During a recent trip to the U.S. I was privileged to find myself in the office of Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ Dist. 12) discussing legislation related to providing security in the Middle East against the rising tide of Islamic extremism, and combatting anti-Semitism. I left the meeting hopeful.
On July 23, my hopes were dashed when, in one of the most sweeping, nearly unanimous, and indeed hopeful, bipartisan votes that Congress has seen in some time, 398-17, Watson Coleman was one of 17 congresspeople to vote against Israel. The anti-BDS resolution, which she opposed, condemns boycotting Israel in a way that’s become synonymous with delegitimizing its very existence as a Jewish state.
Though she was part of a tiny minority opposed to the resolution, her “nay” vote was not insignificant and it needs to be challenged and called into question for the anti-Semitism BDS represents. Indeed, her vote turns her very title on its head; it is un-representative — of the U.S., of N.J., and of the 12th District.
The BDS movement portrays itself as “merely” opposing certain policies of the sovereign government of Israel, and supporters would have you believe that once the Israeli government policies (or the government itself) change, there will be no more boycotting of Israel. But what they really want is no more Israel.
The fact is that BDS is a recent incarnation of an anti-Semitic economic war that saw its earliest seeds sown in Nazi Europe with the boycotting of Jewish businesses. The irony of this is two-fold: First, supporters of the right to boycott Israel liken it to the U.S. boycott of Nazi Germany. Second, earlier this year the German parliament passed a similar anti-BDS resolution, likening BDS to the Nazi boycott of Jews and Jewish businesses. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.
Today, the anti-Semitism of BDS is veiled in a mask of being anti-Israel, but in truth has the nefarious goal of delegitimizing and destroying Israel, the only Jewish state on Earth. The co-founder of BDS, Omar Barghouti, is unambiguous on this point: “No rational Palestinian will ever accept a Jewish state,” and “We are witnessing the rapid demise of Zionism, and nothing can be done to save it, for Zionism is intent on killing itself. I, for one, support euthanasia.”
Why is opposing BDS so important as Americans?
In a recent statement, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y. District 1) called BDS a “movement (which) attempts to undermine and destabilize Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East. Israel is a beacon of hope, freedom, and liberty surrounded by existential threats. BDS attempts to use economic tools to boycott Israeli goods and services and punish individuals and entities supporting Israel. It attempts to use harassment and intimidation to turn Israel’s supporters against the country.”
Making the BDS movement even more perverse, and all the more so that Watson Coleman considers it legitimate, BDS backers dispense rhetoric of supporting Palestinians. Yet as much as BDS makes any economic impact against Israel, it hurts Palestinian Arabs even more. By boycotting companies that operate over the “green line,” employing Palestinian Arabs in jobs with salaries and benefits greater than they could get in the Palestinian territories, they directly harm those for whom they allegedly advocate.
Also, by not calling out terror and incitement that’s rabid among Palestinian Arabs, including Hamas and Fatah and that runs deep throughout Palestinian Arab society, they avoid really advocating on behalf of the people whose interests are hijacked by their leaders. If truly acting on behalf of the Palestinians, BDS leaders, one would think, would decry Hamas and other Arab terror groups using women and children as human shields, and condemn their investing more in building terror tunnels from Gaza than building homes and schools.
You’ll never hear a peep from BDS advocates, who seek to undermine Israel at every turn, when Palestinian Arab terrorists fire rockets at Israeli communities, or send incendiary devices to burn down towns and fields downwind from their deadly and dangerous terror-inspired activities. That’s all legitimate “resistance.”
Numerous examples abound how BDS is no longer even secretly cloaking its anti-Semitic activities as “just” anti-Israel. BDS has become synonymous with rabid anti-Semitism. With the recent rise in violent anti-Semitism across the U.S., how is it possible that a congressperson of any integrity would vote against a resolution (not even a law) that seeks to condemn anti-Semitic BDS activities? Does Watson Coleman not know, or not care? Either way, through her vote she’s thrown herself in with the anti-Semites.
I contacted her office after the vote for clarification on why she opposed the resolution and was told that she does not support BDS, but voted this way to express her support of the right of people to boycott.
But had Congress been presented with a resolution opposing boycotts of businesses owned by Asians, blacks, LBGTQ individuals, Hispanics, Christians, Hindus, or Muslims, Watson Coleman would surely have voted in favor. In fact, just two months earlier she voted in favor of a resolution condemning virtually all forms of bigotry. This month, she directly contradicted her own vote by siding with the anti-Semites.
Residents of New Jersey in general and the 12th District in specific know and deserve better. “Hate Has No Home Here” signs are ubiquitous. How is it that our “representative” in Congress seems to be opposed to all forms of hate and bigotry other than anti-Semitism?
Jonathan Feldstein grew up in Princeton and has lived in Efrat, Israel, since 2004. For much of the past 30 years he has worked to advance Jewish-Christian relations.