As millions of students pack up and return to the dorms for the start of a new academic year, so too returns the scourge of the on-campus Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement’s ideology of anti-Zionism, Jew-hatred, and radical indoctrination.
Since 2005, over 130 BDS measures have been entertained by student council bodies at 68 of the nation’s most elite university campuses. At Barnard College, Brown University, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, Wesleyan University, and dozens more, these resolutions have passed — an unfortunate truth that is indicative of the grip BDS maintains among many young people.
As graduates of these universities progress into positions as titans of industry, politicians, and all manner of movers and shakers, they risk carrying with them the skewed BDS stance on Israel’s right to self-determination and the propagation of anti-Semitic rhetoric that is synonymous with BDS activism. As such, they risk fundamentally endangering Jewish presence in society and institutions in the years ahead.
Whether or not oftentimes-gullible students recognize the movement for what it truly is, the BDS phenomenon rejects the value of liberal discourse by advocating for intolerance and promoting divisiveness and discrimination under the guise of a political position.
First and foremost, the BDS movement is inextricably linked to recognized anti-Semitic, racist terror organizations. Indeed, BDS quietly serves as the international mainstream propaganda arm of these groups. “More than 30 Hamas and [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)] operatives hold senior positions within BDS advocacy organizations. Known terrorists are invited to national conventions of BDS affiliates, radicalizing followers to view terror acts as legitimate resistance,” noted Haym Salomon Center senior fellow Ziva Dahl in American Spectator. PFLP has hijacked dozens of planes since 1968 and has organized countless bombings against Israeli and Jewish civilians. Hamas continues to rule the Gaza Strip with an iron fist, launching rockets and incendiary balloons on a seemingly daily basis as well as digging terror tunnels beneath the border between Gaza and Israel. Likewise, it ought to come as no surprise that the Iranian regime, responsible for some 150,000 rockets directed at Israel from Lebanon, promotes the BDS movement. By proxy, college students subscribing to BDS are thereby perpetuating a pro-terrorist, pro-violence ideology in the halls of the world’s most exclusive and prestigious academic institutions.
Even notwithstanding the grotesque behaviors of its partner organizations and benefactors, BDS independently promotes the alienation of Jewish students not only from political discourse, but from campus life more broadly. BDS founder Omar Barghouti espouses “armed resistance” against Israelis and denies the history of Jewish persecution altogether. “There were no pogroms. There was no persecution,” he has declared. These are the canards being disseminated among the upper echelon ranks of BDS — a self-described “non-violent movement” that ostensibly fights for “freedom, justice, and equality” for Palestinians.
BDS agitators on campus routinely promote hatred and discrimination toward Jewish students, as well as pro-Israel students who are not necessarily Jewish. At Brandeis University in May, anti-Israel students defaced with graffiti a piece of Hillel-sponsored art bearing messages of coexistence and tolerance. In February, Kingsborough Community College professor Michael Goldstein faced unrelenting harassment by BDS activists for his Zionism and Jewish faith. A photo of Goldstein’s father, a former college president, was defaced with “F**k Trump Goldstein, Kill the Zionist Entity,” and over 1,500 flyers slandering Goldstein as sexist, racist, and bigoted were disseminated among the student body and faculty. Other recent examples abound: A UCLA student denied a student government post amid allegations that her Jewish faith would cloud her judgment, a University of Michigan professor denying a recommendation to a student seeking to study in Israel, and so forth.
It’s not hard to draw a parallel between the narratives of terrorists like the PFLP, Hamas, and the Iranian regime's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the destructive patterns of abuse endured by Jewish and pro-Israel college students at the hands of BDS activists. And right now, BDS is winning hands down. With no sign of abating, coupled with the bare minimum of resistance from many university administrations, the dangers on campus posed by BDS proliferate — at the cost of academic liberty in general, and Jewish inclusion on campus, in particular.
Noah Phillips is a junior fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow @salomoncenter.