June 17, 2024
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Building Bridges, Not Boycotts

“They said perhaps 300 would come,” Danny Danon, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations announced during a break in the intense program of the “Ambassadors Against BDS” Conference at the United Nations. “They” were wrong. Over 1500 filled the General Assembly and packed three UN conference room afternoon panels to overflowing. Anti-BDS resources and responses were outlined, and a wide range of speakers focused on tools available to both combat BDS and develop techniques to build bridges of understanding.

The place SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum called a ”House of Shame” was the setting for “Building Bridges, Not Boycotts,” the anti-BDS conference hosted by Israel’s Mission to the United Nations in partnership with a coalition of pro-Israel, pro-justice organizations led by the World Jewish Congress and its President, Ambassador Ronald Lauder. The conference, said Ambassador Danon, was intended to “send a clear message to all of our adversaries, and provide students and community leaders with the tools needed to act as ‘Ambassadors Against BDS generally, and specifically, against boycott activity on individual campuses, to make students fully equipped and ready to take on the lies of the BDS movement.”

Given the deeply negative intent of the Boycott, Divest, Sanction—BDS—movement, the tone of this conference could not have been more positive. H.E. Danon opened the morning plenary, calling the BDS movement a “campaign of lies and distortion, a modern form of anti-Semitism.” He designated students from campuses across America as “the Iron Dome of the State of Israel” whose mission is “to fight back against slander and lies…to stand against boycotts, to stop the campaign against Israel.”

“We have to take a stand,” said the Ambassador. “It is a battle we must fight, a battle we will win!”

Danon described BDS as hiding “behind the mask of civil rights and peace activism…(it is) not about helping the Palestinians.” To the boycotters he warned “the Jewish people have overcome every enemy. We will beat you once and for all.”

“You will tell your children: I was there when we stopped BDS, when they tried to turn the world against Israel.” Recalling the words of the Haggadah, Danon reminded the audience, “in every generation there are those who incite violence against us. We defeated every enemy…We will put an end to the hatred, to the lies. We will defeat BDS!”

Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, was next to the podium. Choosing to hold the anti-BDS conference at the General Assembly of the United Nations, he said, “is not an accident.” He reminded the audience that the UN was “created on the broken bones of the Jewish people… Something changed in the last 70 years. We have changed… The era of the quiet, ghetto Jew is long over…We are no longer victims. We no longer have to rely on others to protect us… Enough is enough.” BDS, said Lauder, “is built on anti-Jewish lies… When you march with BDS, you are marching with really bad people.”

“Make no mistake,” he stressed, “the BDS movement does not support the Palestinian people. It is strictly a campaign to de-legitimize Israel and deny the Jewish people the right of self-determination.”

Continuing the proactive tone of the conference, Lauder said, “We will tell the truth in a very aggressive way…commit our resources and abilities to help fight BDS.” He assured the students, “You are not alone” and that Jewish leaders “are there for the students… you will have the honor of defending your people.” He announced the availability of a new, wide-ranging resource for students available at [email protected]. “I promise you I will read every single letter and email that comes across my desk.”

“Encourage alumni to stop any donations until their schools clean up the mess,” advised the Jewish leader. “Lawyers will successfully defeat BDS in court. We must. create a platform for coordinating efforts against the BDS movement,”

Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, Deputy President of Israel’s Supreme Court, rallied the attendees. “We are here to speak out about BDS…propaganda which, when repeated time and again, may be believed by some.” Noting that the mechanism of repetition of lies was successfully used by the Nazis, he cautioned against the ease of using the method on campuses. “Young people are not fully aware of history; (this) facilitates brain washing.”

The judge was adamant: “We are determined to fight BDS.” Anti-Semitism “has worn different clothing since the dawn of history. BDS is one of the sources of the new anti-Semitism.”

Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Council for Law and Justice. He spoke of the unacceptability of BDS “as a matter of law in the United States,” but cautioned “the task is great, there is no time for delay.” He demanded that the BDS movement be exposed as a long-term project created by anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activists to de-legitimize and destroy the State of Israel and the Jewish people. “Their goal is unambiguous: to create an environment so hostile to make it fearful to say ‘I am a Zionist, I am a Jew.’ Never should we allow that to take place…on the memory of our families.”

During operation Cast Lead, Sekulow traveled to the front lines. A rocket fired from Gaza landed less than 75 feet from where he stood. He carries mementos of that experience: shards of a mortar shell and rocket pieces encased in cuff links—“a reminder that we are in a struggle for life and death… a struggle we will win. We have no options.”

The law, assured the jurist, “is actually on the side of the defenders of the State of Israel. He, too, assured the students “you are not alone… there are thousands of lawyers who win these cases… This is our time.” He presented a petition to protest BDS signed by more than 120,000 people from over 100 countries. “We are fighting back!”

By Maxine Dovere

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