Obama winks at BDS – Jennifer Rubin/The Washington Post
You thought the Obama administration’s hostility toward Israel could not get more egregious? Think again:
The US State Department backed away Tuesday from controversial language included in the anti-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama a day earlier, indicating official discomfort with a clause that critics say intentionally blurs the lines between Israel and the West Bank. . . . At the same time, the State Department spokesperson emphasized that the State Department’s concerns with the law did not have implications for its stance in opposition to the BDS movement.
This doubletalk follows complaints from habitually critical leftwing groups that seem to have no problem bullying Israel into giving up the settlements. And it is not clear whether the administration is going to ignore another law it does not like.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) who co-authored the provision was irate. “The State Department’s comments cast doubt on its true commitment to achieving a sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians through direct negotiations—which has been and remains U.S. policy,” he said in a written statement. “Instead, by imposing territorial distinctions, State is prejudging the outcome of the peace process. Our language reflects the reality that those who seek to destroy the Jewish state through the BDS movement do not distinguish between Israel and its territories.” He reminded the White House: ” These measures, which the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative publicly supported before the Ways and Means Committee in April, were unanimously adopted in the House and Senate. We expect the Administration to fully comply with the provisions mandated by Congress and signed into law by President Obama himself just a few days ago.”
Genuinely pro-Israel advocates are furious over the White House’s double-cross. A representative from one pro-Israel group tells me, “It is simply not possible to make a differentiation between territorial-specific boycotts without pre-judging the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. All BDS is bad BDS.” The representative continued, “To suggest that this provision is about anything more than fighting BDS is a malicious misinterpretation of the clear and unambiguous intent of the law.”
The announcement does not come in isolation. Aside from the president’s expressions of hostility toward the prime minister of Israel, Secretary of State John Kerry has publicly mused that if Israel does not negotiate with the Palestinians (it has, but let’s not let facts get in the way), the administration won’t be able to protect it from boycotts. Well, it is evident the administration does not want to.
“The administration is now signaling the Europeans that they can go forward with the BDS movement against Israel. It is hiding behind the so-called peace process, but boycotts of Israeli exports do not bring peace one day closer,” says former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams. “Never before has the desire for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians led any administration to weaken the fight against BDS.”
BDS is the most virulent form of anti-Israel, and indeed anti-Semitic fervor. It singles out Israel, ignores real human rights abusers, does not account for Israel’s willingness to enter into peace talks and lets the Palestinians off the hook entirely. BDS movements have taken hold on college campuses despite voices of sanity. One professor commented:
If you ask proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement why they single out Israel, they will tell you that you have to start somewhere. But since its beginnings a decade ago, BDS has never been invoked against any other country.
Common sense and decency asks, how a self-described “human rights” movement can single-out the only democracy in the region. Progressive activists, mainly college professors and students, ignore the brutal treatment and often torture and murder of women, minorities and members of the GLBTQ community in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. . . .
Like Israel Apartheid Week, BDS is simply another campus anti-Semitic hate fest complete with administrative tolerance if not sanctification— even in the highly charged campus atmosphere of racial and ethnic sensitivity. . . . The BDS movement uses the lexicon of colonialism to describe Israel. In fact, it is quite common for leftist and pro-Palestinian professors to teach that Israel is the last bastion of British imperialism and is an artificial state. By using a false historical narrative and promoting the idea that Israel is a colonial remnant, the BDS movement has been successful in selling its program to naïve and unsophisticated students who have not been taught how to think for themselves but how to react to campus shibboleth.
That the administration would in any way encourage BDS practitioners or suggest that some forms of BDS might not be so objectionable is as unprecedented as it is unsurprising. It is increasingly difficult for fair-minded people to deny the president’s anti-Israel animus. Congress should condemn the administration’s back-tracking, hold hearings and insist the law be followed. It will be interesting to see whether Hillary Clinton excuses the administration’s anti-Israel rhetoric and moves or whether she and the Democratic Party give up the pretense of being great friends of the Jewish State.