CCAR Resolution Condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign against Israel
February 18, 2016
Since its creation in 1948, The State of Israel has been attacked almost nonstop – by foreign armies, terrorists with bombs, rockets and now knives, and through economic warfare. In recent years, the movement to delegitimize the State of Israel and separate her from the community of nations has grown through a coordinated campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, known as BDS. The BDS movement does not recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Its leaders ignore the complexity of Israel’s reality and fail to offer a reasonable path forward in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In singling out the Jewish State, BDS often opens the door to anti-Semitic rhetoric and activities and highlights modern anti-Semitic double standards. While the BDS movement is not explicitly anti-Semitic, BDS supporters and leaders have made anti-Semitic statements and anti-Semitic incidents have occurred alongside BDS campaigns. Moreover, in its efforts to indict Zionism as a whole, the BDS movement seeks to deny Jews the right to our own homeland and therefore the ability to express our national identity.
As Reform rabbis and liberal Zionists, we are deeply supportive of an Israeli society that not only tolerates but encourages critique and discourse. Tochecha, a critique made with care for the sake of correcting wrong behavior, is an important Jewish value and one that should not only be accepted but encouraged by our community. As individual Reform rabbis and collectively as the Central Conference of American Rabbis, we often disagree with specific Israeli policies in the spirit of machloket l’shem shamayim, an argument conducted for the sake of heaven. Such critique is far from rejection and delegitimization of Israel as a whole. The BDS movement, with its sustained, coordinated effort to oppose Israel’s existence, is flawed both in its spirit and in its execution.
Rather than bringing Israeli Jews closer together with Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, BDS further divides us all. At a time when interactions between Israeli Jews and Palestinians are already scarce, economic, academic and cultural boycotts further lower prospects for coexistence. The “anti-normalization” movement, that calls for ending cooperation with Israelis and with Palestinians who do not support BDS, has the same deleterious effect.
While exercising their own freedom of speech, BDS proponents deny that same freedom to others through academic and cultural boycotts. Such boycotts are intended only to further marginalize Israel. Academic boycotts have rightfully earned widespread condemnation from organizations such as the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Universities, as they interfere with partnerships between Israeli and international universities that underpin the shared pursuit of knowledge and the exercise of academic freedom. Similarly, the increased pressure artists face to boycott Israeli cultural events impedes their ability to participate in open dialogue with members of Israel’s diverse society. Advocating for boycotts of universities or cultural institutions simply because they are Israeli punishes all who benefit from such ties, exposing the blatant disregard the BDS movement has for the Jewish State as a whole.
The BDS movement is also working to drive wedges between and within progressive communities in North America, recruiting others to its cause by narrowly applying the concept of “intersectionality.” Intersectionality describes the ways in which multiple identities such as race, gender, nationality, sexuality, class, religion and others can overlap to produce unique experiences of power or the lack thereof. While we recognize the importance of intersectionality as a concept that informs our social justice work, we are concerned that the BDS movement paints all forms of oppression with a broad brush and attempts to inject anti-Zionist ideology and tactics into other areas where they are irrelevant and counterproductive to the pursuit of social justice. This puts progressive Zionists in the unacceptable position of having to deny the intersection between their Zionism and their progressivism and forces them to choose between the two. This is a false choice.
BDS is incapable of addressing the nuances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, exacting a disproportionate focus on Israel and ignoring horrific abuses of human rights worldwide. By using the term “apartheid” to describe Israel inaccurately with inflammatory language, BDS sheds more heat than light on the issues it addresses. By imposing demands on Israel that would make a two-state solution impossible, BDS rejects the one path forward that would ensure peace, security and national self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians. Ultimately, BDS fails to provide a realistic vision for peace in the Middle East, as it stands in the way of promising peace negotiations aimed at a two-state solution. Instead, BDS emboldens and empowers hard-liners on both sides of the conflict.
The BDS movement has made modest gains amongst church groups, labor unions and most notably on college campuses. During the 2014-2015 school year, 19 campuses considered BDS resolutions, and 520 explicitly anti-Israel events were held on college campuses. Campus debates have been particularly heated and divisive, leading at times to actions directed against pro-Israel students and in extreme cases, anti-Semitic incidents. Pro-Israel students are deeply invested in addressing the challenges posed by the BDS movement, working closely with a number of organizations on strategies to oppose BDS and support Israel on campus.
Stringent opposition to BDS does not conflict with the deeply-held conviction that Israel must end virtually all settlement activity and the West Bank Occupation as we know it. These ends can only be achieved through diplomacy – not boycotts, divestment, or sanctions.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Central Conference of American Rabbis:
 CCAR Declaration of Love and Support for the State of Israel and Its People, 2015-16.