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November 24, 2014 3

Presbyterians Against Divestment

New York Times Ad

New York Times Ad

A full page ad in the New York Times on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 21 stated “Pres­by­te­ri­ans: We can do bet­ter than divest­ment.”  The ad, endorsed by over one hun­dred lead­ers of the Pres­by­ter­ian Church (USA) and spon­sored by Pres­by­te­ri­ans for a Just and Peace­ful Future in the Mid­dle East, is a response to the nar­row deci­sion (310–303) by the PC(USA) Gen­eral Assem­bly this past sum­mer to divest from three Amer­i­can com­pa­nies who con­duct busi­ness with Israel in the West Bank, a deci­sion the ADL deplored.

The ad calls for Pres­by­te­ri­ans to “reclaim the church’s role as ‘repair­ers of the breach’” between them­selves and other reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties, “to reaf­firm boldly the church’s com­mit­ment to two-state solu­tion,” and “to seek oppor­tu­ni­ties in Pales­tine, Israel, and between Israelis and Pales­tini­ans for proac­tive investment.”

Polling data con­sis­tently show that “main­line” Protes­tants over­whelm­ingly sup­port a safe and secure Israel, even while also being con­cerned about the sit­u­a­tion of Pales­tini­ans in the West Bank and Gaza.  The efforts at the PC(USA) and other churches to pass divest­ment res­o­lu­tions reflect the views of a minor­ity of activists within those churches who take advan­tage of the struc­tures of those churches to press their agenda.

ADL hopes this ad will pro­mote exactly the kind of respect­ful dis­cus­sion and col­lab­o­ra­tion for which it calls, as well as serve to encour­age oth­ers within the PC(USA) and other main­line Protes­tant churches who have con­sid­ered divest­ment res­o­lu­tions to look for con­struc­tive ini­tia­tives that pro­mote Israeli-Palestinian coop­er­a­tion and  reconciliation.

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November 20, 2014 1

Anti-Israel Activity Prevalent On Massachusetts Campuses This Year

With recent anti-Israel activ­ity at mul­ti­ple uni­ver­si­ties in Massachusetts,the state has become a hotspot for cam­pus events pro­mot­ing Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns and the use of con­fronta­tional tac­tics to protest pro-Israel events.students-for-justice-in-palestine-2014-national-conference

Nine anti-Israel events have been held in Mass­a­chu­setts so far this aca­d­e­mic year, more than dou­ble the four events that took place last year dur­ing the same time­frame. This aca­d­e­mic year’s events fol­low the nine anti-Israel demon­stra­tions that were held in Mass­a­chu­settsover the sum­mer dur­ing Oper­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge, some of which fea­tured signs with slo­gans like “Not even the Holo­caust gives you the right to do this!” and “Do you think that Israel is a vic­tim? Zion­ism = Nazism.”

In Octo­ber, the fourth annual National Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) Con­fer­ence took place at Tufts University.SJP, a stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion with over 110 chap­ters at Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties, held the con­fer­ence so that stu­dents from around the coun­try could unify for a week­end to learn about SJP’s stance on the con­flict. The con­fer­ence was titled “Beyond Sol­i­dar­ity: Resist­ing Racism and Colo­nial­ism from the U.S. to Pales­tine,” a ref­er­ence to SJP activists’ efforts to con­nect vary­ing strug­gles and move­ments to the Pales­tin­ian cause, and it fea­tured work­shops such as “Noth­ing Nor­mal about It: Coun­ter­ing Nor­mal­iza­tion of Israeli Oppres­sion on Cam­pus,” and “Israeli Apartheid: Real­ity on the Ground after the Pro­tec­tive Edge Mas­sacre and End­ing Geno­cide in Gaza.”

Open Hil­lel, a student-run cam­paign call­ing on Hil­lel Inter­na­tional to alter its “Stan­dards for Part­ner­ship,” held its first con­fer­ence at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, call­ing on Hil­lel Inter­na­tional to allow “free dis­course” on the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict. Orga­niz­ers claimed that the con­fer­ence would allow cer­tain view­points to be voiced that would be excluded from a Hil­lel build­ing because of Hil­lel International’s “Stan­dards for Part­ner­ship,” which do not allow for speak­ers that dele­git­imize Israel or deny its right to exist. The Open Hil­lel con­fer­ence fea­tured dis­cus­sions such as “Unpack­ing Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions,” and “Anti Nor­mal­iza­tion Work­shop: Open Dis­course in the Con­text of Power Dif­fer­en­tials.”
Both the SJP and Open Hil­lel con­fer­ences focused on top­ics such as BDS cam­paigns and the tac­tic of anti-normalization, which advises stu­dents against dia­logue and rejects any attempt to engage in a debate of the con­flict with pro-Israel students.

Speak­ers at the con­fer­ences rep­re­sented a net­work of groups that have worked to demo­nize and dele­git­imize the Jew­ish State. Those speak­ers included Rebecca Vilkomer­son, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Jew­ish Voice for Peace (JVP) who spoke at the Open Hil­lel con­fer­ence; Rashid Kha­lidi, Edward Said Pro­fes­sor of Mod­ern Arab Stud­ies at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity and an Advi­sory Board mem­ber of the US Cam­paign to End the Israeli Occu­pa­tion who also spoke at the Open Hil­lel con­fer­ence; and Sara Ker­sh­nar, a cofounder of the Inter­na­tional Jew­ish Anti-Zionist Net­work who has made false alle­ga­tions includ­ing that Israel uses “Nazi tac­tics” against Pales­tini­ans, spoke at the SJP conference.

Other recent anti-Israel events in Mass­a­chu­setts orga­nized by stu­dents include:

  • A panel dis­cus­sion about the BDS move­ment took place dur­ing the Har­vard Arab Week­end, which is spon­sored by the Har­vard Arab Alumni Asso­ci­a­tion and sev­eral cor­po­rate spon­sors, includ­ing Bank Audi, Shell, and the Boston Con­sult­ing Group. The BDS dis­cus­sion, which took place to “high­light recent suc­cesses from the BDS move­ment, dis­cuss approach, and exam­ine its tra­jec­tory,” fea­tured Noam Chom­sky, an Amer­i­can scholar who has a his­tory of mak­ing anti-Israel state­ments; Andrew Kadi, a mem­ber of the US Campaign’s Steer­ing Com­mit­tee; and Yousef Munayyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Jerusalem Fund; as guest speakers.
  • On Novem­ber 1, at the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (MIT), Omar Bargh­outi, a co-founder of the Pales­tin­ian Cam­paign for the Aca­d­e­mic and Cul­tural Boy­cott of Israel (PACBI), a group that works to bring about a com­pre­hen­sive eco­nomic, cul­tural and aca­d­e­mic boy­cott of Israel,delivered a pre­sen­ta­tion about BDS cam­paigns to stu­dents. In past state­ments, Bargh­outi has used sen­si­tive Holo­caust imagery to con­demn Israel and its sup­port­ers and has alleged that an “Israel lobby” con­trols U.S. pol­icy and sup­presses debate.
  • In late Octo­ber, mem­bers of var­i­ous Boston SJP chap­ters protested a Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) fundraiser out­side of the Westin Boston Water­front Hotel where the event was tak­ing place.  Pro­test­ers led chants and held signs that read, “The IDF is GENOCIDAL,” “From Fer­gu­son to Pales­tine racism is a crime,” and “Friends don’t let friends com­mit war crimes.”
  • At Smith Col­lege in Northamp­ton, the “Fes­ti­val of Resis­tance” fea­tured an anti-Israel rally out­side of Northamp­ton City Hall that led directly into a day-long teach-in about the BDS move­ment in late September.

In addi­tion to orga­niz­ing such events, anti-Israel stu­dents also oppose pro-Israel pro­gram­ing through con­fronta­tional tac­tics. This past Mon­day, stu­dents from the Tufts Uni­ver­sity Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) chap­ter, con­ducted a die-in to protest a pre­sen­ta­tion from a pro-Israel speaker. In a more extreme exam­ple of protest­ing against pro-Israel pro­gram­ming on campus,anti-Israel sen­ti­ment crossed the line to anti-Semitism when swastikas were drawn on fly­ers adver­tis­ing a pro-Israel event at North­east­ern Uni­ver­sity.  North­east­ern University’s swift con­dem­na­tion of the inci­dent was clear, timely, unam­bigu­ous, and served as an impor­tant reminder of effec­tive uni­ver­sity responses to acts of hate and intol­er­ance on campus.

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October 23, 2014 0

Tufts University Hosting National Students For Justice In Palestine Conference

Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP), the nation’s largest pro-Palestinian stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion with more than 80 active chap­ters on col­lege and uni­ver­sity cam­puses, will hold its 4th National Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine Con­fer­ence at Tufts Uni­ver­sity. The con­fer­ence, which runs from Octo­ber 24–26, is titled “Beyond Sol­i­dar­ity: Resist­ing Racism and Colo­nial­ism from the U.S. to Pales­tine,” a ref­er­ence to SJP activists’ efforts to con­nect vary­ing strug­gles and move­ments to the Pales­tin­ian cause.sjp-national-conference-tufts-university

As with pre­vi­ous SJP national con­fer­ences this year’s con­fer­ence is only open to stu­dents who are active with a cam­pus group. The con­fer­ence is set to fea­ture a wide array of anti-Israel activists, includ­ing uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sors, stu­dents, clergy mem­bers, and mem­bers of the global Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) movement.

Among the invited speak­ers are J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Amer­i­can Stud­ies & Anthro­pol­ogy at Wes­leyan Uni­ver­sity and an advi­sor to the U.S. Cam­paign for the Aca­d­e­mic and Cul­tural Boy­cott of Israel (USACBI); Muham­mad Desai, the coor­di­na­tor of BDS South Africa who was seen singing the words “shoot the Jew” at a 2013 anti-Israel protest; Sara Ker­sh­ner, a co-founder of the Inter­na­tional Jew­ish Anti-Zionist Net­work; and sev­eral stu­dent activists from var­i­ous SJP chapters.

The con­fer­ence pan­els, accord­ing to the SJP con­fer­ence web­site, will con­sist of dis­cus­sions that con­flate social jus­tice with the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict. Panel titles include: “From Fer­gu­son to Pales­tine: Resist­ing State Vio­lence and Racism,” and “Migrant Jus­tice and the Undoc­u­mented Pales­tin­ian Expe­ri­ence in the U.S.” SJP chap­ters often try to link domes­tic issues and events, such as the Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri shoot­ing and its after­math to the con­flict in Gaza, couch­ing hos­til­ity toward Israel in social jus­tice terms to appeal to a broader audi­ence. In addi­tion, there will also be a ses­sion on “Islamic Move­ments of Pales­tine,” that will exam­ine “how Islam informed resis­tance move­ments and what dif­fer­ent ways Islamic move­ments oper­ated in Palestine.”

In pre­vi­ous years SJP held its national con­fer­ence at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity in 2011, the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan in 2012, and at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity in 2013. The con­fer­ences typ­i­cally include inflam­ma­tory lan­guage and rhetoric to describe Israel, and, at times, speak­ers have glo­ri­fied the use of vio­lence by Pales­tin­ian groups.

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