College campuses have always been battlegrounds over Israel’s legitimacy, so it’s no surprise that the latest wave of delegitimization – the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement – has made major inroads with college students across the U.S. One of the most volatile campuses in recent years has been Northeastern University in Boston, where a pro-Palestinian group was recently banned for its extremist activity.
So with HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyam currently based in Boston while participating in the Hornstein Jewish Professionals Leadership Program at Brandeis University, the time was right for an HonestReporting visit to the Northeasten University campus.
Joe and the students thrashed out the important issues involved in responding to the boycott movement, especially in the context of campus activism. “The BDS uses the media and especially social media to promote its attacks on Israel, but reacting to the BDS is different than responding to traditional media bias,” he said.
“In the mainstream media, there is a desire for credibility,” he explained. “News outlets can be pressured to correct mistakes. With BDS, accuracy is not a high value, so we have to be smart about how much free press we give them.
“So, when and how do we respond? How do we avoid giving oxygen to a story that would not reach many people without our response? Are there times when ignoring things is not an option? What is our role, as tech-savvy 20s and 30s supporters of Israel?”
HonestReporting’s latest slideshow (see below) offers some answers to those questions and presents a strategy to turn the tables on the BDS movement. Fighting BDS starts with recognizing and promoting the true aim of the BDS movement, which is to destroy Israel’s Jewish character. After that, it’s vital to challenge the lies that form the basis of BDS claims against Israel, such as the smear that Israel is an apartheid state. Then, turn boycott and divestment campaigns around to promote Israel. For example, if there is a boycott campaign against a particular product or company, organize a counter-campaign to drum up business for that company. That way the boycotters end up helping the company, not hurting it.
At Northeastern, Joe noted the BDS movement was just the latest incarnation of the drive to delegitimize Israel, which has been active for decades. It is rooted not only in the racist 2001 Durban Conference but also the propoganda behind the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism.
Following the talk, students said they would welcome a workshop dealing with the anti-Israel atmosphere at Northeastern University and the growing anti-Semitism that goes along with it. “You can’t believe everything you see in the media, especially photos,” one student said after the discussion.