Ignore BDS at Your Peril: Lessons from Highland Park in Resisting BDS

Updated: Oct 24, 2019

It’s not just Jews who face danger if they ignore the growth of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement (“BDS”) from universities to towns, but the towns themselves risk legal jeopardy if they fail to say no to this hate movement.


BDS groups in the US strive to relegate American Jews to the same degraded status as their European counterparts, more than one third of whom have contemplated emigrating due to a pervasive climate of anti-Semitism.[1] The goal is not just to destroy Israel but to expand their attacks on Jews from college campuses into communities. They seek to spread the harassment, intimidation, exclusion, and speech suppression of Jewish students on university campuses into community spaces such as libraries and schools.


Already, they have targeted a high school in Newton, MA and third graders in Ithaca, NY.[2] They have poisoned the platform of Black Lives Matter, forced Jews out of the Women’s March, excluded Israel supporters from the Dyke March, and passed an anti-Israel resolution through the Durham City Council.[3]


If no effort is made to stop the spread of BDS, the well-being of American Jews will rapidly decline. We will find ourselves surrounded in our hometowns by BDS-propagating teachers, students, principals, librarians, council members, pastors, Board of Education members, storekeepers, and neighbors.


One way to oppose BDS incursions is to gather support from people and politicians in town. They can demonstrate solidarity with the Jewish community by speaking out against BDS. Another way is a legal tactic designed to alert collaborators to potential legal consequences and bad publicity if they cooperate with BDS groups or cave in to their threats and demands.


Both tactics have been deployed in my hometown, Highland Park, NJ, where Jewish Voice for Peace—Central Jersey (“JVP-CJ”) managed to schedule a reading of “P is for Palestine” at the Public Library (“the Library”). The anti-Israel propaganda book, by BDS affiliated Iranian professor Golbarg Bashi, contains coded and direct anti-Israel and violence-promoting messages.[4] Bashi is scheduled to read to children between the ages of four and seven this Sunday October 20. This, according to JVP-CJ, “is to be the first in a series of collaborations between JVP-CJ and local libraries to foster cross-cultural enrichment, tolerance, and conflict management for children.”[5]


BDS groups are well-organized and tenacious. They are guided by the policies of terrorist groups and assisted by NGO-fronts for terrorist groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine ("PFLP") and Hamas, Samidoun being one example.[6] With the exception of a few Jewish BDS supporters, most Jews oppose BDS and believe that Israel has the right exist as a Jewish homeland, regardless of how they feel about Israeli policies and actions.[7]


Not all Jews, however, are up to resisting. Some are in denial. Some are afraid. Some, because at times they disagree with Israel, lack the confidence and will to defend Israel’s right to exist. Some have political ambitions and do not wish to upset “the wrong people.” Some do not wish to insult or to lose friends.


At recent town council debates in Highland Park over including mention of BDS in an anti-Semitism resolution, a number of speakers cautioned against “upsetting people.” For them, Jews and non-Jews alike, concern about upsetting BDS supporters took precedence over betrayal of Jews seeking support against anti-Semitism, whose concerns were treated as non-existent. There were also JVP members there, including one who repeatedly declaimed that Israel; is a “racist state.” Nevertheless, a resolution with anti-BDS language is scheduled for a vote on October 29 and is expected to pass.


Ultimately, the best strategy against BDS encroachment is a legal strategy designed to either frustrate BDS plans or to punish accomplices for promoting anti-Semitism and aiding and abetting terrorist organizations.


At the Library Board of Directors meeting on June 24, 2019, I put the Library on notice that they are dealing with anti-Semitic organizations linked to terrorism. They were advised of the following:


1. You-Shiuh Hsu, a JVP-CJ leader (active in several other BDS organizations[8]) published Facebook photos depicting Israeli leaders as a group of fat pigs.[9] [The photos, still up on Facebook, were provided to Board Chairman Bruce Tucker.]

2. A May 29, 2019 post from the timeline of JVP--CJ links Hsu to Joe Catron, Samidoun's US Coordinator.[10]

3. Samidoun posted numerous YouTube videos of what appear to be Palestinian terrorist training camps.[11] [See "ADDENDUM" to reference note 11, below. These videos appear to have been posted by a different organization, also under the name "Samidoun."]

4. A 2019 Israeli government publication (provided to Tucker), "Terrorists in Suits," demonstrates that Catron associates with convicted PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled.[12] (p. 28.)

5. Catron posted a Facebook message to his friend Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, urging him to "attack Tel Aviv." (Ibid.)


Concerned Highland Park Jewish residents have been assisted by Zachor Legal Institute, a legal think tank. An October 4 letter from Zachor attorney Marc Greendorfer to Director Tucker and Mayor Gayle Brill-Mittler advised that JVP-CJ and Samidoun, promoters of the reading, "have ties to organizations that are discriminatory and provide support to terror organizations.” Consequently, the proposed library use "appears to be in violation of federal law, including the anti-discrimination provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the federal prohibition on providing material support to foreign terror organizations."


If the reading occurs and includes anti-Semitic material as defined by federal law,[13] Zachor will file with the Department of Education a complaint for violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Moreover, Zachor “will request that the Department of Education conduct a similar inquiry with regard to the procedures used to ensure that the Library was not acting to provide support to terror organizations in violation of federal law.”


The Library must think twice before risking serious penalties arising from a federal investigation and before further sullying the reputation of Highland Park, a town full of signs proclaiming “Hate has no home here” but now in danger of being known as a place that welcomes anti-Semites. They must think twice before they end up under federal investigation like Duke, UNC, Georgetown, Texas A&M, UCLA, and Rutgers.[14] The Board is under pressure, as they should be, and they face consequences if they choose wrongly.


References

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-antisemitism/european-jews-feel-under-threat-think-of-emigrating-eu-survey-idUSKBN1O91RA.


[2] https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/287733/teaching-high-school-students-to-demonize-israel; https://www.meforum.org/campus-watch/22948/palestinian-activist-lectures-ithaca-third-grade.


[3] https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/israel-zionism/2018/06/black-lives-matter-has-an-israel-problem/;

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/23/us/womens-march-anti-semitism.html

https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/dc-dyke-march-bans-jewish-pride-flags;

https://voice4israel.com/bds-attacks-come-to-the-triangle/.


[4] https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/p-is-for-palestine-is-not-for-children/.


[5] https://mondoweiss.net/2019/05/petition-palestine-childrens/.


[6] https://www.gov.il/BlobFolder/generalpage/terrorists_in_suits/en/De-Legitimization%20Brochure.pdf.


[7] https://freebeacon.com/issues/poll-most-americans-support-israel-say-bds-movement-anti-semitic/.


[8] https://canarymission.org/individual/Yeou-Shiuh_Hsu.


[9] https://www.cu-monitor.com/post/misnomer-misrepresentations-and-anti-semitism-in-jewish-voice-for-peace-central-jersey; https://www.facebook.com/yeoushiuh.hsu/photos.


[10] https://www.cu-monitor.com/post/misnomer-misrepresentations-and-anti-semitism-in-jewish-voice-for-peace-central-jersey.


[11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHQS2TWyFkg; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uDzFMW0ITg; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akGiap2SOts;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwYGmvFASFE.


ADDENDUM: It was called to my attention yesterday, October 23, 2019, that these videos appear to be of the Tunisian military, and are therefore likely unrelated to the PLFP alter ego NGO Samidoun.


There are, however, (at least) two YouTube videos of leaders of the Plaestinian NGO Samidoun. One features Samidoun’s European Coordinator Mohammed Khatib. Khatib calls for not just the destruction of Israel but for “defeating the United States [. . .], Australia, New Zealand, all the colonial countries who [built on the] back of the indigenous people [. . .] to come to a country, make genocide, kill the indigenous people, bring settlers, . . .” The other video shows a speech by U.S. Coordinator Joe Catron, who can be heard (at 1:30) leading this chant: “One, two, three, four, open up the prison doors; five, six, seven, eight, smash the settler Zionist state.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAcIedvOrbA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8sOapU7Suw


[12] https://www.gov.il/BlobFolder/generalpage/terrorists_in_suits/en/De-Legitimization%20Brochure.pdf.


[13] https://www.state.gov/defining-anti-semitism/.


[14] https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article231643588.html;

https://www.inquirer.com/philly/education/rutgers-discrimination-civil-rights-probe-jewish-federal-education-department-20180912.html

https://www.standwithus.com/post/ucla-student-standwithus-submit-title-vi-complaint-against-ucla-alleging-inaction-on-antisemitism

https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=13380

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