The Jewish community is sleeping. It's time to wake up. The growing BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement is aimed at delegitimizing the only Western-oriented democracy in the Middle East. Its ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel. Howard Kohr's main speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference a year and a half ago focused on this movement. He issued a clarion call to action for the pro-Israel community, including both Jews and non-Jews. In the time since Kohr's call to action, we have remained mostly asleep and the Israel-haters have ramped up their BDS War on Israel. Jewish Federations of North American and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs are finally launching the multimillion dollar "Israel Action Network" to combat the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. Still, the real work is at the grass roots; we need not and must not wait for the Israel Action Network to get into action. I spent Sunday, November 7, suffering through the sixth annual "Tree of Life Conference" at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. The theme of the conference was "a new generation of peacemakers," but those were not peacemakers; they were hatemongers devoted to the defamation of Israel. Coincidentally, on the same day, the second Conference and Summit of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism convened in Ottawa. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave an eloquent speech, including the observation "when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack — is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand. Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the three D’s, it is the responsibility of us all to stand up to them." There was a surfeit of demonization, double standards and delegitimization at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme that day, as well as in Hartford, Cape Cod, New York City and Philadelphia, as the organizers of the Tree of Life Conference took their hatefest on the road. During the entire travesty in Old Lyme, there was no reference to any of the numerous times the Palestinian Arabs have chosen continued conflict over peace, no reference to their rejections of the offers of Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2008 that would have given them a state in virtually all the disputed territories, no reference to Mahmoud Abbas' repeated assertions that he'd never make any compromises on any important issues or his admission that there would have been a peace agreement long ago if he was willing to exhibit any flexibility. Total blame for conflict was given to demon Israel. The observation of Alan Dershowitz applied in spades: were a Martian to land at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme on Sunday, November 7, 2010, he would conclude the earth was a wonderful place except for one illegitimate, evil nation, Israel, which should be wiped off the fact of the earth. The hatefest made prominent use of viciously anti-Israel Jews, including a traveling ambassador for the Tree of Life Educational Fund, who in the past has expressed the view that Israel's founding was illegitimate and peace is impossible as long as Israel exists in anything resembling its present form, two young Israeli Shministim who have refused to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, and the National Director of Jewish Voices for Peace, recognized by the Anti-Defamation League as one of the top ten anti-Israel organizations. They showed visceral hatred for Israel and reveled in the adulation they received from a mob which hated the only country in the Middle East whose core values do not conflict with most of their own. The closing remarks were delivered by one of those Jewish defamers. Mark Braverman, spoke with fanatical, messianic fervor from a raised pulpit high above his adoring fans. He asserted BDS was the defining movement of this generation, equating it to the campaign against apartheid South Africa, and expressing supreme confidence it would ultimately triumph. He appeared blind to the contradiction between the priority he gave delegitimizing Israel and his admission that many peoples are far worse off than the Palestinian Arabs and that many nations were far more abusive of human rights than even he (falsely) claimed Israel was. We must not let that evil movement succeed. We must wake up and take action. We need a statewide discussion on how to act as a community, but we must not wait for that discussion to begin to act as individuals.
The writer is Professor Emeritus at the University of Connecticut and President of PRIMER-Connecticut. Permission is granted to freely reproduce and publish this article in any venue consistent with the major goal of Israel and all mainstream Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, peace for Israel and its neighbors.