Why is CNN spreading fake news about BDS?

Since the beginning of January, there has been a spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the US: bomb threats have been called in against dozens of synagogues and Jewish community centers while swastika vandalism has been reported in several major cities.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has moved to take white supremacist organizations off the FBI watchlist to focus instead only on “radical Islamic extremism.”

This prompted a neo-Nazi leader to celebrate that Trump was “setting us free.”

This comes after the Obama administration had already severely curtailed monitoring of potentially violent right-wing extremist groups.

But instead of taking the US government to task for indulging and even affiliating with Nazi sympathizers, prominent cheerleaders for Israel are escalating their attempts to repress the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement through smears and legislation.


Last Sunday, CNN host Fareed Zakaria interviewed French pundit and ardent Israel apologist Bernard-Henri Lévy about the rise in anti-Semitism.

Zakaria allowed Lévy to casually link Nazism to the Palestinian BDS movement without a challenge.

“I want to say to the sincere followers [of] this BDS campaign … I’m not sure they know it, [but] this is an anti-Semitic campaign,” Lévy claimed. The interview can be seen in the video posted above.

“This campaign takes its root [from] a long time ago, 60 years ago, in the fringes of the dying Nazism,” he added without offering a shred of evidence.

Lévy went on to assert that the first time that boycott “was recommended against Israel” was by “Nazis escaping Germany, taking shelter in Iraq or in Syria, and building this campaign of BDS.”

These assertions against today’s global BDS movement are complete fantasy.

The BDS campaign was founded by Palestinian civil society which, in 2005, launched an international call, rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to hold Israel accountable for its violations of Palestinian rights.

It is inspired by the global campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa, and boycott is a time-honored tactic that has been deemed constitutionally protected speech by the US Supreme Court in a landmark case stemming from the civil rights movement.

The origins of – and reasons for – the BDS campaign are no secret, nor do they have a connection to any vestiges of a European Nazi-era anti-Semitic conspiracy.

Linking Palestinians to Nazis is a gross and defamatory distortion of history. It is a tactic that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used in 2015 when he exonerated Hitler of conceiving of the extermination of the Jews in order to try to pin the blame on Palestinians.

It feeds a racist stereotype of Palestinians, asserting they are inherently violent and anti-Jewish, and that is the reason they resist Israel’s rule; not that Israel’s rule is one of apartheid, oppression, colonization, occupation, supremacy, property theft and everyday violence.

Lévy is not only making up a story using “alternative facts,” he is conveniently leaving out a key moment in Jewish resistance history.

Jews in the US, Palestine and Europe were the vanguard of a boycott movement against Nazi-linked enterprises in the early 1930s – a movement which was opposed by European Jewish Zionists and broken by the Zionist movement in its notorious Haavara agreement with Nazi Germany.

The Nazis began enforcing boycotts and violent reprisals against Jewish-owned businesses in an effort to deter the Jewish-led boycott of Nazi Germany.


Lévy, who recently labeled anti-Zionism a “cosmetic” for anti-Semitism, used his platform on CNN to disparage the growing BDS movement in France and on “the west coast of America.”

When Zakaria asked how Lévy would respond to someone who wants to challenge Israel’s policies against Palestinians, Lévy clumsily asserted that Israel is a thriving “democracy” but lashed out against anyone who would “demonize, delegitimize or stigmatize” Israel as “a Jewish state.”

It is no surprise that Israel advocates like Lévy would find an open pulpit for his anti-BDS views on CNN.

Like Zakaria himself, the cable network has been unwilling to challenge anti-BDS claims or to offer a platform to anyone who could.

French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy claims that the boycott Israel movement is linked to Nazism. (YouTube)

Lévy has hurled similar smears at BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti and against The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah.

Barghouti has sharply refuted them in writing, but neither he nor Abunimah, nor any other prominent supporter has been invited on to a CNN panel to talk about BDS.

A search of the Lexis-Nexis news database returned no examples of a proponent of the boycott movement appearing on a live CNN interview, while those opposed to it, including Israel-aligned US politicians and Israeli officials, have been featured at least seven times since February 2014 to condemn BDS and its activists without a debate.

Following the Lévy segment, Twitter users demanded better from CNN.

One might suppose Bernard-Henri Lévy is taking his cue from the Trump administration, presenting his version of reality as historical fact in order to push an agenda that is rooted in racism, supremacy and exceptionalism.

With mainstream journalists ill-equipped to fact-check or just unwilling to counter complete fabrications, Lévy’s appearance on CNN represents a depressing norm: Israel’s cheerleaders are allowed to denigrate, smear and attack Palestinians who are seldom given an opportunity to correct the record.




In France BHL presents himself as a philosopher, an intellectual, who has a clear vision of society, and pretends to stand above most, if not all, people in terms of intelligence. He likes to be heard, to be seen on television & in the rest of the media, and has an overwhelming arrogance that does not tolerate any criticism or impugnation of his views or statements. The guy is a fraud, basically a good snake oil salesman.


BHL is a serial liar and fantasist. Only in France could someone so manipulative and in possession of so few facts be taken seriously. Read here the 2006 review of his book on the US (American Vertigo), by Garrison Keillor:


Keillor thinks BHL has the "grandiosity of a college sophomore" and that some of his hero-worshipping "would make Donald Trump cringe with embarrassment" (a statement which we can appreciate at its full value 11 years later). Unfortunately Keillor does not touch upon the incident that is most pertinent in this context: the part where BHL visits a native American chief and proceeds to arrogantly tell him how to run his shop. Apparently piqued the chief sarcastically asks BHL why he doesn't move to Israel, as Sharon had just asked all French Jews to do (and for the record, unhinged Israeli leaders are the only people telling French Jews to move to Israel - that is the extent in France of that imaginary discussion). Ouch! BHL's world is apparently too small to comfortably include an American Indian chief who follows current affairs (and probably just betrayed his feeling for the plight of Palestinians) - so BHL rambles on for paragraphs about this horrific antisemitic chief, then moves onto another city to visit a pop or rock star and proceeds to tell him the whole story too, and the star agrees with him, etc etc
BHL has polluted French public space more or less continuously for decades. Every time I hear him accusing someone, or a movement, or entire countries of antisemitism I am reminded of what a fervent, militant Islamophobe he himself is. In psychology it's called projection.
As a European I can only hope that this stint on CNN means that BHL is there to stay. You can have him. I'm reminded of the huge relief I felt when Ayaan Hirsi Ali, having run out of lies, and certainly of people who believed them, took off for your great country.
Good luck y'all!


Oh yeah, Levy is sure a measure of high moral values, spitting blood and poison at every chance.. E.G. he was a key player convincing French President Sarkozy to take out Ghadaffi and his government. He was serving French oil companies to boot, and we know how great this plan turned out for the Libyan people:


A horrible record to say the least.


Many of us are not fooled by BHL's rhetoric, but unfortunately some are. I would like to see BHL debate the issues, not just be interviewed by sympathetic anchor people on main stream American TV.


AIPAC has been busy - writing House Res. 11 and Senate Res 6, both of which object to the UN Security Council Res. 2334 which condemns the ever-expanding illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. AIPAC, used Ted Cruz to sponsor Senate Bill 107, which would withhold US Funding of United Nations unless UN Sec Council repealed its 14-0 vote on Res 2334 (with US abstaining). Not satisfied, AIPAC had Marco Rubio sponsor Senate Bill 170. It is called the "Combating BDS Act of 2017." So, with Drumpf in the WH (and dining there with Sheldon Adelson), and with David Friedman (he of financing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements ("colonies"), what could possibly go wrong? Add in, Bibi's visit on Feb. 15th (perhaps it should have been on Valentine's Day), the deal is sealed. Netanyahu's Likud Party charter says that under his watch, there will never be an independent, sovereign, Palestine. How's that for a negotiating point?


Some people tell a lie and believe it. I am afraid it'll turn into a culture


That is what CNN does; they are the biggest purveyors of fake news in the world. The surprise would be if CNN ever came out with a real journalistic report on anything


When one who criticizes the policies and actions of the Zionist state of Israel is called an anti-Semite, then that person has won the argument. This label has been so mis-used and over-used that it has lost any significant meaning. If my opposition to the Zionist state means that you will call me an anti-Semite, then so be it.


He sidesteps the questions asked of him, to convey that any protest against zionism is antisemitic. It's important to educate everyone about the differences between antisemitism against Judaism, and the reality of what Zionism represents and how it in and of itself is repressive of others in an Antisemitic way, those who are not supporters of the Zionistic form of government in Israel. Remember: Words make war and peace. Words are always more powerful than weapons. Weapons hurt but words can either repress or liberate.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).