Featured Media Critiques

The Guardian Whitewashes BDS Hatred


As progressive politicians continue to make inroads in the US political sphere, it is increasingly important that media outlets accurately describe their ideology and the aims of the movements they support.

Unfortunately, this does not apply to a recent article by Arwa Mahdawi published in The Guardian. Entitled “Cori Bush has proved progressives are gaining strength – and that gives me hope”,  the piece highlights Bush’s rise to prominence in the wake of her recent victory in a primary over long-term Missouri Democratic congressman William Lacy Clay.

Bush is now well-positioned to become a member in the House of Representatives, with the general election slated for November.

One line, in particular, is cause for concern:

When Clay criticized Bush for being sympathetic towards the non-violent Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to pressure Israel to comply with international law, she did not back down.

Let’s start with the facts.

Numerous prominent BDS activists have  gone on record to make clear the true aims of the movement.

Co-founder of the BDS movement Omar Barghouti has said, “Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.” On another occasion he clarified that by “Palestine” he meant all of modern-day Israel.

Similarly, As’ad AbuKhalil, a high-profile BDS proponent and Professor of Political Science at California State University, has made abundantly clear that, “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the State of Israel.… This should be stated as an unambiguous goal.”

And if that does not suffice, author John Spritzler, another BDS leader, is on record as saying: “I think the BDS movement will gain strength from forthrightly explaining why Israel has no right to exist.

Beyond these frank admissions, the BDS movement website explicitly states that it calls on Israel to allow “refugees” to “return” to Israel.

Related Reading: Is Boycotting Israel Free Speech?

This is a trojan horse, and should be seen for what it is.

The ramifications of such an eventuality are obvious. The absorption of millions of Palestinians, many of them hostile to the notion of Israel’s legitimacy, would effectively end Jewish self-determination.

The BDS movement bases this “right” on United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, which states that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so.”

Sadly, many Palestinians remain remain committed to Israel’s destruction and thus would not qualify to enter the country based on the UN’s own definition. 

Moreover, the BDS movement might declare itself non-violent but that does not make it so. Indeed, the US House of Representatives, in a bipartisan resolution opposing BDS, noted that the movement movement “leads to the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students and others who support Israel,” on American campuses.

Jewish students across North America and Europe routinely find themselves having to self-censor to stay safe, with those not falling in line at risk of being intimidated, physically or verbally assaulted, or “punished” academically by faculty members.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted the link between BDS and Jewish students feeling “unsafe on campus because of their religion.” And in Europe, a survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found that Jewish university students are regularly subjected to antisemitic harassment, often expressed in the form of anti-Israel discourse.

All this is crucial for understanding the true essence of the BDS movement.

Related Reading: BDS Myths and Facts

Mahdawi’s glib description of the movement as “non-violent” and one that “seeks to pressure Israel to comply with international law,”  totally whitewashes the atmosphere of intolerance and seething hatred spread by BDS.

Ironically, after HonestReporting openly and fairly addressed the matter on Twitter, we received a series of nasty messages. Only a day later did we discover the reason: Mahdawi had blocked the HonestReporting account from viewing her tweets, and posted the following message to her followers:

Who is making life hell for who? An organization that upsets a reporter that advocates on behalf of a movement that preaches  eliminationist antisemitism, or the countless number of BDS supporters abusing Zionist and Jewish university students?

We certainly know the answer to that one.

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Featured image: Heri Rakotomalal

Emanuel Miller

Emanuel Miller is a Jerusalem-based writer who has previously worked for the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel, and helped establish the English media department of My Truth, an organization that documents the experiences of Israeli soldiers while facing an immoral, cynical enemy. He regularly speaks about Israel, media bias, and Israel's geopolitical complexities to audiences including Birthright groups, student leaders visiting Israel, and for those seeking to get a more nuanced understanding of Israel.