Who Knew That BDS Could Benefit Israel?

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement continues to be the best-kept secret in a lot of circles, including the evangelical community. While its proponents will tell you that it was born in 2005 in "Palestine", the concept goes back in history, much earlier than that. It was also supposed to be modeled after the boycott of South Africa for apartheid (of course we are comparing apples to oranges here.) The boycott of Jewish people and businesses can be traced back to November 1938 during the "night of broken glass" know in history as "Kristallnacht", so it is anything but new!

Simply stated, BDS is a global campaign to demonize and isolate Israel. BDS proponents claim that the principle is valid for all people, countries and corporations, yet, to date, it has only been applied to Israel. It saddens me to meet people regularly in various churches who either don't know about BDS, know the acronym but understand very little about its meaning or even worse, know what it means and are mislead into supporting its goal. In all three cases, it can be very damaging to Israel and the Jewish people of the Diaspora. To be sure, I am not against the concept of boycotting, but I am against the idea of boycotting entities that are not guilty and/or the hypocrisy of selective boycotting.

Recently, an advisor in one of the European Union major courts recommended that products coming from the "occupied territories" be labeled as such so that consumers be made aware of their origins and make an educated decision regarding their purchase. I understand where they are coming from, but why is it that when they see the label "Made in China" they do not think for a second about boycotting China–a country guilty of human rights violations on so many levels? Why? Because China produces so much for the entire world that it would cripple and even collapse the global economy if people were consistent in their boycotts. And I am only taking one country as an example of the constant double-standard used on Israel. I could list many more.

Now, we could look at BDS and only see the negative, but if we want to make a difference, four steps are required: Comprehend, condemn, combat and conquer. You cannot win unless you fight and you cannot fight unless you are convinced that the cause is worth fighting against. It all starts with condemning it after you comprehend what it is all about and where it comes from. Each of these four steps builds upon the previous one. To be perfectly honest, I am not certain that we will be able to completely conquer and eradicate BDS. But each individual battle is well worth fighting even if the war keeps raging. Even if we cripple, delay, embarrass or just expose the BDS supporters and promoters, we strike against the beast. We cannot remain silent.

Comprehending and condemning usually happen back to back or even simultaneously, especially for those who read their Bible and understand the place of Israel in the plan of God for humanity.  Combatting takes a special effort, concerted or individual. There is an unexpected way to combat BDS that could be viewed as soft, but nonetheless very efficient. It simply turns a negative into a positive, just like God did at the end of the book of Genesis when Joseph embraces his brothers telling them in Genesis 50:20" As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."  Joseph's brothers had sold him years prior, to a passing caravan and through God's providence, he had survived and become second in command to Pharaoh in Egypt. It could be argued that the 70 people from Israel who came to Joseph in Egypt because of a severe famine and grew to over one million, would have never survived were it not for God's intervention through Joseph. A good came out of a bad. Yes God can do that. He is God after all!

So let's make a good out of a bad in the realm of BDS. Here is how. We start to buy as many Israeli made products as we can and even invest in Israeli businesses. Most of you are probably thinking, "Well, I am not sure that I know any, and how would I recognize them. It would take so long?" Don't get discouraged, we have the BDS people to help us. They have already done their homework and are listing and updating lists of Israeli products and corporations to boycott. All we have to do is go on the sites, read who they tell the world to avoid supporting and what they tell us to stop buying, and do the exact opposite, et voilà! Start with this list. Don't bother reading the propaganda and fake reports, just make a note of the brands. Here is a much more comprehensive list by categories. Happy shopping!

Most of the products are good for you. Many of the corporations are greatly innovative. So buy Israeli, invest Israeli and visit Israel! Who knew that BDS could benefit Israel that much?

BDS and the Great Evangelical Divide!

There are several ways to look at Israel's right to exist. Historically, Israel was reborn as a modern nation on May 14, 1948 when Ben Gurion declared statehood at Tel Aviv Independence Hall. This was the result of a November 1947 vote by the United Nations. But there is also the biblical context that cannot be ignored. Israel and the Jewish people are mentioned on almost every page of the Bible. Israel's boundaries are drawn out by G-d Himself and given to Abraham and his descendants as an eternal and unconditional covenantal promise (Genesis 12:1-3, 7, 17:7-8; 25:5-6, 26:3; 28:3-4; 35:9-15.) Yet, the very existence of Israel–while it depends exclusively on G-d's promise–is at times put in question by various Evangelical groups. When the BDS movement was started by Mahmoud Abbas about a decade ago, it created a platform for various groups to express their opposition to Israel's current "occupation" of "Palestinian Land." The trend continues as BDS still finds supporters across the very wide Evangelical spectrum.

On one hand, there are plenty of Evangelical denominations supporting and loving Israel such as the Southern Baptist Convention, the Calvary Chapel movement, the Assemblies of God and many more. On the other hand, Israel has been treated as a pariah by several mainline Evangelical groups for years. The Presbyterian Church USA (PC(USA)) voted to divest from Motorola, HP and Caterpillar at their last General Assembly in 2014 and they are about to vote further into BDS at their 222nd General Assembly in Portland, OR this June. A resolution has been written that is so biased in favor of the Palestinian narrative that is is hard not to see traces of antisemitism through it all. Statements such as "Hamas has arguably offered long-term truces to Israel in the past, but it also promotes an antagonistic ideology, which mirrors the extremist Israeli settler parties" comparing Hamas' terrorist violence to Israeli settlers are simply outrageous. Further down in the document, it said that "In solidarity with those who suffer, the General Assembly encourages Presbyterians to read and reflect on documents like Kairos-Palestine that come from our Palestinian brothers and sisters and to support programs like Christ at the Checkpoint (CaTC). Again, the bias for the Palestinian narrative and demonization of Israel in both the Kairos Palestine document and the biennial CaTC conferences is evident. Here we have antisemitism parading as Christian justice in the Middle East. Amongst many contributors from various fields, people like Omar Barghouti and Munther Isaac also contributed to the drafting of this new resolution, adding their bias to the pool.

But even within the PC(USA) denomination, the disdain for Israel isn't unanimous. Presbyterians for Middle East Peace recently put out a document in defense of Israel. The document titled "Two States for Two People" offers a more balanced hope for peace in the Middle East, even though it is lacking historical accuracy at times. And in all fairness to PC(USA) we must note that the BDS resolution of 2014 was passed by a very narrow margin. It remains to be seen if the 2016 General Assembly will pick up more momentum.

Another denomination that isn't necessarily known for its support of Israel is the United Methodist Church. Quite possibly the largest mainline Protestant denomination, the United Methodists have been struggling with their support for Israel in an age of social justice and political correctness. They already turned down two divestment proposals in 2012. Like the PC(USA) members, United Methodists are far from unanimous on their support for Israel. Many would rather see BDS being enforced. Yet, they recently suffered a major setback when all four proposed BDS resolutions were turned down at their May 2016 General Conference. It is interesting to note that the vote came just a few days after Hilary Clinton, who belongs to the Methodist denomination, wrote a letter strongly denouncing BDS. But before I get too excited I need to remind myself that we are in an election year!

It is clear that the BDS movement, while still a force to be reckoned with within Evangelicalism, isn't equally embraced across the whole spectrum of all Christian denominations. A full list of BDS advocates and/or opponents would take too much space here. Suffice it to say that the recent move by the United Methodist Church proves that BDS isn't a clearly defined victory. It might even be experiencing an early demise as people within Evangelical denominations and even outside of Christian circles are starting to see its one-sidedness towards the Palestinian narrative. This recent vote against BDS by United Methodists and the attempt at a more balanced approach to the Middle East crisis by some within PC(USA) is a breath of fresh air. But for all this to continue from the momentum created by some, more people need to voice their outrage at BDS. As a matter of fact, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's decision to "Boycott BDS" might become a game changer. For those who fight BDS like Cuomo and myself, we realize that the movement is not only bad for Israel and the Jewish people but in most cases it also hurts the very people it claims to be helping like in the recent case of the closing of SodaStream.

People need to grab hold of the biblical truth about Israel's place in G-d's plan (without turning a blind eye on any possible injustice committed by Israel towards her neighbors.). But we must also seek factual truth about the Middle East crisis, something that conferences like Christ at the Checkpoint and documents such as Kairos Palestine are not interested in. Unfortunately, since most contemporary Christians do not spend enough time in their Bible, they do not always have the proper arguments to debunk BDS lies. I am convinced that in due time all BDS proponents will suffer the curse of Genesis 12:3. BDS often shows signs of disdain or even hatred for Israel and the Jewish people. It could even be argued that BDS is simply another branch on the tree of antisemitism. I wonder how those who promote BDS and call themselves believers reconcile their actions with Psalm 83?
Psalm 83:3-5 They make shrewd plans against Your people, And conspire together against Your treasured ones. They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, That the name of Israel be remembered no more.” For they have conspired together with one mind; Against You they make a covenant.

BDS really stands for Bullying, Delegitimizing and Slandering!

In my travels, I meet a lot of people from the Evangelical Christian community. Many of them have never heard of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) and frankly, this frightens me. This movement has picked up a lot of momentum in the past few months and has become quite pervasive.

I find it ironic that most of the people taking such a political stand have very little knowledge of how it got started and by whom. This decade old movement was started in 2005 by the Palestinian civil society. They claim that Israel must meet three obligations for BDS to stop:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

Too often, there is an unspoken expectation from the Palestinian side. There is a great effort made to misinform or simply not inform the people they are trying to influence. I think there is a word for it; it is "propaganda!" The hope is that most people would accept the lies and historical revisionism simply as facts, and too often they do! UN Resolution 194 contains one short paragraph out of 15 on compensation to refugees, not even Palestinian refugees in particular, but refugees in general. I wish people would take the time to verify statements before they buy them and then sell them back as facts. It was Abraham Lincoln who once wisely said:" Do not believe everything you read on the Internet." Get my point?

BDS was borne out of a Palestinian desire to enroll otherwise unengaged and apathetic people in their fight against Israel. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas' goal might be the total destruction of Israel, at the end of the day you can only bomb and kill so many people before the more reasonable people in the world turn on you–although it seems that lately the "killing limit" might have been increased.

But what if you could get support from different groups of people, this would greatly help your cause, wouldn't it? BDS does just that and it does it well, in the government, the universities (here and here) and even some Christian denominations such as PC USA (the same PC USA  that unsuccessfully tried to blot out "Israel" from their prayer and hymn books in 2014).

Anybody can feel good refraining from buying Israeli products. This seems like a peaceful and worthy protest that could make a difference and force Israel away from occupation and apartheid. Of course, the current BDS supporters are plagued with decisions to Boycott that forces them to be very inconsistent at best. Divestment is usually a matter of reinvesting your funds elsewhere, and there are plenty of opportunities for such a move. When it comes to boycott, it is a bit trickier. They will gladly stop buying Jaffa® oranges or Osem® cookies from Israel but don't ask them to stop using the Intel® chip in their personal computers or their mobile phones all together (both originated from Israeli ingenuity).

It is often the same people who choose to boycott Israel who also completely ignore the blatant abuses of human rights by countries like Russia, China, Yemen, Syria, Qatar and many more. The same people also irrationally ignore Hamas' abuse and murder of their very own people like in the case of the 2014 Gaza War.

BDS is most rampant on US university campuses. As a matter of fact BDS is the main weapon used on US campuses to delegitimize Zionism and demonize Israel. Anti-Israel proponents are organized, eloquent and very resourceful. After visiting several US campuses, Haaretz reporter Ari Shavit recently concluded: " Zionism has failed to provide “a reliable, relevant and inspirational narrative” to counter the “near-overt anti-Semitism” of the BDS offensive. “And when they arrive on campus and are exposed to anti-Israel venom, the Jewish and pro-Israel identity of many of them collapses.”

They often nip the pro-Israel narrative in the bud, even though their own narrative is flawed and biased.

• BDS uses a false premise of Israeli occupation and apartheid policies. It is our responsibility to expose their lies and educate those who don't know BDS or who believe that it is a cause worth fighting for.
• BDS proponents are inconsistent in their boycott and need to be made aware of their hypocrisy and/or ignorance about Israel's contribution to the modern world (and the list keeps growing everyday), not to mention everyday products used by millions.
• BDS sends the wrong message to a lot of people thinking that they are helping to make the world a better place when in fact they are supporting terrorists.
• BDS counts on people's ignorance but desire for justice to sell their falsified agenda of Palestinian victimhood.

Yet in spite of all the efforts made by BDS and its proponents across the globe, their true colors are starting to show. AIPAC very recently backed an amendment to a trade bill that would make BDS' destructive progress more difficult within Congress. Additionally, the Illinois State House of Representative unanimously (49-0) passed an anti-BDS bill recently. The bill would stop pension funds from investing in companies that participate in the BDS movement. Bravo to both!

Laurie Cardozo-Moore of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN) is also very vocal and active in exposing and fighting BDS. Cardozo-Moore calls BDS anti-Semitism and I fully concur. Looking at the unbelievable one-sidedness and hypocrisy of BDS, we can only deduce that it is more than a political attempt at bringing justice and equality. BDS is proving to be the politically correct way to hate Israel!

A great resource to fight BDS can be found at stopbds.com. Even though it is meant to equip students, most of it is very helpful to equip people eager to learn the truth and apply real fairness and justice.

Another thing we can do is to make sure that buy Israeli products in the USA to beat the BDS proponents at their own game. Here is a partial list of what BDS wants you to boycott. While my mentioning of this list doesn't mean that I endorse all of it, you will undoubtedly find plenty of brands that you already support, just review them, keep at it and tell others. This is the least we can do.

What BDS proponents and victims too often have in common is a lack of a biblical approach to Israel and the Jewish people. Biblical truth provides a solid foundation for Israel. It describes a people created by God through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel as well as precise land boundaries starting early in Genesis 12:1-3 and continuing through chapters 15, 17 and following. Zionism isn't this evil colonialism feeding on Arab blood, but without a biblical backbone, Zionism lacks the strength to fight the hypocrisy, hatred, and double-standard of the BDS campaigns around the world.

BDS relies on the Bullying, Delegitimizing and Slandering of Israel and does it on a foundation of lies that can be debunked.  If truth matters to you as much as it does to me, join me and speak up!