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February 7, 2013 1

Free Speech Is A One-Way Street For The BDS Movement

In response to the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing a Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) event tak­ing place tomor­row at Brook­lyn Col­lege, numer­ous pro-BDS pub­lic fig­ures, activists and groups have labeled con­cerns about the event as a “smear cam­paign” designed to get the event can­celed and sup­press the expres­sion of legit­i­mate viewpoints.

A state­ment by the national coali­tion of Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) referred to oppo­si­tion to the event as an “onslaught of intim­i­da­tion.” Al-Awda and Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine, two off-campus anti-Israel orga­ni­za­tions, con­demned the pro-Israel community’s reac­tion as a “smear cam­paign” designed to sup­press free speech. Jew­ish Voice for Peace went so far as to call for Har­vard pro­fes­sor Alan Der­showitz to be fired for argu­ing that Brook­lyn College’s polit­i­cal sci­ence depart­ment should not spon­sor anti-Israel events.

Sim­i­larly, Roger Waters, the founder and lead singer of Pink Floyd, issued a state­ment of sol­i­dar­ity with the SJP chap­ter at Brook­lyn Col­lege, the group orga­niz­ing the event, that con­spir­a­to­ri­ally claimed: “That you have come under attack from pow­er­ful polit­i­cal and media forces for try­ing to shed light on the predica­ment of the good peo­ples of Pales­tine and Israel is wrong. I stand with you. Sadly, none of us knows what lies behind the closed doors of gov­ern­ment, even though we should for we have a right to know, to speak, dis­cuss, still not your voice, be not afraid. More power to you.”

Other more main­stream com­men­ta­tors have also used abra­sive lan­guage to lam­bast those who dis­ap­prove of the department’s spon­sor­ship of the event. Glen Green­wald, in a piece over the week­end on The Guardian’s “Com­ment is Free” site, described those urg­ing the polit­i­cal sci­ence depart­ment to drop its spon­sor­ship as an “ugly lynch mob” and claimed that elected offi­cials in the U.S. sup­port Israel for less than earnest rea­sons: “It is all but impos­si­ble to suc­ceed in New York City pol­i­tics — or US national pol­i­tics — with­out faith­fully embrac­ing pro-Israel ortho­dox­ies. That’s the nature of pol­i­tics in gen­eral: it requires sub­servience to empow­ered fac­tions and majori­tar­ian sentiment.”

It is the BDS move­ment, how­ever, that is inher­ently pred­i­cated on the sup­pres­sion of speech and “free exchange of ideas,” which Green­wald claims to vehe­mently sup­port in his arti­cle. Sup­port­ing boy­cotts of Israeli aca­d­e­mics, diplo­mats and per­form­ers is sim­ply not con­sis­tent with free speech val­ues.  Fur­ther­more, anti-Israel stu­dents can­not legit­i­mately claim to sup­port a “free exchange of ideas” when they reg­u­larly dis­rupt and heckle pro-Israel speak­ers on cam­pus. One anti-Israel stu­dent who heck­led Israeli sol­diers at an event at UC Davis last Feb­ru­ary flatly admit­ted, “My only pur­pose today is that this event is shut down.”

In fact, an increas­ing num­ber of anti-Israel groups do not sup­port a free exchange of ideas and explic­itly argue that the pro-Israel voice does not even deserve to be heard. The tac­tic, known as anti-normalization, is increas­ingly being felt by pro-Israel groups on cam­puses across the coun­try whose coun­ter­parts refuse to engage in dia­logue with them and often try to dis­rupt or shut down pro-Israel events. It seems that the BDS movement’s com­mit­ment to free speech and an open exchange of ideas is only a one-way street.

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November 16, 2012 10

Demonstrators at Anti-Israel Rallies: “Gaza is the Real Holocaust,” “Long live the Intifada!”

Vir­u­lent anti-Israel protests were held in at least two dozen cities across the United States yes­ter­day. The demon­stra­tions were orga­nized to protest Israeli air strikes against Hamas and ter­ror­ist infra­struc­ture in Gaza in an ongo­ing effort to defend Israel’s civil­ian pop­u­la­tion against the con­tin­u­ous bar­rage of indis­crim­i­nate deadly rocket fire from Gaza which now extends to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Many of the demon­stra­tions were marked by extreme and anti-Semitic mes­sages. Signs that com­pared Israel to Nazi Ger­many and expressed sup­port for “armed resis­tance” in Gaza were wide­spread. Below is a sam­pling of the demonstrations:

New York: Approx­i­mately 1,000 indi­vid­u­als attended a rally to “Protest Israeli crimes in Gaza” out­side the Israeli Con­sulate. Signs held at the demon­stra­tion read, “Pales­tini­ans are free­dom fight­ers;”  “Stop Israeli geno­cide in Gaza;” “Resistance is jus­ti­fied when peo­ple are occu­pied;” “Long live the Intifada;” “With our soul and our blood we will redeem you, Pales­tine;” and “Gaza is Today’s War­saw Ghetto.”

One after the other, dif­fer­ent speak­ers took turns con­demn­ing Israel using Holo­caust analo­gies, prais­ing “armed resis­tance,” and call­ing for “Pales­tine to be free, from the [Jor­dan] River to the [Mediter­ranean] Sea.” One speaker said, “Speak­ing of resis­tance, do you guys think resis­tance equals ter­ror­ism?” The crowd shouted, “No!!!” Another speaker claimed that “Gaza is the War­saw Ghetto of today. Sixty years ago when the Jew­ish peo­ple in the War­saw Ghetto fought back against the Nazi war machine, today it is the peo­ple of Gaza and Pales­tine who are fight­ing for free­dom against a war machine that is no bet­ter than that of the Nazis.”

The speak­ers at the rally rep­re­sented a num­ber of groups, includ­ing Al-Awda, the Arab Mus­lim Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion, New York Uni­ver­sity and Hunter College’s chap­ters of Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine, Mus­lim Amer­i­can Society, ANSWER, and more (see below for videos of the event).

Los Ange­les: Sev­eral dozen stu­dents protested on UCLA’s cam­pus hold­ing signs that read, “From the River to the sea Pales­tine will be free,” “This Israeli Jew­ish Grand­daugh­ter of a Holo­caust Sur­vivor is against the Mas­sacre of Gaza,” “Blow­ing up chil­dren ≠ self –defense” and “Respect Exis­tence or Expect Resis­tance.” Another sign, which read “93% effec­tive mis­sile defense Iron Dome paid for by $250 M in US tax $,” seemed to be upset with the Israeli defense sys­tem that pre­vents rock­ets from land­ing on Israeli civil­ians. Stu­dents also chanted, “Free, Free Pales­tine; Long live the intifada” and “Israel is a ter­ror­ist state.”

Chicago: Sev­eral hun­dred pro­test­ers held signs that read “Gaza is the Real Holo­caust,” “Con­demn Gaza Geno­cide,”  “Divest from Israel’s Crimes,” and “Stop Israel’s Slaugh­ter in Gaza.” One per­son held a sign that showed the Star of David = Swastika. The rally was held in Pru­den­tial Plaza out­side Pres­i­dent Obama’s cam­paign head­quar­ters. It was spon­sored by sev­eral Chicago-based orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing the Chicago Move­ment for Pales­tin­ian Rights, the Pales­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Group and Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine – Chicago. It was also endorsed by nearly 20 other orga­ni­za­tions, including 8 area chap­ters of Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine and the Chicago chap­ter of Jew­ish Voice for Peace.

Boston: Pro­test­ers chanted “Resis­tance is Jus­ti­fied When Peo­ple are Occu­pied” and “Pales­tine will be free, from the river to the sea.” “Long live Intifada, Intifada, Intifada!” A large ban­ner that read “Jews for Intifada” was held by sev­eral activists at the front of the crowd as they marched towards the Israeli Con­sulate in down­town Boston. The rally was spon­sored by Jew­ish Voice for Peace, CODEPINK, the United National Anti­war Coali­tion, and Occupy-Boston. A sign that read, “Un-Occupy Pales­tine” was also on display.

Videos from the anti-Israel demon­stra­tion in New York City:

 

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June 7, 2012 2

Anti-Israel Group Increases Outreach to High School Students

Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine (AMP), a Chicago-based anti-Israel orga­ni­za­tion, is plan­ning to host a joint con­fer­ence on “Pales­tine activism” with the High School Mus­lim Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia (HSMSA), an inter-high school net­work of Mus­lim stu­dent organizations.

The con­fer­ence is sched­uled to take place on June 24 at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine, a cen­ter for vir­u­lently anti-Israel cam­pus activ­ity in recent years. It is part of AMP’s 7th annual cam­paign to com­mem­o­rate the “Nakba,” an Ara­bic term that means “cat­a­stro­phe” and is used by Pales­tini­ans and their sup­port­ers to describe Israel’s Dec­la­ra­tion of Independence.

AMP orga­niz­ers say the con­fer­ence is designed to help “train high school, col­lege, and non-student activists on issues per­ti­nent to Pales­tine activism.” The list of speak­ers invited to “edu­cate” stu­dents on the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict include sev­eral anti-Israel activists known for their use of rhetoric to dele­git­imize Israel.

Speak­ers include Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the anti-Israel Elec­tronic Intifada blog; Taher Herza­l­lah, AMP’s National Cam­pus Coor­di­na­tor and one of the 11 stu­dents arrested for shout­ing down Israeli Ambas­sador Michael Oren dur­ing a 2010 speech at UC Irvine; and Osama Abu Irshaid, an AMP board mem­ber who has pre­vi­ously expressed sup­port for Hezbol­lah and con­spir­a­to­ri­ally alleged that the U.S. gov­ern­ment makes deci­sions based on the “influ­en­tial Jew­ish community.”

AMP tar­geted high school stu­dents ear­lier this year when it held its first high school train­ing ses­sion in Villa Park, Illi­nois. The work­shop was sim­i­larly orga­nized to the upcom­ing con­fer­ence at UC Irvine and included work­shops on sub­jects such as the Islamic sig­nif­i­cance of Pales­tine, activism, and how to uti­lize the media.

This year’s AMP Nakba cam­paign con­sists pri­mar­ily of edu­ca­tional and train­ing ses­sions designed to “raise aware­ness about the occu­pa­tion” and to “help bring jus­tice and lib­erty to the Holy Land.” These events will be held through­out the month of June across the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia region, which include the cities of Hawthorne, Corona-Narco, Ana­heim, Temec­ula, and Lomita.

AMP has increas­ingly made an effort to engage in facil­i­tat­ing stu­dent activism on col­lege cam­puses and high schools nation­wide. The impor­tance of encour­ag­ing AMP’s pres­ence among stu­dents was the cen­tral theme of the organization’s 2011 national con­fer­ence, where a num­ber of ses­sions were ded­i­cated to how stu­dents can dis­cuss the issue of Pales­tine in schools and on cam­puses. AMP’s con­certed effort to engage with stu­dents has led to increased col­lab­o­ra­tion with on cam­pus anti-Israel groups, such as Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP).

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