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The BDS Smokescreen

The BDS Smokescreen

It's remarkable that the world needed a 29-year-old movie star to state the obvious: This is modern anti-Semitism.


The people who defame Israel and wish to undermine its status in the world are not anti-Semites – or so they will tell you, every chance they get. Their denial of anti-Semitism is essential to their moral position. In their own view they are good progressives, therefore absolutely innocent of racial or religious discrimination. Their propaganda campaign, which they hope eventually will escalate into economic warfare, is intended merely to reshape Israel’s policies. What they oppose, they want to assure us, is Israel’s position in the West Bank. Their increasingly loud and self-confident BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) is not, as they tell it, a struggle against the Jews. They simply want to bring Israel into line with enlightened leftist opinion in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

Scarlett Johansson, the film star, found herself the enemy of BDS in January, when she appeared in advertisements for SodaStream, an Israeli home carbonation device that eliminates cans and bottles. SodaStream’s offence is to have one of its factories in the West Bank, where it employs Palestinians who might otherwise have no work at all.

BDS adherents began denouncing Johansson as “the new face of apartheid.” They love applying that South African term to Israel, no matter how unjustified it is. Oxfam, for which Johansson had served as an ambassador in past years, decided to accept her resignation. Oxfam opposes all trade with Israeli settlements and has no place for dissenters among its associates. Johansson said she and Oxfam “have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.” Oxfam likes BDS. She doesn’t. She says she researched SodaStream and found it an ethical operation.

Like the great majority of Americans in the film industry, Johansson is a liberal Democrat. She took part in the last three presidential elections and raised money for Barack Obama. Unlike many who fall into that category, she also thinks for herself.

The May issue of Vanity Fair carries a cover story about Johansson. The author of the piece, Lili Anolik, asked her how she explains why she has been viciously criticized for the SodaStream ads. Johansson answered, “There’s a lot of anti-Semitism out there.”

That line has been widely quoted, and for good reason. It’s a rare example of candor from someone in her position. Johansson, at least in this instance, doesn’t hesitate to call things by their name.

Perhaps her reaction owes something to her background. Vanity Fair classifies her as “that ultimate New York hybrid of half Jewish, half not.” Her mother, Melanie Sloan, a movie producer, is a Jew whose family came from Russia.

But, Jewish or not, Johansson’s ethnicity did not necessarily dictate her attitude to BDS. There are Jews who follow the BDS line, just as there are anti-Semitic Jews. A few decades ago the late Barbara Frum, patiently trying to explain some contentious point to me, said, “Bob, I think if you look around you’ll find quite a few anti-Semitic Jews.” She lived in a more innocent time and probably never imagined that they would find a vast international movement they could join.

They’re not hoping for an Israel willing to hand over the West Bank. They’re working for a day when Israel will be gone forever.

My own belief is that the BDS people and their fellow travelers, whatever their background, are anti-Semites. They do all they can to stigmatize the Jewish state and reduce its ability to defend itself. They know that Israel is surrounded by neighbors who will never recognize its existence, much less sign a treaty developed in a “peace process” quarterbacked by Washington. The Palestinians and the Arab states who claim to support them are not hoping for a more generous Israel or a BDS-approved Israel or an Israel willing to hand over the West Bank. They are working for a day when Israel will be gone forever.

In order to satisfy this generation’s anti-Semites, Israel must meet standards that no other country in the world has ever met or ever will. At the United Nations Israel is condemned more often than all other countries combined.

It is, of course, an imperfect democracy, like Canada and all other free countries, and its human rights record could certainly be improved. But its treatment of Palestinians has never been even remotely comparable to China’s oppression of Tibetans or Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women, two among many outrageous practices that apparently never trouble the students who direct their anger at Israel.

In devising their purposes the BDS campaigners have never shown even the beginning of a sense of proportion. It’s remarkable that the world needs a 29-year-old movie star to point this out.

This op-ed originally appeared in The National Post.

April 22, 2014

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 18

(12) Mr. Cohen, June 12, 2015 12:52 AM

defend Israel from unfair media bias

Learn how to defend Israel from unfair media bias
and refute inaccurate Israel-bashing reporting:

Joining pro-Israel organizations might help Israel.
Pro-Israel organizations include:

PS 1: I humbly suggest that this web site link to the web sites shown above,
and write articles about the organizations behind them.

PS 2: Since Orthodox Jews are increasing as a percentage of American Jews, they should also increase their participation in pro-Israel organizations, to compensate for the declining numbers of non-Orthodox Jews.

(11) Nancy, May 1, 2014 10:32 AM

The words liberal and conservative are not swear words. One can have a liberal view about one topic and a conservative view about another one. As an avid reader, I pride myself on the fact that I read and listen to DIFFERENT points of view. If I only listened to people who agree with my beliefs, I would never learn anything new. Btw--I have felt this way since I was younger than Scarlet Johannsen is now!

(10) David Howard, April 30, 2014 7:57 AM

BDS IS anti - Semitism pure and simple.

Why is there no BDS movement against Saudi Arabia for brutality against women? Where are the liberals in Syria? Their leader has killed over 100,000 of their own people, and the countries in Africa that commit genocide?

I am old enough to have learned that when dealing with the Jewish state or Jews in general, there is no such thing as being even handed.

(9) Antonio Perez, April 28, 2014 5:06 PM

The BDS Smokescreen

BDS is fascism. Not all Muslims and not all Palestinians are anti-Jewish and anti-Israel, only the fascist ones. Their words and actions speak for themselves.

(8) Anonymous, April 28, 2014 12:59 AM

The world has gone mad. With all the bloodshed occurring amongst Israel's neighbors, to have the world single out Israel as a pariah nation, is an abomination. The article and Ms Johansson truly point out the hypocrisy of the BDS movement. Finally a fresh voice states the obvious as well as the truth. BDS is anti-semitism wearing a new set of clothes.

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