Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu devoted more attention to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) than he did to John Kerry’s peace plans in his speech this morning to the Israel lobby organization the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
By my count, Netanyahu said the word “BDS” 18 times in extended comments against the boycott movement. He likened BDS to classic tropes of anti-Semitism: the accusations that Jews use non-Jewish children’s blood for matzoh, or that Jews have spread the plague, or that Jews seek world control.
“Those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot,” he said. Transcript here.
He said BDS really stands for Bigotry, Dishonesty and Shame, and that “naive and ignorant” people are being recruited as “gullible fellow-travelers” in an anti-Semitic campaign. Without mentioning prominent supporters of BDS, like Stephen Hawking, Roger Waters, and Alice Walker, Netanyahu said that T.S. Eliot, Voltaire, and Dostoyevsky were among the great writers who in another time spread “the most preposterous lies about the Jewish people.”
BDS will fail because Israel is drawing more international investment than ever, including from the leaders of the “knowledge industry,” Apple and Google, Netanyahu proclaimed. And he repeatedly praised Scarlett Johansson (even cribbing a line from Gone With the Wind that was directed to Scarlett O’Hara).
His extended comments on BDS took up the last five or six minutes of his speech. By taking on BDS so directly and insistently, Netanyahu has elevated the movement to new heights of importance, and will force American media to discuss the movement’s goals openly.
In his comments on the peace plan, Netanyahu praised John Kerry’s sleepless efforts but repeatedly cited Israel’s biblical claim to lands across the Green Line, lands envisioned as part of a Palestinian state in a two-state solution. He said that Abraham had bought land in Hebron and near Nablus, and he also cited the Jewish claims on Jerusalem, “the eternal and undivided capital of Israel and the Jewish people.”
“President Abbas, recognize the Jewish state,” Netanyahu challenged the head of the Palestinian Authority, in yet another sign that the new Israeli demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state is a stumbling block to any deal.