Anti-BDS activist visiting St. Louis for series of talks

Charles Pulman

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Charles Pulman, a partner in a Dallas law firm and a leading activist against the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement, will be coming to St. Louis this weekend to give several addresses on his anti-BDS efforts.  Pulman, who has visited Israel 45 times, has worked with Texas legislators and community organizations to pass anti-BDS legislation in 2017, which was adopted by an overwhelming vote.

The topic of his various talks will be a “BDS 101:  What is BDS and what its proponents want to achieve inside and outside the United States?”

Pulman recently founded and is the president of the non-profit organization “Why Israel Matters, Inc.,” which is devoted to educating the public on  the accomplishments and innovations that have originated in Israel.

Pulman’s St. Louis visit is hosted by St. Louis Friends of Israel, in conjunction with the Jewish Community Relations Council, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.

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The Jewish Light caught up with Pulman for an interview in advance of his St. Louis appearances:

How did you first become interested in combatting the BDS movement?

In 2001, a U.N. World Conference Against Racism was held in Durban, South Africa at which calls for the boycott and isolation of Israel were first announced.  In 2005, BDS began to aggressively pursue its agenda against Israel and I started to devote time to learning about this campaign and its goals. 

What has been the response of Jewish and non-Jewish groups to your efforts?

Widespread support exists for measures, including state anti-BDS legislation, to counter the discriminatory, anti-Semitic BDS campaign.  Support comes from both the Jewish and Christian communities and organizations.  Of course, the few organizations that support BDS, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, oppose our efforts.  I encountered JVP at the Texas Senate hearings on the Texas anti-BDS legislation, where I witnessed their emphatic support for BDS.  

In Texas, we had statewide Jewish and Christian active support for the Texas anti-BDS legislation (passed Sept. 1). Federations from every Texas major city, as well as many local and national organizations, were involved actively in our legislative campaign. 

The anti-BDS legislation was overwhelmingly approved. In fact, there was not a single “no” vote in the Texas House of Representatives and overwhelming approval in the Texas Senate. This type of legislation will not defeat BDS but will prevent taxpayer dollars from funding companies that engage in this discriminatory practice known as BDS.

Texas’ anti-BDS law was recently in the news when Dickenson, Texas (a Houston suburb), required any applicant for hurricane relief grants to verify that he or she “(1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement.” Although the author of the law called the incident “a complete misunderstanding of the statute,” has this created a problem for anti-BDS laws around the country?

Twenty-one states, including Texas, have passed an anti-BDS law, which are achieving their intended purpose.  For example, I know that Texas state agencies are now working to comply with the law even though (it’s) only 60 days old.  

Of course, any new law undergoes a learning curve by the persons required to implement the law. State anti-BDS laws are no exception.  

These laws are very clear as to their application. Reasonable people know that occasionally there will be instances where the law is not applied correctly. However, these few instances will not impede the continuing work nationwide to proceed with conviction and purpose to expose and defeat the discriminatory, anti-Semitic BDS campaign.

How can members of local Jewish communities help efforts to combat BDS?

Communities of all types that are in favor of peace, freedom, equality and justice and against discrimination of Israel need to be engaged and understand the true objective of BDS. Combating BDS is a multifaceted campaign that must be waged vigorously.

BDS is a discriminatory, anti-Semitic campaign whose goal is the end of Israel as the only state where Jews have the right of self-determination, security and freedom in their ancestral homeland. Unfortunately, BDS does not seek peace between Israel and the Palestinians, a two-state solution, justice for Palestinians or improvement in the lives and jobs of Palestinians.

True advocates of justice, freedom and equality should recognize the equal rights of self-determination for both Jews and Palestinians and should know that these rights will never be achieved through a campaign designed to destroy only one party. Israel is the only country against whom a campaign exists for boycott, divestment and sanctions based only on the nationality and religion of its citizens.  

If there was no BDS, there would be no need for state legislation that promotes fairness and discourages discrimination. Discrimination of any Jew anywhere is repugnant and invokes dark images of the Nazi period. Proponents of BDS decry state anti-BDS laws as infringing on their freedom and rights to boycott Israel and Jews while these proponents at the same time are calling for a blacklist and boycott of companies doing business with Jews.