This past Sunday Omar Barghouti blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 157 which directs NY state agencies to counter-boycott those companies that engage in discriminatory pro-BDS business activities.

Barghouti (52) is one of the biggest names in BDS.

He’s writes prolifically in support of the BDS agenda, goes on frequent speaking tours where he delivers vehemently anti-Israel propaganda to captive audiences on American college campuses and at mainline church events, and is featured prominently on BDS materials and in outlets that are sympathetic to the cause. In the mainstream media, he’s the go-to spokesperson of the movement and has been featured in a number of editorials in prominent newspapers (see here and here).

In Israel he’s also well-known. Newspapers have run front-page stories on him and a petition requesting Tel Aviv University administrators to expel him garnered over 184,000 signatures (the university declined to take any action).

A Qatari-born Palestinian whose wife is an Israeli Arab, Barghouti’s residency rights in Israel are reportedly under review by Israel’s immigration authorities. He received a Master’s Degree from Tel Aviv University, where he also studied towards his Ph.D. For the past 10+ years he’s devoted himself to being a fulltime professional anti-Israel activist. He’s also considered to have founded the BDS movement in 2005, although as I note below that’s actually a misnomer.

Omar Barghouti

Calling the executive action a “new strategy to criminalize support for BDS”, Barghouti joined other vehemently anti-Israel, pro-BDS activists, who wasted no time to condemn Cuomo for “suffocating” the “protected speech” of human rights advocates who are, in their view, justifiably “resisting injustice” through nonviolent means (see here, here and here).

Regular readers of Legal Insurrection won’t be fooled by any of this self-righteous indignation.

As we’ve noted in dozens of posts over the years, BDS promoters have long tried to take the moral high ground, falsely depicting themselves as the champions of the bullied and the oppressed while positioning their deplorable racist and anti-Semitic movement as being on the right side of history.

The reality, as we’ve noted (for a partial list see here), is that it’s the BDS activists who’re relentlessly attacking free expression and doing all the McCarthyite bullying—like shouting down an Israeli ambassador, a mayor, and professors and disrupting—often violently—Israel-themed events on university and college campuses organized by Jewish student groups.

But the intimidation isn’t only confined to Jews.

Palestinians, Arabs, Americans and Europeans—whether Jewish or not—have also been targeted by BDS activists. That’s because one of BDS’s core components, PACBI—the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott—endorses the boycotting, blacklisting, and silencing of just about anyone deemed too supportive of Israel.

Now a video clip that was uploaded to YouTube this week by the Arab media watchdog group MEMRI shows just how far BDS leaders like Omar Barghouti are willing to extend this dragnet.

WATCH: Lebanese TV Interview

The MEMRI video (transcript here) translates a television program which aired back on April 10 on the Lebanese channel Palestine Today TV. In it, Barghouti is featured along with another BDS activist from Gaza, Haidar Eid.

Barghouti, visible riled, fumes about the up-tick in interactions between Israelis and Arabs:

Israeli delegations in Saudi Arabia; sports delegations in Qatar; trade delegations in the UAE; and delegations in Bahrain, Morocco and so on”.

Barghouti is right about warming Israeli-Arab relations, all of which constitute major BDS fails.

As President of the Middle East Forum (MEF) Daniel Pipes notes in a recent thought-provoking op-ed, Arab and Muslim-majority countries are “slowly, grudgingly, and unevenly” coming to accept the Jewish state as a reality. Polls in the Middle East are finding “cracks in the opposition to Israel”.

The real and growing security relations, trade and even cultural exchanges between Israel and Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that make up the Sunni axis arrayed against Iran and its radical Islamist clients do signal some new fissures in the “monolithic Muslim hostility” to Israel.

Israel's Foreign Ministry Director Dore Gold (L) and former Saudi government advisor Anwar Eshki | June 4, 2015 | Credit: Times of Israel

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director Dore Gold (L) and former Saudi government advisor Anwar Eshki | June 4, 2015 | Credit: Times of Israel

This week’s strong condemnations of the Tel Aviv terror attack by prominent Egyptian and Saudi journalists indicate a noticeable shift. There are many more examples.

To be sure, Israeli-Arab reconciliation isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Anti-Zionist ideology remains well entrenched. And the Arab and Muslim worlds are still rife with flagrant anti-Semitism.

Al Ahram anti-semitism series

But Barghouti is correct to note that change is afoot.

So he tells his Lebanese interviewer that the BDS movement is holding “official Palestinian circles” to blame for this sorry state of affairs. As he bluntly puts it: “nobody would dare host” Israelis, and Arab-Israeli normalization wouldn’t be breaking out all over the place, if the Palestinian authorities weren’t allowing so much normalization to happen in the West Bank and Gaza.

Barghouti’s counterpart, Haidar Eid, confirms this assessment and identifies the culprits. He adds that there’s “resentment” among Palestinian BDS activists for all the “undoing of the standards of the boycott”. Then, Eid names three American peace groups—One Voice, Seeds for Peace, and the Peace Alliance—which he claims are being allowed to operate unopposed in the Palestinian territories.

All three of these organizations have as their stated mission to bring Israelis and Palestinians together in an effort to build trust and create the grassroots infrastructure upon which they believe that peace can be forged and sustained.

It may be a fool’s errand, but if you care about peace, justice and human rights then certainly bringing people together to try to promote greater understanding and mutual acceptance is something worthy of support.

But Barghouti and Eid are having none of it. On the video they’re positively irate: the nerve of these peacemakers to “destroy the boycott campaign”!

Bottom line: In the MEMRI video, Barghouti—who benefited from an Israeli education—goes off on a tirade about how ‘normalization’ with Israel by everybody else is to be completely forbidden. It would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that so many people are being harmed by these BDS strong-arm tactics.

The BDS Anti-Normalization Campaign: Roots in Durban

According to the anti-normalization campaign delineated by PACBI, liberal peace and coexistence groups are supposed to be shunned and ostracized for crossing the “BDS picket lines” to cooperate with Israelis.

PACBI

As Alan M. Dershowitz recently explains:

PACBI calls for the boycott of institutions that promote ‘normalization projects’ which do not sufficiently emphasize the injustice of the occupation, even if those projects aim for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and reconciliation”.

Enforced for nearly 15 years, anti-normalization originated at the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa. This is where the call to boycott Israel emerged as a global strategy, following some preparatory work that was completed in Teheran (see our post here).

At Durban it was repeatedly stated that Israel’s creation was a catastrophe and its continued existence a hate crime. So the Durban conference was basically a “coming-out party” for today’s tropes of Israel as a colonial, racist, imperialist, apartheid state.

UN conference in Durban | August 31, 2001

UN conference in Durban | August 31, 2001

What’s important to note here is that, as we discussed in our earlier post, BDS and its anti-normalization campaign wasn’t the brainchild of a handful of people. Palestinian civil society groups and anti-Zionist activists, like Omar Barghouti, did eventually also issue their own calls in support of the campaign.

But make no mistake: the roots of BDS are in Durban, an anti-Semitic hate fest whose proceedings were established by the Iranians, and where the Jew-hatred became so ugly that the U.S. delegation walked out.

BDS Anti-Normalizers Work Against Coexistence Efforts

Since Durban, the BDS leadership has engaged in a relentless campaign to shut down the supporters of coexistence acting in violation of the BDS call.

These efforts happen at the local level in Israel and the Palestinian territories—and in the United States and around the world.

In an article published last May, Khaled Abu Toameh of the Gatestone Institute documents how BDS activists have spoiled a number of joint Israeli-Palestinian peace conferences hosted in east Jerusalem and Ramallah by left wing NGOs and thinks tanks.

Ironically, the featured speakers on the programs of these events have been well-known leftists and “outspoken critics” of Israeli policies. But as Toameh notes, that hasn’t stopped anti-normalization activists from “storming the conference rooms” to chant slogans, disrupting the speeches, and forcing the lecturers to abandon the podiums and the “participants to flee”.

As Toameh reports, Hamas—which this Wednesday praised the perpetrators of the heinous terrorist attack in Tel Aviv—has also been quick to “salute the free youths” who break up peace conferences. It’s another way in which BDS and the Hamas terrorist organization are similar and linked (for other connections between BDS and Hamas, see our post here).

In prior posts (see here and here) we’ve also covered the disruption of guest lectures delivered by internationally-recognized human rights activists and promoters of interfaith dialogue.

As we’ve noted, these violations of academic freedom and free speech have taken place in both Israel and in the U.S.—whether in Haifa or Chicago, BDS activists simply don’t want Israelis and Arabs to engage with each other or to get along.

In addition, last year we highlighted the BDS effort to boycott the YaLa Young Leaders initiative.

Founded in 2011 by former Israeli peace negotiator Uri Savir, YaLa utilizes the World Wide Web to bring together young people from across the Middle East. The idea is to advance the prospects for peace by enabling the region’s youth to engage with each other online via Facebook and interactive conferences.

YaLa, About

But BDS doesn’t want Israelis talking with anyone—whether it’s face-to-face or in virtual reality. So back in 2014 it called for YaLa to be blacklisted.

Boycott of YaLa

Our post on YaLa was from last July. It doesn’t look like the anti-normalization thuggery has had much of an impact on the group. YaLa now boasts 1 million members. On June 23, the organization will celebrate its 5th anniversary with a new online conference.

YaLa Twitter, join June event

Unfortunately though, other peace groups haven’t fared so well from all the BDS intimidation.

Thugs Busting Up Hugs: the Demise of the Annual Jerusalem Hug

Since 2007, an inter-religious coexistence organization called Jerusalem Hug has been holding an annual spring event to bring “lovers of Jerusalem” together with the goal of creating unity and peace.

Jerusalem Hug org

The organization invites “passionate Jews and Muslims” who’re inhabitants of Jerusalem to join with Jerusalem Peacemakers, a group of “peace-oriented people from Israel and the Palestinian territories”. Support is also provided by a group of peace activists based in the Netherlands.

Jerusalem Hug, 2015

Best I can tell from its website, FaceBook page and online videos and images, what happens at these events is that participants walk hand in hand, creating a human chain. They make their way to the Old City where they touch and hug the walls and celebrate together in song and dance. The pictures and videos show a lot of families with young kids taking part.

Here’s a video from the first Jerusalem Hug event:

Here are a few photos from the organization’s FaceBook page (there are many more):

Jerusalem Hug, pic 1

Jerusalem Hug pic 3

Jerusalem Hug pic 4

But according to media reports, last year’s event was violently disrupted before it could even start by some dozen “Palestinian anti-normalization activists” from east Jerusalem who tried to prevent their family members and others from attending.

They reportedly threw water on people, pushed and shoved and “assaulted those present”. Participants were called “donkeys” and were accused of leading Jews to “storm Al-Aksa ”, references to the perennial wild conspiracy theory that Israel has designs to defile and destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount.

Hug Event violence, May 2015

Over 250 Palestinians from the West Bank were supposed to attend the event. They had received permission from Israeli authorities to travel to it. Many of them reportedly never made it off the bus following the clashes, the arrival of the police, and several detentions and arrests.

Seth J. Frantzman, a journalist who writes for the The Jerusalem Post, was present at the event where he was also attacked. He reported that the event proceeded as planned, albeit with far fewer participants. They hoped that by remaining they’d be bringing a “message of nonviolence”.

Frantzman attacked at J Hug event

Frantzman posted this video clip of the violence on to YouTube:

I couldn’t find any information online about this year’s Jerusalem Hug festival. In past years the event has been held the last week of May; this year would’ve been the 10 year anniversary.

I contacted Frantzman who replied via Direct Message on Twitter:

I don’t think it took place this year, not sure why. Maybe because it was so viciously attacked. One or two of the Arab participants were much more wounded than I”.

It sure looks that way:

Palestinian man injured after being hit by Arabs seeking to prevent him from joining the annual 'Big Hug' in Jerusalem | May 2015 | Credit: Voice of Israel

Palestinian man injured after being hit by Arabs seeking to prevent him from joining the annual ‘Big Hug’ in Jerusalem | May 2015 | Credit: Voice of Israel

It’s a damn shame. But the violent disruption of last year’s Jerusalem Hug did garner some media attention, so perhaps more media coverage can assist the organization in its future efforts.

To be honest, after researching this post, I do wonder though about all the lost opportunities for Israeli-Arab engagement that never get any media coverage because they never happen in the first place on account of all the BDS threats and intimidation.

Conclusion

This week BDS leaders have responded angrily to NY Gov. Cuomo’s efforts to counter the campaign to unlawfully discriminate against the nation state of the Jewish people.

Basically, BDS proponents who routinely encourage the blacklisting, silencing, and even the violent roughing-up of peace, social justice, and human rights activists have ironically been spending the past few days accusing the governor’s office and pro-Israel organizations of intimidation tactics.

Bottom line: For too long BDS activists have managed to convince well-meaning progressives that their interests, grievances, and goals are aligned. But liberals who’ve made common cause with people like Omar Barghouti should take note: anybody who calls himself pro-justice, pro-diversity, pro-free speech, and pro-peace can’t stand against people-to-people grassroots activities or the effort to bring Jews and Arabs together to build trust and empathy. The truth should be obvious: BDS isn’t for human rights or peace—it’s a fundamentally bigoted, hateful, and intolerant movement which condones, and even advocates for, violence. Progressives who affiliate with it are morally confused and are betraying their expressed principles and values.

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Featured Image: Omar Barghouti on Lebanese TV, April 10, 2016. Credit: MEMRI | YouTube

Miriam F. Elman is an associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 60 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamElman