Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
In the wake of Gov. Larry Hogan's decision to prohibit state executive agencies from doing business with entities that participate in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, many people, including University of Maryland students, have criticized his actions. Therefore, it is prudent to discuss a central question in the debate over BDS — is the movement inherently anti-Semitic?
Gov. Hogan said the BDS movement uses "economic discrimination," implying he believes it contains an element of anti-Semitism. And Israel does receive a disproportionate amount of attention compared to other nations with more flagrant and serious human rights violations, especially within international organizations like the United Nations. A student group at this university holds Israel accountable, yet there are no student groups that do so for many other countries that have been committing grievous human rights violations for decades, from Mexico to Saudi Arabia to Myanmar.
On their own website, BDS attempts to address the claim that they aren't anti-Semitic. It says, "BDS campaigns target the Israeli state because of its responsibility for serious violations of international law and the companies and institutions that participate in and are complicit in these Israeli violations." They proceed to write, "The BDS movement does not boycott or campaign against any individual or group simply because they are Israeli," but that is exactly what ends up happening.
BDS is analogous to mandatory minimums for crack cocaine. While, in theory, these minimums don't target any specific group and attempt to hold people accountable for serious legal violations, in practice they target people of color. Israelis, who do tend to be Jewish — although, tangentially, BDS harms Israeli Palestinians, too — are targeted for the actions of their government, regardless of whether they support those actions.
Finally, BDS also claims "many Jewish students … support and advocate for BDS," which does ring of tokenization or a racist person's defense that he or she has a black friend.
However, even with all of this evidence of an unfair double standard against Israel and its citizens, I don't believe BDS is inherently anti-Semitic. In its current form, BDS does commit anti-Semitic acts, but it can transcend that reputation if it begins treating all countries equally. Israel isn't perfect and needs people, especially Jews, to hold it accountable. Yet, Israel cannot be held to a standard that activists won't apply to other countries.
It is time to end this double standard. If activists want people to boycott Israel, they should push for a human rights violations boycott. Countries, including Israel, that violate international law should be held to reasonable standards. At that point, when there is no anti-Israeli discrimination at play, a criticism of Gov. Hogan's order will be better founded. Until that point, however, we should continue to support anti-discrimination laws for all religious and ethnic minorities in the United States.
Moshe Klein is a junior economics and government and politics major. He can be reached at email@example.com.