In October 2011, Richard Goldstone, the South African Jurist who aided his country’s transition from its apartheid policies, published the following in the New York Times:
“While “apartheid” can have broader meaning, its use is meant to evoke the situation in pre-1994 South Africa. It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.”
As the Ambassador of Israel to the United States, I unequivocally refute the charge that Israel is guilty of pursuing a policy of apartheid and, in fact, regard that allegation as deeply offensive. Apartheid refers to a legal system that segregates all aspects of civil society and in which a minority rules over the majority. Israel in no way resembles that system, and any assertion to the contrary is an affront to the true victims of apartheid. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and one of only a handful of all countries in the world which has never known a moment of non-democratic rule. Israel is home to over 1.5 million Arab Muslims, Arab Christians, Druze, Baha’i, and Bedouin, all of whom receive full and equal rights under Israeli law.
Israel seeks peace with all of its neighbors, including the Palestinian people, and supports the creation of a Palestinian state that will exist side by side with Israel in security and mutual recognition. To support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel does not in any way advance the pursuit of peace.
BDS silences the voice of moderate Palestinian leaders while emboldening radical rhetoric and actions. It denies opportunities to those who seek the furthering of normalization and serves to divide communities, both Jewish and Muslim, in Israel, the West Bank, and abroad.
Behind the veneer of pro-peace activism, BDS hooks into the oldest hatred, one which has caused incalculable Jewish suffering. Indeed, in another place and generation, BDS might have stood for Banish, Desecrate, and Sequester or in another, Burn, Destroy, and Slaughter. The acronym BDS is nothing less than a synonym for anti-Semitism.
The BDS movement’s academic campaigns are a proclamation of misinformation- counterproductive and retrograde to any forward-thinking. As noted by my colleague Larry Summers, former president of Harvard University, “Profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities….Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect, if not their intent.”
Having spent many years on college campuses, I believe that the role of the university is to encourage open dialogue. A campus should be a vibrant space where challenging conversations take place between peers.
We must understand and educate our communities on the true nature of BDS and the dangers it poses. Far from being a non-violent means of opposing Israeli policy, it is nothing less than the de-legitimization of the State of Israel, stripping it of the means to defend itself and even the right to define itself as a Jewish state. BDS employs classic anti-Semitic tools in ways that threaten not only Israel but also American Jews, and American values.
I ask you all to avoid manipulation and to look at the simple facts. Israel is a liberal democracy. Israel confronts enemies that often present it with difficult choices, and strives to conform to the highest moral standards. Israel’s Declaration of Independence guarantees, “Complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex”.
Like all true democratic states, Israel is not perfect. But to boycott Israel is to boycott reason, a truth as simple as that.