Six elected officials from the Miami area on Wednesday harshly condemned recent acts of vandalism committed near local Jewish businesses by supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which they blasted as an “anti-Semitic and anti-Israel” ploy to undermine peace prospects.
In a letter to Miami Police Commander Albert Guerra, officials including Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, and Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez denounced the defacement of public property in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood with hundreds of spray-painted “BDS” stamps, which were first spotted on November 15. The letter was also signed by Sharona Whisler, executive director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Florida chapter.
The stamps were concentrated in an area with many Jewish-owned businesses, including some with mezuzot on their doorways, and were reported to the Miami Police Department by local businessman and activist Joe Zevuloni. A video taken by Zevuloni and embedded below shows some of the stamps sprayed in front of an Israeli-owned store.
The incident is being investigated as a hate crime, a decision the officials said they “strongly support.”
“As you may know, and as many in the community are aware, many Jewish-owned businesses are in the radius of where the graffiti appeared. This graffiti in Wynwood, thousands of miles from Israel, is simply the targeting and harassment of those Jewish-owned businesses,” the officials observed.
The BDS movement pretends to be a progressive, social justice movement but in fact, it is anti-Semitic, anti-Palestinian Arab, and anti-peace. The BDS movement singles out Israel alone – the one Jewish state in the world and the only thriving democracy in the Middle East – for condemnation and punishment, while ignoring the egregious human rights abuses of countries such as Syria, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
The officials noted that the founders and supporters of the BDS campaign actively “call for Israel’s destruction” and support economic attacks on Israeli businesses that have the potential to leave thousands of Palestinian Arabs jobless.
“BDS is also anti-peace, blaming only Israel for the ongoing conflict and ignoring Arab incitement of violence against Jews, Arab terrorism against Jews, and the Arab refusal to accept a Jewish state. Instead of encouraging negotiation and compromise, BDS supporters encourage isolating, condemning, and hurting Israel,” they wrote.
Unfortunately, the pro-BDS graffiti stamps defacing the sidewalks in Wynwood are not the first time BDS supporters have defaced property and we anticipate it will not be the last. It is crucial that our police departments take pro-active measures to ensure that supporters of the BDS movement do not vandalize community property or engage in other actions that threaten the safety, security and peace that we value.
Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman told The Tower on Thursday that he applauded the Miami Police Department for deciding to investigate the incident as a hate crime, saying the designation “sends a clear message to the perpetrators.” He noted that while the BDS campaign has failed to gain traction in South Florida, he was glad that it was being taken seriously by law enforcement officials.
“Spray painting ‘BDS’ in front of Jewish businesses in Wynwood in an effort to encourage people to boycott these businesses in simply anti-Semitism, harassment, and religious discrimination. This is unacceptable in our backyard,” Groisman added.
In December 2015, Bal Harbour became the first U.S. municipality to pass an ordinance against the BDS campaign. Groisman drafted and sponsored that measure, which sought to prevent taxpayer funds from being used to support discrimination based on national-origin.
“The BDS movement is a global propaganda campaign against Israel that serves as thin cover for anti-Semitism – the levels of which we have not seen in the Western World in over 60 years,” Groisman said at the time. “This ordinance will protect the economic and social interests of the citizens of Bal Harbour, who widely reject discriminatory business practices, especially when they are funded in any way by public taxpayer money.”
Months later, Florida lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to adopt bipartisan legislation to restrict the state from investing in companies that boycott Israel. The bill was signed into law on March 10 by Gov. Rick Scott, who warned that BDS is “fueled by anti-Semitism, and has no place in Florida or any part of the world that values freedom and democracy.”
This is not the first time that anti-Israel campaigners in South Florida appeared to focus their efforts on Jewish targets. Last year, vandals allegedly plastered anti-Israel labels on Kosher food products at a North Miami Beach grocery store. A label seen in a photo of one of the branded items, which was manufactured by the Jewish American food company Kedem, called on consumers to “boycott this product.”
Whisler, whose group organized the officials’ letter, told The Tower that “it is of interest to the national Jewish community that the City of Miami Police Department takes it seriously and that this vandalism is being investigated as a hate crime, setting a precedent.”
“That the graffiti targets an area saturated with Jewish owned businesses, should leave any doubt as to the true bigoted nature of BDS,” she added.