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September 25, 2015 20

University Departments Sponsor Key BDS Advocates

Uni­ver­sity depart­ments on five dif­fer­ent col­lege cam­puses have spon­sored or co-sponsored anti-Israel pro­grams pro­mot­ing Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns so far dur­ing the 2015–16 aca­d­e­mic year. The found­ing goals of the BDS move­ment and many of the strate­gies employed in BDS cam­paigns are anti-Semitic.  Such spon­sor­ship cre­ates the per­cep­tion that spe­cific uni­ver­sity depart­ments sanc­tion these goals and strate­gies, lend­ing an added degree of legit­i­macy and cred­i­bil­ity to anti-Israel advo­cacy and cam­paigns that may alien­ate Jew­ish and pro-Israel students.omar-barghouti-berkeley-flyer

Since the 2012–13 aca­d­e­mic year, there have been at least 99 anti-Israel events that received uni­ver­sity depart­ment spon­sor­ship, includ­ing 44 events which took place in the 2014–15 aca­d­e­mic year.

On Sep­tem­ber 18, 2015, Omar Bargh­outi, a found­ing mem­ber of the Pales­tin­ian Cam­paign for the Aca­d­e­mic and Cul­tural Boy­cott of Israel (PACBI), spoke at the Uni­ver­sity of California-Berkeley. His pre­sen­ta­tion, which dis­cussed the role which he believes acad­e­mia should play in BDS, was spon­sored by the cam­pus Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) chap­ter and co-sponsored by eight dif­fer­ent Uni­ver­sity depart­ments, includ­ing the Cen­ter for Race and Gen­der, Asian Amer­i­can Stud­ies, Native Amer­i­can Stud­ies, Eth­nic Stud­ies, Eng­lish, Chi­cano Stud­ies, Near East­ern Stud­ies, and African Amer­i­can Studies.

Bargh­outi, a founder of the move­ment who recently stated that he believes BDS is turn­ing main­stream, has used Holo­caust imagery to con­demn Israel and its sup­port­ers in past pre­sen­ta­tions and inter­views. He also has advo­cated for a one-state solu­tion to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, along with the right of return for Pales­tin­ian refugees, claim­ing that one state would mean “equal­ity for everyone–irrespective of iden­tity, eth­nic­ity, reli­gion or any other attribute.”

Barghouti’s event is not unique for this year though, as the Cen­ter for Diver­sity and Inclu­sion at Michi­gan Tech­no­log­i­cal Uni­ver­sity spon­sored a sim­i­lar pre­sen­ta­tion from Israeli anti-Zionist author Miko Peled on Sep­tem­ber 15, 2015. Over the years, Peled has made sev­eral state­ments about Jews, Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict that would not define “inclu­sion” or “diver­sity.” These state­ments include his alle­ga­tion that Israel turned Gaza into an “enor­mous con­cen­tra­tion camp” or more recently, when he stated that “nei­ther Iran, Hezbol­lah or Hamas pose a threat to Israel, they pose a threat to the Israeli occu­pa­tion and oppres­sion of Palestinians.”

Other events which received depart­ment spon­sor­ship this year include an upcom­ing per­for­mance by Remi Kanazi, an Orga­niz­ing Com­mit­tee mem­ber of the US Cam­paign for the Aca­d­e­mic & Cul­tural Boy­cott of Israel (USACBI), at John Jay Col­lege. At John Jay, Kanazi’s per­for­mance is being co-sponsored by the Depart­ment of Gen­der Studies.

In addi­tion, a Sep­tem­ber 16 pre­sen­ta­tion at Drew Uni­ver­sity by Bassem Tamimi, a Pales­tin­ian anti-Israel activist who has been arrested in Israel sev­eral times, was co-sponsored by the Mid­dle East Stud­ies Depart­ment; and a pre­sen­ta­tion from Vijay Prashad, the for­mer Edward Said chair in Amer­i­can Stud­ies at the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity of Beirut, was co-sponsored by the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs Program.

While not all advo­cates of BDS are anti-Semitic and may be dri­ven by per­ceived legit­i­mate crit­i­cism of cer­tain Israeli poli­cies toward Pales­tini­ans, many indi­vid­u­als engaged in BDS cam­paigns are dri­ven by oppo­si­tion to Israel’s very exis­tence as a Jew­ish state. Because of this, it’s unfor­tu­nate that uni­ver­sity depart­ments would lend their spon­sor­ship to events that can cre­ate an envi­ron­ment that is hos­tile to Jew­ish and pro-Israel students.

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April 29, 2015 0

Anti-Semitism on Campus: Old Wine in New Bottles

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

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

As some­one who has been crit­i­cal about the some­times over­heated reac­tion to what is tak­ing place regard­ing Jews on cam­pus, I also believe it is vital to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion closely and to be able to reeval­u­ate as things may change.

I still believe that the vast major­ity of Jew­ish stu­dents have nor­mal lives on cam­pus where they can be com­fort­able in their own skins and with their Jew­ish iden­ti­ties. That is why a recent sur­vey sug­gest­ing that more than 50 per­cent of Jew­ish stu­dents expe­ri­enced anti-Semitism in one form or another was dis­turb­ing. This sur­vey – which in my opin­ion was flawed — was not a help­ful read­ing of what is going on.

And yet, some­thing is chang­ing.  We need to iden­tify what it is and deal with it — with­out declar­ing the sky is falling.

His­tor­i­cally, many cam­puses, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to fac­ulty, have a rep­u­ta­tion of being left-wing or at least very lib­eral. Since the vast major­ity of the Jew­ish com­mu­nity has iden­ti­fied itself in a sim­i­lar fash­ion for decades, there seemed to be no problem.

Together with this, how­ever, polls of the Amer­i­can peo­ple in the last few years appear to indi­cate an increas­ing gap in atti­tudes toward Israel between those who iden­tify them­selves as con­ser­v­a­tives and those who iden­tify them­selves as lib­er­als. The lat­ter are increas­ingly ques­tion­ing Israeli poli­cies and express­ing inter­est in a more bal­anced Amer­i­can approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is this evolv­ing phe­nom­e­non which, I believe, is lend­ing force to the anti-Israel forces on cam­pus. Let’s be clear: There has always been a mea­sure of left-wing oppo­si­tion to Israel on cam­puses, whether from fac­ulty or some stu­dent groups.

For sure they are more orga­nized today.  Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine, the main orga­niz­ing force behind the boy­cott, divest­ment and sanc­tions cam­paigns, has refined and inten­si­fied its tac­tics and is pop­ping up on new cam­puses every month or so.  Regard­less of the fact that the BDS cam­paign has not gained much trac­tion on cam­pus in terms of hav­ing any impact against Israel – many, if not most, of the boy­cott votes have been soundly defeated – it is cre­at­ing a great deal of noise on cam­pus and beyond, rais­ing a lot of atten­tion, and con­tribut­ing to the sense of dis­com­fort of Jew­ish students.

But the biggest change is the fer­tile ground in which the anti-Israel com­mu­nity is sow­ing its seeds.

The trends that are appear­ing relate to the per­cep­tion of Jew­ish stu­dents and their rela­tions with other minor­ity com­mu­ni­ties.  There are sug­ges­tions that Jews do not qual­ify for par­tic­i­pa­tion in minor­ity com­mu­nity activ­ity on cam­pus, for two rea­sons:  1) They are deemed peo­ple of priv­i­lege, not minori­ties wor­thy of spe­cial atten­tion; and 2) their assumed sup­port for “colo­nial­ist, apartheid” Israel puts them in the camp of would-be oppres­sors rather than tar­gets and oppo­nents of prejudice.

Recent inci­dents at UCLA and Stan­ford bring this dis­turb­ing phe­nom­e­non into focus.  At UCLA, a stu­dent leader had her qual­i­fi­ca­tions for a Judi­cial Board posi­tion come under ques­tion due to her Jew­ish iden­tity and affil­i­a­tion with the Jew­ish com­mu­nity on cam­pus. At Stan­ford, a Jew­ish stu­dent run­ning for a posi­tion in stu­dent gov­ern­ment was asked how her Judaism might influ­ence her posi­tion on divest­ment from Israel.

What was so stun­ning to the stu­dent appli­cants was not that they were asked about their views on Israel – they were aware that, unfor­tu­nately, these bod­ies sup­ported boy­cott actions against the Jew­ish State.  Rather, that there was no shame in intro­duc­ing the can­di­dates’ Jew­ish­ness as the crit­i­cal fac­tor in assess­ing the candidacy.

It is this link­ing of atti­tudes toward Israel and atti­tudes toward Jews that raises con­cern about the future of Jew­ish life on cam­pus.  Larry Sum­mers, when pres­i­dent at Har­vard, fore­saw this back in 2002 when there was an effort to bring a divest­ment cam­paign to the university.

He, most impor­tantly, rejected it, decry­ing the abhor­rent com­par­i­son of demo­c­ra­tic Israel to apartheid South Africa.  He then went on to explain that while not all who advo­cated divest­ment from Israel were moti­vated by anti-Semitism, even those who weren’t cre­ated a cli­mate mak­ing anti-Semitism more palat­able by the assault on the good name of the Jew­ish State.

In effect, the attacks on Israel on cam­pus are unleash­ing inhi­bi­tions against expres­sions of anti-Jewish prej­u­dice and begin­ning to legit­imize attacks on Jews on campus.

While much of this is in a nascent stage, it is impor­tant to deal with it now on sev­eral levels.

First, greater efforts must be made to gen­er­ate a more bal­anced view of Israel and the region among minor­ity stu­dents.  Some are undoubt­edly locked in to their anti-Israel per­spec­tive for ide­o­log­i­cal rea­sons.  But many oth­ers are cer­tainly open to hear­ing a dif­fer­ent take on the Mid­dle East.  Not one in which Israel is always in the right, but a com­pli­cated nar­ra­tive about com­pet­ing inter­est and needs.

Sec­ond, it must be made clear that what­ever one’s views on the con­flict, treat­ing Jews dif­fer­ently is unac­cept­able and it is what it is, anti-Semitism. Uni­ver­sity offi­cials must speak out clearly and unequiv­o­cally against even the slight­est hint of sin­gling Jews out that way.

Third, we must con­tin­u­ally assess the sta­tus of Jews on cam­pus in a calm and ratio­nal way, dis­tin­guish­ing between the real chal­lenges Jew­ish stu­dents face with­out send­ing alarm sig­nals which could under­mine the nor­mal life on cam­pus that exists for most of them.

Jews in Amer­ica have made too much progress over the last half-century to cause us to over­re­act. Still, we can­not afford to be com­pla­cent. We have to address these cam­pus issues now before they expand fur­ther and spin out of con­trol, truly cre­at­ing a wide­spread wor­ri­some atmosphere.

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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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