But apparently that’s not what’s really important to Texas Governor Greg Abbott. What he cares most about is how his citizens feel about Israel, a foreign country whose lobbyists and supporters have plowed millions into his political fortunes.
A law Abbott signed last May forces local authorities to withhold emergency funding from anyone who supports a boycott of Israel’s illegal, racist settlements, which violate international law and steal land from Palestinians.
In the hurricane-ravaged city of Dickinson, 30 miles from Houston, for example, Mayor Julie Masters is forcing hurricane victims to sign a document declaring they are not “boycotting Israel” because of its discriminatory policies in order to receive hurricane recovery assistance.
Texans who believe in the US Constitution and the right to free speech, or who challenge the racism of foreign countries, can wallow in their tragedy. Only Texans who support Abbott’s twisted law can receive emergency aid.
Texas is one of 17 American states to have adopted such laws. Four more are working on similar legislation and US Senator Chuck Schumer is pushing legislation that would make boycotting Israel a felony punishable with imprisonment.
The battle against Israel’s racist policies is being led by BDS, or the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which is modeled on the successful campaign against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s.
The BDS movement wants to end Israel’s apartheid policies and racism, but some want to do more. The movement has been infected by extremists, who have expanded the fight against discrimination to include all of Israel. They believe Israel has no right to exist and they want to turn back time to the 1920s, boycotting not only Israeli racism against non-Jews, but everything Israel and everything Jewish.
This extremist cancer inside the BDS movement has sadly reduced its power to effectively confront Israeli government discrimination. Ironically, the extremists in BDS have made it easier for Israel to discriminate against non-Jews.
Israel discriminates against non-Jewish citizens who live in Israel with more than 50 laws that treat Christians and Muslims differently. Non-Jewish citizens are entitled to far less government support and funding than Jewish citizens.
It discriminates even more against non-citizens who live under its military occupation. Israel literally steals land from Muslims and Christians in the West Bank and Occupied Jerusalem and gives it to Jews, who “settle” there in homes built by Israeli tax dollars, some of which come indirectly from American taxpayers who give Israel billions each year.
Boycotting the products of Israel’s illegal settlements is everyone’s duty, but hatred of Israel itself because it is Jewish does a disservice to a just cause.
The movement has allowed Israeli racists to use the anti-Jewish hate of the BDS extremists to convince people, like the politicians in 21 US states, that BDS is actually a form of anti-Semitism and not a legitimate campaign to end racism and discrimination against non-Jews.
BDS has allowed its critics to focus on their own extremism rather than on the real issues. Illegal Israeli settlements exploit occupied lands, stealing products that would otherwise benefit Palestinian landowners. Instead, the stolen products are sold throughout the world to unsuspecting consumers. Products such as dates, olives, olive oil, Holy Land souvenirs, hummus, and others are falsely labeled “Made in Israel,” when in fact they are made in territory stolen from Palestinians.
For me, as a Christian American, boycotting Israel’s illegal, racist settlements is fundamental to the essence of Christianity. I must support other Christians who are victims of racism, and I must support all people, such as Muslims, who are victimized, too.
I boycott Israel’s racist settlements. I boycott any business, Israeli or non-Israeli, that profits from the sale of products manufactured or harvested at illegal Israeli settlements. That is the Christian thing to do — it’s also the Muslim and Jewish thing to do.
But what is not Christian, and what is immoral for me, is to boycott Israel because it is Jewish, as many of the extremists who have hijacked the BDS movement are doing. They have put much effort into bullying entertainers to cancel performances inside Israel, but I oppose that because it blurs the line between fighting Israeli racism and hating Jews. It also undermines the only solution to Palestinian suffering. I support the two-state solution and peace based on compromise — those are principles many in the BDS leadership reject.
By imposing restrictions based on criticism of Israel, the governor of Texas has exposed his anti-Christian racism. Governor Abbott and Mayor Masters have sacrificed citizens who are suffering for the political benefits of satisfying pro-Israel fanatics. I reject that political hatred.
But I also reject Palestinian fanaticism. These extremists are transforming the fight against racism into a movement of hate, embracing the psychopathic assertion that the best way to achieve Palestinian rights is to reject compromise.
For me, there is no difference between the ignorance of Texas Governor Abbott and the hatred of BDS extremists.
• Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and author. Email him at [email protected] Twitter: @rayhanania