Rivlin says calls for Israel boycott are ‘modern blood libels’

At BDS conference, president also warns against right-wing anti-Semitism ‘from those who claim to admire Israel;’ US anti-Semitism czar says the answer to BDS is ‘not censorship’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

President Rivlin speaking at a anti-BDS conference in Jerusalem, June 20, 2019 /screen grab)
President Rivlin speaking at a anti-BDS conference in Jerusalem, June 20, 2019 /screen grab)

President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday slammed the “modern blood libels” of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, warning against both left-wing Jew-hatred disguised as anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism from right-wing supporters of the Jewish state.

“BDS does not seek peace, or even to help our Palestinian neighbors. It seeks to delegitimize Israel’s very existence,” he said at a conference of international pro-Israel activists in Jerusalem.

He urged participants to “use all the tools at our disposal to defeat BDS” in all sectors of government, the media and civil society.

“We must expose the modern blood libels spread by BDS, and put a price on its hate and discrimination,” he said at the International BDS Conference, which was organized by the Strategic Affairs Ministry.

Headed by Gilad Erdan, the ministry is tasked with fighting BDS and other efforts to delegitimize Israel.

Jerusalem is willing to listen to “legitimate criticism” that stems from genuine concern for its security and welfare, especially when it is voiced by Diaspora Jews, the president went on. The Israeli government “must do a better job of listening to your concerns,” he told the participants, who hailed from 30 countries, to applause.

But delegitimizing the Jewish state was unacceptable, he insisted.

“Today especially, we must stand together against the growing threats of anti-Semitism, whether from the left or right, or radical Islam,” the president went on.

“Too often, the left tries to hide its anti-Semitism in the disguise of anti-Zionism. They try to present their campaign to boycott Israel as ‘progressive.’ There is nothing progressive about hate. There is nothing progressive about anti-Semitism.”

At the same time, “we must show zero tolerance for anti-Semitism on the right, even when it comes from those who claim they admire Israel. They admire Israel but they don’t like too much Jews,” he said, in what appeared to be implicit criticism of the Israeli government’s embrace of far-right leaders in Europe and elsewhere, such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki.

Some 350 participants from 30 countries were said to have participated in the three-day conference.

On Tuesday, US Special Envoy for Combating Anti-Semitism Elan Carr addressed the event, denouncing the BDS movement as “anti-Semitic” and a “danger to the future of the Jewish community in America.”

In the US, calls for boycotts and anti-Semitic statements are protected by the First Amendment, Carr noted, saying that “the answer is not censorship, but it still must be condemned.”

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