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April 23, 2015 0

Israel’s Independence at 67: Living Up to the Ideals of its Founders

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

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As Israel cel­e­brates its 67th Inde­pen­dence Day, it is easy to fall into one or two cat­e­gories in reaction.

One entails an “oy gevalt syn­drome” — the sky is falling.  Just look at Israel, its rela­tions with its main ally, the United States.  An Israeli gov­ern­ment is on the verge of being formed after national elec­tions that looks like it will be more right-wing than its pre­de­ces­sor which may inevitably exac­er­bate rela­tions with the U.S., pos­si­bly fur­ther iso­late Israel from the Euro­pean Union, and spur expanded BDS activ­ity on cam­puses and else­where.  And Israel’s demo­c­ra­tic val­ues may be under assault from a Haredi and right-wing politi­cians who will seek hyper-nationalist leg­is­la­tion lim­it­ing rights to those who express oppo­si­tion to Israeli policies.

The other per­spec­tive is one that says, despite all the com­plaints and crit­i­cisms, Israel has never been doing as well nor in a bet­ter place. U.S.-Israel rela­tions remain strong in spite of the spats between Pres­i­dent Obama and Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu. Ter­ror against Israeli cit­i­zens is way down.  The regional chaos actu­ally ben­e­fits Israel in two ways:  Dis­tract­ing Israel’s ene­mies from focus­ing on the Jew­ish State, and mov­ing the Saudis and the Gulf States into a tacit alliance with Israel based on the shared inter­est of com­bat­ting Iran­ian expan­sion and aggres­sion.  And Israel’s econ­omy remains strong led by the vital high-tech sec­tor which con­tin­ues to enhance Israel’s busi­ness sta­tus in the world.

I pre­fer to look at this moment through a lens that can both enjoy the mir­a­cle of what Israel has become and still, even on a day of cel­e­bra­tion, be aware of the many chal­lenges fac­ing the Jew­ish State as it heads into its 67th year. Para­phras­ing the old Ben Gurion line, I will rap­tur­ously cel­e­brate the won­der that is mod­ern day Israel as if there were no neg­a­tive real­i­ties sur­round­ing its exis­tence, and I will see clearly and worry a great deal about the strug­gles ahead for Israel as if the mir­a­cle of Israel’s very exis­tence and its devel­op­ment were not relevant.

Another way of putting it is that I am as deter­mined as ever, on the occa­sion of this anniver­sary to com­bat the egre­giously dis­torted image of Israel that exists in too many places in the world and on too many cam­puses and main­stream protes­tant churches in the United States.  Israel is far from per­fect as a soci­ety, in its treat­ment of its Arab com­mu­nity and of the Pales­tini­ans.  But it has always been and still is the only true democ­racy and respec­tor of human rights in the region and would have made peace with the Pales­tini­ans on many an occa­sion had it not been for ongo­ing Pales­tin­ian rejec­tion­ism.

I will con­tinue to fight the BDS folks and all those who demo­nize Israel because they are deal­ing in lies about the Jew­ish State.

At the same time, and hav­ing noth­ing to do with the dis­tor­tions from out­side, I worry about some of the direc­tions Israel is going in as an activist Jew who has spent all of his adult life fight­ing for Israel and car­ing about its future.

How will Israel remain both Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic if it can­not find a way out of the cur­rent stale­mate?  With all the legit­i­mate con­cerns about secu­rity, par­tic­u­larly regard­ing an expan­sion­ist and poten­tially nuclear Iran, what is going to be done about the severe domes­tic chal­lenges?  I think of three that demand imme­di­ate atten­tion:  Income inequal­ity, the need for afford­able hous­ing, and the quest for reli­gious pluralism.

So on this impor­tant day, I can live with these dual feel­ings:  An immense pride as a Jew in the glo­ries of the Jew­ish State, and a real­iza­tion that the chal­lenges fac­ing Israel are pro­found and require new initiatives.

Of course, my bot­tom line as a life­long and proud Zion­ist is a belief that Israel will emerge tri­umphant and that what­ever the obsta­cles it will face will be overcome.

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April 1, 2015 2

50% of Anti-Israel Events in Illinois on Three Campuses

Anti-Israel activ­ity on uni­ver­sity and col­lege cam­puses in Illi­nois has remained steady over the last two years with student-groups actively work­ing to pro­mote Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns against Israel and false alle­ga­tions such as that Israel is an apartheid state.

Tweets from pro-BDS stu­dents dur­ing and after the BDS vote at Loy­ola University.

Since Sep­tem­ber 2013, more than 70 anti-Israel events have taken place on uni­ver­sity and col­lege cam­puses in Illi­nois and over 50% of those events were held on three cam­puses: Loy­ola University-Chicago, DePaul Uni­ver­sity, and North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity. So far this year, there have been two divest­ment res­o­lu­tions passed by stu­dent gov­ern­ments at Loy­ola Uni­ver­sity and North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity and 25 anti-Israel events have either taken place or been sched­uled on Illi­nois campuses.

Lead­ing up to the BDS vote at Loy­ola Uni­ver­sity, there was a week-long pro­gram called “Loy­ola Divest­ment Week,” which fea­tured sev­eral events pro­mot­ing BDS and the “Loy­ola Divest” cam­paign. Exam­ples of those events included dis­cus­sions about divest­ment, a “Pales­tine 101” ses­sion which pro­vided his­tor­i­cal con­text about the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, and a con­ver­sa­tion titled “Reclaim­ing Our Voices through Social Activism.”

ADL described the Loy­ola Divest effort as “mis­guided” and stated that it will likely serve to “divide and polar­ize the cam­pus community.”

The polar­iz­ing effect of the res­o­lu­tion could be wit­nessed dur­ing the vot­ing ses­sion and after its pas­sage, as stu­dents reacted on Twit­ter with the hash­tag “#Loy­olaDi­vest.” One stu­dent remarked dur­ing the vote that there were a “hand­ful of priv­i­leged white peo­ple on one side of room” and that the “rest of human­ity [was] on [the] other.” Another stu­dent echoed that tweet and wrote “Never under­stood ‘white tears’ more than now –white jew­ish stu­dents are ‘uncom­fort­able’ while the Pales­tini­ans are suf­fo­cat­ing,” and another stu­dent cel­e­brated that the cam­pus Hil­lel allegedly lost mem­bers “because #divest­ment made them uncom­fort­able and afraid,” stat­ing that, “That’s a win for #Loy­olaDi­vest no one should join Hillel.”

North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity, the Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) chap­ter formed a group called “NU Divest” which worked to pro­mote divest­ment. Lead­ing up to the Stu­dent Government’s vote on their BDS res­o­lu­tion, the group spon­sored sev­eral anti-Israel events such as a pre­sen­ta­tion from Hatem Baz­ian, a founder of Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine (AMP), on Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 13, 2015 titled  “Colo­nial­ism is not Over: Con­tem­po­rary Move­ments.” The group also pub­lished pro-BDS arti­cles in the cam­pus news­pa­per to inform their student-body about the BDS cam­paign and on Wednes­day, Feb­ru­ary 18, 2015, the stu­dent gov­ern­ment voted to pass their BDS res­o­lu­tion with a 24–22-3 vote.

The BDS cam­paign at DePaul Uni­ver­sity was also active this semes­ter because of the campus-wide BDS ref­er­en­dum that was passed by a vote of 1,575–1,333 on May 23, 2014. To fol­low up on the vote, the DePaul Divest coali­tion sub­mit­ted a request to the DePaul Fair Busi­ness Prac­tices Com­mit­tee (FBPC) in Jan­u­ary 2015 and asked them to rec­om­mend that DePaul divest from Hewlett-Packard, Boe­ing, Lock­heed Mar­tin, Veo­lia, and Cater­pil­lar. The pro­posal was report­edly rejected by the FBPC.

Flyer from DePaul University SJP Fundraiser for Rasmea Odeh.

Flyer from DePaul Uni­ver­sity SJP Fundraiser for Ras­mea Odeh.

The SJP chap­ters at both Loy­ola and DePaul also hosted events to defend and dis­cuss the case of Ras­mea Odeh, a Pales­tin­ian accused by Israel of hav­ing taken part in two 1969 bomb­ings by the ter­ror­ist group the Pop­u­lar Front for the Lib­er­a­tion of Pales­tine (PFLP), who was just con­victed on a count of unlaw­ful pro­cure­ment of nat­u­ral­iza­tion and is fac­ing eigh­teen months in prison and depor­ta­tion to Jor­dan. While Odeh’s case was only dis­cussed at Loy­ola, at DePaul, the SJP chap­ter actu­ally hosted a fundraiser for Odeh where all pro­ceeds were to be donated to her legal defense team.

Of the more than 70 anti-Israel events on Illi­nois cam­puses since Sep­tem­ber 2013, SJP has spon­sored the major­ity of those events, which were focused on BDS cam­paigns and cas­ti­gat­ing Israeli policy.

Other recent anti-Israel events on other cam­puses in Illi­nois include:

  • Shirien D, an Exec­u­tive Board mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion for Pales­tin­ian Equal Rights, spoke about alleged sim­i­lar­i­ties between Fer­gu­son and Gaza at the Illi­nois Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy on Feb­ru­ary 11, 2015.
  • A teach-in for stu­dents to learn about and get involved with the BDS move­ment took place at the Uni­ver­sity of Illinois-Urabana Cham­paign (UIUC) on Mon­day, Novem­ber 10, 2014.
  • Ilan Pappe, an Israeli anti-Zionist pro­fes­sor who is famous for writ­ing a book titled The Eth­nic Cleans­ing of Pales­tine, spoke at the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago on Fri­day, Octo­ber 24, 2014.

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February 27, 2015 2

College Campuses Continue To Face Divisive BDS Campaigns

Through­out the 2014–15 aca­d­e­mic year, a con­sor­tium of stu­dent groups have ini­ti­ated cam­paigns on cam­pus call­ing on their schools to divest from com­pa­nies that they believe either profit from or aid in the Israeli occupation.BDS-campus-anti-israel

The efforts are part of the larger Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment, a global effort to iso­late and pun­ish Israel because of its poli­cies toward the Pales­tini­ans. While sup­port­ers of the BDS move­ment claim to embrace the tac­tic as a non­vi­o­lent way to pres­sure Israel into nego­ti­a­tions, one of the prin­ci­pal com­po­nents of the cam­paign calls for a full and com­plete right of return for Pales­tini­ans which would result in a non-Jewish major­ity and erase the Jew­ish char­ac­ter of Israel. The BDS cam­paign is clearly a biased effort to demo­nize Israel and place the entire onus of the con­flict on the Jew­ish state.

While these ini­tia­tives have failed to have any prac­ti­cal out­comes in terms of uni­ver­sity invest­ment poli­cies, it can­not be ignored that some have had a divi­sive and cor­ro­sive effect on the cam­pus cli­mate. On some cam­puses, divest­ment ini­tia­tives have left Jew­ish and pro-Israel stu­dents feel­ing belea­guered and iso­lated. Other stu­dents report a tense atmos­phere on cam­puses where stu­dents and stu­dent lead­ers are pres­sured to “choose sides” on a con­flict they know lit­tle about.

So far this aca­d­e­mic year, nearly 300 anti-Israel events have been sched­uled, with about 40% of them focused on BDS cam­paigns. In addi­tion, BDS res­o­lu­tions have been voted in stu­dent gov­ern­ment on or ini­ti­ated by anti-Israel stu­dent groups on 11 campuses.

In the com­ing weeks, addi­tion BDS activ­ity will be coor­di­nated on cam­pus as part of the eleventh annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which began on Feb­ru­ary 23 and is sched­uled to run through March. IAW Events have been sched­uled on at least 25 col­lege cam­puses in the U.S. thus far. Some cam­puses are sched­uled to host pre­sen­ta­tions on top­ics such as the false Gaza-Ferguson anal­ogy and oth­ers will set up mock “apartheid walls” on their cam­puses, and/or dis­trib­ute mock “evic­tion notices.”

Below is a list of cur­rent cam­pus BDS cam­paigns and res­o­lu­tions which have been voted on:

  • North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity – The North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity stu­dent gov­ern­ment passed a divest­ment res­o­lu­tion sub­mit­ted by the student-group NU Divest on Wednes­day, Feb­ru­ary 18, 2015. The vote was 24–22-3.
  • Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity – The Under­grad­u­ate Sen­ate of Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity passed a BDS res­o­lu­tion sub­mit­ted by the student-group Stan­ford out of Occu­pied Pales­tine on Tues­day, Feb­ru­ary 17, 2015. The vote on the res­o­lu­tion was 10–4-1.
  • Uni­ver­sity of Toledo – The Uni­ver­sity of Toledo stu­dent gov­ern­ment ruled that a BDS res­o­lu­tion sub­mit­ted by the cam­pus Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine chap­ter was uncon­sti­tu­tional on Tues­day, Feb­ru­ary 17, 2015.
  • Uni­ver­sity of California-Davis – The UC Davis Stu­dent Sen­ate passed a divest­ment res­o­lu­tion that was sub­mit­ted by the cam­pus Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine chap­ter on Thurs­day, Jan­u­ary 29, 2015. The vote on the res­o­lu­tion was 8–2-2, but it was chal­lenged and over­turned by the student-led Court of Asso­ci­ated Stu­dents, which is beyond the juris­dic­tion of the Stu­dent Senate.
  • United Auto Work­ers (UAW) 2865 – The Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Stu­dent Work­ers Union (UAW 2865) endorsed a divest­ment res­o­lu­tion on Thurs­day, Decem­ber 4, 2014 call­ing on the UC Board of Regents to divest from com­pa­nies that are allegedly prof­it­ing from or aid­ing in the Israeli occu­pa­tion. The res­o­lu­tion also called for an end of U.S. aid to Israel and for UAW Inter­na­tional to divest from the same cor­po­ra­tions. The vote was 1411–749.
  • Uni­ver­sity of California-Los Ange­les - On Tues­day, Novem­ber 18, 2014, the UCLA stu­dent gov­ern­ment endorsed a divest­ment res­o­lu­tion that was sub­mit­ted by the cam­pus Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine chap­ter. The vote on the res­o­lu­tion was 8–2-2.

Below is a list of BDS cam­paigns cur­rently tak­ing place:

  • Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan –  The student-group Stu­dents Allied for Free­dom and Equal­ity (SAFE) at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan announced plans to ini­ti­ate a divest­ment cam­paign called “#UMDi­vest” on Feb­ru­ary 18, 2015. To go along with this, they are host­ing a BDS sym­po­sium to dis­cuss the cam­paign, read the res­o­lu­tion, and answer ques­tions from the audience.
  • Uni­ver­sity of Hous­ton – The Uni­ver­sity of Hous­ton Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) chap­ter announced plans to ini­ti­ate a BDS cam­paign on Feb­ru­ary 12, 2015. The group spon­sored a pro-BDS demon­stra­tion on their cam­pus that day where the cam­paign was announced.
  • Ohio State Uni­ver­sity – A newly-founded group called Ohio State Uni­ver­sity Divest (OSU Divest) started a divest­ment cam­paign on Jan­u­ary 29, 2015. They announced their cam­paign through a press release and state that they were call­ing on the Uni­ver­sity to divest from com­pa­nies that allegedly harm and/or profit from harm­ing Palestinians.
  • San Diego State Uni­ver­sity – SDSU Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine launched a divest­ment cam­paign and new group called San Diego State Uni­ver­sity Divest (SDSU Divest) on Jan­u­ary 25, 2015. To go along with the cam­paign, they have been cir­cu­lat­ing a peti­tion to cur­rent stu­dents, alumni, fac­ulty, staff, and com­mu­nity mem­bers that calls for divest­ment “from com­pa­nies that profit from vio­lence against the Palestinians.”
  • Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Florida – The Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Florida SJP chap­ter put up a pro-BDS bill­board near cam­pus to claim that 10,000 stu­dents were silenced because BDS was not enforced by the Uni­ver­sity Admin­is­tra­tion after the group allegedly col­lected 10,000 sig­na­tures call­ing on the uni­ver­sity to divest from cor­po­ra­tions that allegedly profit from the Israeli occupation.

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