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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 20, 2012 3

“End the Nazi Occupation in Gaza”: A Round-Up Of U.S. Anti-Israel Protests On November 19

Close to two dozen anti-Israel ral­lies took place across the United States on Mon­day, from Greens­boro to Gainesville, Seat­tle to Santa Cruz. Nearly half of Monday’s demon­stra­tions occurred on uni­ver­sity and col­lege cam­puses, an indi­ca­tion of how student-driven the anti-Israel reac­tion is to the lat­est round of vio­lence tak­ing place in the Mid­dle East.

Below is a sam­pling of yesterday’s anti-Israel protests:

New Brunswick, NJ

At Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity, a state uni­ver­sity with more than 50,000 stu­dents, a rally orga­nized by Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine drew approx­i­mately 150 demon­stra­tors to Brower Com­mons. One of the signs dis­played by stu­dents read, “It would be my great­est sad­ness to see Zion­ists do to Pales­tini­ans much of what Nazis did to Jews.” Demon­stra­tors also chanted “Intifada, Intifada” dur­ing the evening protest.

At least four rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Neturei Karta, an ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist orga­ni­za­tion, par­tic­i­pated in and spoke at the rally. Jew­ish anti-Zionist groups often view their role as “pro­tect­ing” the anti-Israel move­ment from alle­ga­tions of anti-Semitism. It seemed to work here. Shortly after the protest ended, sev­eral stu­dents expressed how happy they were to have the Neturei Karta rep­re­sen­ta­tives, with one stu­dent not­ing, “I’m tired of being crit­i­cized as an anti-Semite for hav­ing crit­i­cal views of Israel, when in fact I have no qualms with our Jew­ish broth­ers and sis­ters, but rather an apartheid nation.”

San Fran­cisco, CA

A rally out­side the Israeli Con­sulate drew activists from Jew­ish Voice for Peace who held ban­ners and signs that read “The Siege of Gaza Betrays Jew­ish Val­ues” and “Israelis Against War and Apartheid.”

Chicago, IL

More than 300 demon­stra­tors ral­lied out­side a Fed­eral Build­ing in Chicago and then pro­ceeded to march to Daley Plaza, chant­ing “From the river to the sea, Pales­tine will be free.” Speak­ers alleged that Israel is a “ter­ror­ist state,” a “bru­tal killing machine” and that Jerusalem is “occu­pied.” One young woman held a sign that read, “End the Nazi Occu­pa­tion in Gaza!” The same sign also showed the Israeli flag with a large red swastika drawn over it and the words “real ter­ror­ists.” The rally attracted the sup­port of Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine, Chicago Move­ment for Pales­tin­ian Rights, Coun­cil of Islamic Orga­ni­za­tions of Greater Chicago, Pales­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Group, US Pales­tin­ian Com­mu­nity Net­work and Jew­ish Voice for Peace.

Ithaca, NY

Anti-Israel stu­dents at Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity squared off against pro-Israel stu­dents who were hold­ing a rally to sup­port Israel’s actions and then marched across cam­pus chant­ing, “Hey Netanyahu, what do you say, how many kids did you kill today?” “Brick by brick, wall by wall, Israel’s apartheid’s got to fall” and “When peo­ple are occu­pied, resis­tance is jus­ti­fied.” The rally, called “Sol­i­dar­ity from Ithaca to Gaza,” was heav­ily attended by Jew­ish anti-Zionists, includ­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Jew­ish Voice for Peace-Ithaca who held signs that read, “Jew­ish Voice for Peace Says Divest From the Occu­pa­tion” and “I am another Jew opposed to Israeli attacks on civilians.”

Tal­la­has­see, FL

The Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine chap­ter at Florida State Uni­ver­sity orga­nized a protest that drew sev­eral dozen stu­dents. The stu­dents held signs that read, “Resist Zion­ism and Impe­ri­al­ism,” “Sup­port Peace, Defend Gaza” and “Denounc­ing Israel’s War Crimes is not Anti-Semitic.” One of the lead­ers of SJP was inter­viewed by local media and said, “We’re out here because Pales­tini­ans are being bru­tal­ized, are being bombed, are being killed every sin­gle day with Amer­i­can tax dol­lars and we think that’s inher­ently wrong.” He also apol­o­gized for Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ism, say­ing it is the result of how “mis­er­able and hope­less” the Pales­tini­ans feel and pre­dicted that the “extrem­ism” will only end when the sit­u­a­tion for Pales­tini­ans improves.

For infor­ma­tion about other anti-Israel protests that have taken place since the start of Oper­a­tion Pil­lar of Defense, please see these pre­vi­ous posts:

“Israel should be Ended Once and For All,” “Cru­cify Him, Cru­cify Them…Israel’s Pol­icy:” A Round-Up of Anti-Israel Protests in the U.S., Novem­ber 17–18

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

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November 20, 2012 1

The Anti-Israel Movement Then and Now: What has Changed Since Operation Cast Lead?

A lit­tle more than 1100 days after the end of Oper­a­tion Cast Lead, Israel has again found it nec­es­sary to con­front rocket attacks from Gaza aimed at its civil­ians. On Novem­ber 14, Israel assas­si­nated Hamas’s mil­i­tary leader and began tar­geted oper­a­tions to destroy the ammu­ni­tion and infra­struc­ture of var­i­ous Gaza-based ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions. Now, as was the case in 2008–9, anti-Israel groups across the United States have imme­di­ately sprung into action and have orga­nized peti­tions and demon­stra­tions to protest Israel’s mil­i­tary oper­a­tions. More than 70 anti-Israel protests have already taken place across the country.

But while the cur­rent ral­lies and demon­stra­tions have thus far con­tained sim­i­larly extreme mes­sages to those held four years ago – includ­ing expres­sions of sup­port for ter­ror­ism, accu­sa­tions of Israeli “geno­cide” and copi­ous com­par­isons of Israelis to Nazis – much has changed as well.

What’s Dif­fer­ent?

Increased Pres­ence and Orga­ni­za­tional Prowess of Jew­ish Anti-Zionists

Domes­tic Jew­ish anti-Zionist groups like Jew­ish Voice for Peace have become far more orga­nized in the past two or three years and have mobi­lized in the last few days to respond to Israel’s oper­a­tion, called Oper­a­tion Pil­lar of Defense. While JVP played a mar­ginal role at best dur­ing the 2008–9 war (there is evi­dence of their par­tic­i­pa­tion in a total of three anti-Israel protests), JVP has been one of the lead­ing orga­niz­ers of anti-Israel demon­stra­tions against the cur­rent Israeli oper­a­tions. The group has already helped orga­nize protests in Olympia, Wash­ing­ton; Cincin­nati, Ohio; Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia and Asheville, North Carolina.

The JVP chap­ter in Boston also planned to protest a pro-Israel rally that took place at a local syn­a­gogue on Mon­day, say­ing in a press release that the pro-Israel event “claims to be a gath­er­ing for peace and the safety of the peo­ple and chil­dren of Israel, but JVP calls out this event for what it truly is:  a pro-war rally that falsely aims to rep­re­sent the Jew­ish com­mu­nity.” The state­ment also included remarks by a leader of JVP in Boston who said, “We stand here because while we grieve the loss of Israeli life, our hearts are also with the peo­ple of Gaza… Not so long ago it was Jew­ish deaths that were dis­counted and ignored,” an implicit com­par­i­son between the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion and the Nazi Holocaust. 

A mem­ber of JVP’s Rab­bini­cal Coun­cil, Brant Rosen, was one of the sched­uled speak­ers at an anti-Israel protest on Mon­day in Chicago.

In addi­tion to JVP, anti-Israel Jews have appeared at other ral­lies across the coun­try, includ­ing at a protest in Boston where activists held a large ban­ner that read “Jews For Intifada” and in New York where two indi­vid­u­als held signs that read, “Israelis Against the Gaza Massacre.”

 Occupy Wall Street Gets Involved

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) move­ment did not exist dur­ing the 2008–9 Gaza War. In the lat­est con­flict, how­ever, the social protest move­ment, with its built-in orga­ni­za­tional struc­ture and mes­sag­ing capa­bil­i­ties, has proved to be extremely ben­e­fi­cial for the anti-Israel move­ment. Activists who iden­tify with OWS have par­tic­i­pated in sev­eral of the anti-Israel ral­lies that have been tak­ing place, includ­ing two events in the Florida area. At one such protest in Fort Laud­erdale on Sat­ur­day, a mem­ber of Occupy Fort Laud­erdale who attended the protest expressed implicit sup­port for vio­lent resis­tance against Israel, say­ing “The oppressed have the right to fight back by any means they have,” in an inter­view with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Two days ear­lier, an anti-Israel rally in Boston was co-sponsored by Occupy Boston (which has pre­vi­ously orga­nized anti-Israel events includ­ing a sit-in at the Israeli Con­sulate last Novem­ber) and fea­tured a sign that read, “Un-Occupy Palestine.”

A work­ing group affil­i­ated with OWS has also been using its Face­book page to dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion about protests tak­ing place inter­na­tion­ally and ways to “help” Gaza by join­ing the Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paign against Israel. And the web­site for the New York con­ti­nent of OWS has posted a list of all the protests tak­ing place as well.

The involve­ment of local Occupy groups in anti-Israel activ­ity does not appear to be an offi­cial posi­tion by the national Occupy Wall Street Move­ment, how­ever, which has not issued any state­ment about the lat­est round of con­flict on its Web site or social media pages.

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