Outrage ensued on social media and university campuses across America this past week when it was reported that the U.S. government had denied prominent Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti entry into the country. Barghouti had planned to come to the U.S. to promote the highly controversial Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement he co-founded.
BDS supporters claim that they want to put economic pressure on Israel to reach agreement on a peaceful and fair solution to its conflict with the Palestinians, and their message has found increasing traction in the U.S. The controversial Democratic representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have lent the movement high-profile support. The New York Times Magazine recently published a pro-BDS cover story written by a highly controversial political journalist. Altogether, 31 universities have passed BDS measures since 2015, and, since 2005, 127 such measures have been considered.
The truth is that many of the students and activists who support the movement have been duped into thinking they’re supporting a noble cause. In fact, BDS is little more than a ploy established and run by radical anti-Semites who deny Israel’s right to exist and seek to destroy it.
You don’t need to take our word for it: Let Barghouti speak for himself. He believes that Israel is an illegitimate state. At a 2013 event in Norway, he referred contemptuously to “self-determination for Jewish settlers in Palestine, which I categorically oppose. Never in history was a colonizing community ever allowed self-determination . . . colonizers are not entitled to self-determination.” He later went on to make his meaning crystal clear. “A Jewish state in Palestine, in any shape or form, cannot but contravene the basic rights of the land’s indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically,” he said. “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian — rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian — will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”
Barghouti also isn’t afraid to play up anti-Semitic tropes. He has portrayed the Jewish people as puppet masters and manipulators to rally troops to his cause. He once claimed during a talk at Wayne State University that Jews “know how to bully, how to intimidate. . . . Congress is bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Such talk echoes Representative Omar, who in 2012 tweeted that “Israel has hypnotized the world,” and earlier this year touched off a fierce backlash after claiming that U.S. support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins, baby,” invoking the anti-Israel crowd’s favorite boogeyman, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), for good measure.
Speaking of which, evidence about the funding and connections of BDS is quite damning. Activists attempt to claim that it is a grassroots-funded movement, but that is unequivocally false. According to Canary Mission, a nonprofit watchdog group, BDS has received significant financial contributions from organizations such as American Muslims for Palestine, which has direct ties to Hamas, the Palestinian terror group backed by Iran. The attorney general of Arizona even publicly linked BDS to Hamas in a court filing earlier this year.
In short, BDS isn’t a civil-rights movement; it’s a smart, sinister marketing campaign designed to spread anti-Semitism and delegitimize and destroy Israel. It cannot be allowed to go unchallenged, especially given its increasing popularity in the U.S. America supports its friends, and we have no greater Middle East friend and partner than Israel. Honoring that partnership demands a firm rejection of Barghouti and his ghoulish cause.
Alex Titus is a policy adviser at America First Policies. Alexander Khan is an incoming student at Harvard Law School.