TEL AVIV – The American Jewish Committee has launched a campaign to procure signatures of all 50 state governors on a petition to divest from companies engaged in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
Called “Governors United Against BDS,” the declaration has already garnered the signatures of 16 governors, The Jerusalem Post reported.
AJC officials announced they have “every confidence” that the majority of governors will sign.
“We, the undersigned governors, reject efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israel – America’s democratic ally in the Middle East – through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement,” reads the declaration.
It continues by outlining that “the goals of the BDS movement are antithetical to our values and the values of our respective states,” and that the movement “seek[s] to isolate Israel – a pluralistic nation with deep cultural, familial, security, educational, scientific and commercial bonds with our state and with the United States as a whole – rather than recognize the profound mutual benefits of our engagement with it.”
Dan Elbaum, AJC’s assistant executive director, said the petition was designed to combat what he described as the growing isolationism of the Jewish state and anti-Israel activity on college campuses.
The campaign is being co-chaired by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut.
In June, Cuomo signed an executive order directing state agencies to divest public funds from companies and organizations aligned with the BDS movement.
“I believe that there is strong bipartisan support against BDS, and recognition that it is pernicious, negative, and isn’t what it purports to be,” said Elbaum.
The AJC is also slated to resume Project Interchange, a program bringing delegations of non-Jewish students and university administrators to Israel to learn about the country and meet with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Elbaum said holding antagonistic views against Israel is increasingly seen as part of a progressive worldview on campuses, along with alignment with other causes including the Movement for Black Lives, gay rights and anti-rape activism.
Since support for the Jewish state is often seen as a conservative crusade, Jewish students who are on the more liberal end of the political spectrum find it difficult to stand up for Israel.
“We hear this attitude from more and more students and it’s troubling that young people might feel a need to leave pro-Israel sentiment behind in order to be progressive,” said Elbaum.
Jewish campus group Hillel International, which has joint programs with AJC, aims to combat this sentiment by engaging all Jewish students, including those from mixed marriages or those of whom are otherwise less affiliated with the Jewish community.
“We want as many Jews as possible to understand Israel, and to support Israel when it needs support, and so we are reaching out to people who were not traditionally defined as part of the Jewish community,” Matt Berger, senior adviser for strategic communications at Hillel International, said.
Elbaum points out that an overwhelming majority of anti-Israel activity on college campuses comes from minority groups. He said that part of the reason is due to the notion of “intersectionality,” in which disparate civil and human rights issues are fudged into a singular narrative of persecution.
One prominent example of this was the Movement for Black Lives’ recent platform which declared that Israel was perpetuating “genocide” against the Palestinians.
Another pro-Israel group dedicated to combating misinformation about Israel on campuses is StandWithUs, which is set to launch a new online platform to empower students on campuses to combat BDS. The group also arranges speaking tours around college campuses with the aim of reframing the debate surrounding Israel.
“While we will continue to face anti-Israel extremism, our community also has a great opportunity to be proactive and reclaim Israel’s story on campuses,” said Ron Krudo, executive director of campus affairs for the organization.
“We are excited to work with our partner organizations this year to empower students, overcome our shared challenges, and inspire the support Israelis deserve.”