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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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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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