April 10, 2024
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Englewood City Council Condemns BDS

Englewood became the first municipality in New Jersey to pass a resolution against the BDS movement, with a unanimous vote at the city council meeting on September 20. Introduced by Second Ward Councilman Michael Cohen, the resolution “condemns all efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the global movement to boycott, divest from and sanction the people of Israel.”

In a phone interview following the meeting, Cohen, who is also eastern director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, sought to congratulate his fellow members on the city council. “Englewood is a diverse city and we came together to pass this resolution unanimously,” he said. While the resolution does not have any direct fiscal impact on Englewood’s contracts, Cohen said it is important to take a stand. “It is critical to make sure as many government entities, people and legislative bodies as possible add to the chorus against BDS. It will help to collectively unmask this anti-Semitic movement.”

Many Englewood residents made statements in support of the resolution, telling the council that the movement was vehemently anti-Semitic. Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Congregation Ahavath read a passage from an article in the Washington Post about a Jewish college student from Iran who attended a conference for students of color that immediately turned into an attack on Israel and Jews. She sadly noted that every identity was welcome in the group except hers. He said calling Israel an opponent of human rights is not true; Israel is a democracy that respects the rights of its citizens.

Talia Mizikovsky, an Englewood resident and director of Jewish student life at Hillel of Northern New Jersey, told the council that BDS has a goal to defame Jewish students on campus. Pro-BDS groups target, intimidate and pressure Jewish students. “BDS is dangerous; it fuels hate and intolerance.”

Cohen read statements in support of the resolution from State Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson. Council President Wayne Hammer also read a statement from Englewood Mayor Frank Huttle, who was unable to attend but wanted to express his support.

In his own remarks, Cohen reiterated that the only goal of BDS is to delegitimize Israel. “BDS never helped a single Palestinian. They shut down businesses where Arabs and Jews worked together, making them lose their jobs. It is morally and geopolitically bankrupt.”

In an interview prior to the meeting, Cohen said he was inspired to have the Englewood City Council go on record against the BDS movement after he testified on a similar measure in the New York City Council, in his position at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “I heard New York Councilman Rory Lancman of Queens say local governments routinely have their voices heard combating unjust discriminatory practices, and we have to stand up in the same manner against anti-Semitism. I took the exact same language used in the New York City council resolution so it would stand up to any excuses about why it shouldn’t be passed.”

New York City Councilman Andrew Cohen, author of the New York resolution that passed last week, applauded Englewood’s efforts in a letter to Michael Cohen. “I am proud of the city council of Englewood, New Jersey, who joins the Council of New York in standing up to BDS. The BDS movement, in addition to seeking to suppress academic and economic exchange, does not support a two-state solution and it advocates policies that would lead to the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Cohen said the tactics of the BDS movement show that they are motivated by anti-Semitism. “The BDS movement blocked (singer) Matisyahu from a music festival in Spain. He is Jewish but not Israeli. Jewish groups and students are being harassed on campus. Jewish academics are being prevented from speaking or having their work discussed on campus. They have nothing to do with Israeli policies. They are being targeted because they are Jewish.”

It is a bitter irony, he said, that BDS supporters claim they have the right to free speech but will not permit free speech by Jews. Cohen said that at the New York City council meeting, “The Jewish leadership spoke with respect and dignity and let speakers with whom they disagreed have their say. But every time a Jewish speaker had the floor, they were drowned out by all kinds of ranting and disruption, and anti-Semitic outbursts from the crowd. They say they have the right to free speech but they block the free speech of the other side.” No one spoke in opposition in Englewood.

By Bracha Schwartz

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