Around this time each year, the daffodils push their heads through the topsoil, and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Daffy Ducks push their hate at college campuses. This spring, the annual circus of disinformation about Israel has an added attraction: an attempt to pressure the world-famous Philadelphia Orchestra to cancel a June concert tour in Israel.
For more than a decade, the BDS movement has been working to delegitimize Israel, using half-truths, white lies, black lies, and polka dot lies. To me, BDS stands for “Bigoted Double Standards,” hurling accusations of human rights violations at Israel while being blind to mass torture, imprisonment, and murder in Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere.
Leading the attack against the Philadelphia Orchestra is Palestinian American novelist and activist Susan Abulhawa of Yardley, whose recent op-ed hit a false note, practically accusing the orchestra of complicity in evil acts.
In a letter to the orchestra, she wrote that performing in Israel “conveys the orchestra’s tacit approval for Israel’s systematic denial of Palestinian rights.”
“Tacit approval” is a crescendo often used by BDS advocates. Since becoming the first American symphonic ensemble to tour Europe after World War II, the Philadelphia Orchestra has visited the former Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, and Cuba without being accused of endorsing communism.
The attempt to enforce a boycott on the orchestra was a first, I’m told by interim president Ryan Fleur.
Visits are “cultural diplomacy,” he explained in a letter that Abulhawa called “dismissive” and “micro-aggressive.” I think it was polite. Read it here.
BDS leans on exaggeration and propaganda. It has two aims: 1) To campaign for Palestinian rights, which is legitimate; and 2) to stigmatize the Middle East’s only functioning democracy, which is not. It “is a spurious, one-sided presentation of a complicated situation,” wrote Nancy K. Baron-Baer of the Anti-Defamation League in an op-ed alongside Abulhawa’s.
BDS’s primary line of attack is built on a lie — accusing Israel of South African-style apartheid.
The more than 20 percent of Israelis who are Arab have full rights; 18 members of the Israeli Knesset are not Jewish (11 Muslims, 5 Druze, 2 Christians); a member of the Israeli Supreme Court, who retired in 2017, was an Arab; and Arabs are in Israel’s military, police, and diplomatic corps, according to the Israeli embassy. The 1999 Miss Israel was Rana Raslan, a Muslim Arab, and the 2013 Miss Israel was Yityish “Titi” Aynawa, a black Ethiopian Jew.
No, this is: “I will never allow a single Israeli to live among us,” says Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who just days ago distinguished himself when he blamed the Jews for the Holocaust.
There is no apartheid in Israel, but the “occupied territories” have a separation wall, some separate roads (to thwart attacks) for Israelis, and different license plates for Jews and Arabs. But the West Bank is not Israel (some parts may be, eventually) and West Bank Arabs are not Israeli citizens, unlike South African blacks, who were citizens.
There are some Israeli practices that many American Jews don’t like and some that Israelis don’t like. By holding Israel, the only majority Jewish state, to a standard it imposes on no other nation, BDS invites suspicion that it is animated by anti-Semitism.
BDS has had success in persuading some musicians — Lorde, Elvis Costello, Lana Del Rey — to cancel Israel tours.
It has failed with many more: Alicia Keys, Bon Jovi, Radiohead, Madonna, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Elton John, Depeche Mode, Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
The BDS movement probably won’t end as abruptly as Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, but the Philadelphians send a powerful message by ignoring it.