Presidential candidate Republican Sen. Ted Cruz Thursday called for federal money to be withdrawn from any college that boycotts Israel.
“In 2017, we need a president who will stand up directly and confront the [Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions] movement,” Cruz said in a speech, according to The Washington Post. “BDS is premised on a lie and it is anti-Semitism plain and simple. And we need a president of the United States who will stand up and say if a university in this country boycotts the nation of Israel than that university will forfeit federal taxpayer dollars.”
Cruz was speaking at the Champion of Jewish Values International Awards Gala, where he was receiving the Defender of Israel Award. Among the event’s attendees was Republican billionaire Sheldon Adelson, one of the most important potential backers that Republican presidential candidates are courting.
Cruz has always expressed strong support for Israel, but Thursday’s statement was a particularly strong piece of red meat to throw in front of Adelson, whose deep pockets will be a major asset for the Republican who can win his support. Adelson, who is Jewish, is a major opponent of the BDS movement and has begun funding efforts to combat it on college campuses.
The speech appeared successful, at least on the surface. Cruz received a standing ovation, including Adelson, who struggles to stand in his old age.
The BDS movement seeks to force Israel to change its policies in Palestine through economic and cultural isolation from the rest of the world. Proponents on university campuses have sought to have their schools withdraw investments in Israeli companies and cease inviting Israel-affiliated academics to conferences. Thus far, the movement has had limited success, and no university has committed itself to the BDS agenda. However, some academic organizations have signed on, such as the American Studies Association, which approved an academic boycott of Israel in 2014.
Cruz didn’t provide specifics on how his promise to cut off federal funds would work, but it’s a significant threat. With the federal government controlling the vast majority of student loans and research grants, cutting off the flow of dollars would be a death blow to most major schools and would make BDS participation a total non-starter.
Besides attacking BDS, Cruz also called for the U.S. to be significantly tougher on Iran, saying the U.S. should restore sanctions and, if necessary, provide Israel with “bunker-buster” bombs that would allow it to target Iranian nuclear facilities.