JCRC Column: RVA Jews Stand United, Legitimate Criticism of Israel vs BDS

A central pillar of the JCFR, its JCRC – and Jewish communities worldwide – is our support for Israel.  The overwhelming majority of Jews support Israel’s right to exist as the democratic nation state of our Jewish people.  Our history shows that our right to self-determination must be protected if we are to survive and thrive.


Despite this, our community is hardly monolithic. While support for Israel is natural, so too is criticism of Israel in Jewish communal discourse. Criticism of government policies is an integral part of every democracy. Indeed, Israelis criticize their government’s policies daily. It’s practically their national sport; whether they take issue with the burdensome bureaucracy, the high cost of living or government policies regarding the Palestinians. American society understands this welcome, legitimate type of criticism, which seeks to improve Israeli society.


Unwelcome and illegitimate is the increasing campaign to demonize Israel and isolate her amongst the community of nations in an attempt to end Israel’s existence. A small, yet vocal group of activists known as the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) Movement are attempting to destroy Israel, through a well-organized, global campaign to encourage boycotts of Israeli products, divestment from Israeli companies or companies doing business with Israel and the imposition of economic sanctions. 


Regrettably, a small number of extremist, anti-Zionist Jews have joined ranks with the BDS Movement. They speak of widely held Jewish values, and infer – incorrectly of course – that Palestinians cannot have justice so long as Israel endures as a State. Often, their “criticism” of Israel crosses the line into delegitimization of Israel’s right to exists. They question the validity of Israel’s founding, equate Israel with Apartheid South Africa or Nazi Germany and hold Israel to unreasonable double standards. Many subscribe to a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this one-state solution, the borders between Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are dissolved and millions of Palestinians flood into Israel, making Jews a minority in their own state.


This, the goal of the BDS Movement, would effectively eliminate the Jewish state.


Regardless of one’s opinions on Israeli policies toward Palestinians, the BDS Movement’s failure to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, even as part of a two-state solution, is not only anti-Zionist, but also a form of anti-Semitism.


Like successive American administrations, we believe that a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only emerge through collaborative economic investment, constructive measures to promote coexistence, and cooperative direct negotiations. 


The misinformation, slander, and lies spread by the BDS Movement and its supporters will not be tolerated.  We will continue to support Israel’s right to exist and a viable solution to the conflict.  Those community members who are interested in being part of our community efforts to counter the delegitimization of Israel and positively affect Israel’s standing in Richmond and throughout America are invited to get involved in several new committees we are developing for this purpose. 


To express interest, please contact me, Doni Fogel, Director of Jewish Community Relations & Israel and Oversees Programming at DFogel@JewishRichmond.org.


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