For every lie about Israel, there are facts to disprove it. That was Israeli investigative journalist Ben-Dror Yemini’s contention on Monday before a happy-hour crowd in Bethesda.
Whether drawn by the event’s defiant title, “How to Fight the BDS,” or the promise of bar food and alcohol, some 40 Americans and Israelis watched as a flurry of slides flew by on a screen while Yemini tried to give an abridged version of his presentation over the sound of Major League Baseball playing on television.
Yemini’s book Industry of Lies is expected to be published soon in English. And if the size of his PowerPoint is any indication, it is a thriving industry.
Lie: The oppression of the Palestinian people is the major cause of terrorism in the world. That led to the results of a 2008 BBC poll that found “a majority believe Israel has the most negative influence in the world,” Yemini said.
Yet “every day, 80 to 90 people are killed by terror,” he said. “And 99 percent of the victims of global terror are Muslims.”
Lie: Israel is an apartheid state.
In 2011, Israeli President Moshe Katzav was sentenced to prison for rape. The presiding judge of the court that sentenced him was an Israeli Arab.
Yemini counts himself as a man of the left, a peace activist who favors the creation of a Palestinian state. But he is zealous about fact-bombing Israel’s enemies.
Yes, the Nakba happened, he said, referring to the “catastrophe” that befell the Palestinians when Israel was created. But it was a time when empires collapsed, nation states were created and mass population transfers took place.
Between 1913 and 1995, 52 million people around the world became refuges, he said. “Today, none of them are refugees, except the Palestinians. It’s not that they’re not suffering. But they’re suffering because they were singled out” in a war against Israel’s existence.
“No one out of the 52 million refugees received a right of return,” a Palestinian demand in its peace negotiations with Israel, Yemini said.
Yemini quoted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, when he rejected a peace proposal in 2008: “I can’t tell 4 million Palestinians that only 5,000 of them can go home.”
Finally, it was time for BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement: “BDS is supporting the extermination of Israel,” he said. “What they’re doing is not productive. It’s not criticism.”
Part of a series called “Think and Drink,” Yemini’s appearance was sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, Israel House and the Israeli-American Council.
Audience members said the wanted to hear what Yemini had to say, whether they agreed with him or not.
One of the Americans in the audience, Alexandra Wald, said she came “to support Israel. BDS is in the news a lot and I wanted to get more facts about it.”
Living two blocks away, she was familiar with the venue. “There was a bar fight here the other night,” she said. She speculated that the location and timing helped play to a “happy-hour crowd.”
Like Yemini, Israeli Tomer Cooks believes criticism of Israel is acceptable. But he doesn’t put every BDS supporter into the same category.
“Boycott Israel has many flavors to it,” he said. “There are groups that criticize Israeli policy in handling the [Palestinian] conflict. I think that’s legitimate.”
David Holzel, managing editor