BDS founders are ‘anti-Semites,’ Netanyahu tells U.S. Jewish leaders

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the founders of the BDS movement “classical anti-Semites in modern garb.”

Netanyahu made his remarks on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and other issues in an address Monday night to the leadership of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations meeting in Jerusalem.

“In the past, anti-Semites boycotted Jewish businesses and today they call for the boycott of the Jewish state. And by the way, only the Jewish state,” he said. “Now don’t take my word for it. The founders of the BDS movement make their goals perfectly clear. They want to see the end of the Jewish state. They’re quite explicit about it.”

“It’s time that we fight back,” the prime minister said.

The Presidents Conference has been involved in delegitimizing boycott efforts against Israel, most recently working to garner the support of American universities and colleges against the call by the American Studies Association for a boycott of Israeli universities.

Netanyahu in his 30-minute speech also addressed Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, among other topics.

He called on the U.S. Jewish leaders to “expose Iran for what it is. It smiles but it continues its deadly business every day.”

Netanyahu said Iran is being “legitimized” and “embraced” due to its continued talks with the world powers while it continues to enrich uranium for what the Israeli leader says are nuclear weapons.

On the current U.S.-brokered peace talks, Netanyahu reiterated his call for the Palestinians to recognize “the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in any boundaries.” He said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict predated the settlements by at least half a century and clearly is not the core of troubles in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the Israeli daily Maariv reported Monday that in a conversation with Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, Netanyahu said, “As a researcher on the expulsion from Spain, I have a message to convey: I appreciate the gesture, but keep your passports yourself.”

Spain recently adopted legislation for naturalizing descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the country 500 years ago.

Prior to landing in Israel, the Presidents Conference leadership visited Spain, where they met with the king, the prime minister and other government officials, and discussed the legislation.