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Fast Forward

Citing implicit call for violence, BDS movement disavows Boston map

The BDS National Committee, which controls the movement, disavowed the Mapping Project

Leaders of the international movement to boycott Israel this week disavowed the Mapping Project, a database listing hundreds of entities, including dozens of Jewish ones, deemed complicit in the “colonization of Palestine.” They took issue with the anonymous mappers’ approach, saying the map unintentionally invited backlash and could damage pro-Palestinian activism.

Mahmoud Nawajja, general coordinator of the BDS National Committee, said the map “indirectly advocates for armed resistance” against the institutions listed, which include Jewish advocacy organizations, a day school and a synagogue association.

“Promoting it… inadvertently but gratuitously opens the door widely for the eager Israeli lobby to intensify to unprecedented levels its legal warfare (lawfare), smears and bullying against the movement,” Nawajja wrote in a Monday letter to BDS Boston, a local group of activists who advocate for the movement. A copy of the letter was published by the Jewish Journal Wednesday.

BDS Boston had enthusiastically promoted the Mapping Project since the project’s website went live June 3, although BDS Boston found itself increasingly isolated even within leftist circles. Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist group, initially praised the project on social media but quickly deleted those messages and a representative said the organization does not have a position on the map.

The Jewish establishment in Boston aggressively responded to the Mapping Project, including by contacting law enforcement. The FBI announced it was investigating the Mapping Project earlier this month and national politicians quickly condemned it. Thirty-seven members of Congress called on federal law enforcement to investigate the map as “a BDS-linked roadmap for terrorists and violent extremists to intentionally target Jewish groups.”

Other organizations that often defend proponents of BDS — which stands for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions — in the face of attacks from pro-Israel organizations, including IfNotNow and Democratic Socialists of America, remain silent on the map. Local Jews active in leftist circles told the Forward that while some had concerns that the Mapping Project had made strategic mistakes, or played into antisemitic tropes, they were worried that sharing these concerns publicly would play into a growing campaign by pro-Israel Jewish organizations against Palestinian activists.

The BDS Movement made a nod to those concerns in a statement released Wednesday, saying that while it “has no connection to and does not endorse the Mapping Project,” it also rejected “cynical use of this project as a pretext for repressive attacks on the Palestine solidarity movement.”

BDS Boston issued a brief statement on Twitter late Wednesday, stating that it “continues to feel that the Mapping Project is an important source of information and useful organization tool.” However, it said it was not directly affiliated with the Mapping Project.

But leaders of BDS Boston, a loosely organized group, appeared to accept one of the requests that Nawajaa made on behalf of the movement’s international leadership: to remove promotion of the Mapping Project from its social media channels.

The BDS Movement is officially controlled by the Palestinian BDS National Committee, a coalition of civil society groups based in the West Bank and Gaza founded in 2005. The movement hopes to eventually achieve an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights and the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Israel — which would effectively end the Jewish majority in Israel — through a campaign of boycotts, withdrawal of foreign investment and a consumer, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. But while its consumer boycott, for example, is currently limited to eight targets, it is rare for the organization to call out local activists who engage in independent BDS campaigns.

In criticizing BDS Boston’s support for the Mapping Project, Nawajaa seemed to seize on menacing language used on the Mapping Project website that stated, “every entity has an address, every network can be disrupted” and endorsed “resistance in all its forms.”

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