Half-truths on BDS movement


To the Editor:

Ken Stern’s Op-Ed on the BDS campaign was filled with cherry-picked facts and half-truths. Stern referred to a despicable anti-Semitic and racist website that ran an interview with me as proof that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is anti-Semitic. I let Mr. Stern know, backed by documentation, that the interviewer had approached me under false pretenses, that I was horrified the interview was run without my consent and that I had been trying for days to have it removed. Even knowing this, he refused to remove that section of the article.

For Mr. Stern and the American Jewish Committee for which he works, scoring political points apparently is more important than the truth.

Stern claims that BDS is failing and seeks an end to Israel. Neither is true. In just the last few months, major church denominations endorsed boycotting settlement products. Friends Fiduciary divested from Caterpillar, and MSCI, a leading indexer of socially responsible companies, delisted Caterpillar, in part because of its role in the occupied territories. TIAA-CREF then divested its Social Choice Funds of $72 million in Caterpillar stock.

The African National Congress in South Africa began calling for BDS in 1959, but it didn’t become successful until the 1980s. In the case of Palestine and Israel, BDS is progressing much faster.

The movement to end apartheid in South Africa did not seek an end to South Africa’s existence. It sought freedom, dignity and equality for all its citizens, regardless of race. At least 20 percent of Israelis are not Jewish. Millions of Palestinians live under occupation, and many more are refugees. 

My own children hold Israeli citizenship. I would like them to have the option to live in an Israel that offers freedom, dignity and equality, regardless of ethnicity or religion — the same values I grew up with as an American. That is not about the end of Israel but a vision of justice for everyone in the region.

Rebecca Vilkomerson
Executive Director, Jewish Voice for Peace
Brooklyn, N.Y.


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