Finally, BDS recognized as an obstacle to peace and prosperity

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the first United States Governor to enact an executive order against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. For many who live, work or volunteer, like I do, in New York state, this is a moment for which we are grateful.

BDS, finally, is being recognized as a divisive force that works against peace and aims to isolate Israel politically, economically and culturally.

Executive Order No. 157, as it is formally known, directs “state entities to divest all public funds supporting the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel” to “ensure that no state agency or authority engages in or promotes any investment activity that would further the harmful and discriminatory Palestinian-backed Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in New York State.”

Political debate is healthy and necessary for any democracy to thrive, but the BDS movement offers a distorted, intolerant and one-sided picture of a very complex situation. Despite claiming to seek “peace,” the BDS movement works unambiguously to undermine the peace process and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It’s worth bearing in mind that prominent Palestinian academics such as Sari Nusseibeh, retired president of Al Quds University in East Jerusalem, have been firm critics of efforts to boycott Israeli universities and academics. And the International Trade Union Confederation, which represents 312 affiliated organizations in 156 countries and territories representing 176 million workers, rejected calls to support BDS. Palestinians are often hurt most by BDS economic campaigns, as their livelihoods depend on the wages they earn as employees of the very companies BDS tries to shut down. Israel, like all democratic countries, supports employees who are minorities, including women, and people of all nationalities, religions and sexual orientations. The movement to boycott Israel is a serious threat to Israel’s economic security, and thus to all whose livelihoods depend on a stable Israeli economy.

Economic threats can also hamper innovation, the spirit of which has solidified Israel’s reputation as a start-up nation, one that attracts venture capital from around the world. These innovations have helped bring technological advances into our daily lives, from cell phones to WAZE to stem-cell research and lifesaving treatments. (Full disclosure: the Hadassah Medical Organization in Israel is recognized around the world for cutting-edge medical research and treatments.)

Cuomo’s decision is extremely timely, as more cities and states around the United States find themselves making decisions about BDS. New York, home to the largest Jewish population in the United States, joins Georgia, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina, Indiana and Arizona in formalizing efforts to combat the BDS movement. I hope other states that stand strongly against it, who instead support constructive e?orts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together and promote mutual respect and trust, will follow their lead.

About the order, Cuomo said: “New York and Israel share an unbreakable bond and I pray that the Israeli and Palestinian people will find a way to live side by side and find peace, prosperity and security.”

Each day, despite the headlines, so many Israelis – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, secular – work to build bridges. Our gratitude should be for them, too, and for all who work to remove obstacles to peace.

Ellen Hershkin is the national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., the largest Jewish women’s organization in the United States.

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