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Alex Kane April 17th, 2014
What’s the ideology undergirding opposition to the construction of mosques in the United States? How are anti-Muslim groups funded? How have Jewish groups reacted when confronted with issues like the proposed construction of thePark51 Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York City?
Elly Bulkin and Donna Nevel answer these questions and more in their new book Islamophobia and Israel, a sobering analysis of the Jewish establishment’s dalliance with anti-Muslim bigotry.
Based on a series of articles that I had the pleasure of editing before their initial publication on AlterNet, Bulkin and Nevel’s book takes a close look back at the summer of 2010, when the flames of anti-Muslim bigotry were fanned with vigor. It had been nine years after the September 11, 2001, attacks by a group of Islamic fundamentalists. But Islamophobia – collective animus targeting all Muslims – was still ingrained into swathes of the American body politic. And the Park51 Islamic center was exploited to bring that bigotry to the surface.
When anti-Muslim bloggers like Pamela Geller first started railing against Park51, the name of the planned mosque and community center a few blocks away from Ground Zero, not many people noticed. But in a matter of months, concern over what was dubbed the “Ground Zero mosque” migrated from the fever swamps of Islamophobic blogs to Fox News. Then the rest of the mainstream press started paying attention. Ugly protests broke out. Heated debate captured the airwaves. The majority of Americans said they opposed the mosque.
The Jewish community was split on the issue. But the voice that captured the most attention was the Anti-Defamation League, a thoroughly mainstream group that calls itself the “nation’s premier civil rights” group. On July 28, 2010, the group issued a statement calling for the planned mosque to be moved away from the World Trade Center site, a rationale that only makes sense if you blame all Muslims for 9/11. With that statement, the ADL joined the likes of theSimon Wiesenthal Center’s Marvin Hier, who said that Park51 was insensitively being built at the “wrong location.”
Here were two Jewish groups, ostensibly dedicated to tolerance and civil rights for all, opposing the right of Muslims to have a mosque near the former World Trade Center site. Given the history of anti-Semitism in the U.S., it was a curious stance on its face. But read Bulkin’s and Nevel’s analysis of the role the Jewish establishment and the Israel lobby have played in fueling Islamophobia, and it makes a lot more sense.
In one chapter of the book, Bulkin and Nevel argue that the ADL’s opposition to Park51 is only the latest manifestation of the group’s Islamophobia. The group quietly opposed the building of a Boston mosque and joined in the smear campaign against Debbie Almontaser, who was forced to resign her position as founding principal of New York City’s first dual-language Arabic school after a months-long effort. The claim that Almontaser’s school would establish an Islamist beachhead would be laughable if it were not so effective.
More recently, ADL head Abe Foxman justified the New York Police Department’s blanket spy program targeting Muslims, and the ADL honored former NYPD chief Ray Kelly, who implemented the discriminatory program, in March 2014.
Fueling these positions, Bulkin and Nevel argue, is the ADL’s “staunchly pro-Israel mindset … [which] enabled it to easily incorporate an anti-Muslim worldview that has become increasingly pervasive after 9/11.”
In addition to writing on mainstream Jewish groups’ complicity in fomenting Islamophobia, Bulkin and Nevel comprehensively document the funding stream connecting some Jewish philanthropic organizations – like the Fairbrook Foundation, the Becker Foundation, and the Rosenwald Fund – to anti-Muslim groups. Some of the same Jewish philanthropists, like former AIPAC board member Nina Rosenwald (of the Rosenwald Fund) and former Washington Institute for Near East Policy trustee Aubrey Chernick (of the Fairbrook Foundation), are key funders of illegal Israeli settlements.
Given what they invest their money in, these funders seem to see support for Israel and Islamophobia as part of the same project. One aspect of that project is a tendency to view the Israel/Palestine conflict as the front line in a “clash of civilizations” between the West and Islam. Another key part of the project is attempting to demean a key political bloc – Arabs and Muslims – who are more critical of Israel than other ethnic groups in order to shore up American support for the project of Greater Israel, which funding settlements fortifies.
It’s not often that these funders explicitly make that connection. But in December 2011, one did. Speaking to a group of young Jews on a Birthright Israel trip, billionaire philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, who helped fund an anti-Muslim film titled The Third Jihad, said: “When you return to your countries of origin, speak in support of Israel – don’t let Muslim student organizations take over the campuses.”
As Bulkin’s and Nevel’s book shows, Muslim groups and allies opposed to Islamophobia are battling a well-funded machine dedicated to right-wing Zionism and anti-Muslim bigotry. But those opposed to Islamophobia in the Jewish establishment have begun to fight back.
Bulkin and Nevel are a core part of their effort. They are both founding members of the Jews Against Islamophobiacoalition, a group composed of a few Jewish organizations that saw the need to unite. The coalition is the Jewish part of a multi-denominational effort against anti-Muslim bigotry.
Their book will be a key resource for those looking to join this struggle. By offering detailed documentation and analysis of how and why powerful members of the Jewish establishment have stoked Islamophobia, the book lights the way for activists organizing against anti-Muslim bigotry.
Alex Kane is an assistant editor at Mondoweiss.net and the World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, The Daily Beast’s “Open Zion” blog, Vice, +972 magazine, and the Electronic Intifada. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
by: Donna Nevel on March 7th, 2014
Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace
Many American Jewish organizations claim to be staunch supporters of civil and human rights as well as academic freedom. But when it comes to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, they make an exception. In their relentless opposition to BDS, they leave even core principles behind.
The Palestinian-led call for BDS, which began in 2005 in response to ongoing Israeli government violations of basic principles of international law and human rights of the Palestinian people, is a call of conscience. It has strengthened markedly over the last few years among artists, students, unions, church groups, dockworkers, and others. Media coverage of endorsers of the boycott has gone mainstream and viral. Recent examples include Stephen Hawking’s refusal to go to Jerusalem for the Presidential Conference, the successful campaign surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s support for Soda Stream and its settlement operation, and the American Studies Association (ASA) resolution that endorsed boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
Alongside BDS’s increasing strength have come increasingly virulent attacks on, and campaigns against it. These attacks tend to employ similar language and tactics – as if the groups are all cribbing from the same talking points – including tarring BDS supporters as “anti-Semitic” and “delegitimizers.”
These ad hominem attacks simply don’t address or grapple with the core aspirations or realities of BDS. As described by Hanan Ashrawi, executive committee member of the PLO, in a recent letter in the New York Times, BDS “does not target Jews, individually or collectively, and rejects all forms of bigotry and discrimination, including anti-Semitism.” She goes on to explain that “B.D.S. is, in fact, a legal, moral and inclusive movement struggling against the discriminatory policies of a country that defines itself in religiously exclusive terms, and that seeks to deny Palestinians the most basic rights simply because we are not Jewish.”
The use of name-calling like “anti-Semites” and “delegtimizers” is problematic for a number of reasons, not only because its claims are untrue, but also because it takes the focus off the real issue at hand – whether and how Israel is, in fact, violating international law and basic human rights principles – and, instead, recklessly impugns the characters of those advocating for Israel to be held accountable.
Criticisms, even extremely harsh ones, of the Israeli state or calls to make a state democratic and adhere to equal rights for all its citizens are not anti-Semitic. Rather, anti-Semitism is about hatred of, and discrimination against the Jewish people, which is not anywhere to be found in the call for BDS, and these kinds of accusations also serve to trivialize the long and ugly history of anti-Semitism.
Most recently, the anti-BDS effort has moved to the legislative front. A bill, introduced in the New York State Assembly last month, would have trampled academic freedom and the right to support BDS in its quest to punish the ASA and deter any who might dare to emulate its endorsement of the academic boycott. Those supporting the bill were opposed by a broad coalition of education, civil rights, legal, academic, and Palestine solidarity organizations, as well as Jewish social justice groups. The bill was withdrawn, but a revised version has been introduced that is designed, like the original, to punish colleges that use public funds for activities related to groups that support boycotts of Israel, including mere attendance at their meetings.
The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) worked closely with the sponsors of the New York bill.
Like the JCRC, rather than engaging in substantive debate about the issues raised in relation to BDS, the Israeli government and many Jewish communal organizations choose, instead, to try to discredit and derail the efforts of those supporting BDS.
For example, as recently reported by Ha’aretz, the Israeli Knesset is debating how to continue to counter BDS efforts across the globe, that is, “whether to launch an aggressive public campaign or operate through quieter, diplomatic channels.” It is also considering what the role of AIPAC might be in introducing anti-boycott legislation and how to best bolster military surveillance–which has significant funding behind it–against supporters of BDS.
American Jewish communal organizations have also expended massive resources and energy in their campaigns to demonize endorsers of BDS. The Israel Action Network (IAN)–which describes itself as “a strategic initiative of TheJewish Federations of North America, in partnership with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), created to counter assaults made on Israel’s legitimacy”–has funded the anti-BDS effort to the tune of at least six million dollars over a three-year period.
The IAN website characterizes supporters of BDS as “delegitimizers”and says that, in order to gain support from “vulnerable targets,” which include “college campuses, churches, labor unions, and human rights organizations,” delegitimizers utilize Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) tactics, “the same tools used to isolate and vilify apartheid South Africa, Iran, or Nazi Germany. BDS activists, IAN continues, “present distortions, fabrications and misrepresentations of international law in an attempt to paint Israel with the same brush.”
In another example of name-calling without any substance, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL’s) July 2013 report attacked Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), featuring ad hominem accusations (JVP “intentionally exploits Jewish culture”), rather than discussing JVP’s actual positions. (A JVP report on the ADL points out that the ADL not only targets JVP but is well-known for its long history of spying on Arabs and supporters of the Palestinian movement.)
On the charge of anti-Semitism, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in its call to fight the BDS movement, urges it supporters to “learn the facts behind this hypocritical and anti-Semitic campaign,” and the ADL’s Abe Foxman echoed those same sentiments: “The BDS movement at its very core is anti-Semitic.” And most recently, in his speech to AIPAC, Prime Minister Netanyahu, after shamelessly drawing upon classic anti-Semitic imagery of Jews to speak of supporters of BDS, says: “So you see, attempts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, the most threatened democracy on earth, are simply the latest chapter in the long and dark history of anti- Semitism.”
The demonization of BDS is not only the domain of the Israeli government and the mainstream Jewish community. The self-declared liberal J-Street, in its seemingly relentless quest to stay under the Jewish “tent,” has also jumped on the anti-BDS bandwagon, sometimes in partnership with the IAN, which (precisely because J Street is positioned as a peace group) proudly documents its relationship with J Street in fighting BDS. Discussing how J Street is gaining acceptance in the mainstream Jewish community, JCPA’s CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow points to “its role in pushing back against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement…”
Further, the refusal of both liberal land mainstream Jewish groups to discuss substantive issues around Israel’s actions or BDS also reveals itself in language that admonishes BDS as being “beyond the pale.” Recently, for example, as reported by the director of JVP in an op-ed in the Forward, the director of the JCRC of Greater Boston, who has a history of involvement in liberal organizations, explained that “any organization that supports BDS…doesn’t belong at the communal table. In fact, he was referring specifically to Jewish Voice for Peace. He even argued that opening the public conversation to BDS is roughly akin to welcoming the Ku Klux Klan.”
This attempted silencing of those simply discussing BDS plays out even in seemingly minor local skirmishes. For example, last year, the liberal rabbi of a large New York City synagogue cancelled the synagogue’s facilities-usage contract with a group of Jews who, he feared, might, on his premises, discuss BDS. That, he said, would be “beyond the pale.”
These attacks against BDS appear to be an almost desperate reaction to the increasing successes of BDS, not only in the world at large, but also within the broader Jewish community itself. Respected members of the liberal Jewish community as well as a few liberal Zionist groups that were vehemently anti-BDS are now calling for boycotts against products made in the settlements and are engaging with the issue publicly. Further, the mission and vision of groups like Jews Say No and Jewish Voice for Peace – “a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights” – are resonating with increasing numbers of Jews who support BDS as a natural outgrowth of their commitments. And that movement is growing in partnership with the broader Palestinian-led movement for justice.
How should the rest of the Jewish community respond? Ad hominem attacks on BDS just will not do. It is time for BDS opponents to take a deep breath. Consider this: BDS is a principled response to Israel’s actions and behavior as an occupier. It is a profound call by Palestinians – and supporters world-wide–for justice. It is not BDS that should be opposed, but, rather, the very policies and practices that have made BDS necessary.
Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is a long-time organizer for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. She was a co-coordinator of the 1989 landmark Road to Peace Conference that brought PLO officials and Knesset members together to the US for the first time. More recently, she was a founding member of Jews Say No!, is a member of the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and is on the coordinating committee of the Nakba Education Project, U.S.
On January 29, the following letter was delivered to Mayor Bill de Blasio with 58 signatories http://mondoweiss.net/2014/01/letter-blasio-speak.html
An Open Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio:
We are Jewish residents of New York who read, in the leaked transcript of your private speech to a meeting of AIPAC leaders, the following:
“City Hall will always be open to AIPAC. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I’ll answer it happily ’cause that’s my job.”
We understand that the job of mayor of New York is a complex one that often calls for your participation on the international stage, and we would not presume to define your job for you. But we do know that the needs and concerns of many of your constituents–U.S. Jews like us among them–are not aligned with those of AIPAC, and that no, your job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding when they call you to do so. AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us.
On February 4, 2014, the Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ) sent New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio a letter inviting the city’s new “progressive” mayor to tour Palestine/Israel, meet with Palestinian representatives, and witness Palestinian reality with his own eyes. The letter was prompted by Mayor de Blasio’s recent, behind-closed-doors meeting with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in which he declared to the largest pro-Israel lobbying organization in the United States that part of his new job as mayor is to defend Israel.
Read the CODZ letter here.
Peter Beinart’s recent New York Review of Books piece, “The American Jewish Cocoon,” makes an important point about the Jewish community’s lack of understanding of Palestinians. However, while it initially reads as a progressive call for deeper understanding, at its core it continues to reflect many of the damaging assumptions of the mainstream Jewish community that he claims to assail. read more
by Elisha Baskin and Donna Nevel on May 8, 2013
Recent debate and discussion in Jewish activist spaces have raised questions about the role of “Jews identifying as Jews” in work for justice in Palestine. These conversations have led us to think more deeply about this question. In this piece, we explore the particular significance, strategically and otherwise, of the relationship to being Jewish and how we enter this work, and how we can be meaningful and genuine partners in the struggle for justice.
As we enter this work as Jews for justice in Palestine, we do so with a firm commitment to principles of self-determination, liberation, and the right of return; to the leadership of the Palestinian movement and its call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions; and to support for the organizing going on in Palestine itself.
Being Jews standing in solidarity with Palestinian movements for justice and equal rights means, for us, bringing our full selves into the movement with great thought and care so that we can be genuine allies and partners with the Palestinian movement for justice. It means always trying to act with intentionality and integrity so as to participate in liberatory processes, rather than recreate patterns and systems of oppression. To be strong allies and to organize effectively, we must consider our positionality and our different forms of privilege as Jewish individuals and as part of Jewish communities. That includes being aware of how voices become silenced and marginalized; whose voices are being elevated; whose interests are being served; and the ways in which structures, including those within the community(ies) we are part of, have facilitated and perpetuated injustice and continue to do so. It is not a call to becoming paralyzed or inactive, but to act with principle and consistency.
For many of us who are Jewish activists in this work for justice, we begin with our own stories as a foundation from which we make connections and build together with other communities. We do not view integrating who we are as Jews into our work for justice as a distraction or as an impediment. In fact, we all come to this work, not as empty vessels, but with rich histories and experiences.
Different entry points exist from which we can and do become involved with our collective work as Jews standing in solidarity with Palestinians. Jews who choose to work for justice in a specifically Jewish framework (like, for example, as part of Jewish Voice for Peace) do so for a variety of reasons, including 1) as a political or strategic response (e.g., challenging Israel’s claim that it speaks and acts in the name of the Jewish people and wanting to challenge the highly funded, organized Jewish establishment and lobby in the US); 2) because they feel inspired by Jewish traditions of social justice or are deeply connected culturally or religiously, which is a manifestation of the identity they want to bring to this work; or 3) because it feels like the most genuine way to play a role in this movement. For some, more than one of these often intersecting (or other) points of entry and engagement, are true.
For many of us, working in Jewish organizations sometimes also includes directing our work within the mainstream Jewish community (for example, holding programs on BDS within Jewish institutions or, as the Open Hillel campaign has done, challenging Hillel’s exclusion of groups that support BDS). This work is by no means what everyone chooses to do. But we believe making room, as part of our solidarity work, to work within those spaces–and to push to open up access for pro-Palestine organizing–can be a potentially valuable component of making change that, for example, breaks the normalization of a pro-Israel politics and encourages resistance to US foreign policy on Israel and Palestine.
An important question raised about Jewish-identified work for justice and the way it’s played out relates to the potential dangers of “exceptionalizing” the Jewish people. The notions of being a chosen people, or Jews having a particular premium on social justice, are often accepted as a given or as part of our historic legacy. We agree that it’s essential to strongly challenge these notions of exceptionalism. But we also believe that exceptionalizing one’s community is not the same as, and should not be conflated with, valuing one’s culture and identity and that which one most admires and respects from within one’s history. Caring about one’s community is not the same as privileging it. As Joseph Nevel (Donna’s father) often said, “Feel proud of, and connected to who you are, but never ever think you’re better than another human being or community.”
Another concern that comes up in relation to Jews organizing in solidarity spaces is how to address issues that arise when Jewish allies, even inadvertently, try to take over movement spaces to process emotional and social realities they face when beginning to align themselves politically with justice for Palestine. As part of our solidarity work, we believe one of the values of having some separate, intentional spaces amongst Jews who are unlearning years of what they have been taught and undergoing a process of conscientization is to offer support that both strengthens our broader organizing and doesn’t try to turn Palestine solidarity spaces into support groups for Jewish activists.
Finally, in all this work, we are committed, in how we act, to reflecting the world as we want it to be. We believe deeply—even as we challenge one another in critical and often difficult ways—that we must be kind and open to there being multiple entry points into, and points of engagement with this collective work. We must also not neglect to address head-on the impact and consequences of the oppression and exclusion and various relationships to privilege that exist amongst different Jewish communities, including in social justice circles, on the basis of, for example, ethnicity, class, gender, and formal education.
We believe that those of us who are Jewish participating in this movement need to be both rigorous and generous so as not to limit possibilities for meaningful solidarity work for justice, limit the humanness of our political work, limit the endless connections we can make. We can build, for example, from the kinds of liberatory and transformative processes Paolo Freire–“reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it”– writes about so powerfully.
We greatly believe that the focus is and must be about justice for Palestine and that this work has many dimensions to it. We hope that some of these questions and reflections might resonate with others and can help deepen and strengthen our thinking and actions as we participate in movements for justice.
Elisha Baskin, an activist and scholar, and Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator whose work is rooted in Participatory Action Research (PAR) and popular education, have had both similar and different entry points and relationships to this work. Elisha is an Israeli citizen who feels that Israel has hijacked her Judaism. She was never able to be comfortably Jewish in Israel and to participate in Jewish ritual because of the deep conflation of Jewish practice and Zionism/nationalism/patriotism/militarism and other oppressions. In the U.S., she feels able to reclaim her Jewish identity, which JVP and other radical Jewish circles have supported and helped make possible and which she believes strengthens her work for justice and enriches her life as a whole. Donna is an American Jew who participates in Jewish groups as part of her work for justice in Palestine because she thinks it is a meaningful way for her to be an intentional and accountable ally and because it feels true to who she is. She also wants to be part of groups challenging the grip that Israel and the Jewish establishment have on the Jewish community’s politics.
PLEASE NOTE VENUE CHANGE!
Is Israel—or can it be—a democracy?
Is there—or can there be—equality in Israel? Can a Jewish state be democratic?
Cosponsors of this program are individuals with different perspectives on these questions, but all strongly defend an open exchange of views on issues of concern to our community and to people of conscience everywhere: Anita Altman, Elisheva Goldberg, Adam Horowitz, Rabbi David Ingber, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, Alice Kessler-Harris, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Hannah Mermelstein, Donna Nevel, Alicia Ostriker, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Michael Ratner, MJ Rosenberg, James Schamus, Dorothy Zellner.
Thursday, April 4, 2013 //// 7 – 9 PM
We are so pleased that the event is being hosted by
Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
57 Bethune Street (between Washington St. and West Side Highway) A, C, E to 14th St //// L to Eighth Avenue
JJ Goldberg //// Editor-at-large of the Jewish Daily Forward, formerly editor in chief for 7 years / author of “Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment”
Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark //// Co-host for the past 18 years of “Beyond the Pale,” a program of progressive Jewish politics & culture on WBAI radio
Kathleen Peratis //// Partner Outten & Golden LLP focusing on employment law; co- chair Middle East North Africa advisory committee Human Rights Watch; board member Americans for Peace Now
Rebecca Vilkomerson //// Executive director, Jewish Voice for Peace
Moderator by Lizzy Ratner //// Journalist; co-editor, “The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of
the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict”
Last year, at two panels on Jewish Responses to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), the questions above were among those that people asked. We are interested in continuing this discussion in the Jewish community and more broadly. This panel will reflect a range of perspectives among members of the Jewish community—all by people committed to peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. Our goal is to share different Jewish perspectives, including those often silenced within the Jewish community, and to move this discussion beyond the Jewish community itself.
When it became clear that the college, the Mayor, and the New York Times were in support of allowing the talk on BDS at Brooklyn College sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine, the politicians backed off and the discussion by Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler took place. Here are Butler’s remarks published on The Nation (http://www.thenation.com)
February 7, 2013
The principle of academic freedom is designed to make sure that powers outside the university, including government and corporations, are not able to control the curriculum or intervene in extra-mural speech. It not only bars such interventions, but it also protects those platforms in which we might be able to reflect together on the most difficult problems. You can judge for yourself whether or not my reasons for lending my support to this movement are good ones.
That is, after all, what academic debate is about. It is also what democratic debate is about, which suggests that open debate about difficult topics functions as a meeting point between democracy and the academy. Instead of asking right away whether we are for or against this movement, perhaps we can pause just long enough to find out what exactly this is, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and why it is so difficult to speak about this.
A talk about Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) on the campus of Brooklyn College with Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler scheduled for February 7 was attacked by elected officials and others. Donna Nevel of Jews Say No! spoke at a press conference at the college on February 5.
I am Donna Nevel from Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No! I am pleased to be here today to have the opportunity to speak out in support of Students for Justice in Palestine and all those at Brooklyn College and across the city concerned with ensuring that bullying and intimidation do not succeed in denying students and others the right to engage in critical examination and inquiry of important political ideas.
What we have seen happening here is yet another example of an attempt to suppress and vilify voices critical of Israel and Israeli government policies, a pattern that has become far too common in this city and nation-wide.
It’s bad enough that Alan Dershowitz and Dov Hikind have engaged in a smear campaign. We’ve come to expect that. But city council members who threaten to take away city funding merely because they disagree with the views expressed on a college campus should be ashamed of themselves and should be held accountable for trying to interfere in this way. And they must not prevail.
About the topic that has become so controversial and caused so much condemnation- It needs to be made clear that Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) is a non- violent response to the Israeli government’s violation of basic principles of human rights and international law. It is, in my view, those violations that should be condemned, not strategies such as BDS that are designed to put an end to those violations, and the injustices that they inflict on the Palestinian people. In the eight years since hundreds of Palestinian civil society organizations called for BDS — similar to the boycott/ divestment movement against South African apartheid — it has garnered strong international support. And for good reason. It is a common ploy to suggest that criticism of Israel is anti- Semitic. It is a ploy that trivializes the long and ugly history of anti-Semitism.
I want to mention that there were over 2,000 signatories to the Jewish Voice for Peace petition supporting the event and the President’s decision not to capitulate to those pressuring the university.
We are heartened that Brooklyn College is resisting the calls to abandon what higher education should be—a place for learning, and challenging, and critical thinking, where students are pushed to imagine and to envision how they can participate in making the world a better place for all peoples and for all communities.
With the pervasiveness of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism and the targeting of communities of color in NYC, and with the attempt to silence those whose views on Israel do not mirror Israeli government or US policy, colleges standing strong against political opportunism and attempted coercion are more important than ever.