On April 29, the Harvard Crimson published an editorial endorsing boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning Israel (BDS). Then, on June 9—in response to a dissenting opinion piece by a student—it published an indignant letter from Omar Barghouti, the founder of the BDS movement. Gemma Schneider, a member of the Crimson editorial board who objected to the initial editorial, reacts:
Barghouti . . . repeats a host of deceptive anti-Zionist talking points, recycling references to what others have dubbed “Jewish supremacy” while highlighting reports that characterize the Israel-Palestinian relationship as a racial dispute. These declarations aren’t just wildly distorted; they’re dangerous. They paint a reductive portrait of the Jewish state, demonizing the nation and delegitimizing its very existence. But they are also provocative, evoking emotion, and are cloaked with a blanket of resonant humanitarian claims. For unknowing onlookers with a taste for justice, that seems to be all that matters.
This slick dynamic, I’ve come to realize, captures the essence—and the dangerous “artistry”—of the broader BDS movement. It is my intuition that Zionism is not what the Editorial Board—or most people backing an anti-Zionist agenda in the name of justice—believes it is rejecting, or likening to racism and cruelty. Instead, they are rejecting a false projection of Zionism—one that has been carefully constructed by movements like BDS.
Jewish people are also systematically shut down by the BDS movement’s followers when they try to speak up. According to the Anti-Defamation League, a central goal of [Students for Justice in Palestine], a leading source of BDS activism on college campuses, is to protest pro-Israel campus events by heckling speakers to the point of [silence]. As dialogue is stifled by anti-Zionist and pro-BDS students, vilifying slurs and monikers, new and old, also tend to make their way into the air—from [repeating] the trope of a “smelly Jew,” to chanting “Zionists are terrorists,” to spewing the words “f—ing Zionist.”
BDS’s strategy of ideological warfare is all the more frightening because of how well it works—after all, it has led some of the most decent, kind, and thoughtful people that I know at Harvard to become patrons and propagators of anti-Semitism.