“Who today under the flag of the BDS movement calls to boycott Israeli goods and services speaks the same language in which people were called to not buy from Jews. That is nothing other than coarse anti-Semitism.”
While I have had the opportunity to testify before many municipal governing bodies over the past few weeks exposing the true anti-Semitic nature of the BDS movement, the quote above was not one of my creation, it rather passed through the lips of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Yes, in 2016, even the leader of Germany believed it essential to use its unique pulpit to call out those who attempt to hide behind a screen of human rights advocacy to single out not only the Jewish state, but Jews around the world for their highly discriminatory message of anti-Semitic vitriol.
Just over two months ago, I joined Jewish communal leaders in testifying before the New York City Council in support of their forwarded resolution condemning the BDS movement and its delegitimization of Israel. We each spoke of the fallacy of pro-BDS advocates’ statements that they were only concerned about Palestinian human rights, demonstrating through concrete, irrefutable evidence that their concern rather was the latest vehicle of rabid anti-Semitism—nothing more. What was most disturbing is that we were proven correct even as we attempted to speak; I say attempted because each time we opened our mouths we were met with chants of “Jewish pig,” Zionist pig,” “Zionism is terrorism” and other assorted discriminatory epithets that I can in no way share in such a piece, for reasons of their vulgarity.
This experience was not in 1940s Europe, might I remind you, but in 2016, in the city that hosts the world’s largest Jewish population outside Israel.
In the days following the hearing, and as New York City became the first known local municipality to pass such a resolution, I led the Simon Wiesenthal Center, for whom I serve as eastern director, to take on an ambitious initiative to advocate for every local municipality across this great nation to pass this same resolution. When asked by pro-BDS advocates why passing such a resolution was so important, Council Member Rory Lancman responded that those who are in a position of leadership, that those who have a platform, also have an unmistakable responsibility to use that voice to stand up against that which is wrong, to stand up against discrimination and, in this instance, stand loud and proud against anti-Semitism.
Over the past six weeks we have begun this ambitious journey in New Jersey and have met with extraordinary success. Along with the help of many friends to the cause and organization such as the MetroWest Federation, we have already passed this very resolution in Englewood, Norwood, Livingston, Bergenfield, Paramus and next week in Closter. What is most extraordinary is the sincerity and support we are finding among council members in these municipalities who are not Jewish, but who have given us their hand in partnership, fighting alongside their Jewish brothers and sisters in recognition of Israel’s place as both the only democracy in the Middle East and America’s only reliable ally in the region, but more importantly in disgust and horror of the anti-Semitism being advanced by the BDS movement.
Put simply, such propagation of hate has no place in our communities, in any community, and we must be active in causing it to be exposed and disassembled. We must continue to educate the masses about the true nature of BDS and make sure it is understood that fighting such vile discrimination is a fight for all of us. I ask that you join our fight and help us extend this resolution’s passage to your hometown, wherever you may live, and not only will the Simon Wiesenthal Center be there to support you, but I will be there personally to testify.
By Michael D. Cohen
Michael Cohen is the eastern director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and an Englewood City councilman.