Op-eds, Opinions

Price ’20: BDS: A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Op-Ed Contributor
Friday, March 15, 2019

Shortly after the United Nations voted in 1947 to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, the Arab world was incensed. Syria’s then president Shukri al-Quwatli threatened to “eradicate Zionism.” The Egyptian king Farouk declared that the Jews would soundly be driven from Palestine. General Secretary of the Arab League Azzam Pasha claimed that “We will sweep them into the sea.”

Seventy years later, many Jews continue to endure the reality of maltreatment on the basis of their religion. In 2017, 938 of the 1,564 total anti-religious hate crimes in the United States — 60 percent — targeted Jews, who number fewer than 2 percent of the country’s population. In this context, I am deeply concerned about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which promotes various forms of boycott against Israel, ostensibly on the grounds of defending human rights and denouncing imperialism.

This anti-Zionist movement is in some ways the buttoned-up, modern cousin of millennia-old antisemitism. Anti-Zionism, opposing the political movement of Jews to self-determination, may not always manifest in antisemitism, but it often can in the case of the BDS movement. The Jewish people have long sought to achieve freedom and peace in their ancestral home, Israel. Yet the BDS movement rejects the existence of a majority Jewish state and applies egregious double standards to Israel’s actions, all while remaining silent on far more atrocious human rights violations.

Now, BDS has come to Brown in the form of the campaign #BrownDivest. While #BrownDivest posits that it does not advocate for a “political solution,” per a statement on its website, the group undeniably invokes BDS, a group whose advocacy suggests inherently political changes to Israel.

On March 19, the Undergraduate Council of Students will open online voting on a referendum to “divest all stocks, funds, endowment and other monetary instruments from companies complicit in human rights abuses in Palestine,” according to the referendum’s official wording.

Thankfully, regardless of the vote’s outcome, it is unlikely the University will ever adopt its mandate. The UCS resolution is merely a recommendation aimed at influencing the University-hired portfolio managers who invest Brown’s endowment. In reality, no professional fund manager worth his or her salt would exclude the multitude of companies that partake in Israel’s thriving economy from a portfolio.

Regardless, the referendum prompts an interesting thought experiment. Why is it that so many self-described progressives, including some members of the Brown student body, denounce Israel and its stakeholders? What is the root of the connection between anti-Zionism and certain blocs of progressivism?

Many will justify anti-Israel sentiment on the basis that Israel engages in apartheid, a system of state-sanctioned segregation and oppression by race or ethnicity. BDS’ mission statement explicitly claims to stand against “Israeli apartheid.” Yet, 14 percent of members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, are Arab-Israeli, just below their 21 percent share of the Israeli population. Two Arab-Israelis have sat on the country’s Supreme Court. Until its dissolution last month, the third biggest party in the Knesset was the Joint List — a vocally anti-Zionist party — which 82 percent of Arab-Israelis support. Israeli laws in no way resemble the state-enforced discrimination in apartheid South Africa, which entirely disenfranchised its black minority population. What apartheid state would be so ineffective at enforcing apartheid?

And what is Israel’s record on issues that progressives often care about? In Israel’s most recent elections, progressive parties came to power in a number of municipal districts, touting policies such as women’s rights, same-sex marriage and adoption. As part of its agreement to the Paris climate accords, Israel promised to maintain the same levels of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030. How are we doing on that front? Double standards abound.

This is not to depict Israel as a flawless state. Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories are a disgrace to Israel’s espoused liberal values. Israel’s belligerence against neighboring Palestinians, even in attempts to defend itself, is often excessive. Its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has recently tacked to the Trumpian right. BDS criticizes Israel for these issues, but the movement’s commitment to holding alleged human rights abusers accountable is not consistent.

BDS is damningly silent on China, which has been accused of killing or imprisoning one million Uighur Muslims. You would be hard-pressed to find an on-campus movement denouncing Myanmar for exterminating the Rohingya. Where is the resolution requesting Brown divest from companies involved in Saudi Arabia, one of the United States’ biggest allies, for its treatment of women, journalists and the Yemeni people?

Proponents of the BDS movement focus on Israel’s flaws and paint the country in broad strokes in an effort to delegitimize it. Regardless of your view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, BDS is not the answer. BDS rejects Israel’s right to exist, a claim so uncompromising that it runs counter to basic academic values of promoting engagement around intractable issues. Student governments should pass resolutions championing engagement between Israelis and Palestinians rather than resolutions that silence one side of the issue.

BDS is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It masquerades as a noble display of support for oppressed people while concealing its intentions to demonize the Jewish state. Like every other country in recorded history, Israel has imperfect policies. But unlike its neighbors, Israel has the democratic framework to continuously improve these policies.

Though supporters of #BrownDivest may believe their intentions are virtuous, dichotomizing this issue grossly distorts contemporary politics. I implore us all to vote against this misguided referendum, not for what it may do but rather for what it symbolizes.

Kyle Price ’20 can be reached at Please send responses to this opinion to and op-eds to

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  1. Charlie Steinman says:


  2. Beer Baron says:

    Under international law, Israelis are entitled to live anywhere in Judea and Samaria. There is no such thing as Palestinian land and never was. Judea and Samaria never belonged to any sovereign ruler after the British withdrew from mandatory Palestine; before that it was part of the Ottoman Empire.

    • I’m sorry, but you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Read Prof. Ze’ev Herzog’s “Deconstructing the Walls of Jericho”, still available on the web. He’s in the archaeology faculty at Tel Aviv, a well-respected scholar.

      Here’s his opening paragraph:

      This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the
      Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the
      desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass
      it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is the
      fact that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described
      by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom.

      Moreover, “Palestine” has been attested for at least 2500 years, appearing in Herodotus’s writing as “a district of Syria”. The biblical Philistines were the ancestors of today’s Palestinians (Palestine is Filistin in Arabic)

      • Beer Baron says:

        You don’t have to take my word for it.

        The text of the original version of the Palestinian National Charter — formulated in 1964, a full three years before the “West Bank” fell under Israeli administration, stipulates in Article 24 precisely what was not included in the “homeland” of “Palestine” and where sovereignty was not sought to be exercised. Indeed, it unequivocally forswears Palestinian claims to “any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Gaza.”

        It is difficult to imagine a more authoritative source for exposing as bogus the Palestinian claim that the “West Bank” and Gaza comprise their “ancient homeland.”

        Good luck with that whole “don’t know what you’re talking about” thing.

        • Hold a gun to someone’s head and they’ll sign whatever you tell them to sign. But that’s known as “coercion”, is a crime, and invalidates the signature.

          You really DON’T know what you’re talking about, and no amount of bluster and handwaving will change that. Read Herzog. Educate yourself, if you can.

          • Beer Baron says:

            Good luck with that nonsense. Nobody forced the Palestinians to acknowledge that Judea and Samaria never belonged to them.

            But hey, look at the bright side. The Palestinians became an ANCIENT CIVILIZATION when the Arab League recognized the PLO in 1964!

      • Modern-day Ashkenazim are descendants of Khazars anyway. No historical connection to the land of Israel.

        • Jared Schwartz says:

          This is widely considered to be an anti-Semitic lie to delegitimize Ashkenazi connection to Israel, please do some research before spreading falsehoods.

  3. “In places where Jews are strong, no idolater must be allowed to remain…” (Hilkhoth Akum X,7). Those poor Israeli Arabs were doomed far before 1948… when the Balfour Declaration was signed (1917) & the Young Turks (Jews) incited the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

    • Who is the source you gave? Never heard of him?, her?, it?, Cuckoo.

      • Source for which claim? And what good are sources when they can just be easily labeled as anti-Semitic: no matter how legitimate the content contained therein? Oy!

    • This is unbelievably tone-deaf and anti-semitic. Imagine if you had quoted a verse from the quran about war against non-believers or a quote from the bible about stoning gay people to prove your biases against either of those religion. Also, saying that Judaism was responsible for the fall of the Ottoman empire…? That’s the type of thinking that inspired The International Jew, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and other texts that sanctioned the massacre of millions of jews for centuries. This comment shouldnt have upvotes. The BDH should take it down and other like it, as they fuel the anti-semitic thought that has spread across this campus ever since this BrownDivest stuff polarized opinions on both sides.

      • No word from you on Arthur Balfour’s promise to Lord Rothschild? Yes, take anything down that even remotely speaks to the truth about Israel. What are you, the ADF? Good reading for you: “Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel” by Allison Weir. Oy vey!

      • “Our might is immense, learn to adopt this might for our cause. What have you to be afraid of? The day is not distant when all the riches and treasures of the earth will become the property of the Jews.” – Adolphe Cremieux, Founder of Alliance Israelite Universelle


  4. Brownstudent says:

    The BDS leadership have freely admitted that they want the Israelis to be genocided. Any Brown student who is part of BDS but doesn’t know that doesn’t deserve to be in this school. In the age of the Internet, ignorance isn’t an excuse for anything.

    • Offer persuasive evidence for your claim. If you won’t, it’s you who doesn’t deserve to be at Brown.

      • Evidence? Israel is a de facto victim, tasked with the duty of bringing peace to the Middle East. No evidence required.

  5. Sorry, Mr Price, but in 1946 at the latest the taking of land by force, regardless of reason, became the principal international crime: the Crime Against Peace. It, and the Crimes Against Humanity, and War Crimes, are the crimes for which the Nazi leadership were hanged.

    The Zionist leadership are more than eligible to be hanged on those grounds too, and with any luck it will happen one day soon.

    The descendants of the European Jews victimized before and during WW2 have been assiduous in demanding the return of their lands and property, stripped from their forebears by the Nazis. Do you think they will be as honest in demanding that the Zionist leadership, spiritual descendants of the Nazis that they are, must suffer the same fate as those earlier thieves and killers? I bet they won’t.

  6. ToBeDetermined says:

    Just gonna try to correct a couple elements of misinformation offered by the author (anybody please correct me if I’m wrong):

    1) I don’t think the Brown Divest movement is affiliated with the BDS movement, furthermore Brown Divest focuses specifically on companies that are involved in the settlement process and in building and maintaining the separation barrier (not any company with any involvement with Israel).

    2) One of the things that Brown Divest has been pushing for, as I understand it, is a general framework for ethical investing. Given that it’s a bit misleading to say that the movement’s ethics are inconsistent, as an ethical investing standard would force the University to deal with investments related to Saudi Arabia as well as the other human rights issues mentioned in the article.

    I’m all for conversations, and it’s cool to see so much strong debate about this stuff. I think it’s also valuable to do some basic research about topics/organizations/movements before writing articles about them. Let’s do a bit better about that and make sure to not misinform people in the future about what a vote is about (I’m giving the benefit of the doubt and assuming this wasn’t an intentional misrepresentation of Brown Divest by the author)!

  7. I support BDS and Palestinian rights because the Israelis treat women as second-class citizens, they kill gay people just for being gay, they launch weapons indiscriminately at Palestinian civilians, they teach their children to hate their enemies and train them to be suicide bombers, they celebrate when one of their fellows commits a terrorist murder, they refuse to hold elections, and they seem to prefer the death of their enemies to their children’s lives and their own prosperity.

    Oh, wait. It seems I was misinformed.

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