For years the battle of the bagel has been raging in South Africa – another front in the massive campaign against Israel.
BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel) activists have been fighting the Woolworths supermarket chain, which has insisted on importing bagels from the Jewish state. The total value of the imported foodstuffs is a mere million dollars out of the chain's nearly 10 billion dollars in revenues. Pocket change.
But the BDS activists are insistent. For a long stretch of time they protested and disrupted operations. Woolworths, for their part, are just as insistent. The chain petitioned the court and even won its trial.
The BDS activists, however, refuse to concede. The chamber of commerce, a youth league of the ANC (the largest and strongest faction in South Africa), and other institutions are part of the struggle.
Two weeks ago, on Nakba Day, they led some 10,000 students in a protest against Woolworths.
On the other side of the world, in Washington State, another much smaller supermarket chain, Olympia Food Co-op, voted to join the BDS movement and boycott Israeli products. When pro-Israel activists pursued a legal path to justice, they were dismissed out of hand.
Three years ago the state's Supreme Court reversed the decision. In the past, it must be noted, there were other legal victories. French courts clarified that boycotting Israeli products was a hate crime. The State of Illinois passed a precedent-setting law a mere two weeks ago that forbids investments in companies that partake in the BDS effort.
The series of legal victories, however, could create a false impression, since BDS has been winning the battle for public perception. Those who claim that BDS will not affect the Israeli economy are correct. For now.
The BDS movement has been conducting a campaign for awareness on multiple fronts – on campuses, in workers' unions, and in the media. It is amassing troubling victories. More and more student unions in the US are joining the boycott. Leading newspapers like the New York Times are providing a platform for boycott advocates.
Their influence has invaded the Hillel groups on campuses, as BDS supporters exploit the organization's wish for openness to disseminate their campaign. When you tell a young student that "Israel expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948" and he does not know that in those same years tens of millions underwent such expulsions – as that was once the norm – and that more Jews were kicked out of Arab lands… well, he might tend to believe that Israel was born in sin.
Some of the students then become BDS activists. In recent years, it has happened more and more.
Support for Israel in the United States is at its peak. But it's an illusion. On campuses, at research institutes, and in media outlets, there has been a consistent, protracted, and dangerous erosion of support for Israel.
It is already invading politics. Sidney Blumenthal was a senior advisor to Bill Clinton. His son, Max Blumenthal, has become a prominent and venomous activist on campuses against Israel's very existence. This isn't what happens in every Jewish family. Far from it. But that's the trend.
Israel is enduring one of the most systematic attacks against its existence. You don't need to be part of the BDS movement in order to be on the anti-Israel front.
When a member of Breaking the Silence appears at events sponsored by BDS, that is not criticism. That is demonization.
When Peter Beinart, one of the leaders of the Jewish left in the United States, who defines himself as a Zionist and Orthodox, claimed that on Lag BaOmer of 2014 Jews committed a pogrom against Palestinians, he was not working to criticize. He spread a blood libel.
When Richard Goldstone published the report bearing his name, he caused a propaganda hit to Israel, even though he recanted after some time. And the list is a long one.
The success of BDS is particularly impressive because it is a movement that uses the language of rights, but deals in practice with denying Israel's right to exist. The result is a major deception.
Many good and innocent people fall into this trap. When the concept of "tikkun olam" becomes the central motif for the identity of Jewish students, those who are searching for a Jewish identity, then the slippery language of the BDS movement becomes a magnet. The fraud is effective.
This appears to be one of the greatest instances of fraud in our age. Because this is a campaign of demonization with dangerous similarities to propaganda lies against Jews.
The leaders of the campaign, Omar Barghouti and Ali Abunimah, have a lofty stated goal. "The idea of two states was unacceptable from the beginning," said Barghouti in his response to a question on one campus, adding that ending Israeli control of Palestinian territories is only a step on the way to achieving the vision of dismantling Israel. Abunimah said that "the two-state solution is meant to save Zionism".
Dr. Ilan Pappe, an ardent detractor of Israel, explained that the campaign is based on a way of thinking that believes in two sins: The first ingrained in the formation of Israel and the other ingrained in Israel's very existence.
The fact that these are unrelenting lies is reminiscent of anti-Semitic propaganda. Almost everything the Nazis said about the Jews is said today by BDS supporters about Israel, through claims of a genocide that never occurred, or deliberate mass killing of innocents, or that the Jews and/or Israel are the main cause of violence in the world, a danger to humanity or to world peace.
We have become accustomed to the fact that Hamas and the Iranian regime openly support the denial of Israel's right to exist. The problem is that those who were supposed to be enlightened, Judith Butler - a Jew, a professor of comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley and Stephen Hawking to join the coalition of insanity, and a worldwide struggle against the very existence of one country of the all countries in the world. Israel. Not North Korea. Not Iran. Not Sudan. Only Israel.
Prominent BDS spokesmen for the BDS campaign use anti-Semitic motifs in their propaganda. For example, Roger Waters, the lead singer of Pink Floyd, talks about Jewish control of Hollywood as he compares Israel to the Nazis. One of the financiers of the flotillas to Gaza and of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), both part and parcel of the BDS, is Mahathir Mohamed, the former president of Malaysia and a proud anti-Semite.
Israel, needless to say, is far from perfect. It deserves criticism. It also knows itself how to do that perfectly well. It is doubtful that there is any other country in the West where the media and academia can publish anything and everything under the sun, including lies, including arguments against the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
But the BDS is increasingly becoming a strategic threat. Massive amounts of capital from the Gulf states, especially Qatar, is funding anti-Israeli propaganda, as recently revealed by Prof. Ofira Seliktar in research about to be published.
This funding also sponsors many faculties, where many BDS supporters are sprouting up. For example, the institute at Georgetown University headed by Prof. John Esposito received tens of millions of dollars from Saudi billionaire Al-Walid Bin-Talal. Can one really claim that there is no connection between these contributions and Esposito's enthusiastic support for BDS?
The events of last weekend at the FIFA conference will be played out again in other forums in the coming months.
Israel cannot be defeated on the battlefield. But Israel can be defeated on the propaganda field. When the Foreign Ministry is split into six, because politicians need the honor, the war against this demonization absorbs a blow. But the war against BDS is not a political issue, it is a matter of national interest. All sane forces, left and right, must be enlisted in this fight against it.
There are those already in the wider world who are leading the struggle, and they are far from supporting the political right; indeed, we will come to them later. They have been recruited because they know that BDS does not deal with legitimate criticism, but demonization. Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper is also mobilizing for war, in the form of a series of exposes, articles and reports in the coming weeks and months.