Report: State Department Succeeds In Killing BDS Bill

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gestures during a news conference in Lima, Peru, February 5, 2018. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

The State Department was successful in its effort to kill a bill in the Irish parliament that would have criminalized trade with Israelis, according to a report from the Washington Free Beacon.

Under the proposed law, Irish citizens would have faced a $310,000 fine and a maximum sentence of five years in prison if they bought a souvenir from Israelis in settlement areas, including Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall, meaning that even Irish citizens who toured those areas could be penalized if the bill became law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office slammed the proposal in a statement that read, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly condemns the Irish legislative initiative, the entire goal of which is to support the BDS movement and harm the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu also scheduled a meeting with Ireland’s ambassador to the Jewish state; shortly after his announcement the Irish Parliament agreed to table the bill until July.

However, a “senior official at a major pro-Israel organization” told the Free Beacon the “law was a done deal” until State Department officials persuaded Irish lawmakers to nix the law.

“The State Department found out what was happening, and they scrambled to alert the Irish to the nature and risks of their own law, and Irish lawmakers came to their senses,” the official said. “Crisis averted, at least for now.”

Orden Kittrie, Arizona State University law professor and Foundation for Defense Democracies senior fellow, wrote an op-ed in The Hill explaining that the proposed law would have violated the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, an international law that states that countries can’t boycott companies simply because they’re located in “areas of conflict.” Kittrie also notes that the law would have violated European Union (EU) policy stating that countries who are part of the EU cannot “adopt unilateral restrictions on imports into the EU.”

Additionally, U.S. federal law prevents businesses from engaging in “foreign boycotts” and a myriad of state laws specifically outlaw businesses from boycotting Israel, which would have put 700 U.S. businesses in Ireland in a complicated position.

“The Irish bill would be a reckless stomp that could squash Palestinian incentives to compromise with Israel, run afoul of U.S. federal and state laws, break EU and international law, and trample Ireland’s vital economic links to the United States,” wrote Kittrie.

According to NGO Monitor, the author of the bill, independent Senator Frances Black, had “previously signed a letter calling for a boycott of all Israeli products” and the bill was supported by various pro-BDS Irish NGOs.

For the time being, it appears that Black’s bill won’t be going anywhere.

“Our strong opposition to boycotts and sanctions of the State of Israel is well known,” a State Department official told the Free Beacon. “We look to other countries to join us in bringing an end to anti-Israel bias.”

Episode 74 – Calling BS on BDS

Soda water or still water? The big question. Here in Israel, we love our soda water. Maybe we relate to the pressure that builds up from those little bubbles of carbonation, or maybe we just like the fizz. Whatever the reason, in most Israeli homes you’ll probably find a carbonation device called SodaStream.

Until 2015, this Israeli company held it’s main manufacturing branch in the settlement of Maale Adumim. This, to say the least, bothered some people. You see, Maale Adumim lies across the green line in the West Bank and is considered by most of the international community to be an illegal settlement.

Starting in 2010, a series of organizations and courts, including the European Union’s highest court, came to decisions and rulings that put pressure on SodaStream for residing in the West Bank. It was easy to trace the source of this pressure. Better known for its initialization BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement sprung up in 2005 and set as its goal to end Israel’s violation of international law for the sake of the Palestinian people. Since then it has swept across platforms from university campuses to International courts.

In 2015, SodaStream announced that it would be shutting down its plant in the West Bank and laying off 500 Palestinian workers. A movement that claimed to be protecting the rights and privileges of the Palestinians was suddenly forced to reconcile with the fact that they had just cost 500 of these people their jobs.

Bassem Eid was born in Jerusalem but today he’s a Palestinian citizen of Israel. Bassem is an ardent Palestinian human rights activist and he joins us today to talk about BDS and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Bassem Eid on Facebook and Twitter

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National Lawyers Guild Sued for Allegedly Discriminating Against an Israeli Organization

Screenshot from Facebook.

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is being hit with a lawsuit over allegations of discriminating against an Israeli organization.

According to a press release from the Lawfare Project, which working in collaboration with attorney David Abrams of the Zionist Advocacy Center on the lawsuit, the NLG refused a $200 offer from the Bibliotechnical Athenaeum to place an advertisement in their Annual Banquet dinner journal on the grounds that they “have a resolution barring us from accepting funds from Israeli organizations.”

“If the NLG had similarly said, ‘Unfortunately, it is our policy not to do business with Chinese organizations,’ or ‘We have a resolution against accepting funds from African organizations,’ we would rightly be outraged,” Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, said in the press release. “Where is the same outrage when it comes to unlawful commercial discrimination against Israelis and Jews?”

The lawsuit is headed toward the New York Supreme Court, and the Lawfare Project is confident that the court will rule in their favor under New York’s Human Rights Law.

“The Lawfare Project believes that this is a strong case, and that NLG’s prejudicial conduct overtly violates the applicable laws on which our claims are based,” Benjamin Ryberg, who is representing the Israeli organization from the Lawfare Project, told the Journal in an email. “We are confident that the court will remedy the harm our client has suffered due to NLG’s discriminatory act.”

Ryberg also pointed out that the NLG “has a history of relentlessly attacking the Jewish state.”

“It is a fervent proponent of the bigoted Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, the goal of which is to bankrupt the State of Israel via discriminatory business practices,” wrote Ryberg. “It has urged state governments to divest from Israel Bonds and the U.S. to cut all aid to Israel. Recently, it even actively raised funds in support of a notoriously anti-Semitic professor at a California university, who has consistently used her platform to malign, intimidate, and alienate the school’s Jewish student population.”

In 2014, the NLG called for the Obama administration to face charges of war crimes for funding Israel’s Iron Dome. Alan Dershowitz criticized the NLG in a Jerusalem Post column as being “the sworn enemy of Israel and the legal arm of Palestinian terrorism since the early 1970s following the Soviet Union’s switch from supporting Israel to opposing it.”

“The National Lawyers Guild has lost most of its lawyers since that time and has instead filled its membership roles with paralegals, amateur investigators and other assorted ‘legal workers,’” wrote Dershowitz.  “It has no credibility in the legal profession and even some of its anti-Zionist members have recently quit, calling its policies regarding Israel ‘crazy,’ ‘irresponsible,’ and ‘bigoted.’”

The NLG has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

The App That BDS Fears

Photo from Pixabay.

Pro-Israel advocates who are fed up with the rhetoric from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement now have a tool they can use to fight BDS: the Act.IL app.

The app, a joint project by the Israeli-American Council (IAC), Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) and Maccabee Task Force, notifies users when Israel is being criticized online and provides them with the opportunity to fight back against it. For instance, the app notified the pro-Israel community of an image posted in a pro-BDS Facebook group that compared Zionists to insects that Facebook initially refused to remove when someone reported it.

“Within a few hours, hundreds of people sent this report to Facebook and by the morning, they said this post was removed,” IAC CEO Shoham Nicolet told the Journal. “This is an example where you have an individual trying to act, the power of individual is very limited. When you have crowds and audiences walking together, a community suddenly becomes a lot more effective.”

Another example of the app’s usage was when it suggested that people criticize a business that wouldn’t serve Israelis on Facebook, causing the business’s rating to decline from a 4.6 star rating to a 1.4 rating out of 5.

“The cutting edge idea is really to have a connected community that is all across the U.S. and in Israel that is fighting for Israel,” said Nicolet.

The app has already made enough waves to cause BDS to mention in a recent fundraising post on Facebook how the app’s “Situation Room” disrupted a pro-BDS webinar.

“This ‘Situation Room’ was funded by right-wing mogul and avid Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson, a man who has pledged $50 million to fight BDS on US campuses alone,” the post read. “Paid trolls littered our accounts with vile racism, racial incitement, Islamophobic and baseless anti-Palestinian propaganda.”

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan also gave the app a shout-out back in February.

“I am initiating an international effort to unite Israel’s supporters around the globe and provide them with a platform that strengthens their activities, with tools that will help all of us fight hatred together, and with resources to spread the truth,” said Erdan. “As part of the campaign, we will provide Israel’s supporters with videos, graphics, articles and content. Along with civil society initiatives such as the application developed by Israeli-American Council (IAC) and IDC students, we believe that this will be a game-changer in defending Israel online and around the world.”

The current version of the app has a 4.5 out of 5 star rating in iTunes.

Nicolet credited the app’s success to the fact there is such a robust, organic grassroots activism in Israel and the U.S. dedicated to defending the Jewish state.

“This is exactly where online technologies can really build bridges and really close the gap between Israel and the U.S. and the Jewish people in both sides of the ocean,” said Nicolet.

Israel Bans 20 BDS Groups from the Country

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Israel is fighting back against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by banning 20 groups that are involved with the movement.

Among the groups that are banned include Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Code Pink and Friends of al-Aqsa (FOA). The full list can be seen below:

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan declared in a statement that the move reflected how Israel has “moved from defense to attack” and called out the BDS movement for spreading “false propaganda.”

“No country would allow visitors who arrive to harm the country to enter it and certainly not when their goal is to wipe out Israel as a Jewish country,” said Erdan.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri denounced BDS for “trying to exploit the law and our hospitality in order to act against Israel and to defame the country.”

“I will act against this in every way,” said Deri.

The groups that are banned from the country are not pleased about it.

“By waging an all-out intelligence, propaganda and legal war on the peaceful BDS movement for Palestinian rights and by now banning international human rights organizations and advocates from entry, Israel’s desperate and brutal attempts to weaken support for BDS are already backfiring,” Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of BDS, told the Washington Post.

“Clearly, the Israeli government is very aware that increasing numbers of Jews and all people worldwide support the BDS movement, and are seeking to intimidate and coerce us into silence,” JVP executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson wrote in a Haaretz op-ed. “It will not work. JVP members have no doubt about the justice of fighting for equality and freedom for all people in Israel/Palestine, and the legitimacy and efficacy of BDS to bring that day closer.”

The irony of such complaints from pro-BDS groups was not lost on some:

News Notes: West Bank Annexation, BDS battle, asylum seekers


In the news: Likud party calls for de-facto annexation of Israeli settlements.

More than three years ago I made the following argument: “It’s not easy to mark the exact moment when a peripheral idea suddenly becomes mainstream. But it’s safe to say that in today’s Israel the worrisome idea of annexing land in the West Bank is no longer marginal or considered as extreme as it once was”. Still, the recent Likud vote in support of annexation does not worry me – at least no more than I was worried three years ago.


  1. Because it was a political move with no actual consequences.
  2. Because it does not have the support of the more serious leaders of Israel.
  3. Because the word “annexation” means nothing until all other aspects of annexation are clarified.

In other words: saying “annexation” is no more than a simple statement: Israel ought not leave Judea and Samaria. As a statement, it does not startle me. As a plan – it is no plan. Can Israel stay? What will be the price of it? What happens with the Palestinians who live there? Until these question have a clear and reasonable answer, annexation is a childish provocation, not a real threat.


In the news: Organizations that promote a boycott of Israel are no longer welcome there.

There is no reason for BDS activist to come to Israel other than make trouble. There is no reason for Israel not to block the entrance into the country of people whose main motivation is to make trouble. The rest is noise, the rest is political propaganda: “anti-Democratic measure” (it is not, Israeli citizens can still oppose Israeli policies), “the policy of autocracies” (not true – a Democratic has the right to decide not to let certain people in, and most democracies do), “will drive young Jews away from Israel” (tough luck, not everything Israel does is aimed at gaining the approval of young liberal Jews).

The bottom line is simple: you want to harm Israel – don’t expect Israel to accept you with open arms. You want to harm Israel – don’t expect Israel to be sensitive to your hurt feelings.


In the news: Israel offers to pay African migrants to leave, threatens jail.

The debate over how to deal with people who seek asylum in Israel has two main components:

  1. Does Israel have the right to block the entrance, or deport, people it does not want as citizens.
  2. What measures can Israel take to achieve such goal.

That we have trouble having this debate is any sensible way is due to the fact that the two camps having this debate do not believe that the motivation of the other side. There are those believing that the other side – while saying he is for a fair treatment of asylum seekers – truly seeks to rob Israel of its right to keep its entry gate. There are those believing that the other side – while saying he merely wants to keep Israel’s cohesive character – are willing to treat asylum seekers cruelty and inhumanly.

In truth, most Israelis – not activists, politicians, headline grabbers, populists – believe is quite simple: keep Israel cohesive, and don’t open the gates to people disrupting its cohesiveness. But also refrain from being cruel, or racist, or inhuman. To achieve such goal, the main challenge is not one of policy, but rather of mutual trust.

Judith Butler Plans a Stealth MLA Presidency

The Modern Language Association (MLA), the largest academic discipline-based faculty organization in the US has been debating resolutions to boycott Israel or its universities since 2007. I have been involved in fighting this movement both then and since. In 2017 this all came to a head, with competing boycott and anti-boycott resolutions up for debate. The resolution recommending boycotting Israeli universities was defeated in January, and a resolution prohibiting future boycott resolutions was overwhelmingly endorsed by the organization’s members in June 2017. But the diehard opponents of a Jewish state have continued to press their cause, hoping to influence students and faculty members throughout the humanities. Two of the long-term faculty supporters of the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment) movement in the humanities are Judith Butler (Berkeley) and David Palumbo-Liu (Stanford). Butler, sadly, is herself Jewish. She achieved international fame for her innovative work on gender. Her hostility to Israel is more recent but is both fierce and unusual, and she is perhaps the most influential  BDS supporter in the US. This essay reports on the effort to resuscitate the BDS movement at the annual MLA meeting this January, focusing on a group planning and strategy meeting falsely promoted as an academic discussion of the issues involved.

“This is not the kind of MLA I want. I want an MLA that will support a boycott resolution, and now I just don’t know if I will get that MLA,” so declared a graduate student attending a widely publicized January 5 event held at New York University during the Modern Language Association’s annual meeting. Headlined “MLA Vote for Justice in Palestine” with MLA in large block letters imitating an official logo, the meeting notice listed several “MLA Co-sponsors,” including Arabic Languages, Literature, and Culture; Race and Ethnicity Forum; and West Asia Languages, Literatures and Cultures. Set to run from 7:30 to 9pm, it billed itself as “free and open to the public. Nonmembers and members of MLA are welcome. No registration required.”

Expecting a series of presentations from the front of the room, with an audience in rows, I decided to attend. My taxi was late, after struggling in the snow for 45 minutes, so I arrived as things were already under way. I walked into a group of 35 to 40 people in a layered circle. As I entered, people looked up, and Judith Butler declared, “Cary, did you make a mistake and come to the wrong place?” I replied “No, I intended to come, perhaps irrationally.” “Well, it’s still a free country, isn’t it?” she remarked. I allowed as how the US president didn’t seem to want it to remain one, foolishly hoping to lighten the atmosphere. She offered me a seat next to her, announcing “Do you really want to sit here?” to the group. I said it was fine.

Those of us who had arrived late were asked to continue the process of introducing ourselves and explaining why we had come. I said that I supported a two-state solution, but opposed BDS because I believed boycotts of Israel would not promote peace, but I was interested in getting a better understanding of how others felt. Immediately a hostile speaker from across the room challenged me with “So you’re interested in our feelings, but not our ideas?” I said I was interested in both. The idea that I was simply to be part of an audience now seemed a distant misreading.

Someone said “You should leave’ and Butler immediately proposed a vote to make that a group decision. Several others quickly supported her and repeated the demand for me to leave. Butler continued: “Will you honor a vote to tell you to leave?” Not answering her directly, I said it was supposed to be an open public meeting. People said that didn’t matter. They were young and vulnerable and I might take down their names and institutions and retaliate against them. After all, I was a person of power. Exactly what power no one volunteered to say. I pointed out I had defended grad students and contingent faculty for decades and had never criticized one by name. I assured people I was interested in hearing ideas. Butler then concluded I was refusing to honor a vote demanding I leave, so they would just have to proceed as best they could. Honest discussion would be impossible with a Zionist in the room.

I hadn’t realized she would be running the meeting, not simply headlining it. She declared that she had several ideas she had wanted to share about how to move the BDS agenda forward in the MLA, but felt it was not safe to do so with me in the room. She clearly understood she would need a neutral persona while serving as MLA president in two years but wanted to strategize with her BDS cohort behind the scenes. She would be posturing as principled in office while quietly working to scuttle the 2017 MLA resolution against academic boycotts. She urged people to contact her after the meeting and told them there would likely be funds to bring some of them out to Berkeley to consult with her.

Although half the hour was spent challenging and berating me, the core strategy Butler and the other senior member there, David Palumbo-Lio of Stanford, were using was nonetheless clear. After more than a decade of debating anti-Israel resolutions, MLA members had their fill. In June 2017 they voted by a 2-1 margin to bar further academic boycott resolutions. MLA’s Executive Director Rosemary Feal immediately pointed out that nothing prevented a vote on a resolution to overturn the 2017 vote, but the BDSers preferred to ignore this option, as it was clear they would lose such a contest. Unwilling to see themselves as a radical fringe group indulging in sour grapes complaints, they were left with one way to explain their loss: as they asserted repeatedly this evening, they were cheated.

“All we wanted was a level playing field,” Palumbo-Liu declared, “but we didn’t get one.” Incredibly, he revived his 2014 accusation that MLA Members for Scholar’s Rights had obtained outside Zionist funding to copy the email addresses of 20,000 MLA members. He was well aware of my public reply at the time because he responded to it: I had paid a student $650 to gather the emails. I didn’t need to contact Baron Rothschild for funds through a seance. But now he lied and complained I never answered him, even though he answered my reply, just as he lied recently in claiming he had run for the MLA Executive Council on an explicit BDS platform. In fact he had run on a stealth platform claiming he was seeking to help grad students and never mentioned Israel.

Members had only received pro-boycott materials, and we wanted them to hear our case. The MLA refused to distribute our anti-boycott dossier. We used the same emails once more in 2017. Palumbo-Liu and Butler both insisted this was unethical, despite MLA assuring members we had followed the rules. Butler incredibly added that the 2017 resolution violated the US Constitution by supposedly restricting speech. Of course speech in 800 MLA sessions was unrestricted, as was anything else anyone wanted to say from sea to shining sea. Members had democratically voted to stop squabbling about Israel and instead focus on humanities disciplines in crisis and exploited academic labor. But for a BDS disciple like Palumbo-Liu that was a cowardly distraction. Seeing it as the only hope for a newspaper headline he resigned from MLA’s Executive Council in January, absurdly protesting that his academic freedom had been violated.

What Butler and Palumbo-Liu managed to do this evening was to convince a group of young faculty and students that only a corrupt conspiracy could have defeated them in their effort to demonize the Jewish state. Their opponents were unethical and unscrupulous. At the end, Butler turned and pointed to me to conclude: “We need to overcome those who are dedicated to making the fight unfair.”

Cary Nelson is Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an Affiliated Faculty member at the University of Haifa. His most recent book is Dreams Deferred: A Concise Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Movement to Boycott Israel.

Oh, Lorde

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

It’s a good thing Jews don’t celebrate Christmas, because this last one would have been thoroughly spoiled.

’Twas the night before said holiday when 21-year-old New Zealand-born pop star Lorde, a Grammy-winning artist, succumbed to pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and canceled her Tel Aviv concert planned for later this year.

“I pride myself on being an informed young citizen, and I had done a lot of reading and sought a lot of opinions before deciding to book a show in Tel Aviv, but I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one,” the singer said in a statement.

Lorde’s acquiescence to the forceful politics of BDS was a blow to Jewish and Israeli morale, prompting defenders of Israel to respond with rebuke.

Instead of lobbing attacks and insults, what if defenders of Israel encouraged Lorde to perform for her fans to
promote reconciliation and peace?

Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev offered a slyly mocking appeal to the young musician, urging her to reverse her decision. “I’m hoping you can be a ‘pure heroine,’ like the title of your first album,” Regev said in a statement. “[B]e a heroine of pure culture, free from any foreign — and ridiculous — political considerations.”

But asking an artist to be free of political considerations when it comes to the most loaded conflict in the world is naïve and shortsighted. The current generation of young people is the most interconnected in human history, and as a result, deeply socially conscious. Many of them are eager to integrate their values into the decisions they make. Besides, how can you insist a celebrity with a worldwide following divest herself of what happens in the world?

You can’t.

Regev’s statement isn’t the worst offense committed by a lover of Israel in defending the Jewish state. That accolade belongs to The World Values Network, led by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who on New Year’s Day took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post shaming and defaming Lorde for bowing to BDS pressure.

The ad states, “21 is young to become a bigot.” At the center of the ad is Lorde, superimposed on a split-screen background that features two contrasting images: In one, men clutch babies to their chests as they run from a scene of total destruction. In the other, beautiful buildings of Jerusalem stone stand tall and proud, topped by Israeli flags. “Lorde and New Zealand ignore Syria to attack Israel,” the ad declares.

Lorde certainly doesn’t deserve any credit for heroism. As the ad suggests, she schmeissed Israel while proceeding to perform in countries with far worse records. If her aim is to take a stand against countries with stained human rights histories, she’d best cancel other stops on her tour, starting with Russia. President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea was a strutting display of anti-democratic expansionism and his autocratic tactics at home are equally treacherous. According to Human Rights Watch, “Today, Russia is more repressive than it has ever been in the post-Soviet era.”

Because she is young and inexperienced, Lorde is not worthy of our scorn.

But if Boteach and others think politicized assaults on a global superstar are the way to “win” against BDS, they’re mistaken. The language of Boteach’s ad is mean-spirited and offensive, and will only further alienate the pop star and her millions of fans. How does that serve Israel?

Instead of lobbing attacks and insults, what if defenders of Israel encouraged Lorde to perform for her fans, and perhaps use her platform, to promote reconciliation and peace? What if Regev had offered to help facilitate an additional concert in the West Bank for Palestinian fans? What if the message was inviting and encouraging instead of angry and denigrating?

BDS has failed to intimidate musicians into not performing in Israel far more than it has succeeded. Fighting the nasty fight only makes Israel — and us — look foolish, spiteful and, worst of all, guilty.

Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

Spanish Courts Strike Down BDS Policies In Municipalities

Photo from Good Free Photos.

Spanish courts have stricken down some recent municipal policies targeting Israeli businesses, a blow to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in that country.

According a press release from the Lawfare Project, a court in Oviedo issued a temporary injunction against the Castrillon’s city council for invoking a boycott against Israeli products.

“The Spanish Courts have supported our legal reasoning that boycotts of Israel infringe on Human Rights, violate free speech, and are tantamount to discrimination on account of national origin and personal opinions,” Ignacio Wenley Palacios, Spanish counsel for The Lawfare Project, said in the press release. “The City Council of Castrillón passed this boycott with the notion that it would be impervious to legal challenges. We have proven them wrong.”

Additionally, a Barcelona court struck down the boycott of Israeli products from El Prat de Llobregrat’s city council. In total, Wenley Palacios has been able to obtain 46 writs of injunctions and decisions against the BDS movement in Spain.

“The project to defeat boycott decisions by public bodies is coming out fine,” Wenley Palacios told the Journal in an email. “It is part of a 3-5 year strategy that includes transferring the legal reasoning to other EU countries as the grounds are by design, based both on EU and International Law, and in core constitutional tenets.”

Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project, said in the press release, “The Lawfare Project stands on the front lines fighting against discrimination targeting Jews and Israelis. We will not rest until as long as any organization attempts to legalize anti-Semitic policies, whether it’s a local government or an international airline company. We will continue to stand up in defense of the freedoms and liberties of every individual and to advance justice for the pro-Israel community.”

The legal system in Spain has not been particularly kind to the BDS movement of late, as back in July Spanish courts overturned motions in the city councils of Teo and Catarroja. Around 50 municipalities in Spain have passed pro-BDS resolutions, but in the past couple of years these resolutions have been undone in 20 such municipalities, either due to the courts or the municipalities repealing them.

There are multiple factors behind Spain suddenly cracking down on BDS, including the country’s financial woes as well as “Spain’s gradual adoption of European standards on hate speech, improved rule of law and the election of a relatively stable centrist government,” according to Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).

Seriously, Lorde?!

Lorde in a pose that will NOT be captured in Israel. Credit: Liliane Callegari - Flickr: Lorde @ Lollapalooza 2014

2017 was the springtime for international concerts in Israel. With artists like Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Aerosmith, Daddy Yankee and Radiohead making Tel-Aviv one of their tour stops, it seemed as if the world has finally and officially dismissed the BDS movement and the pillars of lies it stands upon.


But then came the announcement that Lorde has backed down from her Tel-Aviv concert scheduled to take place in June, and ruined everything…


According to the official announcement, the music star said that “the right decision at this time” was to cancel her concert, scheduled earlier this month for June in Tel Aviv. “I pride myself on being an informed young citizen, and I had done a lot of reading and sought a lot of opinions before deciding to book a show in Tel Aviv.” But after having “lots of discussions” about the matter, “I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one” in first scheduling the concert.


And then, just like that, she took us back a few years, to the darkest of times in our international cultural relationships, when the BDS movement was at its prime.


Is this about who screams the loudest? Because if so, then we definitely don’t stand a chance in this battle. BDS has the loudest voice, but it’s also because they shout catchy slogans and avoid the truth. Speaking about the complicated reality we live in takes a softer voice, and requires a lot of patience. But being the “instant generation” we are, we prefer the issues of the world being presented to us in short, simple sentences.


This makes “Israel is an Apartheid state” easier to follow than “we live in a conflicted area, where one side has declared independence 70 years ago but the other side insists on owning the exact same territory. The Palestinians live under the Palestinian Authority governance and Israeli Arabs enjoy equal rights in Israel. However, the Palestinian demand for the Israeli territories lead to terrorism and violence, which requires Israel to stiffen border checks from Palestinian Territories into Israel, and sometimes, when missiles are being fired from Gaza to Israel – to fight back.”


Even this paragraph doesn’t cover the tip of the iceberg, but it’s long enough for people to move along to a simpler messaging.


The responses to Lorde’s cancellation were definitely heard. People tried, in more or less polite ways, to explain to her just how ridiculous her decision is, and how ignorant it is to cancel a concert based on something she heard and didn’t like. But sadly, it’s easier to fall into gorey rhetoric and definite statements about murder and apartheid than it is to do some reading.

Hebrew meme saying (from top right): “Thanks. for not. listening. to lies. NOT YOU. and came. to perform. in Israel)
By: Bar Elmaliach

Honestly, there’s nothing more frustrating than knowing the truth and seeing someone falling for lies. Hey, Lorde! Think there might be an apartheid regime here? Come and see for yourself. Or ask any of your musician friends who were here in recent years (like Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Rihanna or Elton John.)


Want to take action in promoting peace in the region? Perform and have ads posted in Arabic as well as in Hebrew, like Robbie Williams did.


Besides, isn’t music about bringing people together, not deepening conflicts? Isn’t music about people, not countries? After all, you did chose to maintain your concerts in Russia, where the anti-LGBT “Gay Propaganda Law” has recently been denounced.


I believe Creative Community for Peace put it best in saying: “Artists should never become beholden to the political views of a small but loud minority. … Lorde became the target of that wrath, and we’re deeply disappointed that rather than rebuff the boycott movement and follow in the footsteps of Radiohead, Nick Cave, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, and many other artists who have chosen to build #BridgesNotBoycotts, she canceled her show.”


So Lorde, if you’re reading this, know that instead of taking us forward, you took our entire society a mile backwards. And yes, even though I believe you naively fell for deception and lies, shame IS on you.

Mennonites and BDS: A Lawsuit Amid a Legacy

Heinrich Himmler (third from right), head of the SS, at a flag-raising ceremony in the Molotschna Mennonite colony in Nazi-occupied Ukraine, 1942. National Socialists like Himmler praised Mennonites' allegedly Aryan blood. Photo courtesy of Mennonite Library and Archives (North Newton, Kansas)

Ellen Koontz, a Kansas contract schoolteacher, is asking a federal judge to re-affirm the anti-Jewish boycott campaign begun by Adolf Hitler on April 1, 1933, openly adopted shortly thereafter by the Mufti of Jerusalem as part of the Arab-Nazi alliance during the Holocaust, internationalized against the Jewish State after WWII by the Arab League in December 1945, made illegal in America by a 1976 amendment to the Tax Reform Act and a 1977 amendment to the US Export Administration Act, which governs commercial activity impacting foreign policy, reaffirmed by continuous Presidential Executive Orders, and re-labelled in recent years with glitter and violent disruption as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, otherwise known as BDS.

The IRS publishes specific reports explaining the criminal nature of anti-Israel boycotts by individuals or companies in commercial transactions as a function of foreign policy. In this vein, anti-BDS legislation has been adopted by more than 20 states, including Kansas. Koontz says Kansas Law HR 2409 infringes on her religious right to boycott Israeli Jews and those individuals and companies who do business with Israel.

So, Koontz sued—Koontz vs. Watson—to overturn the Kansas law and now seeks a temporary injunction of the enforcement of HR 2409. Watson disguises her purely political campaign as a religious duty handed down from the sixteenth-century, non-confrontational teachings of the pacifistic Mennonite religion.

Koontz has duped the court.

The Mennonite Church USA has abandoned its spiritual underpinnings and jumped from its religious exemption into the realm of political and racial bias.

Among the little-known Mennonites are some of the finest people on the planet, considered “salt of the earth” precisely because they faithfully embrace Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount,” admonishing, “You are the salt of the earth.” Mennonites are, in fact, a wing of the of the Anabaptist movement that eschews baptism at birth in favor of free-will, adult, belief-based baptism. Sixteenth century Dutch Catholic priest Menno Simons and his followers broke away from the Catholic Church, joined the Anabaptists, and adopted the seven principles enunciated in the Sermon on the Mount. These include adult baptism, a credo against swearing oaths, and turn-the-other-check Christian pacifism. So fervent is the Mennonite ethos of non-confrontation that not members only refuse military service, but they shun lawsuits and most types of confrontational behavior. What’s more, since, the essence of government is the enforcement of law, many Mennonites have shied away from being involved in government altogether, historically harboring a quasi-anarchism that sometimes expresses itself in tax resistance, civil disobedience, communal separateness, and classic conscientious objection in times of war.

For their beliefs, Anabaptist Mennonites have been beheaded, burned at the stake, and suffered repeated group expulsion or been forced to flee. Mennonites and other Anabaptists have traditionally lived in closely-knit and identifiable communities and commonly marry within the group, passing on recognizable family names. As a result of centuries of persecution and surviving cohesion, they are considered an ethno-religious group akin to the Jews.

Some experts estimate that of 1.2 million self-identifying Mennonites worldwide, fewer than a third live in the United States, with the next largest concentrations being in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia.

More than a few Mennonites, especially the most Bible-believing old-time Mennonites in Kansas, have whimsically wondered out loud if they are not “a lost tribe of Israelites,” a branch of Wandering Jews scourged and scarred for their beliefs. It is a comic comparison that one branch of the Anabaptists, the buggy-driving Amish of Pennsylvania fame, dress like East European Hasidism and many even speak a Low German dialect known as Plautdietsch, which resembles Yiddish. Some will remember the film The Frisco Kid where a Polish Hasidic Jew, played by Gene Wilder, encountered Pennsylvania Amish farmers; they looked and spoke alike, and for a while, believed they were “lansmen.”

The Anabaptist movement has been cleft by many schisms within schisms. These include the Mennonite branches, which are splintered into numerous direct and indirect offshoots protruding from offshoots. The list is long and only begins with the Dutch Mennonites, German Mennonites, Russian Mennonites, Old Mennonites, Mennonite Brethren, Beachy Mennonites, River Brethren, Hutterites, and others.

No one speaks for the Mennonites. They answer to no one but their God and their conscience. But in the highly-fragmented world of Anabaptist Mennonite thought, there are several sects and branches which have darkly drifted far away from the teachings and have embraced hate, fascism, terrorism, and politics.

During the Holocaust, Nazism appealed to many German and Ukrainian Mennonites. In 1942, the Molotschna Mennonite colony in the Ukraine formally hosted an SS gathering and raised the swastika flag, as the Mennonite Library and Archives in Kansas has preserved. Ukrainian Mennonites volunteered to assist Nazi death squads as they machine-gunned helpless Jews in pits.

Other Mennonites in Poland served as brutal camp guards in concentration camps such as Stutthof, where some gained infamy for their vicious treatment of prisoners.

Mennonites in the Stutthof area regularly exploited slave laborers to build factories and harvest farms. One particularly brutalizing Mennonite SS officer was known as “Lord of Death and Life.”

Nazi Mennonites were interned as collaborators by Soviet forces when the Third Reich withdrew from occupied eastern Europe. As Hitler’s Germany collapsed, Nazi Mennonite colonies transplanted to Paraguay, where they joined existing Nazi-like colonies that for years racially afflicted and exploited indigenous Indians. Auschwitz mass murderer Josef Mengele fled to Paraguay, where for a time, he found shelter among Mennonite colonies near the Bolivian border.

Groups of Paraguayan Nazi Mennonites later migrated to Canada, where they encountered established Russian Mennonite communities. A study published by The Manitoba Historical Society found the three leading Canadian Mennonit

e newspapers during the Hitler era to be overwhelmingly pro-Hitler, spewing racial and anti-Jewish theory. The pro-Nazi newspapers —Der Bote, The Mennonitische Rundschau, and theSteinbach Post—were not religious but Nazified community news outlets. Mennonite Nazism, for years hushed up, is now being explored by Anabaptist historians in conferencesbooks, and journal articles. Nazi Mennonites acted not as a religious group but as a fascist ethnic group.

The catalog of other dark deviations from Mennonite piety has recently included the Mennonite Church USA (MC-USA). Leadership of this faction has steered its flocks away from religion and into undisguised alliance with Jew hatred, economic warfare, and confrontation tactics. Originally one of the largest but already shrinking down to one of the smallest groups within the Mennonite realm, the MC-USA finalized its departure from the Mennonite mainstream in May 2015 when it re-defined membership and required adherents to agree to same-sex marriage and increased involvement in pro-Palestinian issues.

“Our interactions show that the church is divided on understandings of human sexuality and same-sex marriage,” and other MC-USA agreements, including its anti-Israel program, the MC-USA board conceded in a 2015 statement. But the board asked for “exercising Christian forbearance with those who differ in their understanding and application of those agreements.”

The MC-USA’s resolution same sex unions and other LGBTQ issues passed, but the anti-Israel BDS resolution was delayed for two years by a 55 percent majority, showing that many were reluctant to stray into this political territory. Nonetheless, from that moment, Mennonites began to flee MC-USA.

By the end of 2016, an estimated 17 percent had formally withdrawn that year, that is,16,416 out of 95,308 members. In a January 26, 2016 Mennonite World Review report on the exodus, a subhead explained, “A few churches want to stay with MC USA; others are dropped from denomination’s membership number.” The article reported that the largest component of MC-USA’s church rolls—those affiliated around Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had almost entirely disaffiliated. “Last fall’s proposal from LMC’s [Lancaster Mennonite Conference] Board of Bishops to withdraw, was ratified by 82 percent of credentialed leaders.” Mennonite World Review asserted, adding, “The updated Lancaster membership for MC-USA (1,091) means 92 percent of the conference’s members are not considered to be in churches “opting in” to MC-USA.”

Just days before the controversial May 2016 MC-USA resolution, the Franklin Conference in Maryland and Pennsylvania voted to quit, precisely over political resolutions, especially LGBTQ issues.

MC-USA officials issued a statement, “As a national church, we are mired in conflict. Many believe a split is inevitable, given our polarization specifically on issues of human sexuality and scriptural interpretation.”

An April 2016 Mennonite World Review editorial asked whether MC-USA should disband itself, asserting, “Dissolving MC-USA would clear the way to bring back the small, comfortable denominations Mennonites prefer.” A Religion News Service report, written by a former editor of the Mennonite World Review and reprinted in Mennonite World Review, opened with the conclusion: “A year ago, Mennonite Church USA was one of many Christian groups struggling with dissension over the place of gays and lesbians in the church. Today, it’s not just struggling, but falling apart.”

In July 2017 at its national conference, and with only about 75,000 solidly pro-BDS remaining in the whittled down MC-USA, the boycott resolution finally passed. Some 98 percent of the delegates approved. The vote was orchestrated in open collaboration with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a group now reviled in much of the Jewish community for its leadership of the anti-Israel movement. JVP attended the conference and spoke on stage. In celebration of the various resolutions adopted, Hillsboro, Kansas Delegate Tim Frye was quoted by Mennonite media as proclaiming, “For the past 100 years we’ve tried to be normal … We need to go back to being weird again.”

MC-USA’s July 2017 BDS resolution was just its latest act of anti-Israel agitation. It co-sponsors an agitation brigade, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), which, according to Israeli officials, harass Israeli soldiers at security checkpoints during regularly scheduled confrontation riots by uttering insults at security forces, nose-to-nose, hoping soldiers will over-react as cameras whir. Sometimes CPT obstruct soldiers before anti-terrorist arrest efforts. CPT coordinates with similar confrontation efforts waged by groups such as the International Solidarity Movement. On American campuses, CPT has teamed up Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voices for Peace, both groups now known for harassing Jewish students for their identity. Economic warfare, anathema to most Mennonite religious precepts, is now a holy obligation at MC-USA.

The Kansas anti-BDS legislation took effect July 1, 2017. MC-USA adopted its pro-BDS resolution five days later. Four days after that, Koontz, who had been hired by a Wichita magnet school as a math curriculum coach, received the new Kansas State form, certifying she was not boycotting Israel. She stated she could not sign, citing her MS-USA church belief. This set up the constitutional challenge.

When she filed here suit seeking religious protection, Koontz knew her actions were strictly political—not religious. Koontz had previously worked for three years with the Mennonite Central Committee in Egypt as a highly politicized anti-Israel Mennonite activist. Her own first-person statement explaining the lawsuit, published by her attorneys, the American Civil Liberties Union, on the ACLU website, declares, “It seems preposterous that my decision to participate in a political boycott should have any effect on my ability to work for the state of Kansas.” She self-describes her action as “political” four times in that declaration. Koontz’s suit was filed for a political goal—not a religious one.

The ACLU’s court filing in the case reinforces the political nature of the case, stating, “Every day, Ms. Koontz is being financially penalized for refusing to disavow her political boycott.” The court filing repeats the assertion, “Ms. Koontz is unable to sign the Certification because she is currently participating in a politically motivated boycott of consumer goods and services offered by Israeli companies and international companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

It is true the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld freedom of personal belief. But this case is not about belief, it is about actions. The Kansas law does not ask Koontz to disavow any beliefs, just not to take actions—to wit, a boycott—which will discriminate against Israeli Jews. Koontz will not boycott Israeli Arab institutions, only Jewish ones.

Furthermore, Koontz is not acting as an individual employee, but as an outside contractor. Every university guest lecturer, caterer, and plumber knows it is commonplace to sign mandatory contractor pledges not to discriminate against women, minorities, and other protected groups. A typical example is, the University of Kansas which for years has required, in paragraph 5 of its sub-contractor form, a pledge not to discriminate against at least eight classes of people, including on the basis of “national origin.” The KU pledge form cites two other pre-existing state anti-discrimination laws. Hence, an Israeli professor or an Israeli purveyor could not be boycotted due to national origin. Nor can a Mexican-American or African-American be singled out. Beliefs are untouched by such policies. But economic actions can be regulated.

NAACP v Claiborne Hardware, the very Supreme Court ruling cited in the third paragraph of the ACLU lawsuit, makes clear “this Court has recognized the strong governmental interest in certain forms of economic regulation, even though such regulation may have an incidental effect on rights of speech and association.

Prior to enacting HB 2409, the Kansas Legislature received a statement from the State Department of Commerce averring, “In 2016, Kansas exported $56,681,800 in total commodities, while importing $83,650,853. It is in the best interest of Kansas to continue our strong trade relationship with Israel. Any company openly boycotting Israel and its products, is openly boycotting a Kansas trade partner and ally, an action Secretary Antonio Soave and the Department of Commerce feels provides enough merit to prevent as a state vendor … The implementation of what the BDS movement is attempting to achieve is the illegal discrimination on the basis of nationality.”

Bob Jones University vibrantly proved it could not shield its blatant discrimination against African-Americans by citing bizarre Biblical beliefs. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the IRS revocation of BJU’s tax exemption due to racial discrimination.

Moreover, as a Mennonite, Koontz knew she did not have to sue and seek an injunction. Kansas HR 2409 makes clear, even in its short form, “The Secretary of Administration has the authority to waive application of this prohibition if the Secretary determines the prohibition is not practicable.”

No group in America knows more about filing for government exemptions than Mennonites. During both World Wars, Mennonites comprised a large number of America’s conscientious objectors, exempted from combat. The exemption is still published by the dormant Select Service System.

Indeed, in a filing, the Kansas Attorney General confirmed the obvious to the court: “If plaintiff [Koontz] had requested a waiver, the Secretary would have granted it.”

But Koontz did not want to exercise her legal options to request religious exemption. She wanted a show trial and headlines.

Koontz is sincere in her activism. However, she has been duped, by revisionist Frankenhistory that pretends that the Jews have colonized Israel and that the indigenous people of Palestine are Arabs. In fact, history has known for more than a millennium that after the Romans evicted the Jews from Judea, the Arabs of Arabia, during the seventh century, invaded and conquered three continents, including Palestine— an exonymic name imposed by the Romans for the Philistines who were Greek Island invaders. Far from a violation of international law, the Jewish right to reclaim their land was specifically enshrined in Article II of the 1919 Eilat Agreement between the Zionist Organization and Emir Faisal on behalf of the Arab Nation in waiting, the San Remo Treaty Article 6 ratified by 52 countries, the League of Nations Mandate, the Treaty of Sèvres in Chapter 95 also signed by Arab representatives, the UN Charter’s Article 80, and many other instruments of international law.

If Koontz will return to any of the simple Mennonite churches in central Kansas, she can refresh her knowledge of history and the restoration of the Jews in Israel. She can read the one international law that predated the League of Nations, the Arab invasion, and even the Roman expulsion. She can refer to Leviticus 25:10 which commands the Israelites to “proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property.” No Hitler decree, Arab League boycott, BDS chant, MC-USA resolution, or ACLU lawsuit can erase those words from the churches of Kansas— or from its courtrooms.

Edwin Black is the NYT bestselling author of IBM and the Holocaust and Financing the Flames. Winner of the Moral Compass and Justice for All awards for his human rights work, Black has studied both boycotts and Mennonites for nearly half a century.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signs anti-BDS executive order

Photo from Flickr/Gage Skidmore.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed an executive order on Friday that forbids the state government from conducting business with companies that boycott Israel. Wisconsin is the 24th state to do so.

The executive order, Executive Order #261, denounced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as serving “to inflame conflict” and noted that Wisconsin and Israel have “a robust trading relationship.”

Walker said in a statement, “We stand firmly against discrimination in any form and we wholly support our friends in Israel. I look forward to leading a trade delegation to Israel to foster new trade partnerships between Wisconsin and Israeli businesses.”

The former presidential candidate will be going to Israel on Friday.

Walker also expressed a support for a bill in the state legislature that “would prohibit any entity in state government or local government from adopting a rule, ordinance, policy, or procedure that involves the entity in a boycott of Israel, or a boycott of a person doing business in Israel or in a territory under Israeli jurisdiction,” according to

Various Jewish organizations praised Walker for his executive order in a press release issued by Wisconsin Jewish Federations.

“Governor Walker and the State of Wisconsin have firmly taken a stand against the BDS movement and its discriminatory policies against Israeli businesses and individuals, which undermines Middle East peace,” said William Daroff, senior vice president of the Jewish Federations of North America.

“We thank Governor Walker and all the state legislators who have shown leadership on this issue,” said Michael Blumenfeld, director of the Wisconsin Jewish Conference. “The state Jewish community has had significant concerns about the impact of BDS. This order addresses and satisfies the issue.”

McGill University Jewish Student Kicked Off Student Government Board for ‘Conflicts of Interest’

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A Jewish student at McGill University has been kicked off the student government board for having “conflicts of interest” due to his pro-Israel activism.

Third-year student Noah Lew was one of 12 board members up for general assembly ratification on Monday evening following his victory as vice-president finance of the Arts Undergraduate Society. The ratification vote is typically a mere formality, but Monday’s was different due to Democratize Student Society of McGill University (SSMU), an organization that was established to resist the university’s ban of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on campus.

Democratize SSMU was able to pass a motion that required each board member to be voted upon separately under the grounds that they weren’t a fan of the names. When it was Lew’s turn, he was voted down, 105 to 73 with 12 abstaining, with applause following the vote. Two other students who had criticized BDS, Alexander Scheffel and Josephine Wright O’Manique, were also voted down.

Democratize SSMU had targeted Lew and the other two students on the board because they had connections to the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) and were involved in getting the BDS ban passed, which Democratize SSMU claimed were “conflicts of interests.”

Lew shared the experience on Facebook.

“I have no doubt from the information circulated about me and campaign run against me prior to this vote that this was about my Jewish identity, and nothing more,” wrote Lew. “I was blocked from being able to participate in my student government because I am Jewish, because I have been affiliated with Jewish organizations, and because I believe in the right to Jewish self-determination.”

Lew added that the experience shows the inherent anti-Semitism in the BDS movement.

“If BDS is not anti-Semitic, why did a BDS-led campaign name and shame me for my affiliation with a Jewish organization, and call on students to remove me from student government for this reason?” wrote Lew. “If BDS is not anti-Semitic, why was I barred from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity?”

SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva wrote on Facebook that Lew being voted down was “a blatant expression of anti-semitism.”

“To vote against the candidacy of a Director simply because he is Jewish and involved in his community is unacceptable,” wrote Tojiboeva. “No matter what your place of origin, your religious or political beliefs are, you should feel welcome to get involved in your own Student Society.”

McGill Principal and Vice Chancellor Suzanne Fortier sent out an email declaring that the university would be investigating the matter.

Democratize SSMU defended their actions on Facebook, claiming that the students were voted off the board for their role in passing the BDS ban.

“It is not surprising that students refused to ratify these Directors,” the organization wrote. In their voting, they were fulfilling their role of making a political decision about who will represent them. This is how democracy works.”

They added that they “apologize for any harm that has been done” in response to accusations of “being divisive and discriminatory.”

New Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions effort against Israel

A sign painted on a wall in Bethlehem calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

The UN Human Rights Commissioner has started sending letters to 150 companies in Israel and around the world, warning them that they will be put on a blacklist for doing business in Jewish communities in the West Bank, east Jerusalem or the Golan Heights.

[This article originally appeared on]

According to Israeli press reports, the proposed list includes large American companies such as Coca-Cola, Caterpillar,, and Trip Advisor. According to Israel Television’s Channel 2, Israeli companies targeted include pharmaceutical giant Teva, Bank Leumi and Bank Hapoalim as well as the national water company Mekorot.

The exact details of the letter and which other companies have been advised are murky.

When contacted by The Media Line, an Israeli government spokesman refused to comment on the issue.

Israeli analysts said the move is part of a concerted Palestinian effort to pressure Israel in diplomatic venues to end its expansion of Jewish settlements, a goal that seems unlikely. The report of the blacklist comes as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, while headlining a celebration marking 50 years of Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, affirmed that “there will be no more uprooting of settlements in the Land of Israel.”

Some Israeli observers said the UN Human Rights Commission, headed by Jordanian Zeid Ra’ad Al Husseini, continues to pursue an anti-Israel policy.

“Nothing coming out of the Human Rights Commission is serious and Al Husseini is known to be completely and utterly hostile to Israel,” Alan Baker, an expert in international law and a former Israeli ambassador to Canada, told The Media Line. “They can send out whatever they want and they can adopt whatever resolutions they want but it doesn’t mean anything will come of it. This is part of the political action by an organization that has no credibility and no power.”

But the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz quoted unnamed Israeli officials as saying that a number of companies that received the letter told the Human Rights Commissioner that they do not intend to renew contracts or sign new ones in Israel.

The list is part of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, which pursues a policy of placing economic pressure on Israel to stop expanding Jewish settlements. The letter circulated apparently includes companies active in east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967, and the Golan Heights, which Israel conquered from Syria in 1967 and later annexed as well.

“After decades of Palestinian dispossession and Israeli military occupation and apartheid, the United Nations has taken its first concrete, practical steps to secure accountability for ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights,” Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the BDS movement said in a statement. “The Palestinians warmly welcome this step.”

Praise also came from senior Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi. “Israel’s illegal settlement policies and practices are a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and in direct contravention of international law,” Ashrawi said in a statement. “Such a development is an indication of the United Nations attempt to curb Israeli violations and to begin a process of legal accountability for those who are complicit in illegal settlements.”

According to Israeli statistics, 380,000 Israelis live in Jewish communities located in the West Bank, and another 200,000 live in east Jerusalem. Palestinians say that all of these areas must be part of a future Palestinian state, although in the past officials have reportedly accepted the principle of land swaps in the event of any comprehensive peace deal with Israel.

It is not likely that Israeli companies on the list will make any policy changes in response to the letter, if and when it becomes public. Israeli companies for the most part do not distinguish between their operations on either side of the 1967 borders. Banks have branches both inside Israel and in the West Bank, and Israel’s national bus company runs buses there as well.

While all the details remain unknown, some Israelis believe there could be negative ramifications.

“This is a major political and economic battleground and the results are unclear,” Gerald Steinberg, the President of NGO Monitor, told The Media Line. “It is not a trivial issue, but it is also not the end of the world.”

Israeli media reported that U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to pull out of the Human Rights Commission if the list of companies is publicized.

The reports of the boycott list come the day after Interpol voted to admit the Palestinians as a member state, a move Jerusalem opposes and tried hard to prevent. It is part of an ongoing Palestinian strategy focused on achieving diplomatic gains through international forums as opposed negotiating the terms for the creation of an independent state through bilateral talks with Israel.

Nonprofits benefit from Jewish Community Foundation’s new grant program

Joseph Weiss, left, learns about tzitzit with volunteer Shalom Ber-Scheinfeld at Friendship Circle of Los Angeles, one of four Next Stage grant recipients.

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles has launched the Next Stage grant program, providing nearly $1 million in awards to four local Jewish nonprofits — Creative Community for Peace, Friendship Circle of Los Angeles, Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center (JCC) and ETTA, an organization that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Three of the recipients were awarded a $250,000 grant and Silverlake Independent JCC received $200,000, given out over the next two years. All four organizations had previously received the Foundation’s Cutting Edge grants.

The pilot program continues grants of more than $17 million awarded by the Foundation since 2006 to help nearly 100 programs and organizations.

“One of the biggest challenges that even the most innovative and best-run nonprofits confront is the path to achieving sustainability,” Elana Wien, vice president of the Foundation’s Center for Designed Philanthropy, said. “Next Stage Grants was piloted to provide the assistive ‘tools’ — in the form of grant monies, but also professional coaching and other consultative resources — to better enable their success. The success of these nonprofits represents, in turn, a boon to the whole of our local Jewish community, now and in the future.”

A unique aspect of the selection process for these grants, Wien said, is that leaders from each grantee got a chance to discuss with the Foundation their potential involvement with the pilot program.

The Friendship Circle of Los Angeles helps about 120 children with special needs and their families through 20 programs with a volunteer network of more than 500 teens.

“We are thrilled to have the Foundation’s confidence and support to streamline and strengthen our organization, which will ultimately help the children with special needs, families and volunteers who depend on our vital services,” said Gail Rollman, Friendship Circle’s development director.

ETTA is planning to use the grant to expand its programs.

“The demand for programs to help adults with special needs is continually rising,” ETTA Executive Director Michael Held said. “This funding will contribute greatly to helping ETTA fulfill its mission of inclusion and independence for the clients we serve.”

The Creative Community for Peace provides support to artists so they can resist pressure from boycott groups in response to scheduled performances in Israel. The organization uses its broad network to educate artists who are touring in Israel and to mobilize a grass-roots social media response to Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement protests.

The Silverlake JCC hosts an early childhood center, a Jewish learning center and community-led classes and programs, including East Side Jews and Culture Lab.

According to Wien, the Next Stage program is among the first by any Jewish community foundation in the United States offering “capacity-building support” of this scale to sustain nonprofits’ operations, growth and long-term viability. 

What’s a bigger threat to Jews, left or right?

White supremacists clash with counter protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Who’s worse, the fanatics who want to kill us now or the extremists who want to kill us later? That was the question Jews locked onto this week, like two dogs playing tug of war with a sock. It’s entertaining until one of them loses a tooth.

The fight began after President Donald Trump equivocated in his condemnation of neo-Nazis and placed the blame for the violence at the Aug. 12 white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., on both the alt-right and the people who came to protest them.

Trump’s insistence that there was blame on “many sides” and there were “good people on both sides” drew justifiable denunciation from a broad swath of the Jewish world. The nonpartisan Anti-Defamation League (yes, it’s nonpartisan), of course, condemned the president’s remarks. But so did Haskel Lookstein, the Orthodox rabbi who officiated at Ivanka Trump’s conversion, as well as the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

If there’s one thing most Jews can still manage to agree on, it’s that Nazis are bad.

But then came social media, and that’s where the fights broke out.

Yes, what Trump did was terrible, but the real danger to American Jews is the left, some people argued. It’s the antifa people, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and Black Lives Matter with its anti-Zionist platform who intimidate Jewish students on college campuses, shut down free speech for pro-Israel speakers, and in the case of BDS, work toward a world where Israel and the Palestinians can bloody each other in a Lebanon-circa-1982-style civil war. At this year’s Chicago SlutWalk, the leftist organizers refused to let Jews march under a banner showing the Star of David, a Jewish symbol that long predates the State of Israel. 

Yeah, the leftists shot back, but what about … Nazis? It’s the alt-right members who carry guns, threaten synagogues as they did in Charlottesville, chant “Jews will not replace us,” and far and away commit more violent attacks. To paraphrase Sally Field, they hate us, they really hate us.

This is how the arguments play out on Facebook, Instagram and, occasionally, as they say on Twitter, IRL — in real life.

Some debaters go straight to history, or at least to something they remember from the History Channel. The left gave us Stalin and Mao. The fascists gave us Hitler. The left aligned with Palestinian terrorists. The right gave us … Hitler.

The right says that a few pathetic men carrying swastikas can’t compare to an international movement like BDS. The left points out that a few pathetic men carrying swastikas is an exact description of the Nazi Party in 1921.

The right claims there’s something called the alt-left that is dangerously anti-Semitic. The left points out that Fox News host Sean Hannity invented the term “alt-left” to stoke fear, whereas a neo-Nazi created the word “alt-right” to rebrand his loathsome movement.

“There is no comparable side on the left to the alt-right,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said on MSNBC this week.  “White supremacists amass with …  a nationalist agenda that pushes out minorities based on how you pray, who you love or where you’re from. So, it’s really not comparable.”

I’ve read the platforms of antifa groups online, and they all state they oppose all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. That’s not a claim you find on Having said that, I wouldn’t be shocked one day to find anti-fascists showing up to intimidate marchers at a pro-Israel rally. Leftist politicians in England like Jeremy Corbyn side with terrorists against Israel, and their sickness is infectious.

The bottom line is, after our initial almost-unity in condemning Trump’s remarks, we quickly split on which extreme should concern us more. Astonishingly, the Democrats in the debate tend to “objectively” consider the neo-Nazis a far worse threat, while the Republicans “objectively” conclude that the antifas and BDS-ers are the clear and present danger. People come in with their biases and leave with them intact. No minds are changed in the making of this debate.

Here’s what I think: We need to sleep with one eye open, sometimes the right one, sometimes the left one.

The far right and far left always circle back to meet each other under the same DSM entry for paranoia, conspiracy theories, violence and Jew hatred. The far left disguises anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism. The far right disguises nothing: They hate Jews and the “Zios.”

These days, the far right has gotten a big blast of wind in its sails from our president (thanks for that) and the limp response from fellow Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, who failed to stand up to him. Not to mention the Jews who serve or sometimes live with Trump. They only make things worse.

But winds shift. That means next time someone tries to convince you that all the danger blows from one direction, remind them that it doesn’t. The Jewish left needs to mind the left, and the Jewish right the right. Let’s work together to fight the fanatics and their enablers wherever, and whoever, they are.

ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email
him at You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism
and @RobEshman.

UCLA named America’s third best campus for Jews

Royce Hall at UCLA

The Forward named UCLA the third best college in the United States for Jewish life, behind only Cornell University and University of Pennsylvania.

The ranking was part of the Jewish newspaper’s first ever college guide, which weighed universities using a formula that factored in the categories of academics, Jewish life and Israel, listing the top 18. Factored into UCLA’s score were its many Jewish organizations, the availability of kosher food and its Jewish studies program .

Rabbi Aaron Lerner, executive director of Hillel at UCLA, said the school’s thriving Jewish life is a result of the bottom-up model employed by some of the 20 or 25 Jewish clubs and organizations that exist on campus, most prominently by Hillel.

“We’re probably going towards a decade of student leaders who have been fully empowered to run a great Jewish community, and as a result that’s exactly what they do,” he said.

UCLA scored high on the Forward ranking for academics and Jewish life, but its score flagged when it came to Israel, with nine points out of a possible 20. In recent years, the school has been the site of several high-profile incidents where Israel’s reputation came under fire, such as a student government resolution in 2014 calling for divestment from Israel.

But Lerner said those events are exceptions to a campus environment that otherwise embraces its Jewish students.

“It doesn’t define the student experience,” he told the Journal. “It’s incidental, not endemic.”

More than 200 liberal U.S. rabbis want Israel to lift travel ban on BDS leaders

Ben Gurion Airport courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

More than 200 rabbis from the liberal movements of American Judaism signed a letter opposing Israel’s travel ban on leaders of the boycott movement against Israel.

The rabbis signing Wednesday’s letter were responding to an incident last month in which Rabbi Alissa Wise of Jewish Voice for Peace, which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, was prevented from boarding an Israel-bound airplane leaving Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C.

Four other people traveling to Israel as part of an interfaith delegation, including two other Jews, a Christian and a Muslim, were also prevented from boarding the flight at the request of the Israeli government.

“We hold diverse opinions on BDS. Even though many of us have substantive differences with Rabbi Wise and other rabbinic colleagues who support the BDS movement in some or all of its forms, we believe that the decision to bar Rabbi Wise from visiting Israel is anti-democratic and desecrates our vision of a diverse Jewish community that holds multiple perspectives,” read the letter, which had been signed by 212 rabbis as of late Wednesday morning.

“Boycotts are a legitimate nonviolent tactic that have been used both in our own country and around the world in order to create justice for marginalized and oppressed communities. Whether we support boycott is a controversy for the sake of heaven. It endures because we struggle together and debate how we can create peace, justice, and equality for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” the letter said.

The signers included Rabbi Sharon Brous, of the independent IKAR congregation in  Los Angeles; Rabbi Amy Eilberg of Los Altos, California, the first women ordained by the Conservative movement; and Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

In March, the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, amended the Law of Entry to prevent leaders of the BDS movement from being allowed into Israel. The amendment applies to organizations, as well as the leadership and senior activists of those groups, that take consistent and significant action against Israel through BDS and threaten it with material harm.

JVP said at the time of the incident that it was the first time the amendment had been enforced before passengers boarded their flights to Israel and the first time that Israel has denied entry to Jews, including a rabbi, for their support of BDS.

An anti-BDS bill making its way through Congress would expand existing law that bans boycotts imposed by foreign governments to include those imposed by international organizations like the European Union and the United Nations.

A Video Message to Roger Waters

Roger Waters performing at Yankee Stadium in New York City on July 6, 2012. Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, one of the most prominent anti-Israel musicians in the United States, is due to perform in Washington, D.C. this Friday and Saturday (Aug. 4 and 5).

In response, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) is sending him a message in a five-figure media campaign in the form of a social media video.

According to its producers, the video is an effort to educate local Washingtonians on the ways Waters “uses music to divide people, rather than bring them together.”

For years the aging rock star has been an outspoken member of the BDS movement, which seeks to boycott the country, and sanction and divest from companies who do business there.

Waters doesn’t just refuse to perform in Israel, he criticizes and trolls other musicians who chose to perform on tour there.  On a recent Facebook Q & A, Waters has compared Israel to Nazi Germany.  

You can watch the video here:

Pro-BDS musician, Roger Waters, is performing in DC this weekend. Join the JCRC of Greater Washington to send a message to him to stop isolating Israel! Stop using music to divide! The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement will not bring peace. BDS is not the answer. More dialog, more respect, more music is the answer. Share to demand that Roger Waters stop advocating for BDS!#BDSFail #Israel

Posted by JCRC of Greater Washington on Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The anti-BDS act: What’s at stake for Democrats?

Palestinians pray on a street outside Jerusalem's Old City July 28, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

At the end of a week that was dominated by a virus (that’s why I wasn’t here for a few days), here are five comments on things I missed writing about since Monday:


The Temple Mount crisis is in a short respite – not over. The specific tension that ignited the recent strife is calmed, but another round it all but inevitable. Why? Two reasons. 1. The Palestinians learned that Temple Mount serves them well, and can provide them with small victories. It is tempting to use such useful tool again. They will not be able to resist such a temptation. 2. Too many Israelis are displeased with the status quo and will keep working to weaken it. The record number of Jews that visited Temple Mount on Tisha BeAv is telling.


The police might pull a decisive card in its investigation against Prime Minister Netanyahu, by having the PM’s former top aide Ari Harow as a state witness. Does this mean Netanyahu is doomed? There are two answers to this question: The answer of those convinced that Netanyahu is guilty, and that the only thing standing between him and a term in jail is a proper witness that could make his guiltiness official’ and he answer of those convinced that the investigation is a witch hunt, and that no witness can make a non-guilty person guilty.

What we do not know is this: Does Harow merely confirm the known facts– that is, he makes it even clearer that Netanyahu received many gifts from wealthy people – or does he contribute new facts to the mix, facts that make it impossible to argue that these were gifts and not bribe.

If it is all about gifts, the question will be one of interpretation: is it illegal for the PM to receive gifts, even many gifts, and is it an offense worthy of prosecution. If it is more than gifts – if someone can prove that Netanyahu was getting champagne in exchange for favors – that’s a whole different ball game.


I understand why some people are furious with Jared Kushner and his sober comments on the Israeli-Palestinian process, but must say I find nothing objectionable about them. “We’re trying to follow very logically'” he said, “We’re thinking about what the right end state is, and we’re trying to work with the parties very quietly to see if there’s a solution. And there may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on. So we’re going to focus on it and try to come to the right conclusion in the near future”.

Why are some people angry with Kushner? For two main reasons:

  1. One complaint is about tactics: Because Kushner was open, and a broker should be more discreet (tactics is the prerogative of the tactician, and maybe Kushner decided that honesty is what the peace process needs).
  2. One complaint is about content: Because Kushner is not certain there is a solution – and some people think they have a solution (it usually involves forcing Israel to do things that will put it at risk).

There is no reason to be angry with Kushner, but a follow-up question is due: if there is no solution, what should be the next step? What should it be for the parties themselves, and what role is the US supposed to play in the coming years of no solution?


The anti-BDS bill is becoming an interesting test for Democrats in Congress. The ACLU opposes the bill, and some legislators seem nervous about it – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) removed her name from the bill, and my guess is that she will not be the last one to do so. New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan is already under pressure to do the same. And progressive Democrats will continue to exert such pressure on members whom they deem vulnerable to it.

What’s at stake? The simple explanation is that there are concerns about the bill and its impact on free speech. The real story is different: Elements on the left wing of the Democratic party oppose the bill because of their support of BDS. These elements wisely see this occasion as an opportunity to score a rare victory for BDS in the US, by torpedoing a highly visible bill. What needs to happen for them to succeed is simple: more Democrats must decide that the political price they will pay for shunning progressive pressure is higher than the price they will pay for shunning pro-Israel voters. In other words: the more Democrats decide not to support the bill, the more it becomes clear that Democratic legislators can no longer sustain the gap between what Democratic voters think about Israel, and how the party leaders vote on Israel.


When it was still widely assumed that Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States, I wrote (in the New York Times) the following paragraph about the Democratic Party and Israel:

For relations between Israel and the Democrats to remain strong, one of two things needs to happen: Either Democrats’ attitudes and Israel’s policies must converge, or Democrats must become convinced that weakening support for Israel will come with a political price. Mr. Netanyahu and Mrs. Clinton will have to find out which it is to be, or else the drift will continue.

A year later – it continues.



Local Muslim leader kept off flight to Israel for pro-BDS views

From left: Jewish Voice for Peace organizer Alana Krio-Kaufman; Noah Habeeb, a Jewish Voice for Peace member and Tufts University graduate student; Shakeel Syed, a Los Angeles based Muslim activist and Rabbi Alissa Wise, deputy director at Jewish Voice for Peace come together for a delegation that was supposed to travel to Israel but was held up due to an Israeli law barring entry to supporters of the BDS movement. Courtesy of Jewish Voice for Peace

Los Angeles Muslim leader was among five individuals barred from boarding a flight to Israel on July 23, reportedly due to the interfaith delegation members’ support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Shakeel Syed, 56, a national board member of American Muslims for Palestine, told the Journal that he had his boarding pass in hand for the Lufthansa flight at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C., when he was told he could not board the plane due to his being on a no-fly list provided by Israeli authorities.

The incident followed the enactment of a law in Israel in March enabling the Israeli interior minister to bar entry to foreigners or non-Israeli citizens who publicly call for boycotting the Jewish state or its settlements.

Speaking to the Journal on July 28 from Jerusalem — where he arrived using another airline he declined to identify — Syed said he was feeling “pretty rejected, pretty bummed, pretty disgusted.”

“I am extremely concerned and interested to know what the deal is and will try to pursue this,” he said.

Syed was traveling with a group of Jews, Muslims and Christians. Four others in the group also were not permitted to board: Rabbi Alissa Wise of Philadelphia, deputy director at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP); Alana Krivo-Kaufman of Brooklyn, a JVP organizer; Noah Habeeb of Virginia, a graduate student at Tufts University; and Rick Ufford-Chase of Rockland County, N.Y., a member of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

Eighteen other members of the delegation boarded without incident, according to a July 24 statement from JVP.

“It is believed that this is the first time that the policy has been enforced before people even board their flight,” a JVP statement said. “It is also the first time that Israel has denied entry to Jews, including a rabbi, for their political positions.”

On its website, American Muslims for Palestine described the purpose of the delegation to Israel as being to “increase awareness, spread grassroots support and to gain large-scale support for the successful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.” A Chicago-based nonprofit established in 2005, the organization describes itself as a group committed to change in the Middle East. The Anti-Defamation League, however, has labeled it a leading anti-Zionist organization. 

The organizers of the delegation — JVP, American Muslims for Palestine and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship — openly support the BDS movement, which protests the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Critics of the movement say it is anti-Semitic and seeks to delegitimize the State of Israel.

Syed said he has contacted his congresswoman, Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, about the incident, as well as both of California’s U.S. Senators, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

A Muslim activist from India, Syed has been in Los Angeles for 25 years. He is the executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, which operates a prisoner outreach service and a Muslim speakers network.

Syed participated in an April interfaith protest in which more than 30 people were arrested at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in downtown Los Angeles to call attention to the treatment of undocumented immigrants.

Boycott, divestment and sanctions of free speech: Against the anti-BDS bill

BDS protesters at Columbia University.

Freedom of speech is an unquestioned birthright for Americans, and it is among the principles we feel most strongly about modeling for the rest of the world. The recent attempts by the Trump administration to curtail freedom of the press has many on both the left and the right justifiably up in arms at the assault on one of the founding ideals of our nation. So it comes as a political sucker punch that 43 senators on both sides of the aisle have come together to support a bill that clearly intends to chill Americans’ right to peacefully protest.

The bill, S720, co-authored by Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), titled the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, would expand the existing criminalization of U.S. corporations that participate in foreign-led boycotts against American allies to also include boycotts that originate from the United Nations. The title and key proponents of the bill, AIPAC chief among them, clearly intend it as a defense against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which opposes Israeli occupation of the West Bank. As others have noted, the U.N. actually never called for a commercial boycott of Israel, and instead only urged companies in 2016 to “avoid, identify, assess and address any adverse human rights impacts related to their activities.” In other words, this bill purports to offer a solution for a problem that does not exist.

That this legislation offers no concrete policy solutions only makes the fervent support of its passage all the more troubling. Whether the bill actually criminalizes the right of individual Americans to participate in BDS (and the vagueness of potential interpretations should itself be a red flag), the message is clear: Americans should think twice before exercising their constitutionally protected free speech. No matter what we may think about the merits or motivations behind the BDS movement, we should be able to agree that the decision of how Americans choose to use their wallets should be left entirely up to them.

S720 not only betrays basic American values of freedom of speech, it also diminishes America’s already battered moral standing on the world stage by making the hypocrisy of our Middle East policy crystal clear. The United States has long desired to be a beacon of functional democracy and freedom , and an alternative model to the type of despotic tyranny that plagues the region. Yet with the passage of this bill, we would send the exact opposite message to the world, that the peaceful critique of a nation’s policies should in itself be a reprehensible and potentially criminal act. If President Donald Trump were to propose a domestic abridgement of free speech of this magnitude (not so far-fetched a scenario in the age of presidential smears against our free press), the majority of those same senators supporting this deeply flawed legislation would rightfully oppose such an action with every moral fiber of their being.

But this bill follows a disturbing pattern of the double standard that is applied to nonviolent protests by marginalized communities. Many on the right (and even some on the left) have criticized the Black Lives Matter movement as “violent,” suggesting that nonviolent protests would be more palatable to get their point across. Yet when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is African-American, knelt during the national anthem, he was criticized for being “combative” and “unpatriotic.” Likewise, the BDS movement is entirely peaceful, noncombative and (one could argue because it uses capital to achieve its goals) a most American form of protest. But by targeting these forms of expression, the Senate is leaving those who support the movement few options for lawful dissent.

This bill is so far removed from traditional American values that even J Street, a perennial critic of the BDS movement, has condemned it in a statement saying that it would “undermine decades of U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, bolster the settlement enterprise and harm the prospects for a two-state solution.” The statement goes on to recommend that Senators “consult with free speech experts on possible Constitutional concerns with the bill.”

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and specifically the issue of the West Bank — is complex, and reasonable people can disagree about solutions and strategies. But no good has ever come from criminalizing peaceful protest, whether through substance or intent, or the exercise of free speech, and it will not be any different in this case. As long as we continue speaking to one another and making our opinions heard, there always is a chance to find common ground.

Salam Al-Marayati is the president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

BDS activists prevented from boarding flight to Israel

Photo from Wikipedia

Five members of an interfaith delegation to Israel were prevented from boarding their flight from Washington, D.C., reportedly due to their activism on behalf of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The Jewish Voice for Peace organization said in a statement Monday that the delegation tried to check into its Lufthansa flight at Dulles International Airport, only to be told that the Israeli government had ordered the airline not to let the five passengers aboard.

In March, the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, amended the Law of Entry to prevent leaders of the BDS movement from being allowed into Israel. The amendment applies to organizations that take consistent and significant action against Israel through BDS, as well as the leadership and senior activists of those groups.

Lufthansa spokesman Tal Muscal confirmed that the delegation members were not allowed to fly per the Israeli government’s request. Lufthansa was not made aware of the reason for the order.

Muscal said the airline must obey government requests like these to block passengers from boarding flights.

“We don’t know who these people are,” Muscal told JTA. “We have no information as to why the Israeli government does not want them to enter. We simply have to abide by the rules and regulations of every country in which we operate.”

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the incident.

Three of the activists were from JVP, including a rabbi. The other two delegation members prevented from boarding the flight were Rick Ufford Chase of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship in Rockland County, New York, and Shakeel Syed, a national board member with American Muslims for Palestine in Los Angeles.

The other 18 participants with the Interfaith Network for Justice in Palestine delegation arrived Monday morning in Israel and were allowed to enter after several hours of detention and questioning, according to JVP.

JVP states on its website that it supports boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

“Israel denied me the ability to travel there because of my work for justice for Palestinians, even though I’m Jewish and a rabbi,” Rabbi Alissa Wise said in the JVP statement. “I’m heartbroken and outraged. This is yet another demonstration that democracy and tolerance in Israel only extends to those who fall in line with its increasingly repressive policies against Palestinians.

Syed said in the statement that he had his boarding pass in hand when “the Lufthansa representative informed me that they had a direct order from ‘Israeli immigration authorities’ to not allow us to board the plane. Furthermore, they refused to even show us the Israeli order.”

JVP said it is believed to be the first time that the amendment has been enforced before passengers boarded their flights to Israel and the first time that Israel has denied entry to Jews, including a rabbi, for their support of BDS.

Following the passage of the Entry Law amendment, several groups that promote BDS planned to organize delegations to come to Israel and test the boundaries of the amendment.

An anti-BDS bill making its way through Congress would expand existing law that bans boycotts imposed by foreign governments to include those imposed by international organizations like the European Union and the United Nations.

We’re not talking about BDS on campus, so why are you?

A protester being removed by campus police at the University of California, Irvine, after he disrupted a speech by Michael Oren, who was then Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Feb. 8, 2010. Photo from JTA

Dear Jewish community,

So you wanna understand Israel-Palestine debates on campus?

The first thing you have to do is stop talking about BDS.

Shocking, right? We try.

But really, the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign against Israel isn’t what Israel conversations on campus are all about these days. Campaigns to pass BDS measures on major campuses are actually in decline, yet somehow they still make up the bulk of Jewish news about students.

The truth is, divestment proposals happen perennially, people freak out for two to three weeks, and then students on all sides return to lives of calculus, life pondering, activism and 3 a.m. pizza.

So if we shouldn’t be talking about BDS, what should we be talking about?

Anti-normalization. Because it creates a fascinatingly complex new landscape for Jewish students, who are both on its receiving end and active participants.

If you know what I’m talking about, skip this paragraph, wise one. If you don’t, anti-normalization is an idea, popular on the left, that some beliefs are so untenable you cannot allow them to be left unprotested and accepted as normal. That means calling attention to their proponents at the very least and having a zero-tolerance policy at most.

The things-not-to-normalize list includes no-brainers like racism, sexism, homophobia and Islamophobia. It also often includes Zionism.

That means pro-Palestinian activism on campus looks different these days – because all activism looks different. Instead of boycotts, a more frequent form of campus organizing is protesting at and disrupting Israel-related events.

A brief history: One of the earliest instances of interrupting Zionist speakers on campus happened at the University of California, Irvine, in 2010, when students disrupted a speech by former Israel ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. In 2015, the same thing happened to former Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak at the same school and Israeli philosophy professor Moshe Halbertal at the University of Minnesota. In 2016, it was Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at San Francisco State University.

What recently happened at the Chicago Dyke March is also a prime example. Women marching with what march organizers saw as Zionist flags could not be allowed to stay because that would be letting Zionism go unchallenged.

What does this mean?

For what it’s worth, speaker shutdowns and event protests don’t make us special. If you follow campus news, these are happening everywhere to all kinds of speakers, from controversial scholar Charles Murray at Middlebury College in Vermont to conservative commentator Anne Coulter and “alt-right” provocateur (read: troll) Milo Yiannopoulis at the University of California, Berkeley.

But anti-normalization does mean Jewish students, particularly Zionists, are tackling a whole new host of questions on campus: Do left-leaning Zionists have a place on the campus left? And if only non-Zionist Jewish students find acceptance on the left, is the campus left tokenizing Jewish students, deciding who’s a “good Jew” or a “bad Jew” from outside our community?

Pro-Palestinian activism on campus looks different these days — because all activism looks different.

What does it mean to Jewish students that Zionist speakers are considered indefensible alongside alt-right speakers? Are Zionist students and pro-Palestinian activists defining Zionism the same way?

Pro-Israel activists, meanwhile, are arguably already engaging in their own form of anti-normalization rhetoric and have been for a long time. One could even argue that Jews were anti-normalization pioneers. When anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist remarks on campus are labeled “hate speech,” that’s our community declaring ideas too unconscionable to be expressed without protest. Jewish outcry over Linda Sarsour speaking at CUNY is only one recent example. Right-wing Jewish organizations, like the AMCHA Initiative or Canary Mission, marked speakers, professors and student leaders as too reprehensible for campus before it was cool.

Whatever term you want to use, this isn’t just a leftist movement, and Jewish students across the political spectrum are experiencing it and are a part of it.

We can argue endlessly about whether anti-normalization is good or bad – and we are. Questions about this concept are at the core of today’s most fraught campus debates. Does declaring ideas unredeemable limit free speech? Or does it marginalize systemic societal ills? Who decides the parameters, and when are they too broad?

I cannot answer any of these questions. (That’s a different, much longer article.)

But I can call on our community to recognize them. It’s time we see the anti-normalization forest through the BDS trees. Because until we do, we’re missing out on the juicy stuff – the larger debates happening on campus and the real questions Jewish students are asking themselves.

Sara Weissman,, is the editor in chief of New Voices, where a version of this article originally appeared.

Roger Waters concert on Long Island violates anti-BDS law, lawmaker says

Roger Waters performing at Yankee Stadium in New York City on July 6, 2012. Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Allowing BDS proponent Roger Waters to perform at a Long Island arena violates a local law against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a Nassau County lawmaker said.

Waters, the former Pink Floyd frontman, is scheduled to appear at the Nassau Coliseum on Sept. 15 and 16.

The lawmaker, Howard Kopel, asked the county attorney last week to determine whether the Nassau Coliseum lease requires compliance with the county law adopted in May 2016 that prevents the county from doing business with any company that participates in the economic boycott of Israel.

Kopel, an Orthodox Jewish legislator who represents a district with a large Jewish population, said in a Facebook post that the Waters concert violates the anti-BDS law while calling the musician a “notorious front-man for the BDS movement and virulent anti-semite.”

On May 22, 2016 I was proud that Nassau County signed into Law a piece of Legislation that I sponsored, taking a stand…

Posted by Legislator Howard J. Kopel on Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In a Facebook Live chat Saturday with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Waters said he would play his shows in Nassau, saying an artist’s rights should not be attacked over his stand on an issue.

“I think they’re gonna fail,” Waters said of attempts to prevent him from playing in Nassau County. “I don’t think, I know they are, because you would have to tear up the Constitution of the United States of America, particularly the First Amendment, and throw it into the Hudson River, or the East River if that’s closer, in order for that to happen.”

Waters also noted an incident in Miami last week in which a dozen teens from a Miami Beach Parks summer program who were to perform on stage with him backed out amid accusations of anti-Semitism.

Miami Beach spokeswoman Melissa Berthier told the Miami Herald on Thursday, hours before the scheduled concert, that the teens would not be participating, saying in a statement, “Miami Beach is a culturally diverse community and does not tolerate any form of hate.”

The Greater Miami Jewish Federation in an online ad on the Miami Herald website posted a link to a statement on its website reading, “Mr. Waters, your vile messages of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and hatred are not welcome in this community.”

Waters is embroiled in a controversy with Radiohead after he publicly called on the band to cancel its Wednesday concert in Tel Aviv.

Congress urges Trump to appoint a Jewish liaison

Photo by Jacob Kornbluh

Several members of Congress are urging President Donald Trump to continue a 40-year tradition by immediately appointing a White House liaison to the American Jewish community.

[This story originally appeared on]

“While it is still early in your term, increased anti-Semitism in the United States, the rise of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and persecution of religious minorities across the globe create an urgent need for a designated point of contact to work with and provide outreach to the American Jewish community,” Representatives Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), and Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) wrote in a bipartisan letter addressed to the President.

Trump has continued to blame the Democratic Party congressional leadership for the slow pace of filling vacancies in administration posts, calling them “obstructionists.” In this instance, however, the House Members note that the position does not require Senate confirmation.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt, two Trump confidants, served as Trump’s unofficial representatives to the Jewish community and advisors on Israel and Jewish-related matters. Friedman has since been appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Greenblatt is serving as special envoy to the Middle East and White House Special Representative for International Negotiations.

“On Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, you declared in the Capitol Rotunda that you ‘will always stand with the Jewish people.’ We respectfully encourage you to follow through on this commitment and appoint the best person you believe would serve in this role,” the Representatives concluded.

“People are policy,” Matt Nosanchuk, a former White House liaison under President Barack Obama, told Jewish Insider. “Which roles are filled and by whom and at what level speaks volumes about as to whether an administration is committed to engaging on particular policy issues with specific communities.”

The challenge of serving as the President’s representative to the Jewish community is “trying to accommodate all of the different interests and voices in a diverse Jewish American community that is not shy about sharing its views,” Tevi Troy, who served as White House Jewish liaison in President George W. Bush’s first term, told Jewish Insider. “For a Jewish liaison in a Republican White House, an additional challenge is that the community as a whole is Democratic territory. This does not, of course, apply to the Orthodox community, where GOP liaisons are on friendlier turf, and where Democratic liaisons face more of an uphill battle.”

“This administration seems to be doing something that is making some parts of the American Jewish community happy, but other parts feel like they don’t have anybody they could call,” Jarrod Bernstein, the liaison during Obama’s reelection, explained the importance of having somebody who focuses on the Jewish community in a full-time position. “You have to worry about the people who don’t agree with you politically and making sure that they feel they have an open door. That’s where having a dedicated Jewish liaison is really important.”

However, according to Noam Neusner, another former White House Jewish liaison for President Bush, filling this position is not a matter of urgency. Instead, he advised the signatories of the bipartisan letter to “work with their colleagues in the Senate to assure a speedy confirmation of nominees for far more important positions – especially positions that are essential to America’s global leadership, prosperity and security.”

Nosanchuck, who held the Jewish liaison position for nearly three years during Obama’s second term, noted, “Appointing someone does not obviate stark policy differences, and many of this White House’s most important priorities, on economic, climate, and social welfare and social justice issues, are way out of line with the priorities of the overwhelming majority of American Jews. No Trump Jewish liaison is going to bridge that divide.”

Read the full letter below:

Dear Mr. President:

We write to encourage you to continue the forty-year tradition of appointing a White House liaison to the Jewish community. While it is still early in your term, increased anti-Semitism in the United States, the rise of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and persecution of religious minorities across the globe create an urgent need for a designated point of contact to work with and provide outreach to the American Jewish community.

Previous Presidents have appointed White House Jewish liaisons, and these individuals served as valuable intermediaries between the wider Jewish community and the President and his staff. Many past liaisons worked to foster Middle East peace, combat anti-Semitism, strengthen the US-Israel relationship, promote interfaith dialogue, and celebrate Jewish-American heritage on the national stage. You have expressed a strong commitment to defending our ally, the eternal Jewish State of Israel, and specifically designating a Jewish liaison would make it known to American Jews that you stand with them and care about their priorities. We understand that this position does not require a nominee subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate, removing a significant barrier in selecting a qualified individual to serve in this role.

On Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, you declared in the Capitol Rotunda that you “will always stand with the Jewish people.” We respectfully encourage you to follow through on this commitment and appoint the best person you believe would serve in this role.


Jacky Rosen, Lee Zeldin, Stephanie Murphy, Doug Lamborn

Wish You Weren’t Here Roger Waters

Roger Waters has been a leader of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign within the cultural arena. He has lobbied countless artists to refuse to perform in Israel, while publicly criticizing others for doing so.

Boycott of Waters Launched With Petition, Website and Film

A group calling itself “We Don’t Need no Roger Waters” are calling for a boycott of musician Roger Waters. The petition wants a worldwide boycott of Waters until he renounces antisemitism and the unjust boycott of the State of Israel. The group has launched a website and Facebook page, and will be releasing a movie this summer.

The former frontman for Pink Floyd has increasingly used his rock-star status to defame and call for the boycott of Israel. He infamously flew a pig drone painted with swastikas and Stars of David at his concerts in 2013. Waters screens anti-Israel film clips during his live shows and viciously attacks any artist that chooses to perform in Israel.

Waters isn’t just anti-Israel, say his detractors, he’s actually a Jew-hater. They are firing back against his supporters by countering that Waters is not just anti-Israel, but actually a racist who espouses bigotry and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.

According to the filmmakers, “Wish You Weren’t Here is a shocking, explosive and compelling film by award winning filmmaker/No.1 NY Times bestselling author Ian Halperin.” The film sets out to answer such questions as is Roger Waters an anti-Semite?

Halperin, who is the son of a Holocaust survivor, traveled for two years researching his story, and the film includes interviews with leading figures such as including Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, Pope Francis, Haras Rafiq, Palestinian and Israeli leaders, U.S., British and French government officials, The Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, Alan Dershowitz and Dr. Charles Small.

Instead of using music to build bridges and foster peace, it seems that Waters is actually another brick in the wall.


Jordan’s anti-Israel rhetoric on rise despite security cooperation

King Abdullah of Jordan. Photo via WikiCommons.

The 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, which Israel fought against Jordan and other Arab states, is showing how much has changed in the Israel-Jordan relationship.

Since 1994, the two countries have had an official peace treaty, and over the years, security cooperation has deepened. Ties between their armies are close, and they share an interest in preventing unrest in the West Bank, which Israel has controlled since 1967.

Furthermore, Israeli intelligence officials say the security cooperation and intelligence sharing between Jordan and Israel are stronger than ever. They count this cooperation as one of the strongest weapons in Israel’s arsenal and say it is crucial for both countries’ stability.

At the same time, however, popular sentiment in Jordan against cooperation with Israel is rising. Last month, a delegation of sheikhs from various tribes visited Israel, where they met with President Reuven Rivlin, whose father was one of the first to translate the Quran, the Muslim holy book, from Arabic into Hebrew and was an Islamic scholar.

The sheikhs spent five days touring Israel and meeting religious figures. When they returned, they encountered an outcry against them and their visit to Israel in the mainstream media and on social media. That anger intensified after two incidents — the first, when Israeli troops shot and killed a Jordanian-Palestinian attacker after he stabbed an Israeli policeman; the second, when Israeli troops in September shot a Jordanian tourist who tried to carry out a knife attack.

“There is a clear increase in anger and support for anti-normalization,” said Mohammed Husainy, the director of the Identity Center in Jordan.

Anti-normalization means opposition to cooperation with Israel in any field. It is part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that calls for a boycott of the Israeli government and Israeli citizens. For example, BDS has tried to prevent pop stars from giving concerts anywhere in Israel, not only in the West Bank.

After Israel and Jordan signed the peace treaty in 1994, Israeli tourists began to flock to Jordan, especially to Petra, one of the wonders of the world. Jordanians began to visit Israel, although mostly to see relatives in the West Bank and to pray at Al-Aqsa.

Some Israeli analysts say that King Abdullah allows the anti-Israel rhetoric as a way for Jordanians to blow off steam.

“The Jordanian regime maneuvers between its need to cooperate with Israel and to address the sentiment of the population,” said Eyal Zisser, a professor at Tel Aviv University. “They do allow anti-Israel rhetoric in the media and at the popular level whenever there is a small incident.”

The situation is similar to that of Egypt, the other country with which Israel has a formal peace treaty. Although security cooperation is close, most Egyptians are vehemently anti-Israel. 

Egypt, Jordan and Israel have similar security concerns and all want to eliminate the terror threat from ISIS, which also has killed dozens of Egyptian police in the Sinai. All three countries see a nuclear Iran as a potential threat.

Most analysts say that in the long run, the common security interests will continue to overshadow the public anger at Israel. 

Roger Waters: ‘I have made every effort to engage’ with Radiohead on BDS

Roger Waters performing at Yankee Stadium in New York City on July 6, 2012. Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Roger Waters said he personally reached out to Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke requesting that the band cancel its upcoming show in Israel.

Waters, the Pink Floyd bassist who is a leading proponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, responded Monday to an interview Yorke gave to Rolling Stone last week in which he objected to an open letter, co-written by Waters, urging the band to cancel the July show.

“The kind of dialogue that they want to engage in is one that’s black or white,” Yorke said. “I have a problem with that. It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public.”

Waters says that isn’t what happened. In a statement to Rolling Stone, Rogers says he sent three emails to Yorke before publishing the open letter. Waters’ statement says Yorke responded to the first email, but not the second. Whether he replied to the third is unclear.

“On February 12th, hoping to start a dialogue, I sent an email expressing my concern about Radiohead crossing the BDS picket line to perform in Israel,” Waters said. “A few hours later, Thom replied. He was angry. He had misinterpreted my attempt to start a conversation as a threat. So I tried again … I didn’t hear back. So silence prevailed for three weeks until March 4th when I sent a long heartfelt entreaty to Thom asking him again to talk.”

In his interview, Yorke said Radiohead will perform because the band doesn’t agree with BDS and the effort to cut off cultural contact with Israel. “It’s offensive and I just can’t understand why going to play a rock show or going to lecture at a university [is a problem to them],” Yorke said.

Waters didn’t directly address Yorke’s objections in his statement, saying that BDS “exists to shine a light on the predicament of the occupied people of Palestine, both in Palestine and those displaced abroad, and to promote equal civil rights for all the people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea no matter what their nationality, race or religion.”

Sears website offers clothing with slogan calling to ‘Free Palestine’

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Clothing with slogans calling to “Free Palestine End Israeli Occupation” are for sale on the Sears website.

[UPDATE: Sears to pull ‘Free Palestine’ clothing from site amid complaints]

The clothing is being offered for sale by another company, Spreadshirt Collection, and includes tank tops, and t-shirts and hoodies featuring a variety of pro-Palestinian messages. The garments are being sold through Sears Marketplace, which offers a platform for third-party sellers to offer their wares through websites managed by Sears.

The availability of the designs was first reported by Reuters.

The designs include a clenched fist in the colors of the Palestinian flag and statements opposing the Israeli occupation.

In a statement on its website, the Germany-based Spreadshirt Collection calls itself a “global platform for personalized clothing and accessories, we are the go-to-place for anyone looking to realize their creative ideas on quality fabrics. We value freedom of expression, whether it’s with your own designs or those made available by our community.”

The company’s code of responsibility says that it does not print things that are “bound to offend people.”

“Just like with other things in democracy, there are natural limits to our freedom of expression. We do not print things that are bound to offend people, e.g. pornographic material and content designed to insult and discriminate against genders or religious and ethnic groups. We won’t print anything that’s not right and fair. Above all, a code of ethics applies. This implies that we do not condone any designs displaying hate and contempt for others,” the statement says.

Elsewhere on its site, the company says that it values free expression. “Therefore, we print almost all designs sent to us whether we, as a company or personally, like them or not.”