“Our efforts on behalf of Jewish community business encompasses many fronts, and this is a particularly important one,” says Duvi Honig, Founder and Director of Parnassah Network and the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce (OJC).
Duvi is referring to the effort to fight the BDS movement, the infamous international movement to boycott businesses and products with links to Israel. Though the BDS movement officially does not boycott non-Israeli businesses, many American based Jewish businesses sell Israeli products or have other links to the Holy Land. More importantly, the anti-Semitic nature of the BDS movement has been moving from subliminal to overt as it progresses. And, no doubt, if the movement is successful, it would proceed to harm other, non-Jewish western targets.
Mr. Honig sums up the effort: “BDS is here to harm Jewish businesses and the OJC is here to strengthen them.” The OJC network encompasses over 1,000 businesses and relationships with leading business leaders, banks and elected officials. The network is now harnessing its clout and coveted relationships to battle BDS in the most effective possible manner. In addition to J-Biz Expo, professional workshops and other economic development programs, the OJC has a powerful Public Policy Committee that aims to promote government policies that are friendly to grassroots businesses.
The anti-BDS battle is being fought on various fronts. OJC officials are in close contact with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and other top federal legislators regarding federal anti-BDS efforts. The goal is to pass federal anti-BDS legislation similar to what has already been passed in several states – but with much stronger enforcement and punitive capabilities against those engaged in BDS related boycotts. The OJC has also commissioned leading attorneys in the field of international law to study what type of negative consequences can be established for those engaged in BDS activities. Recently, several top ranking Israeli government officials were at the OJC’s New Jersey headquarters, where they were updated on the chamber’s efforts and helped chart the road ahead.
Mr. Honig recently co-chaired the high profile anti-BDS mission to Congress, which was led by Ezra Friedlander. In addition to leading The Friedlander Group and the U.S.-Israel Security Alliance, Mr. Friedlander serves as vice president of the OJC’s Public Policy Committee, and has worked together with the chamber on various issues of interest to the Jewish community.
The anti-BDS mission made a strong impression upon influential lawmakers of both parties in the Senate and House of Representatives. Among the officials that members of the delegation met with were Senator Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee; Senator Susan Collins, Intelligence Committee member; former presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz; and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman – Schultz, former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
On the mission, Mr. Honig shared a platform with various prominent businessmen, activists and elected officials, each of whom contributed unique perspectives and experiences to the discussion. Mr. Honig stressed his position as a year-round activist on behalf of Jewish community businesses worldwide, and how it is imperative for these business that the BDS movement is destroyed. Many of the House and Senate members were already familiar with the OJC’s various initiatives promoting economic opportunity, and were keenly interested in its perspective on BDS.
Ironically, one of the most powerful moments in Mr. Honig’s interactions came when he presented the anti-BDS case from a non Jewish perspective. When speaking to Senator Collins, he stressed that the BDS movement harms not only Jewish businesses, but also the countless Palestinians who are employed by Jews. He mentioned the high profile BDS efforts against SodaStream, which forced factory closures that cost hundreds of Palestinian jobs. He added that the BDS movement is more than just anti-Semitic; it hates the entire western world and will add targets if successful against Jews. Following his remarks, the senator’s chief of staff stated, “We’ve had the anti-BDS case made to us several times, but no one brought out this perspective – and it’s very powerful.”
The OJC will intensify these efforts in the months ahead, and get additional individuals and businesses in its network involved in the battle. “The bottom line is that when you act, you make progress,” says Mr. Honig. “Don’t assume that those in power already know whatever they need to. When you speak to legislative and business leaders face to face, and heart to heart, on this issue, you see firsthand how much more can be accomplished.”