Israel

Illinois Democrats Take Stand against Anti-Israel Boycott Campaign

The Democrats scored an important victory against hatred and intolerance earlier this month when State Senator Daniel Biss announced that he had dropped his running mate, Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, in his bid for the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor.

A week earlier the Evanston Democrat had selected Ramirez-Rosa to run alongside him in the Democratic primary. But the relationship quickly soured over Ramirez-Rosa’s support of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, a fringe anti-Semitic group that calls for the ostracization of companies and institutions that do business with Israel.

Within hours of Ramirez-Rosa’s nomination, Illinois Democrats launched a campaign of protest, expressing a zero-tolerance stance against BDS and anti-Semitism in Democratic Party ranks.  A few days later, influential Congressman Brad Schneider had withdrawn his support for Biss’ campaign, citing reservations over Ramirez-Rosa’s “past comments about the United States support of our ally Israel.”

The Democratic Congressman also voiced concern over the alderman’s affiliation with the Democratic Socialists of America, an activist organization which, at its convention in Chicago in August, passed a resolution in support of BDS.

For the Democrats to respond to events quickly and decisively was crucial. It set a standard for the rest of the country that, when you need to move left to win a primary, there is a red line on Israel that makes supporting BDS — on its own — disqualifying for candidates for state-wide office.

The BDS campaign and its supporters seek not only the delegitimization of the state of Israel, they also demonize and target Jewish people at a time when many parts of the world, including Europe, have become an increasingly hostile environment for Jews.

Let’s be clear what BDS is. BDS is a synonym for hate. For intolerance. For anti-Semitism. There is nothing democratic or noble about singling out Israel – the only Jewish nation in the world – out of all countries in the world, for boycotts.

The primary goal of the BDS movement is the destruction of Israel — from the river to the sea — a “Judenrein” Middle East region. You want to see evidence? Look no further than the BDS leadership.

“Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine”, BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti vowed, making no secret of his intentions. His sentiment was echoed by leading BDS activists Asad Abu Khalili and Ahmed Moor, who declared that “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel” and “BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state.”

This is as clear a declaration of ethnic cleansing as it gets.

For decades, radicals who called for the annihilation of the Jewish state were banned to the fringes of the pollical debate. Yet over recent years, BDS has been mainstreamed with the effect that the line between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israel has been dangerously blurred. The Democratic Party is not immune to this phenomenon, which makes it all the more important for prominent Democrats to cut through the BDS campaign’s deceptive human rights jargon.

“Growing up with an Israeli mother, grandparents who survived the Holocaust, and great-grandparents who did not survive, issues related to the safety and security of the Jewish people are deeply personal to me,” Biss said in a statement, explaining his decision to drop Ramirez-Rosa from his ticket.

“I strongly support a two-state solution. I support Israel’s right to exist,” he continued, adding that “That’s why I oppose the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS, as I believe it moves us further away from a peaceful solution.”

To oppose BDS is a moral imperative and Democrats like Biss and Schneider can only be congratulated for the moral clarity they have shown. BDS is inherently anti-Semitic in nature.  Antisemitism has no place in society. And it certainly has no place in the Democratic Party, a political institution with a proud history of anti-racism since the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.

As a lifelong Democrat, this is as proud as I have been in my party in a long time.

Josh Block is the CEO & President of The Israel Project