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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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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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January 21, 2014 1

Israel on Trial at the MLA Conference: An Insider’s View and a Perspective on the Trends

The Mod­ern Lan­guage Asso­ci­a­tion (MLA), a group com­prised of nearly 30,000 human­i­ties schol­ars, held their annual con­fer­ence in Chicago, Jan­u­ary 9th-12th.  ADL and other pro-Israel orga­ni­za­tions were con­cerned by two items on the MLA agenda:  a round­table dis­cus­sion enti­tled “Aca­d­e­mic Boy­cotts: A Con­ver­sa­tion about Israel and Pales­tine” which was com­prised solely of those sup­port­ive of an aca­d­e­mic boy­cott of Israel (includ­ing aca­d­e­mic boycott/BDS front-man Omar Bargh­outi); and a flaw-filled res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing Israel for allegedly deny­ing Pales­tin­ian Amer­i­can aca­d­e­mics access to the West Bank.

Left to Right: Pro­fes­sors Cary Nel­son, Rus­sell Berman and Ilan Troen at a panel dis­cus­sion on the side­lines of the MLA Conference

ADL con­demned the one-sided panel, say­ing that the MLA had “given its de facto impri­matur of legit­i­macy to the cam­paign to boy­cott Israeli aca­d­e­mics and aca­d­e­mic institutions.”

In a heated ses­sion, the res­o­lu­tion passed by a vote of 60–53, and it now moves on to the MLA exec­u­tive com­mit­tee to deter­mine if it goes to the full mem­ber­ship for a vote.   For­tu­nately, the del­e­gates declined to con­sider an “emer­gency res­o­lu­tion” of sup­port for the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Association’s boy­cott of Israeli aca­d­e­mic institutions.

Amy Schwartz, an asso­ciate direc­tor in ADL’s Chicago office and a mem­ber of the MLA, writes in the JTA of her first-person account from the con­fer­ence, Ram­pag­ing Minor­ity Politi­cized MLA Con­fer­ence, that the out­comes of the con­fer­ence com­pel us to “ con­tinue to edu­cate and inform the MLA mem­ber­ship and ini­ti­ate out­reach to other aca­d­e­mic orga­ni­za­tions to pro­mote respon­si­bil­ity, aca­d­e­mic free­dom and integrity.

Writ­ing of those activists behind the round­table and res­o­lu­tion at the MLA con­fer­ence, and who pushed for­ward the vote by the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Asso­ci­a­tion to boy­cott Israeli aca­d­e­mic insti­tu­tions, Abra­ham H. Fox­man writes in Expos­ing the Israel Bash­ers: Opin­ions With­out Facts, Facts With­out Con­text :  “This is group which is devoted 24/7/365 to find­ing ways to exploit a lack of aware­ness, naïveté and gen­eral dis­in­ter­est to advance a cor­ro­sive, divi­sive and prej­u­diced per­spec­tive of the highly com­plex dynamic of achiev­ing peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The sil­ver lin­ing of these devel­op­ments remains the force­ful reac­tion by over 200 uni­ver­sity pres­i­dents from across the United States, who, every day, have come for­ward to speak out and denounce the aca­d­e­mic boy­cott of Israel.

 

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