With the coming start of another academic year, American college and university campuses will undoubtedly witness once more the screaming anti-Israel onslaught of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) crowd. As before, it will be led by the largely Muslim ranks of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and continue their campaign seeking – as founders of both SJP and the BDS movement have explicitly acknowledged – the annihilation of the Jewish state.
And, as in recent years, SJP and others in the forefront of the BDS movement will seek to win support by invoking their particular version of “intersectionality.” The term refers to the concept that all victimized groups and identities are interrelated and face shared challenges. In the BDS version, members of all such groups and bearers of all such identities ought to join together and, in particular, rally to the Palestinian cause as the world’s paradigmatic example of victimization. They ought to work with their BDS brethren for the world-repairing fix of Israel’s destruction.
The BDS intersectionality ploy has, in fact, fallen on fertile ground in the current campus milieu. Campus groups ranging from feminist circles and LGBT advocates to ethnic and racial minorities – some African-American bodies, Asian-American associations, Hispanic organizations, Native American societies and others – have fallen in line behind the BDS pipers.
Many others have pointed out obvious absurdities in this phenomenon: feminist groups supporting a cause whose chief adherents, both within Palestinian society and in the broader Arab and Muslim worlds, are overwhelmingly abusive of women, subjecting them to enforced subservience and widespread physical, not infrequently murderous, assault; LGBT advocates embracing those who uniformly mete out the most horrific treatment to LGBT individuals in their midst.
But the incongruence also extends to ethnic and racial minority groups that sign onto the BDS version of intersectionality. The supposed reasoning behind BDS outreach to these groups, and the latter’s responsiveness, is the claim of shared victimization by Western imperialism and white supremacism. But in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, this formulation sets reality on its head.
In fact, it was the Palestinians who were the benefactors of Western colonialism. In the post-World War I break-up of German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires and creation of new states on former imperial lands, the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate for creation of a Jewish National Home on a small part of former Ottoman lands. Yet Britain, pursuing what it saw as its own colonial interests, worked to subvert its Mandate responsibilities to the Jews and advance Arab interests, not least because it believed the Arabs would be more accommodating of British colonial policy. Thus, it fostered widescale Arab immigration into Mandate territory while repeatedly blocking Jewish access. In the course of doing so, and seeking to prevent Israel’s creation, it betrayed its commitments vis-a-vis both the League of Nations and, subsequently, the United Nations charter.
But the Big Lie at the heart of the BDS version of intersectionality and the BDS appeal for support from ethnic and racial minorities on American campuses goes beyond the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is a lie that can perhaps best be elucidated by analogy to a ploy adopted by Imperial Japan before and during World War II.
As it conquered huge swaths of territory from Manchuria in the north, down the eastern coastal regions of China, and then across southeast Asia, the East Indies, the Philippines, and elsewhere, Japan developed and promoted the concept of a “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” That is, it sought to cast its conquests as liberating lands from Western colonial powers and opening the way for a new, shared prosperity. Japan did indeed replace Western powers – particularly Britain, France and the Netherlands – in some of the territories it conquered. But, as in, for example, myriad atrocities against local populations from Nanking in China to the Philippines, Japanese forces brought not “co-prosperity” but a cruel new imperialism.
The BDS version of “intersectionality” is a variation on Japan’s “co-prosperity sphere,” a ploy hiding another flavor of supremacism and imperialism.
Key figures in both BDS and SJP, the major group promoting BDS on campus, have close associations with Hamas, recognized as a terror organization by the United States, much of Europe, and even parts of the Arab world. For example, Congressional testimony has documented the links between American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), likely the most important sponsor of SJP and BDS, a number of leading personalities behind SJP and BDS, and Hamas.
Hamas, of course, calls not only for the annihilation of Israel but the murder of all Jews. In today’s campus atmosphere, that may count for very little as minority groups weigh their signing on with Hamas-affiliated BDS promoters. But consider Hamas policies beyond the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Hamas leaders have stated that their ultimate objectives go far beyond the destruction of Israel and entail the promotion of their brand of Islamist supremacism worldwide. They have at times allied with ISIS in this broader agenda, at times with other Islamist groups, and have taken their fight beyond the geographical boundaries of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
For example, in March, 2009, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, president of Sudan, was indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, a genocide targeting the Muslim but black, not Arab, people of Darfur. Later that same month, the Arab world unanimously rallied around al-Bashir as he attended the Arab League meeting in Doha, Qatar. But among those most supportive of al-Bashir, and most closely allied with him, was Hamas. In fact, Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk joined a handful of other key al-Bashir allies – the others being the speaker of Syrian president Assad’s parliament, an official of Hezbollah, and the speaker of non-Arab Iran’s parliament – in traveling to Khartoum to demonstrate solidarity with al-Bashir.
In addition, Hamas forces trained in Sudan, working with the people conducting the genocide in Darfur. And Hamas was likewise allied with Sudan as the latter pursued its mass murder and enslavement of Christian and animist blacks in the southern Sudan, a multi-decade campaign that took the lives of some two million southern Sudanese. The southern Sudan gained its independence in 2011, but Darfur remains under the control of Khartoum and the slaughter in Darfur continues.
This is Hamas’s version of “co-prosperity” even as it seeks to enlist minorities, including African-American groups, to its cause under the rallying cry of a supposed shared history, shared interests and shared aspirations.
Are African-Americans who join the BDS bandwagon then simply BDS’s “useful idiots”? Some may well be, ignorant of the agenda of those they are embracing. But others likely don’t care about the BDS-Hamas connection and Hamas’s murderous associations and activities in, for example, sub-Saharan Africa. They are more concerned with pursuing a far-Left, anti-Western political agenda in the context of which the fate of black African targets of Islamism count for little. In this they are no different from many members of BDS’s Jewish auxiliary, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), who, rather than being BDS’s useful idiots, know BDS’s annihilationist anti-Israel agenda and actually share it. They, too, have often declared themselves hostile to Israel’s very existence, do not believe Jews should have the same right of self-determination enjoyed by other peoples, and have celebrated murderers of Israelis as social justice warriors.
The same observation can be made of BDS’s feminist and LGBT fellow-travelers. Rather than being useful idiots, many are essentially indifferent to the treatment of women and LGBT individuals in Palestinian society, in the broader Arab and Muslim world, and, even more horrifically, in the world-view of Islamist groups such as BDS’s Hamas sponsors. Those feminist and LGBT BDS advocates, like the members of Jewish Voice for Peace, are more concerned with promoting a far-Left, anti-Western political agenda in the context of which Israelis are legitimate targets and truly victimized women and LGBT individuals are viewed at most as collateral damage.
But for the wider minority, and feminist, and LGBT communities on American campuses targeted for recruitment by the BDS movement, it would behoove individual members to do some research. However much their college and university teachers, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, have failed to prepare them for such research, they should familiarize themselves with the history and objectives and associations of SJP and the BDS movement before subscribing to the BDS version of intersectionality and embracing the lie of the BDS “co-prosperity sphere.”
Kenneth Levin is a psychiatrist and historian and author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People under Siege.
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