The Charity Commission for England and Wales is investigating the lawfulness of efforts by students’ unions to force a boycott of Israel. The Charity Commission investigation was opened following an exposé by the BBC, which was extensively assisted by Campaign Against Antisemitism. The BBC spent months interviewing students about the effects of the so-called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Through introductions to students, we were able to demonstrate that whilst BDS has no appreciable effect on trade between Britain and Israel, which continues to grow, it has an immense effect on the British Jewish community, and particularly Jewish students. Campaign Against Antisemitism is regularly approached by Jewish students whose experience has been ruined by bullying, intimidation and abuse directed at them in the context of BDS activities such as the invitation of extremist speakers to campuses, violent or intimidatory demonstrations and the isolation of ‘Zionist’ students from the rest of the student body.
Israel is the place from which Judaism originates and where half of the world’s Jewish population lives. Since its establishment it has been the one country that offers persecuted Jews from around the world unconditional safe haven. It is the religious and cultural heart of Judaism. To tell Jews that they will be treated as pariahs unless they renounce all religious and cultural connection to Israel and Israelis is antisemitic.
As we wrote to the Charity Commission, boycotting a country is neither illegal nor racist per se, the problem with BDS is that it is no mere boycott. Supporters of BDS routinely engage the International Definition of Antisemitism by:
- Setting political tests which Jews must pass, or face being treated as a pariah, especially by demanding that Jews renounce their cultural and religious ties to Israel, the physical centre of the Jewish religion, the world’s only Jewish state, and the country in which almost half of the world’s Jewish population lives;
- Attempting to isolate and shame Israeli Jews, but not non-Jews, who do not support BDS when they visit Britain or come to study or teach at British universities;
- Treating the entirety of the State of Israel as occupied land, and thereby asserting that the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavour;
- Working with genocidal antisemitic terrorist organisations;
- Claiming that Israeli policy is to deliberately kill babies, or harvest the vital organs of non-Jews, which revives ancient blood libels;
- Attempting to portray Israeli Jews as having created a Nazi state in the model of Nazi Germany, and of ‘using’ the Holocaust as political cover for purported Jewish crimes;
- Defending against claims of antisemitism by proposing that the allegations are a ruse used by Jewish victims, not to call out racism but to silence criticism of Israel;
- Projecting antisemitic conspiracy myths about nefarious Jewish power onto the Jewish state.
We are grateful to the BBC for drawing attention to this problem and for bravely highlighting the pervasive antisemitism within the BDS campaign.
We await the results of the Charity Commission’s investigation with interest.
If you have experienced antisemitism at university or would like to help us fight antisemitism on campus, contact [email protected].