Rock legend Roger Waters of Pink Floyd recently kicked off a cross-Canada tour in Toronto, where he was met by groups both supporting and opposing his activism in support of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. Among the groups opposing Waters’ message is the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), which has launched a campaign to mobilize its base in protest.
In a recent email to supporters, CIJA opens by noting that although the Jewish community is “remarkably diverse in its views,” one thing that “unites us” is opposition to BDS, a movement they claim is “tainted with antisemitism.”
Disunity among Jews on the question of BDS
Readers who follow the work of Independent Jewish Voices Canada will know that CIJA’s claim of Jewish unity on this issue is simply untrue. CIJA head Shimon Fogel should know this from IJV’s repeated attempts to have him engage in a public discussion regarding BDS.
The fact is that Jews around the world are increasingly divided over the issue. According to a recent study by the Brand Israel Group, 2010-16 showed an unprecedented 27% drop in support for Israel and an 11% spike in support for Palestinians among Jewish college students in the US. Meanwhile, Jewish Voice for Peace—a leader in the BDS movement—is experiencing rapid growth and is widely claimed to be among the fastest growing Jewish organizations in the States.
Canadian Jews are moving in that direction as well, led by IJV. An EKOS poll from earlier in the year showed widespread support for boycott and sanctions among Canadians surveyed, including those who identify as Jewish. Further proof of growing support for BDS, particularly among young Jews in Canada, was demonstrated at a recent Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) dinner held by IJV’s campus chapter at McGill. The event, covered by the McGill Daily, attracted dozens of Jewish undergraduate students who were thrilled to have found a communal space that allows them to embrace their religion and culture while simultaneously supporting the Palestinians, including through BDS.
The antisemitism charge
IJV as an organization stands vigilant against antisemitism and all forms of hatred and discrimination. As Jews active in BDS and the broader Palestine solidarity movement, we resent the claim that BDS and its supporters, including Roger Waters, are inherently antisemitic.
That there are, unfortunately, individuals out there who support BDS and hold antisemitic views cannot be contested, just as many antisemites out there ardently support Israel and its policies. In either case, antisemitism must be confronted for what it is, plain and simple. To brand an entire grassroots non-violent movement for human rights as antisemitic, however, amounts to nothing short of slander, and is clearly nothing more than an attempt to shut down debate on this important issue.
Enough already with the blanket charge of antisemitism against those around the world who support the BDS movement. Indeed, the more organizations like CIJA employ this strategy, the clearer it becomes that they cannot refute the actual facts on the ground regarding the unjust and discriminatory policies of the State of Israel toward the Palestinian people.
IJV applauds Roger Waters’ courageous and principled stand in support of the Palestinian people and encourages other artists to join him. Together we will bring down The Wall.