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March 8, 2013 1

Anti-Israel Activity Reached Fever Pitch This Week

Anti-Israel activists took a multi-faceted approach to attack­ing Israel in the pub­lic sphere this week. In the span of 7 days, divest­ment res­o­lu­tions were con­sid­ered at three col­lege cam­puses, ten anti-Israel bill­boards were put up in Atlanta, over 30 col­lege cam­puses hosted Israeli Apartheid Week pro­grams and two day­long BDS con­fer­ences were scheduled.

These ini­tia­tives are for­mally or infor­mally part of a global effort to advance the Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment against Israel. They demon­strate the anti-Israel movement’s com­mit­ment to employ­ing mul­ti­ple tac­tics and cam­paigns to attract sup­port for its positions.

A flyer adver­tis­ing the first pub­lic dis­cus­sion on the divest­ment res­o­lu­tion at UCSD

Here’s a closer look at what’s taken place this week:

  • Cam­pus Divest­ment Res­o­lu­tions: Stu­dent gov­ern­ments at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia (UC), River­side, and UC San Diego con­sid­ered divest­ment res­o­lu­tions tar­get­ing multi­na­tional com­pa­nies that work with Israel like Cater­pil­lar, Gen­eral Elec­tric and Northrup Grum­man. The results were mixed: the res­o­lu­tion at Stan­ford was voted down; UC San Diego did not vote on its res­o­lu­tion (after a dis­cus­sion that lasted until 2am) and will resume dis­cussing it next week, while UC River­side passed its res­o­lu­tion in a stealth man­ner rem­i­nis­cent of the recent res­o­lu­tion at UC Irvine. The divest­ment res­o­lu­tion at River­side was intro­duced with­out advance notice and seems to be part of an effort to ensure that pro-Israel stu­dents are left in the dark and are there­fore not present at the pub­lic dis­cus­sion to voice their per­spec­tive and advo­cate against the bill.
  • Israeli Apartheid Week: At least 35 col­lege cam­puses in the U.S. are par­tic­i­pat­ing in IAW this year, the ninth con­sec­u­tive year that the pro­gram has been held in cities around the world. Most of the events in the U.S. were for­mally sched­uled to take place March 4–8 but some are stretch­ing into next week as well (due to var­i­ous university-related sched­ul­ing con­flicts). IAW events this year have pri­mar­ily included anti-Israel speak­ers, mock “apartheid walls” and check­point dis­plays on cam­pus, and screen­ings of two crit­i­cal of Israel films,  the Oscar award-nominated “5 Bro­ken Cam­eras” and a more extreme film called “Roadmap to Apartheid.” “Roadmap to Apartheid” is nar­rated by The Color Pur­ple author Alice Walker and analo­gizes Pales­tin­ian refugees to Jews in the War­saw Ghetto and par­tially con­dones ter­ror­ism as a “symp­tom” of the conflict.
  • BDS Con­fer­ences: This past Sat­ur­day the Uni­ver­sity of Texas, Austin, hosted a day­long “BDS Con­fer­ence” that fea­tured extreme speeches by Nada Elia, a fac­ulty mem­ber at Anti­och Uni­ver­sity in Seat­tle, and Sherry Wolf, a Jew­ish social­ist and activist. Elia avowed that she would not reject Pales­tin­ian extrem­ism because Pales­tini­ans “have a right to resist” and com­pared Israelis to Amer­i­can slave-owners. Wolf used the plat­form to claim that the notion that Israel is the Jew­ish people’s home­land is “bulls–t” and accused Israel of “ter­ror­ism” and insti­tu­tion­al­ized racism against the Pales­tini­ans. She fur­ther described Zion­ist Jews as “white suprema­cist racist[s].” On Sat­ur­day, March 9, a sim­i­lar con­fer­ence will take place on the Auraria cam­pus in Den­ver. Par­tic­i­pants will “learn about the his­tory of both Pales­tine and the global BDS move­ment, hear what coali­tion groups are work­ing on, and par­tic­i­pate in BDS and coalition-building train­ing,” accord­ing to the event flier.
  • Anti-Israel Bill­boards: The Coun­cil for the National Inter­est, an anti-U.S. aid to Israel group based in DC, recently started a cam­paign called “Stop the Blank Check to Israel” which hopes to place bill­boards in cities across the coun­try. Ten such ads, which read, “$8 Mil­lion a day to Israel just doesn’t make sense! STOP The Blank Check.org,” have recently been erected in Atlanta. Ads with sim­i­lar mes­sages have appeared in the past year in Den­ver, Detroit, Los Ange­les, Chapel Hill and New York.

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May 31, 2012 0

University of Texas Rightly Refuses to Give in to Anti-Israel Boycott Effort

A project by the Uni­ver­sity of Texas to pub­lish an anthol­ogy of sto­ries by Mid­dle East­ern women has been can­celed after many of the Arab authors threat­ened to with­draw their con­tri­bu­tions if they would be pub­lished along­side sto­ries by two Israeli female writ­ers. UT rightly refused to exclude the Israeli writers.

Sev­eral of the Arab con­trib­u­tors to the book, Mem­ory of a Promise: Short Sto­ries by Mid­dle East­ern Women, specif­i­cally cited the boy­cott, divest­ment and sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paign as the rea­son for their deci­sion. They ini­tially requested that the project’s orga­nizer, the Cen­ter for Mid­dle East­ern Stud­ies, remove the sto­ries writ­ten by Israeli women. When the Cen­ter refused to do so, cit­ing a com­mit­ment to aca­d­e­mic free­dom and non-discrimination, many of the Arab authors threat­ened to with­draw their con­tri­bu­tions (“vir­tu­ally all,” accord­ing to an e-mail by the Center’s direc­tor, Kam­ran Scot Aghaie), that the Cen­ter was forced to kill the project completely.

The boy­cott effort was spear­headed by a Dubai-based Pales­tin­ian nov­el­ist named Huzama Habayeb. In an inter­view with the Gulf News, Habayeb declared that she is “so proud of hav­ing the book can­celled” and called it a form of “resis­tance” to the “Israeli occu­pa­tion of my home­land.” She had writ­ten a let­ter to other Arab con­trib­u­tors urg­ing them to join the boy­cott and refuse to share space with “writ­ers who reflect the voice of an obnox­ious occu­pier,” accord­ing to an op-ed she pub­lished in the Gulf News. In the op-ed, Habayeb describes Israel in bla­tantly hyper­bolic terms, accus­ing it of “‘geno­ci­dal’ prac­tices against Pales­tini­ans” and refer­ring to it as a “killer state.”

This inci­dent rep­re­sents a rad­i­cal and nefar­i­ous turn for sup­port­ers of the BDS cam­paign in that it is an out­right rejec­tion of the “Israeli.” Rea­son­able peo­ple may dis­agree about the effi­cacy and legit­i­macy of protests against Israeli gov­ern­ment offi­cials or a boy­cott of Israeli prod­ucts that are pro­duced in the set­tle­ments. This is way beyond that. The two Israeli women who had con­tributed to the book, Yehu­dit Hen­del and Orly Castel-Bloom, are both accom­plished authors who do not rep­re­sent Israeli pol­icy or the Israeli occu­pa­tion. Hen­del has won numer­ous prizes and acco­lades for her lit­er­ary prowess, includ­ing the Jerusalem Prize, The Bia­lik Prize and the Israel Prize for Life­time Achieve­ment. Refus­ing to share a pub­li­ca­tion with these illus­tri­ous women is extreme and extremely troubling.

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