There are two enduring challenges to its existence that Israel must face: terrorist organizations and their state sponsors who want to conquer the Jewish state militarily, and the anti-Israel Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement founded that uses economic, cultural, and political isolation to achieve the same outcome. Both are dedicated to eliminating Israel and replacing it with a Palestinian state that would no doubt be shaped by Islamic extremists.
So, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to allow Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to meet with the sponsors and supporters of the BDS movement in Palestinian-controlled territories he did so, not because Donald Trump said to do so, but because it was clear that they were using their position as members to Congress to advance the war against the Jewish state being conducted by BDS.
The 2017 law barring BDS supporters was designed to prevent BDS from establishing a forward base inside Israel, not as punishment. Tlaib and Omar are not just advocates for BDS, they have become among the most influential leaders of the BDS movement.
Omar and Tlaib want to make Israel hating a normal, if not critical, element of American politics in the same way that Jeremy Corbyn has done in Great Britain. And like Corbyn, Omar and Tlaib want to use their political authority to implement the BDS program in cooperation with that movement’s founders and funders.
Omar and Tlaib have made spectacular progress in the short time they have been in Congress. The media has taken up their bogus assertion that singling out Israel for condemnation and isolation isn’t anti-Semitism. And not one Democratic candidate for president supports a bill adding BDS to the anti-boycott provisions in the Export Administration Act forbidding US companies and their subsidiaries from complying with or supporting a foreign country’s boycott of another country.
Tlaib and Omar’s trip was designed to normalize BDS as human rights campaign and obscure the fact it was conceived and is conducted as a war to eliminate Israel. Their excursion was paid for by a non-governmental organization (NGO) called MIFTAH. The group was founded by Hanan Ashrawi, who launched the BDS movement at the 2001 Durban conference NGO Forum at Durban in the wake of the second Intifada and the failure of the Oslo accords. As NGO Monitor noted, Ashrawi’s speech, calling upon governments and NGOs to take up the Palestinian cause, provided a battle plan for the political war against Israel that has been waged since then.
Led by Ashrawi, NGOs agreed to “a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state… the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel. Second the strategy called for using the rhetoric of human rights and international law to draw support from the media, churches, and university campuses. In 2005, the formal Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement was founded to carry out this attack on Israel by Omar Barghouti.
Earlier this year, Barghouti and Ashrawi were banned from entering the United States because of their BDS leadership activities. Additionally, both MIFTAH and BDS are affiliated with the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), which has refused to sign the anti-terror clause that is a condition of U.S. government funding, stating “that its members would not sign funding agreements that included the ATC [Anti-Terror Certificate]: this is now a condition for membership under PNGO bylaws.”
Allowing Tlaib and Omar — who were funded by organizations that have not renounced terror or war against Israel — to travel back and forth to Gaza and the West Bank — would give BDS a significant boost at a time when Jews around the world have succeeded in getting many countries and organizations to renounce the movement.
Some claim letting them travel would show Israel’s strength and bolster American-Israel relations. That might be the case if BDS was just another example of progressive political activism. It is not. BDS is the war to replace the Jewish state with a Palestinian-controlled nation. BDS and its corresponding anti-Semitism is now part of the normative liberal political behavior of Western countries where Jews have been an active, welcome presence. Omar and Tlaib are in the vanguard of that effort. The time for appeasement has passed. It is time to choose sides and act, as did Israel, against any individual, whether a college student or an elected official, who choose to support or sponsor BDS.
Robert Goldberg is Vice President for the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.