T’ruah Condemns Pompeo Announcement about BDS, Equation of West Bank with Israel

RELEASE DATE: November 19, 2020

NEW YORK — Today, T’ruah, a rabbinic human rights organization that represents over 2,000 rabbis and cantors and their communities, issued the following statement condemning the recent actions by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that classify the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) as antisemitic and his equation of the West Bank with Israel.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah, released the following statement:

“In the same week that the Trump administration appointed a white nationalist sympathizer, Darren Beattie, to a commission that preserves Holocaust sites, Secretary Pompeo has no business lecturing the world on what constitutes antisemitism. By Pompeo equating settlements with Israel and declaring the BDS movement antisemitic, he has now declared anyone who boycotts settlements only — including many Israeli Jews — antisemitic.

“T’ruah does not participate in the BDS movement. But free speech — including the right to boycott — constitutes an essential component of democracy, a basic human right and a fundamental value of Judaism. The way to fight distasteful speech is with more speech, not by shutting down the other side. We learn this from the Talmud, where the rabbis frequently use colorful language to challenge and repudiate each others’ opinions, while leaving even rejected opinions in the text for later study.

“Secretary Pompeo further declared that products from Area C of the West Bank can be labeled as ‘Made in Israel.’ With this declaration, he abrogates decades of U.S. policy, while also ignoring both international and Israeli law, which both acknowledge that the West Bank is occupied territory, and not legally part of Israel.

“In recent years, some in the BDS movement and the extremist pro-settlement movement have attempted to blur the distinction between the settlements and Israel proper. This posture, from either side, delegitimizes the State of Israel as recognized by the United Nations in 1948.

“Furthermore, Secretary Pompeo’s statement lays the groundwork to attack and discredit human rights organizations, on the fallacious grounds of antisemitism. This effort to silence critics is a page from the autocrat’s playbook. By falsely smearing human rights organizations as antisemitic, the Trump administration will only make it harder to counter actual acts of antisemitism when they happen, while simultaneously harming these organizations’ effectiveness in reporting on all countries’ human rights abuses– including those of the United States.

“The American government must reaffirm a real commitment to creating a long-term agreement that protects the human rights and security of both Israelis and Palestinians by establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel, both within internationally recognized borders. Actions like Secretary Pompeo’s declaration risk provoking a backlash against Israel and against the American Jewish community, the majority of whom support a two-state solution and human rights for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

 

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights mobilizes a network of more than 2,000 rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism that, together with the Jewish community, act on the Jewish imperative to respect and advance the human rights of all people. Grounded in Torah and our Jewish historical experience and guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we call upon Jews to assert Jewish values by raising our voices and taking concrete steps to protect and expand human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories.