The BDS movement owes its origins to a poorly conceived CIA program.
How ironic it is that so few BDS proponents recognize that they may very well be repeating if not cultivating the seeds planted by CIA Arabists half a century ago. From the Jewish Telegraph Agency on February 20, 1967:
Congressmen William Fitts Ryan and Benjamin Rosenthal, both New York Democrats, this weekend condemned the support of an anti-Israel organization by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The Congressmen cited authoritative reports to the effect that the CIA has financed the American Friends of the Middle East, (AFME) a pro-Arab, anti-Israel propaganda front. They called for an investigation by President Johnson.
Mr. Ryan and Mr. Rosenthal said, “the CIA undermines the Administration policy of friendship toward Israel by secretly funding the AFME.” They cited AFME’s attacks on Israel and propaganda issued by Elmo Hutchison, AFME’s former Middle East director. They pointed out that AFME helps finance and guides an organization it created, the Organization of Arab Students. The group spreads anti-Israel and sometimes anti-Jewish propaganda at over 100 American colleges and universities by Arab students. The Arab student activity is supported by the Arab League in Cairo, which sends out the propaganda lines to be followed. The CIA apparently financed the anti-Israel propaganda in an effort to woo young Arabs away from Communism.
It was a convoluted and largely unsuccessful scheme but one whose poison has been long-lasting. In America’s Great Game, reviewed here in COMMENTARY, California State University professor Hugh Wilford detailed further some of the problematic and hateful views at the heart of the AFME. “I am seriously concerned about the position of the Jews in the United States,” AFME Officer Dorothy Thompson wrote in 1951. “Everything on the surface seems to be going the Zionist way, but underneath… [people] are asking themselves the question: who is really running America?” Thompson may have crossed the line with a directness avoided by other AFME staff, but Wilford also chronicled the same debates surrounding the AFME which swirl around the BDS movement today, especially with regard to the degree to which anti-Semitism colored fierce anti-Zionism.
Michael Rubin contends that this was a “convoluted and largely unsuccessful scheme.” By what measure? If the campaign was created by anti-Semites, which apparently it was, than it appears the CIA was successful in the extreme.
One need only be a Jewish student on an American, Canadian, or British university campus to understand just how effective, and dangerous the BDS movement has become in legitimizing bigotry, discrimination, and violence towards Israel and the Jewish people.