How to fight BDS

How to fight BDS

Expert will counter Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement during  FDU talk

Anyone feeling uncomfortable and unprepared to respond to anti-Israel statements and actions should take heart. Dr. Eric Mandel is here to help.

Dr. Mandel, who is the founder and director of the Manhattan-based Middle East Political and Information Network and Northeast co-chair of StandWithUs, will address “Attacks from the BDS Crowd: The 10 Nastiest Things You Will Hear about Israel and What To Do About It” on Wednesday, March 2, at 7:30 p.m. at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck.

Sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Hillel, Dr. Mandel’s talk is free and open to people of any age looking for tools to debunk common misconceptions and fight against the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.

Dr. Eric Mandel
Dr. Eric Mandel

“Students are often aghast when they first hear the claims about Israel being made on campus,” Talia Mizikovsky, the director Jewish student life for Hillel of New Jersey, said. “We view this as an opportunity to prepare our students and the young adults of our community for the kinds of rhetoric they may face on campus — so that if and when they encounter it, they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to be impactful Israel advocates.”

“I’ve spoken in New Jersey a lot, and I want to thank the federation for giving me an opportunity to explain the facts in context,” Dr. Mandel said. “Nobody’s entitled to their own set of facts. There are many opinions — but only one set of facts.”

First among those facts, he said, is that BDS started as an initiative of Omar Barghouti, a founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. “The BDS movement is about destroying the state of Israel within every border. It is not about a two-state solution or the so-called occupation of disputed territories, and people across the political spectrum need to be disabused of that notion.

“BDS promoters look at Israel as a colonialist, anachronistic, apartheid, racist state that has ethnically cleansed indigenous people and needs to be destroyed, and they incorporate anti-Semitism as part and parcel of what they do,” Dr. Mandel continued.

One of the most recent related developments is the European Commission’s November 2015 adoption of guidelines for labeling Israeli products sold in European Union countries. The guidelines recommend that products made in the West Bank or Golan Heights — areas over the so-called “Green Line” that Israel captured in its defensive war in 1967 — clearly state “product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)” or “product from West Bank (Israeli settlement)” in brackets.

“There are some good people who have been misled to believe that some form of labeling or boycotts is for Israel’s own good,” Dr. Mandel said. “What needs to be realized, and most Americans don’t, is that the Israeli center and center left is almost totally against not only BDS but also against labeling of goods from over the Green Line. They consider it immoral, and believe it will lead to the boycott of all Israel.”

Dr. Mandel, a pioneer in laser vision correction, started briefing presidential candidates on the Middle East in the 1980s and has extended those briefings to members of Congress and their foreign policy aides over the last 16 years. He also writes a weekly column for the Jerusalem Post.

“As an American, I care deeply about American national security interests, and I believe they overlap with Israeli security interests 95 percent of the time,” he said. “There is a strong consensus in Israel that believes labeling goods from Judea and Samaria will lead in a short time to demonization and delegitimization of anything made in Israel.

“That, in turn, leads to American national security interests being profoundly harmed, and the Jewish homeland being existentially threatened. The Israeli government therefore sees BDS as a more important issue than anything else other than Iran, including Hezbollah and Islamic State.”

At the beginning of February, when he gave this interview, Dr. Mandel was leading his 12th annual educational tour of Israel. “This time we have nine activists from across the political spectrum who want to see the situation in all its nuances and shades,” he said.

Among those with whom the group met were Palestinian workers at factories in Mishor Adumim — the industrial park in the West Bank city of Ma’aleh Adumim — whose careers are threatened by the BDS movement. Recently, the SodaStream plant in Mishor Adumim moved operations to the Beersheba area following years of BDS pressure from abroad. Hundreds of Palestinian employees living in the vicinity had to choose whether to find another job or commute on company-provided vans. The trip takes 90 minutes each way.

“We also studied the incitement propagated through the Palestinian Authority, which is corrupt and to a large degree immoral,” Dr. Mandel said. “There has been brainwashing — a form of child abuse — going on for generations, rather than preparing Palestinians for painful concessions needed for a peaceful end to the conflict.”

Dr. Mandel asserted that it is a mistake to believe that “the Gordian knot to untie to have stability in the greater Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The conflict is a scapegoat to deflect attention from the real issues that are there. If, God forbid, Israel disappeared, there would still be a Sunni-Shiite war, there would still be ISIS, and the Saudis and Gulf states would still be supporting radicalism around the world. The Middle East would be in the same horrific shape.”

Dr. Mandel acknowledged New Jersey to be one of the states in which legislators have made statements equating BDS with anti-Semitism and have taken concrete steps against BDS. A bill passed by the state Senate in August would “prohibit the investment of New Jersey public employee retirement funds in any company that boycotts, divests, or sanctions Israel or Israeli businesses.”

In mid-February, the Combating BDS Act of 2016 was introduced in Congress.

“Our State Department says if you boycott, divest and sanction Israel and use double standards and engage in delegitimization regarding Israel, that is anti-Semitism,” Dr. Mandel said.

In his talks on college campuses, he urges listeners “to propagate facts in context and make people aware that BDS is not about solving the Palestinian crisis but about destroying the state of Israel. They need to become grassroots social activists to fight this, whether they’re Jewish or not. They should have anti-BDS resolutions on campus, and tell elected officials that they support legislation to make sure state pension funds are not invested in the BDS movement.”

He also urges people to buy products made over the Green Line, in such places as Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion. “A buying campaign would send an important message, a political statement that this is not the right path,” he said. “Learn how to be part of the political process and what’s good for American security interests.”

For more information about Dr. Mandel’s talk at FDU, email Ms. Mizikovsky at

“At Hillel Northern New Jersey we often work on campus with StandWithUs and are thrilled to have the opportunity to host Dr. Mandel,” she said. “We worked closely with our student leaders to determine a topic that would be most relevant and practical for college-age students — and we’re very excited about this event.”…tions-movement/ ‎

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