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What Do Anti-BDS Laws Tell Us About America’s Future?

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By Ian Firstenberg

On Monday July 13, Republican Governor Mike Parson of Missouri signed an executive order prohibiting the state from doing business with companies that support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, or BDS, movement that calls on international lawmakers to end “support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.” 

Missouri is the 32nd state to pass similar legislation precluding states or political subdivisions from contracting any company with more than 10 employees who support BDS. California is among the more than 30 states with legislation aimed at stifling the non-violent protest movement. Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law in 2016, however the bill text was authored by state Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a liberal Democrat representing some of Southern California’s wealthiest districts. 

Bloom has consistently donated small sums to Democrats for Israel Committee and worked with AIPAC on a joint water project between Israel and California in 2016. The 2016 project was marketed as an strategic shift in agricultural development and processing, with California taking lessons from Israel in how to farm with less water. 

Democrats for Israel Committee is the Los Angeles wing of the Democratic Majority for Israel, a pro-Israel lobbying group. The lobbying group spent much of early 2020 running attack ads against Jewish presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, worrying that his slightly pro-Palestine stance “could damage” the longstanding relationship American Democrats and Israel.

The Democratic Majority for Israel, AIPAC and like minded groups spend millions of dollars every year to ensure that criticism of Israel — either verbally, economically or socially — can only be taken so far. With now 32 states, including California, legislatively outlawing BDS support, they’ve been fairly successful. 

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu forge an alliance that levies Zionism above all else. Photo courtesy of Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Israeli state and its domestic lobbying groups seem very concerned with criticism being levied against the government. And why do they go to such lengths to ensure states can’t do business with companies that support BDS? Simply, because BDS has potential to undermine the Zionist project in America. 

Zionists have spent decades beating young Jews over the head with the idea that Israel is our homeland, our chosen state. Somewhere around 1994 or so, their methods stopped working as well. Now, most Jewish youth are aware, at least in part, of injustices the leaders of our so-called “homeland” have committed against Palestinians. 

Zionism is less compelling to young Jews than ever before, making staunch supporters of Israel very weary about the future relationship with America. To be sure there are plenty of young Zionists out there chomping at the bit for a service bid in the IDF or a birthright handjob, but on the whole, most of us lean pro-Palestine. 

As America circles the drain of empire, the grip of fascism will only tighten, desperately clinging to anything familiar as the tenants of normalcy wash away in a spray of Juicero, fent and Diet Coke. The logic of such a reaction is tenuous at best and self-destructive at worst, but these anti-BDS laws are examples of the American fascist body clamping down. 

In a bygone era, conservatives would be in an uproar over something like this. They would decry it as an attack on freedom, America, capitalism and everything else beloved. The suspicious silence indicates that nothing like real conservatism really matters anymore. 

Baptists used to despise Jews. They were the enemy, at least until the Tea Party emerged in 2010 and it suddenly became a political death sentence to be anti-Jew, let alone anti-Israel. 

What started as a whisper in the cocaine-fueled Ronald Reagan 80s has now taken full form. Baptist Zionists are a dime a dozen and any previous conflicts between America and Israel have been washed away by shared political goals. Baptism aligned itself with conservatism in the early 80s in a reactionary attempt to see to it that America, the ‘good guys’ in their minds, win. To see proof of their success, look no further than the White House. 

Donald Trump is too self-centered for any real religious ideology, but his cabinet is staffed up with Tea Party Baptists, and those are his core voters. We love our Beautiful Boating Baptists folks. 

It seems only fitting then that Zionism and Baptism — two seemingly conflicting ideologies — would saddle up next to the fascist framework the Trump administration operates from. The internal conflict of fascism revolves around an enemy that is somehow simultaneously feckless and threatening. The Jews are sniveling cowards and also a fundamental threat to German life. Palestinians are filthy rock throwers who also constantly jeopardize Israeli lives. 

Trump Heights is a planned Israeli settlement in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, named after and in honor Donald Trump. Photo by RoeeMos/Wikimedia.

Fascism in America doesn’t manifest in the classic ways, because we are not a classically resistant population. We are beaten down by 60-hour work weeks, declining living conditions, a pandemic, stagnant wages and SSRIs. Fascism comes to us in a neatly packaged multicolor box devoid of vowels or sharp angles. It’s levied against all of us by the wealthiest of our country in the hopes of a little extra loot before the ship sinks. 

Anti-BDS laws like those currently on the books in 32 states represent fascism’s next stage in America, where questioning is demonized and morals are crafted and prescribed to serve profit gods. It’s the slow march toward self-destruction, and make no mistake, there is no end to this march in which America does not destroy itself. 

Hopefully, we’ll be gifted brief moments of levity to lighten the darkness — funny images like a silver haired Baptist pastor in Nevada leading his bewildered congregation in Hanukkah blessings. L’Chaim!

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