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March 8, 2016 7

Think Twice Before Jumping on the BDS Bandwagon

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

Israeli_Apartheid_Week-Northwestern University

Polit­i­cal move­ments often depend on spo­ken or unspo­ken hatreds to per­pet­u­ate themselves.

Often, how­ever, they can use ambi­gu­ity to mask these motives and appeal to a broader audience.

How­ever, some­times, when haters show their true col­ors, onlook­ers and fel­low trav­el­ers can see through ambi­gu­i­ties to the unsa­vory aims of the causes which they’ve lent their support.

The Boy­cott, Divest­ment, Sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment against the State of Israel is undoubt­edly spread­ing on U.S. cam­puses, in main­stream Protes­tant cir­cles and in uni­ver­si­ties and unions in Europe. One ele­ment explain­ing the growth of BDS is frus­tra­tion with the stale­mate that has taken hold between Israelis and Palestinians.

It is under­stand­able that in the face of diplo­matic dead­lock, move­ments that promise easy solu­tions and sim­plis­tic nar­ra­tives gain steam. Indeed, the belief that Israel, as the occu­pier and stronger party, needs to act, com­bined with the appeal of an osten­si­bly non-violent move­ment like BDS – one that worked so well to bring an end to the apartheid regime in South Africa – makes for a com­pelling case for action.

Yet, any seri­ous observer would admit that the apartheid anal­ogy is flawed to its core.  The con­flict between Israel and the Pales­tini­ans is not an issue purely demar­cated along racial lines.  It is a national con­flict between two peo­ples, a con­flict for which each side bears responsibilities.

The real­ity is com­pli­cated by the fact that Israel has on sev­eral occa­sions pre­sented the Pales­tini­ans oppor­tu­ni­ties to end the occu­pa­tion and build an inde­pen­dent Pales­tin­ian state. One can argue with the terms pro­posed by both sides, but the stark truth of sev­eral rounds of failed nego­ti­a­tions reveals mutual cul­pa­bil­ity in the cur­rent sta­tus quo.  And the ongo­ing incite­ment of the Pales­tin­ian lead­er­ship con­tributes as much if not more to the dimin­ish­ing pub­lic will and widen­ing diplo­matic impasse as the actions of the Israeli government.

So, the keys to the two-state solu­tion are kept by both Israel and the Palestinians.

But many who are swept up in its cur­rents do not look closely at the desired end-state of the BDS move­ment. Many envi­sion a sce­nario in which Israel, com­pelled by pres­sure, would be more forth­com­ing to the Pales­tini­ans and ide­ally a two-state solu­tion could result. One might not agree with this logic, but we should note that, at least among many young Jews, it is ani­mated by a desire for jus­tice. I believe it has impelled groups such as J Street and a num­ber of other emerg­ing grass­roots ini­tia­tives in the Jew­ish com­mu­nity. Even if we dis­agree, even we should acknowl­edge the earnest­ness of their motives.

uc davis protesters

Indeed, the BDS move­ment has been able to cap­i­tal­ize on attract­ing to its ranks many who legit­i­mately seek a last­ing peace between the Israel and the Pales­tini­ans. But it’s cru­cial to note – this end state is not what BDS seeks.

Noth­ing illus­trates this bet­ter than the stance of the orig­i­na­tor and main intel­lec­tual dri­ver of the BDS move­ment, Omar Bargh­outi, and his reac­tion to the views expressed by two pro­fes­sors in sup­port of boycott.

These pro­fes­sors, Steven Lev­it­sky and Glen Weyl pub­lished an arti­cle in the Wash­ing­ton Post endors­ing boy­cott as a way to pres­sure Israel in its poli­cies toward the Pales­tini­ans. Self-described “life-long Zion­ists” seek­ing a two-state out­come, their endorse­ment of the boy­cott rep­re­sents well a vari­a­tion of the “pres­sure school” which seeks through pres­sure to change Israel’s behav­ior and approach to negotiations.

Regard­less of the valid­ity of their ideas—and I have deep doubts over the abil­ity to achieve their desired out­come through one-sided penal­ties against Israel—what is telling is Barghouti’s response.

In his arti­cle, “You can’t save Israel from itself by appro­pri­at­ing BDS,” Bargh­outi slams the pro­fes­sors. He calls out this “Zion­ist” endorse­ment of BDS an appro­pri­a­tion, since it is cal­cu­lated, in the final analy­sis, at achiev­ing a res­o­lu­tion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Yet, BDS ortho­doxy, Bargh­outi openly acknowl­edges, does not seek this goal. Bargh­outi argues that it is not the occu­pa­tion that is the chal­lenge but Israel’s very exis­tence as a Jew­ish State.

Bargh­outi is trans­par­ent in his views and in his aims, and this should be instruc­tive to any poten­tial sup­porter of BDS. He speaks of Israel as “crim­i­nally built.” He refers to Israel itself – not the ter­ri­to­ries occu­pied in 1967 after the Six Day War – as an “apartheid” and “colonial-settler” regime.

And he spells out in no uncer­tain terms that his ide­ol­ogy – the ide­ol­ogy of BDS – is opposed to the for­mula achieved at Oslo and long since adopted by the inter­na­tional community—the res­o­lu­tion of the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict by the cre­ation of a Pales­tin­ian state to live side-by-side with Israel. Bargh­outi, tellingly, writes:

“End­ing the 1967 occu­pa­tion, even if it included East Jerusalem, at best addresses most of the rights of only 38% of the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple – those liv­ing in the OPT (occu­pied Pales­tin­ian Ter­ri­tory).  What of the UN-stipulated rights of the remain­ing 62% of the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple (12% are cit­i­zens of cur­rent Israel and 50% are in exile who are enti­tled to their right of return) and what of the right of return of more than 40% of the Pales­tini­ans in the West Bank and Gaza who were eth­ni­cally cleansed dur­ing the Nakba and denied their right to go home?”

It is fair to expect Israel to live up to a pol­icy that can accom­mo­date the even­tual emer­gence of a Pales­tin­ian state—and to expect equally that the Pales­tini­ans will act in accor­dance with a two-state vision.

But Bargh­outi spells out here that what he imag­ines as ‘jus­tice’ is not merely the achieve­ment of self-determination for the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple through the cre­ation of an inde­pen­dent state. No, he longs for the right of any Pales­tin­ian liv­ing under the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity to “return” to areas that now com­prise Israel.

In other words, BDS seeks to erad­i­cate the Jew­ish state by bring­ing about an end to the self-determination for the Jew­ish peo­ple through the return of all five mil­lion Pales­tin­ian refugees.

University_of_Michigan-BDS Protest

Of course, the refugee issue has since their incep­tion been a core com­po­nent of bilat­eral nego­ti­a­tions between Israelis and Pales­tini­ans. And, any con­ceiv­able agree­ment between the par­ties requires that the plight of Pales­tini­ans refugees and their descen­dants must be addressed. Numer­ous inter­na­tional efforts have acknowl­edged that their needs will be pre­dom­i­nantly accom­mo­dated within a future state of Palestine.

Among those who sup­port BDS, there are undoubt­edly some who seek Israel’s demise. But for the mul­ti­tude of those who jump on the BDS band­wagon because they see it as a non-violent way to fast-track an end to the occu­pa­tion, they need to know they are being taken for a very dan­ger­ous ride. They sup­port the pol­i­tics of Israel’s destruc­tion, a move­ment of anti-normalization which Israel which is anath­ema to nego­ti­a­tion, com­pro­mise, and con­flict resolution.

That’s some­thing that the vast major­ity of BDS sup­port­ers would reject if only they clearly under­stood it.

So, even as we rec­og­nize the mis­guided aims of BDS and step up our efforts to defeat its ide­ol­ogy, it is a deeper under­stand­ing – not sim­plis­tic slo­gans – that are needed to nav­i­gate the aspects of this com­plex challenge.

That is why ADL has joined with the Reut Insti­tute in a new effort aimed at exam­in­ing the entire array of fac­tors dri­ving the growth of BDS cam­paigns, an ini­tia­tive that will help parse those who are gen­uinely com­mit­ted to peace – even if their views are dif­fer­ent from our own as to how to get there – from those who mean to inflict grave harm.

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March 2, 2016 2

Recent Controversies in Egypt Illustrate Anti-Israel Sentiment Still Prevalent

Recent con­tro­ver­sies in Egypt illus­trate the preva­lence of anti-Israel sen­ti­ment in a coun­try which has had a peace agree­ment with Israel since 1979.

The lat­est inci­dent involved a din­ner invi­ta­tion by Egypt­ian Par­lia­men­tar­ian Taw­fiq Okasha to Israeli Ambas­sador Haim Koren. Okasha, a TV per­son­al­ity who has a his­tory of mak­ing anti-Semitic remarks on his show, was sub­se­quently ousted from Egypt’s Par­lia­ment after being accused of engag­ing in nor­mal­iza­tion efforts towards Israel. He was also phys­i­cally attacked byan­other Par­lia­men­tar­ian, Kamal Ahmad, who hurled his shoe at Okasha in protest.In a video, Ahmad explained that his action was intended not only toward Okasha, but also toward the Knes­set and the “Zion­ist Entity.” The Al-Yawm As-Sabi news site hosts a video game where play­ers can use a shoe to hit Okasha across the face. At the top of the screen appears the title “Con­grat­u­la­tions, Okasha”, and he is depicted with a black eye in the back­drop of the Israeli flag.

MP Tawfik Okasha (right) hosts Israeli ambassador Haim Koren.

MP Taw­fik Okasha (right) hosts Israeli ambas­sador Haim Koren.

Another exam­ple of anti-Israel sen­ti­ment in Egypt occurred ear­lier this month when the Cairo Inter­na­tional Book Fair fea­tured an Israeli book, Ara­bian Nights.Com, which was writ­ten by Israel Army Radio’s Arab affairs ana­lyst Jackie Hougie. Its inclu­sion resulted in Par­lia­men­tar­ian Muham­mad Al-Masud demand­ing that Egypt’s Cul­ture Min­is­ter launch an inves­ti­ga­tion into the deci­sion to sell the book at the fair.

And a few weeks prior to that, Egypt­ian author­i­ties ordered the can­cel­ing of a screen­ing of Israeli film The Band’s Visit. The film, from 2007, tells the story of an Egypt­ian band arriv­ing in Israel, and deals with the issue of coex­is­tence between Israelis and Egyp­tians. When the issue became pub­lic, Mohammed Munir, the Gov­er­nor of the Cairo Dis­trict, ordered that the screen­ing be can­celed, and announced an inves­ti­ga­tion to deter­mine which offi­cial had ini­tially approved the film screening.

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February 3, 2016 1

Our New Forum For Ideas, ADL@SALON

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

Salon-ADLLogo

I have always believed that it takes more than one per­son, one leader, or one insti­tu­tion to solve the tough­est chal­lenges. As I began my tenure as CEO six months ago, I real­ized that in order to achieve our time­less mis­sion — to stop the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and to secure fair treat­ment and jus­tice to all — we would need to har­ness the ener­gies of inno­va­tion and dis­cover new ways to sharpen our focus on the most rel­e­vant issues fac­ing our com­mu­nity and our nation. We would need to broaden our tent, to attract the bright­est peo­ple, and to wel­come new ideas.

That is why I’m thrilled today to launch a new ini­tia­tive aimed at open­ing our minds to the cut­ting edge, to bring together diver­gent voices into dia­logue in an open and unfet­tered exchange.

We’re call­ing it ADL@Salon.

To meet the demands of a cen­tury defined by rapid change, it is my belief that ADL trans­form itself into a learn­ing orga­ni­za­tion, one capa­ble of con­tin­u­ous rein­ven­tion. In short, an orga­ni­za­tion that thrives on innovation.

In this still new cen­tury, we face what can seem insur­mount­able chal­lenges with­out obvi­ous solu­tions. As Pres­i­dent Obama took note of just last week, anti-Semitism is unde­ni­ably ris­ing around the world. We face fail­ing and failed states breed­ing extrem­ism, such as the grow­ing influ­ence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and their affil­i­ates around the Mid­dle East. We face racism in many guises, from police bru­tal­ity to edu­ca­tion inequal­ity.

Our polit­i­cal dis­course is stained by appeals to stereo­typ­ing and scape­goat­ing. We see hard won gains in women’s rights and LGBT rights at risk of being rolled back. Around the world and even here at home, we see trou­bling trends in cam­paigns to de-legitimize and demo­nize the state of Israel, even as the con­flict between Israel and its neigh­bors seems as intractable as ever.

Build­ing the coali­tions that are will­ing to think through the solu­tions to these great chal­lenges undoubt­edly means widen­ing the tent. It means gath­er­ing input and ideas from a greater range of voices, even those with whom we might disagree.

As hatred and extrem­ism migrate to the uncharted realm of the inter­net, as the very def­i­n­i­tion of social move­ments has been fun­da­men­tally trans­formed by new modes of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and com­mu­nity, we must build the engines that spark new ideas and new approaches.

Inspired by the intense exchanges in Euro­pean cafés that led to inven­tions and rev­o­lu­tions in pol­i­tics and sci­ence which shaped the mod­ern world, ADL@Salon aims to bring together thought lead­ers across the broad spec­trum of our work to engage in high level and off-the-record con­ver­sa­tions in order to infuse new ideas and approaches for com­bat­ing hatred and prej­u­dice in our world.

The inau­gural ADL@Salon will take place today at our national head­quar­ters in New York.  Har­ness­ing the exper­tise of lead­ing schol­ars and for­eign pol­icy prac­ti­tion­ers, we will look for­ward to assess what the future holds in store for the Mid­dle East, and how U.S. pol­icy should respond to these trends.

Co-sponsored by our friends at the Cen­ter for Inter­na­tional Rela­tions and Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment, a pub­lic pol­icy think-tank head­quar­tered in Bel­grade and New York, our aim is not to broad­cast our dis­cus­sions broadly, but har­ness these and inform our new direc­tions and positions.

ADL@Salon is the start of a new way of approach at ADL. Future part­ners in our con­ver­sa­tions come from across a broad array of fields—from schol­ars to advo­cates, pol­icy pro­fes­sion­als to busi­ness lead­ers. We will con­sider the chal­lenges of the 21st century’s civil rights agenda. We will think deeply about the rela­tion­ship between the United States and Israel in these times of change. We will wel­come the entre­pre­neurs and inno­va­tors of Sil­i­con Val­ley into con­ver­sa­tion to chal­lenge our think­ing about how we approach social problems.

What if ADL can be the place that inspires brave think­ing? What if we can bring together the minds that lead us smartly toward our “big bets?” I believe that through dia­logue and the exchange of ideas and infor­ma­tion, we can trans­form our response to 21st cen­tury challenges.

As the lead­ing orga­ni­za­tion fight­ing anti-Semitism and defend­ing the civil rights of all, I believe ADL is poised to inspire great change. That is what ADL@Salon is truly about.

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