Opinion | Putting Jews on a list isn’t activism—it's plain old antisemitism - World Jewish Congress

Opinion | Putting Jews on a list isn’t activism—it's plain old antisemitism

Michal Cohen
Michal Cohen
Chief Marketing Officer, Jewish on Campus
Opinion | Putting Jews on a list isn’t activism—it's plain old antisemitism

Just when you thought the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement couldn’t sink any lower, it did. Last Friday, shortly before Shabbat, the BDS movement in Boston, along with the Mapping Project, released a map pinpointing how “local support for the colonization of Palestine” is “structurally tied to policing, evictions, and privatization” as well as to “US imperialist projects worldwide.” In the process, they created a list of prominent Jewish institutions in the Greater Boston area, including the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts, and Jewish day schools and newspapers, perpetuating three of the oldest antisemitic tropes.

After receiving backlash from the Jewish community, the BDS Boston group defended its "activism” by saying the map held those accountable who “comply with the normalization of Israel.” But openly issuing a call to “dismantle” Jewish infrastructure is not activism, it’s plain-old antisemitism.

Listing Jewish institutions in a highly detailed manner not only puts Boston’s Jewish community at risk at a time when antisemitic attacks are consistently rising but also blames the Jewish people for society’s failures. This so-called activism also plays into classic antisemitic tropes and conspiracy myths of Jewish power and influence, which have long haunted the Jewish community. A recent example is Colleyville, Texas, where a man took a rabbi and three congregants hostage on Shabbat because he believed Jews “control the world.”

Not only does the BDS map scapegoat the Boston Jewish community; it also blames Jewish institutions in the Diaspora for the actions of the Israeli government toward Palestinians. This argument implies that Jewish citizens are not truly loyal American citizens, but rather are loyal to the State of Israel. Holding Jews in the Diaspora accountable for Israeli policies isn’t activism—it's a cheap way to promote an antisemitic agenda packaged as social justice.

This is a pattern that has repeated itself throughout history: scapegoat the Jewish community in the name of pseudo-activism. When has the deliberate call to alienate the Jewish communities in the Diaspora changed Israeli policies? Never. It hasn’t changed Israeli policies because these targeted campaigns do not aim to change the reality for Palestinians—they aim to alienate Jews from society.

If the BDS Boston group cares about resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it wouldn’t waste its time creating “resources” targeting Jews in the Diaspora. It would aim to build dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians in order to assist them in finding common ground. BDS Boston frames the conflict as a zero-sum game—one that relies on the expulsion of the Jewish peoples from their homeland and targeting Jews in the Diaspora, rather than fighting for a future that includes both people in the region.

Creating a list of Jewish institutions isn’t new; it was done in Nazi Germany and in the Soviet Union. Don’t let this effort fool you—perpetrating antisemitism is not activism.  

In October 2021, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and Jewish on Campus (JOC) announced a joint partnership to amplify the voices and strengthen the actions of college students who identify antisemitic occurrences at their schools. The two organizations will provide support to Jewish student communities internationally, which expands the Jewish on Campus network as well as WJC’s relationships with Jewish student communities.