With a popular school movement like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) on the rise, it is not surprising that people are concerned about its effect on schools.
But is the movement being effective in bringing about meaningful change?
A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly a third of Americans believe that the movement’s rhetoric is making schools less safe, and nearly a quarter of them say they are “strongly opposed.”
A recent poll from the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that about a quarter (24 percent) of college students say that BDS “is very or somewhat important in their college experience.”
That doesn’t bode well for the BDS movement, but it does mean that the public doesn’t appear to be as convinced that it is making a real difference.
What is happening?
When it comes to school safety, there are two main theories for why people are reluctant to support a movement that is being accused of being anti-Semitism.
One is that, because BDS has such a short timeline, it doesn’t have a long-term effect on the country.
The other is that there is some sort of “false equivalence” between the movement and anti-Semitic groups, as if those groups are all in the same boat.
“People don’t see this as an anti-Israel movement,” said Matthew Gabbard, the executive director of the Jewish Voice for Peace.
“It’s not that the Israeli government and Israel’s police and other security forces are not anti-Semites.
They are, and BDS is not anti, but they are not identical.”
For Gabbart, this means that it’s hard to see a long lasting anti-BDS movement without seeing a long time before BDS is actually a “real anti-Israeli movement.”
“The problem with the BDS narrative is that it isn’t the actual story, but the way that people want to tell it,” Gabbarth said.
“What you get is a kind of a myth-making, ‘I’m not anti because I’m Jewish, I’m anti because Israel is Jewish, so I’m not pro-Bds,'” Gabbardsons experience with the movement.
He said that he has experienced this firsthand when he is on the road to activism.
“I was at the World Trade Center, and it was a horrible scene,” he said.
Gabbarbs family has lived in Brooklyn for many years, and his daughter has attended a number of local public schools.
“She’s a great student,” Gammart said.
He also said that BDS does have an impact on Jewish communities, but that this has not always been reflected in policy.
“When the [BDS] campaign started, we saw an incredible increase in anti-Jewish activity, and I think that’s been a real problem,” Gabgaris said.
“[There is] the issue of ‘is the community anti-bDS?
Is the community not supportive of this?’
Is the culture anti-Muslim?
Is it anti-black?
I think it’s a little bit of a mixed bag.
And it’s been interesting to see that there has been a shift in attitudes.”
But this isn’t to say that anti-Zionism isn’t a legitimate movement, as the Pew poll found.
“The movement is gaining traction, and there are people that have an agenda against Israel,” Gambard said.
While Gabbarts view of the movement may be influenced by his family’s experiences, it’s also been influenced by the fact that there are so many other issues that have been addressed within the Israeli political system.
While the BDS supporters may not necessarily see Israel as an “enemy,” the people who support the movement have a different perspective.
“There is a lot of frustration among Palestinians who are upset with Israel because Israel doesn’t seem to treat them fairly,” Gagbor said.
The “real enemy” in the Middle East is the occupation, said Gabbas.
“In the Middle West, we call it occupation, but what we call Israel is occupied territory, which is not a Palestinian land.
So if there’s a real conflict with a Palestinian state, that’s not the enemy.”
The Israeli government’s policy of settlement expansion and the military occupation of the West Bank are two other things that have influenced public attitudes about BDS.
“These are the two big things that Israel is facing right now,” Gabor said.
And while some of the anti-Shabbos-related rhetoric is still prevalent, the public is beginning to realize that, yes, there is a real “real” conflict going on with Israel.
What are the best ways for the Jewish community to engage with the issue?
While the majority of Jewish people support the BDS campaign, there have been other steps that the Jewish faith and the Israeli people can take.
“For example, it was mentioned at the convention last week that there was going to be a national conference of Jewish students