On Tuesday, April 26, Bears for Palestine, UC Berkeley’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, hosted a movie night featuring a 2021 documentary called “Boycott.” This documentary screening was hosted in partnership with Berkeley’s Department of Ethnic Studies and Department of Race and Gender as well as other outside organizations. This cooperation with the University is troubling because of the one-sided nature of this documentary as well as the antisemitic nature of “Boycott.”
“Boycott” is a 2021 documentary produced by Julia Bacha, a Brazilian documentarian who has made several anti-Israel documentaries. This documentary follows three people in three states who are suing their respective state governments’ anti-BDS laws, claiming that the laws violate their first amendment rights.
The documentary is premised on the big lie that these laws are anti-free speech.
The three states in question are Arkansas (Act 710), Arizona (HB 2617), and Texas (HB 89). In Arkansas, the campaign against the anti-boycott law failed when the law was upheld by the 8th Circuit Federal Appeals Court, which concluded that “the certification requirement does not violate the first amendment,” according to Judge Jonathan Kobes.
In Arizona and Texas, after minor modifications to the law to exclude sole proprietors (Texas) or apply only to companies and contracts over a specific size (Arizona), the claims were dismissed as moot, as the statutes no longer covered the plaintiffs. Another attempt to challenge the Texas anti-boycott legislation on constitutional grounds was rejected in the Abdullah v. Paxton case earlier this year.
In other words, in all three attempts, the three “protagonists” failed to prove the central claim of the movie: that the laws somehow infringe on their right to free expression.
It is reasonable for a state not to partner with a business that does not hire or serve people based on race, ethnicity or national origin. As others have pointed out, the arguments against anti-BDS laws would inherently threaten other state anti-discrimination laws protecting vulnerable groups.
“BDS” is the acronym for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign, an effort founded by Omar Barghouti to promote an academic, economic and cultural boycott of the State of Israel and its supporters, of which the majority are Jews. Eight out of ten Jews say their care for Israel is essential to their Judaism, and an attack on Israel is an attack on Jews.
Barghouti is also a notorious antisemite who has publicly justified the murder of Jews by terrorists, perpetuated the conspiracy that Israeli money controls the U.S. Congress, and denied the Jewish right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland of Israel. Singling out and targeting the state of Israel while ignoring the fundamental human rights abuses in other countries, such as Russia and Iran, is a form of antisemitism that holds the Jewish state to a standard not held to any other country.
Another lie perpetuated in the video is that these boycotts are justified based on so-called human rights violations in the State of Israel. The images in this documentary do not consider the events leading up to the arrests, essentially blaming Israel for defending its citizens. Many so-called “Israeli war crimes” accusations are often false or misleading.
The documentary included images of Palestinians being arrested by Israeli police officers. These images do not consider what may have taken place before the arrest. Between January 2023 and April 2023, 18 Jews were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Israeli citizens are victims of regular terrorist attacks, leaving Israeli police forces on constant guard to protect the citizens of Israel, as would any other country in a similar position.
I call on Berkeley’s Department of Ethnic Studies and Department of Race and Gender who sponsored this screening to think critically before they once again find themselves endorsing misleading pro-BDS propaganda.