Jewish and Christian Israel Supporters Discuss Anti-BDS Efforts in Knesset
By Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman/JNS.org
“In each and every generation they rise up against us to destroy us,” Israeli MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) reminded a packed Knesset hall earlier this month during the premier joint meeting of the Knesset Caucus to Fight Delegitimization of Israel and the Christian Allies Caucus. The focus of the event: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), and how Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel can work together to quash the economic warfare movement against Israel.
“MK Lavie did not complete the quote from the haggadah,” Josh Reinstein, director of the Christian Allies Caucus, told JNS.org with a smirk. “It ends that ‘The Holy One, blessed be He, rescues us from their hands.’ That is why we came together.”
Lavie, who co-chairs the delegitizamtion caucus with MK Michael Oren (Kulanu), told nodding heads that “BDS is just a type of anti-Semitism.”
Coalition and opposition members shared the floor alongside their Christian supporters in what was a rare display of Israeli unity. As one member of Knesset said, “We are divided about many issues. But we are all on the same page when it comes to defending our state.”
While keynote addresses by the U.S. Director of the Israel Allies Foundation Joseph Sabag and Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, a teacher at the Northwestern School of Law and a senior researcher at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem, did not reveal anything particularly new about the BDS movement, it did offer a chance to unpack some of the latest and most dangerous reports, as well as discuss the next steps for pro-Israel parties in Israel and the U.S.
Israeli criminologist and politician Dr. Anat Berko (Likud) said revisionist history – eradicating Judeo-Christian roots in Israel and replacing them with a false Palestinian narrative – is the freshest effort by anti-Israel activists.
“Jesus is called a Palestinian in some circles,” Berko said with a sigh. “This has left a real clash of what is the truth in Israel. It is funny to say Jesus was a Palestinian. He spoke Hebrew.”
The battle heats up most when it comes to the Temple Mount, Berko said. The claim that no Jewish Temple ever existed in Jerusalem, and that Jews have no rights whatsoever to the Temple Mount is part of what Berko termed a "temple denial" doctrine that has been increasingly internalized in Palestinian academic, religious and political circles, including a recent UNESCO resolution that views the Temple Mount as a solely Muslim site.
The other challenge is the Western world’s tendency to ignore the roots of terrorism, Berko said.
“They pretend it doesn’t exist; that is not a good way to be,” Berko warned. “We are all in the same pot now.”
To combat BDS, two efforts were discussed: anti-BDS legislation and combatting lies. The former has seen tremendous success in the last year, largely due to Kontorovich’s efforts. He spent two years researching how to move such legislation forward, resulting in 12 states passing anti-BDS laws since May 2015, when South Carolina adopted modern legislation regulating against commercial discrimination of Israel. Sabag said he expects to see another 15 to 20 states pass similar legislation by this time next year.
In his address, Kontorovich explained there are two kinds of anti-BDS laws: those that will disallow local and state governmental bodies to conduct any kind of business with companies that actively support BDS, and those that set up a blacklist of companies that boycott Israel and require the state’s pension funds to divest from those companies.
He said these laws are intended for companies already doing business with Israel and are being harassed for it.
“They can tell the protestors, ‘There is no reason to have a die-in in front of our shareholders meeting. They might be annoyed [about Israel], but they will be more annoyed if they cannot do business with 12 or 13 other States because of a decision not to do business with Israel.’ We see these laws as a lifejacket.”
However, Sabag said legislation is “a starting point.” Given the “ugly rhetoric and falsehoods” that BDS activists spew, the pro-Israel community should waste no time in efforts trying to reason with these enemies. Rather, he said, “We need to expose the lies.”
MK Oren said how people often attack Israel through the BDS movement for its relationship with the Christian community. He recalled how in 2012 60 Minutes “spent millions of dollars proving a blood libel” when it broadcast a segment reporting that the Israeli occupation has led to the evaporation of Jerusalem’s and the West Bank’s Palestinian Christian communities.
“Israel has the only growing Christian community in the Middle East,” said Oren. “Israeli Arab Christians are more affluent and educated than Israeli Jews. We have to intersect these points to defend ourselves.”
Kontorovich called on the Israeli government to take action, too.
“Israel cannot be protected without the action of the Israeli government,” he said, noting that no one can legitimize Israel better than a well-run, democratic Israeli parliament.
“BDS might have started with the Jews, but it will not end with the Jews,” said Berko. “BDS is not about Judea and Samaria or the Bekaa Valley. It is about our right to exist.”
Nonetheless, with a room of people offering to help, MK Nachman Shai (Labor) said that he believes, “In the end, BDS will pass.”
“There is cause for optimism,” added MK Lavie. “Look at this conference – these people coming together. The most important thing is to be united against BDS.”
Photo: Jewish and Christian Israel supporters discuss anti-BDS efforts in Knesset. Credit: Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman.