Concerned about anti-Semitism in the anti-Israel boycott movement, Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern blocked a pro-BDS resolution. 

By: Sean Savage/

The mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced last week that a proposed BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) resolution calling on the city to boycott a company doing business with Israel will not appear on the agenda of the next city council meeting, dealing a major setback for BDS advocates.

The proposed resolution was put forward by MA Against HP—a coalition of pro-BDS groups that includes Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which called on Cambridge not to renew its participation in a program to receive Hewlett-Packard products at a discount and to terminate their relationship with HP.

On its website, MA Against HP accuses the software company of helping Israel “maintain their occupation of Palestinian land” through its technology used by the Israeli government and military.

The group had sought for the resolution to be considered at an April 23 city council meeting.

Situated directly north of Boston, Cambridge is home to both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In a statement late last Thursday, Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern said that while the HP issue “concerned him,” he was also concerned about anti-Semitism within the BDS movement.

“As I began to learn more about the issue, I looked more closely at the BDS movement. I became equally concerned about some of their stances and positions,” he said. “As much as I don’t want Cambridge to be indirectly supporting those who engage in human-rights violations, I also don’t want Cambridge associated with a movement that has made anti-Semitic comments.”

Unified Jewish Front Against BDS

Jeremy Burton, executive director of Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, whose group worked alongside the New England affiliates of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to meet with Cambridge city officials, praised the efforts by the Boston Jewish community to come together to combat the BDS movement.

“The efforts of a broad range of our members, partners and individuals in the Cambridge community—both within and beyond the Jewish community—are making a difference. We, and they, are being heard, and several members of the Cambridge City Council are taking their concerns seriously.”

Lital Carmel, Boston regional director of the Israeli-American Council, similarly praised the mobilization of the Boston Jewish community to act against the BDS resolution.

“I think what we see in the Jewish community is really heartwarming,” Carmel told JNS. “It is phenomenal that JCRC and other Boston Jewish community organizations are so well-organized and in this together—from petitions and letters to city council members to a planned rally. Every organization knows what their role is and is communicating to their own constituencies about this.”

“In my over 10 years working in the Jewish community in the United States,” emphasized Carmel, “this is one of the better examples of how the Jewish community should come together and mobilize against efforts like this.”

According to JCRC, an effort is now underway to put together an alternative resolution with the Cambridge City Council “that affirms a commitment to the protection of human rights, but steers clear of bigoted attempts to single out Israel or any other country.”

Nevertheless, Burton added: “But this is not over. We have to keep organizing and speaking up and working with those councilors who are willing to consider another course of action. Until that happens, we need to be ready every week to mobilize if this is on the agenda.”

Earlier this year, an anti-BDS bill that would have made it illegal for state agencies to do more than $10,000 worth of business with companies that discriminate on the basis of national origin failed to make it past a committee in the Massachusetts legislature.

Some 25 states have passed similar anti-BDS legislation in recent years.

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