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September 25, 2015

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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March 15, 2013

“So What Are You DOING About it?”… How ADL Counters Anti-Israel Activity on College Campuses

American college campuses continue to be a proving ground for various anti-Israel campaigns, tactics and messages. Last week, our blog reported on several different initiatives we’ve seen recently, including nonbinding Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolutions at the University of California, San Diego, Riverside and Irvine; Israeli Apartheid Week and, of course, university sponsorship of anti-Israel programs.

So what role did ADL play to counter these messages and advocate for Israel?

Outreach to University Administrators: ADL encouraged the Chancellors at Irvine, Riverside and San Diego to speak out against the non-binding divestment resolutions that passed on these campuses and reassure the Jewish and pro-Israel community that the universities intend to follow the UC-wide policy against divestment. The chancellors at all of these schools have commendably done so.

In a few days, Naim Ateek, the director of a “Palestinian Liberation Theology” organization called Sabeel, is scheduled to speak at Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University. Ateek frequently uses Christian imagery to demonize Israel and Zionism, including claims that Israel is engaged in a “crucifixion” campaign against Palestinians. Similarly, he has accused Israel of committing a Holocaust against the Palestinians. His appearances are sponsored by academic departments at the two universities. ADL has communicated to both universities that the school’s sponsorships of Ateek are inappropriate and that the universities should consider hosting pro-Israel speakers as well.

In the past few months, ADL staff has also met with high-level administrators at a variety of campuses to talk about how Jewish students experience anti-Israel activity on campus. We have brainstormed with them about ways to make the college campus a true “marketplace of ideas” where all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are adequately represented. Over the past 100 years, ADL has developed a reputation as an honest and credible voice for the Jewish community. ADL is therefore uniquely positioned to educate university officials about the Jewish and pro-Israel community’s perspective and encourage them to speak out against extreme anti-Israel activity and anti-Semitism.

Expressions against Divestment: ADL responded to a non-binding Associated Students Council resolution urging divestment at the University of California, San Diego, by submitting a statement against divestment to the student senators considering the resolution. The statement, read during the public discussion on the resolution, described how BDS doesn’t advance the cause of peace because it “deepens the divisions between Israelis and Palestinians” and places all the blame for the conflict on Israel. The statement also warned that the resolution targeted companies that help Israel better protect its citizens and that a call for divestment would illustrate the UCSD students’ lack of commitment to Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense.

Exposing and Educating: In this week’s edition of J., a Bay Area-based newspaper, the regional director of ADL’s Central Pacific office contributed an op-ed about how the three stated goals of the BDS movement demonstrate that the movement’s objective is to isolate Israel, not create the conditions for peace. ADL regularly exposes anti-Israel activity through op-eds, as well as our blog, website and other platforms.

Training Students: In San Diego, ADL runs a program called I-Pitch for Israel which helps train pro-Israel students on campus to lobby against divestment and other anti-Israel campaigns. Training also includes information about free speech rights and the myths and facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Several I-Pitch participants spoke out against divestment at the public discussion as well.

As anti-Israel campaigns continue to play out on college campuses across the country, ADL will stand with our partners in the local Jewish communities and with students to counter these initiatives and advocate on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people. Do you have any other ideas for responding to anti-Israel activity? Use the space below to let us know!

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March 14, 2013

Universities In Michigan To Host Sabeel’s Naim Ateek

A week ago, we reported on our blog that university and academic department sponsorship of anti-Israel programs has risen dramatically in the last few years. In further evidence of this trend, two universities in Michigan plan to host Naim Ateek, the founder and director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, in the next few days.

On Saturday, March 16, Ateek is scheduled to speak on the “Requirements for a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel” at Western Michigan University. Two academic departments, the Institute of Government and Politics and the Department of Political Science are listed as sponsors. No student group appears to be involved in bringing Ateek to campus. Two days later, Ateek will speak at Grand Valley State University, a talk sponsored by the Middle East Studies and Religious Studies Programs of the university, as well as several student groups.

Sabeel, which has several chapters in the U.S., espouses what it calls “Palestinian liberation theology.” This “theology” reinterprets the Hebrew Bible in an attempt to bolster the legitimacy of the Palestinian position and disavow Zionism. In his frequent speaking appearances at Sabeel conferences and other gatherings, Ateek has said that claims that the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people is “bad theology.” He asserts that the establishment of Israel is a “relapse to the most primitive concepts of an exclusive, tribal God.” He also has accused Israel and its supporters of abandoning God, saying that Israel “has no fear” of God and that Israel has instead adopted “security” as a new God.

On several occasions in the past, Ateek has used Christian imagery to demonize Israel by comparing modern-day Palestinians to Jesus and their suffering to his crucifixion. He has referred to the Israeli occupation as the “original sin” that must cease before Palestinian violence will end. In a 2001 Easter message, Ateek explicitly said: “Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him…The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.”

More recently, Ateek has employed Holocaust-related language to condemn Israel, an oft-used rhetorical device for the anti-Israel movement. In a 2009 article in Cornerstone, Sabeel’s publication, Ateek viciously claimed that the murder of Jewish children during the Holocaust is “comparable to what the government of Israel has done to the people of Gaza today.” Other articles published in Cornerstone have similarly tried to exploit the horrors of the Holocaust by analogizing it to Israeli policy. In last spring’s edition, for example, there was a poem that included the following lines:  “But what O Israel/Have you become?/The Nazis made me fear­ful to be a Jew/but you [Israel] have made me ashamed…Time to con­front the dark­ness we have become/With the Holo­caust it is Never Forget/but with Deir Yassin it is Never Mind.”

Sabeel’s American counterpart, Friends of Sabeel-North America, organizes several anti-Israel conferences a year that feature speakers who accuse Israel of racism, oppression, and human rights violations. Speakers often promote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions efforts as punishment for what they see as Israel’s apartheid-like policies. Some speakers at Sabeel conferences have also described the pro-Israel lobby as excessively powerful and argue that Israeli interests control the U.S. government’s foreign policy. The group has been the driving force behind Christian divestment initiatives against Israel since 2004.

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