti-BDS sentiment" among American lawmakers as "widespread." In 2019, for example, the House of Representatives voted 398-17 in support of a resolution condemning BDS. A poll released that same year found that a majority of Americans considered the BDS movement to be rooted in anti-Semitism. The most prominent BDS advocates in Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), have repeatedly been criticized for making anti-Semitic remarks and for associating with terrorists.
Perhaps that's why the article cites only two BDS advocates to support its ludicrous premise that Israel and Russia are equally deserving of international condemnation and retribution in the form of economic sanctions. "Let's be perfectly clear: Russia should be held accountable," said Yousef Munayyer, a senior fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, D.C. "Members of Congress have shown their hypocrisy on this issue by supporting anti-BDS legislation when it comes to demanding accountability for Israel's human rights violations, but now they are all for these kinds of efforts."
Munayyer is best known for getting into a shouting match with Fox News host Sean Hannity in 2014 after refusing to describe the terrorist organization Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Despite the bipartisan opposition to BDS, only Republican politicians were singled out as hypocrites in THE POLITICO article. They include Rep. Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.), one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, who is singled out for introducing anti-BDS legislation "a day after tweeting that Americans should cut all oil imports from Russia."
Zeldin responded, quite reasonably, that there was "absolutely no equivalence at all between the United States and our allies around the world sanctioning an authoritarian nation that has illegitimately and illegally invaded its sovereign neighbor and launched attacks against innocent civilians and the anti-Semitic BDS movement."
Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Ted Cruz (R., Texas), and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) were also called out for the so-called hypocrisy of supporting sanctions against Russia while also cosponsoring the Anti-BDS Labeling Act to deter efforts to boycott Israeli goods. A Cotton spokesperson issued a curt response via email: "The difference is that Russia is invading Ukraine. And according to our latest intelligence, Israel is not."
Eileen Babbitt, a professor of international conflict resolution at Tufts University, offered a similar assessment of the Russia-Israel comparison. "I think there is something qualitatively different about amassing 150,000 or 200,000 troops on the border of a sovereign country and then crossing into that country with the intention of decapitating the government," she told THE POLITICO.
The article was widely mocked on Twitter, the popular social networking website. "I'm sure if someone at Politico thought about this really, really hard they could come up with some reason why Israel and Russia are treated differently," wrote Drew Holden. Journalist Seth Mandel suggested an alternative headline: "We Treat Our Allies Better Than We Treat Those Who Wage War On Our Allies, a Politico investigation."