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Examples of Efforts to Delegitimize Israel

Examples of Efforts to Delegitimize Israel provided by The Jewish Federations of North America


Anti-Israel divestment initiatives on campus have proliferated, leading to, among other things, creation of an oppressive atmosphere for Jewish students. A divestment proposal presented to the UC Berkeley student senate was defeated, but it received international media attention. An example of the distortions used by divestment proponents is the spurious claims of divestment ‘victories’ at Hampshire College and Harvard University, neither of which were grounded in reality. Israeli diplomats making campus appearances have been treated with disrespect and subjected to hate speech. In one notable instance at UC Irvine, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was continuously interrupted by eleven students, claiming he was “propagating murder.” Boycotts directed at Israeli academics have been largely unsuccessful, due to strong opposition from North American scholars and university presidents.  In Western Europe, however, a robust campaign to boycott Israeli academics has met with sporadic success.  Additionally, anti-Israel activists succeeded in coercing the Palestinian Al-Quds University to sever its ties with Hebrew University.


In 2010, the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly considered a one-sided Middle East Study Committee (MESC) report, which made highly selective use of sacred texts, historical events and current realities. The report was a one-sided diatribe against Israel and an insult to the Jewish community. After months of intensive outreach to national and community-based Presbyterian leaders, the PC (USA) General Assembly ended up adopting a resolution, which while still far from ideal, represented a more thoughtful approach to Middle East peacemaking, and calling for authentic balance in the study of and teaching about the complexities of these issues. Nevertheless, virulent anti-Israel initiatives continue to gain traction in several denominations, including the publication of such anti-Israel screeds as the Kairos document. Internationally, the World Council of Churches and the Anglican and Methodist Churches in England have embraced BDS.


In July 2010, the vociferously anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) collected 12,000 signatures demanding that TIAA-CREF divest from Israeli companies. Before the CREF shareholders meeting, the company issued a statement expressing its opposition to divestment, but activists did succeed in securing a private meeting with CREF executives. JVP is committed to applying pressure on companies, such as TIAA-CREF, to divest from companies which do business with Israel’s security authorities. Other efforts have been waged against retailers that sell Israeli products manufactured across the ‘green line,’ such as Ahava beauty products. Thus far, the latter initiative has been successfully defeated with “buycott” campaigns.


The delegitimization campaign in performing arts and other cultural arenas has grown significantly since the 2009 Toronto Film Festival, which activists protested for its inclusion of ten Israeli films based on the theme of Tel Aviv’s centennial celebration. A number of prominent performers, such as Elvis Costello and the Pixies, rescinded scheduled performances in Israel, in some cases citing the flotilla incident as their prime justification. Protests have accompanied Israeli performances overseas, such as the Israel Ballet. Israeli athletes and teams have found themselves excluded from several national tournaments.

Labor Unions

Both on principle and as a result of decades of relationships with the Jewish community, the 16-million-strong U.S. labor movement as a whole has been steadfast in its solidarity with Israel. While many U.S. union leaders have gone on record in opposition to BDS, in the last few years, a number of unions and trade union federations in such countries as Ireland, Norway, the UK, South Africa and Canada have passed resolutions very critical of Israel, its actions in Gaza, and most recently, the Gaza flotilla affair. They have made explicit calls for boycotting Israel, or boycotting products from the West Bank, and have tried to introduce BDS resolutions at international trade union conferences. There are growing attempts to insert BDS into the U.S. labor agenda, and to pass resolutions critical of Israel at local, regional and national labor bodies, as well as within specific unions. Most notably, in June 2010, anti-Israel activists organized a picket line at an Oakland, CA dock, which successfully delayed the unloading of an Israeli ship. The organizers of the demonstration secured the endorsement of the San Francisco and Alameida County Labor Councils as well as a local of the International Longshore Warehouse Union, whose members refused to cross the picket line. The historic support shown by the labor movement for Israel in both word and deed must be reinforced through increased interaction with the organized Jewish community – it cannot be taken for granted.

tags Israel, social action, education, advocacy, BDS, Delegitimize, summit, mission (all tags)


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