Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry Identifies 42 Anti-Israel Organizations With Terror Ties


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry has identified 42 anti-Israel organizations that have ties to Islamic terror groups.

Israel Hayom reports that the Strategic Affairs Ministry has spent two years determining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) “network of hatred” that features operatives from Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) taking active roles in BDS organizations.

For instance, Al Haq, which bills itself as a human rights organization, is run by Shawan Jabarin, who was imprisoned in Israel for serving as a PFLP terrorist. The Palestinian Return Center, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Friends of Al-Aqsa all have members that participated in the 2010 Gaza flotilla.

The 42 organizations are all under the umbrella of the BDS National Committee.

This comes on the heels of an exposé from Tablet explaining that The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, the umbrella of the American BDS movement, donates money to the BDS National Committee, which has financial ties to Hamas, PFLP and Islamic Jihad.

“Terrorist organizations and the BDS movement have never been ‎closer, ideologically and operationally,” Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said at a recent conference. “I will continue to lead a ‎counterattack against the perpetrators of the anti-Semitic hate ‎campaign emanating from Gaza and Ramallah.”

Jewish Groups Praise Bill Protecting Businesses from BDS


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A coalition of Jewish organizations has praised a bill put forward by a couple of Republican congressman that would protect businesses from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The bill, titled The Export Administration Anti-Discrimination Act (EAADA), updates the 1979 Export Administration Act, which outlaws boycotts of countries and businesses “friendly” to the U.S. The EAADA amends the EAA so boycotts that affect a country that is not subjected to United States sanctions are outlawed. The EAADA also allows private organizations harmed by such boycotts to take legal action.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who introduced the EAADA, said in a statement: “The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement has weaponized economic activity to purposefully inflict financial harm on Israel. Americans and our allies alike deserve the freedom to conduct business without the perpetual threat of discriminatory boycotts.”

“U.S. policy should reflect strong opposition to those who seek to isolate our allies and cause economic damage to countries such as Israel. The Export Administration Anti-Discrimination Act will strengthen current law and modernize important anti-boycott protections.”

Supporters of the EAADA include the World Jewish Congress (WJC), The Lawfare Project, the Israeli-American Coalition for Action and the Rabbinical Council of America.

“I would like to thank Congressmen Ron DeSantis and Chairman Bob Goodlatte for putting forward this important legislation that will combat the BDS movement, which is rearing its ugly head all over the world,” WJC President Ronald Lauder said in a statement. “The legislation being advanced does not in any way infringe one’s right to free speech, but it does ensure that those who engage in commercial discrimination on the basis of someone’s national origin will face consequences for that repugnant behavior. I urge members of both parties to sign onto this bill to assure its passage and enactment into law.”

Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project, said in a statement that the bill was “a commonsense way of improving and better enforcing current laws.”

“The EAA was passed nearly 40 years ago,” Goldstein said. “This bill updates that important legislation to provide clarity and close loopholes that prevent discriminatory boycotts targeting American allies like Israel.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Council is considering an expansion of its blacklist of companies that do business with Israel.

Signs of Anti-Semitism In University of Michigan Divestment Resolution


Screenshot from Facebook.

In November 2017, University of Michigan’s student government passed a resolution calling on the university to divest from companies that conduct business in Israel. A new report now highlights the anti-Semitism that permeates the organizations and individuals responsible for its passage.

The pro-Israel watchdog Canary Mission explained in their report that the resolution was mainly pushed by an organization called Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), which describes itself as a “Palestinian solidarity group” through their #UMDivest campaign.

Throughout their campaign, SAFE repeatedly denied that the resolution had anything to do with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, even though they used four BDS activists to help push through the resolution. One of the activists that spoke at a hearing about the resolution, Sabry Wazwaz, “has a history of tweeting anti-Jewish imagery, conspiracy theories and imagery equating Israel with Nazi Germany,” per the report.

“At the meeting, Wazwaz compared Palestinians in Israel to Jews killed by the Nazi regime,” the report states. “He had just three months earlier tweeted: ‘#ZionismIsNazism.’”

The report also noted that SAFE frequently denied charges of anti-Semitism, citing their condemnation of neo-Nazi Richard Spencer. However, a Jewish student said at the hearing that she had “heard SAFE supporters laughing behind me as my peer talked about his fear of wearing a kippa around campus.”

The report concludes by highlight SAFE activists who have engaged in the demonization of Israel, such as activist Arwa Gayar accusing Israel of “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.”

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

The full report can be read here.

Report: BDS Has Ties to Terror Groups


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) ties to terrorism have officially been exposed in a June 1 report from Tablet.

The report explains that The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, which is “the American umbrella group of the BDS movement,” funneled tax-exempt donations to the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), which has funded and worked with terror groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Under the legal name of the Education for Just Peace in the Middle East, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights used its “fiscal sponsorship” of BNC “to temporarily extend their privileges as a nonprofit” to that organization.

“The BNC is located far from U.S. soil, and it is unclear that the US Campaign has much say on how the money collected on behalf of its Palestinian sponsoree will be spent,” the report states. “There is no indication that any of the money raised through the fiscal sponsorship is going to terror groups, nor is there any clear way of ascertaining how the money collected is spent. All that is clear is that there’s a financial relationship between these two separate groups.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper issued a statement on the June 1 report that read, “Any person of faith who endorses the anti-Semitic BDS movement should now realize that they are also supporting the goals of its sponsors, among them people with the blood of more than 1,000 Israelis and tourists on their hands,” Hier and Cooper said. “The hypocrisy of BDS has always been obvious, but now it’s official.”

StandWithUs also issued a statement on June 1 noting that one of the key members for the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights’ is American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), an organization that is connected to Hamas.

“USCPR has always deceptively marketed itself as a human rights group, while relentlessly promoting campaigns of hate across the United States,” Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, said in the statement. “Lawmakers, community leaders, and the general public need to be aware of how toxic this organization truly is.”

Anti-Israel Protesters Disrupt UCSB Meeting


Screenshot from Facebook.

The swearing in of UC Santa Barbara’s new student senate board on May 23 was derailed when a group of around 60 anti-Israel protesters stormed the stage.

According to UCSB’s student newspaper, the Daily Nexus, the protesters were angry that the student senate’s Israel divestment resolution had been changed the week before from requiring a 50 percent majority plus one vote to pass, to requiring a two-thirds majority.

Shortly before the motion to swear in the new board, the protesters wrestled the microphones from the student senators with chants of “Shut it down! Shut it down!”

One of the students, identified by the Daily Nexus as Justice Dumlao, declared they were engaging in “an act of civil disobedience” because they felt the change in the resolution’s technical status was “illegitimate and unfair.”

In a video posted to Facebook by UCSB’s Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a student asked Dumlao if there was some way for the student body to “come together” and have a discussion about the resolution.

“The disruption was offensive and disrespectful, and demonstrates how divisive BDS is to the campus climate.” — Rabbi Evan Goodman

Dumlao responded, “When people are changing a resolution based on their own personal opinions that come out of nowhere in Week 7 of a senate meeting, how am I supposed to have a constructive conversation about it?”

A female student involved in the disruption added, “How can you ask for a dialogue when we can’t even say anything?” She later added that the disruption sprang from desperation.

Toward the end of the video, a female wearing a bandana over her face shouts, “I am a Palestinian and I have to hide my f—ing face for the sake of my family, for the sake of my people who are dying –– dying! –– because of our money funding companies that are profiting off our deaths.”

The student senate was forced to adjourn the meeting and multiple senators left the room. Michelle May, president of Gauchos United for Israel, told the Journal that she saw the protesters banging on tables and holding their phones in the faces of the student government members, which likely contributed to them leaving the meeting.

“I think it was partially because they felt it was impossible for the meeting to continue properly and because it was a little bit scary,” May said.

UCSB’s SSI condemned the disruption as an “abominable display of aggression and intimidation, which caused many to feel targeted and unsafe as pro-Israel and Jewish students.”

“Associated Students UCSB should represent all students on this campus, acknowledging and actively listening to all of their constituents,” the group said in a statement. “It is not a place that should allow for any one group of students, regardless of political affiliation or opinion, to take control of its meetings and silence the voices of other students.”

SSI accused members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) of taking part in the protest. May told the Journal that she saw SJP members participate in the disruption but didn’t know if they had organized it. As of press time, neither UCSB’s SJP nor the Associated Student Senate had responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

Rabbi Evan Goodman, executive director of Santa Barbara’s Hillel, told the Journal in a Facebook message, “The disruption of the opening meeting of the newly elected senate was offensive and disrespectful, and demonstrates how divisive BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) is to the campus climate. We urge student leaders to work for the good of the entire student body.”

University of Oregon Student Government Passes BDS Resolution


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

University of Oregon’s student government passed a resolution on May 23 calling on the university to divest from companies that do business with Israel.

The resolution, which was authored by Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER) and endorsed by the campus Multicultural Center and Young Democratic Socialists, among others, called for the University of Oregon to stop “funding the business of state-sanctioned violence.”

“This resolution would set a precedent to call on the rest of the UO community to divest from companies and funds that are complicit in Israeli settler colonialism and the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” the resolution states.

Debate on the bill lasted for three hours before it passed by a margin of 12 to 6 votes.

SUPER celebrated the resolution’s passage in a statement on Facebook.

“The resolution will ensure that ASUO [Associated Students of the University of Oregon] funds do not go to corporations which are complicit in and actively promoting the human rights abuses and breaches of international law inflicted on Palestinians by the Israeli state,” the organization said. “As a university, it is time that we take a stand to reject colonialist oppression in all forms – and today UO students showed that this is possible.”

Ducks for Israel condemned the resolution on Facebook.

“We are saddened by the lack of research done by the ASUO to understand that this resolution is one-sided and hurtful to many students on this campus,” the organization said.

Ducks for Israel later added that they will be working to educate people about the Israel/Palestine conflict and sent an ultimatum to the student government.

“We will hold you accountable for the many concerns we had that you said would not occur following the BDS resolution,” the organization stated. “We will not stand idly by when it comes to the safety and inclusion of our students on this campus and we hope you will not either.”

University of Oregon President Michael Shill said in a statement that while the resolution did not fully embrace the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) tactics, it is still against the student government’s “mission to support the interests of all students in a diverse community.”

“The University of Oregon is committed to the principle of inclusion, and over the last three years each school, college and administrative unit on our campus has focused – through the IDEAL framework and Diversity Actions Plans — on efforts to enhance and strengthen policies and practices that make this campus welcoming and inclusive to all,” Shill said. “I believe the ASUO resolution is inconsistent with these values.”

There is a chance that the resolution could be struck down by the ASUO Constitutional Court, as student government resolutions have to be viewpoint neutral and it could be argued that this one wasn’t.

The full results of BDS resolution votes on college campuses from 2005-2018 can be seen on the Jewish Virtual Library’s website.

This Girl Is On Fire


Israel's Netta poses during the news conference after winning the Grand Final of Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, Portugal, May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

The evening that Israeli singer Netta Barzilai won Eurovision 2018, my son and I began to watch the biopic “Pelé: Birth of a Legend,” the early life of the renowned African-Brazilian soccer player.

Pelé grew up poor in 1950s Brazil and faced continual racism from Europeans and lighter-skinned Brazilians. But from an early age, his parents taught him to face life with dignity: “Don’t feel doubt or shame,” his father tells him in the film. “Have the courage to embrace who you really are.”

Pelé revolutionized soccer for Brazilians — inspiring a pride in the country’s uniqueness. “We don’t all play the same,” says a coach in the film, “but that’s what makes us who we are.”

A similar message of embracing both excellence and difference can be felt in a video that my son, Alexander, and I stumbled upon a few weeks ago. Angelica Hale, 9, won the “Golden Buzzer” on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” last year for her magnificent rendition of Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire.”

I must confess: I’m not a watcher of talent shows. But I have personally found this video deeply inspiring, even more so after reading that Angelica, who is part Filipino, had to undergo a life-saving kidney transplant at age 4. Fearless and resolute, she both belted out and personified the lyrics:

“She’s got both feet on the ground;

And she’s burning it down.”

This is feminism, I told Alexander. A young girl can get up on stage and make a song even more layered and soulful than the original recording (sorry, Alicia). Moreover, achieving something great is far more empowering than playing the victim. Angelica, like Pelé, has no interest in being a victim. Both don’t want the world to feel sorry for them: They want the world to love them for their unique, outstanding gifts.

“I love my country,” she told an audience that has been taught to hate her country.

Somehow, 25-year-old Netta was able to combine all of these sentiments into a magical song, “Toy,” and performance that, despite itself, took Europe’s breath away.

“Look at me, I’m a beautiful creature;

I don’t care about your modern-day preachers.”

“Toy” is also a song about female empowerment, but perhaps even more, it’s about owning your individuality. “Thank you for choosing different, for accepting differences between us, for celebrating diversity,” Netta told the massive Eurovision audience in her acceptance speech.

But Netta clearly has no patience for the victimhood part of today’s #MeToo politics: “I’m not your toy, you stupid boy.” Nor does she have time for an identity politics that has no space for Jews. “I love my country,” she told an audience that has been taught to hate her country. “Next time, in Jerusalem.”

Whether the Europeans who voted for her got the deeper message is less important than the fact that they voted for Israel, despite every effort made by BDSers to prevent this. And Israel won by doing what Israel does best: bringing light into the world. Teaching the politically correct that individuality, creativity — inspiration — is not politically incorrect. That in fact, not becoming what others want us to be is our greatest strength.

Netta, like Pelé and Angelica, doesn’t want the world’s pity — or the world’s harassment. In fact, she included what could be construed as a word of warning for haters: “Wonder woman, don’t you ever forget; You’re divine and he’s about to regret.”

In the Pelé film, a Swedish coach calls the darker-skinned Brazilians “abnormal.” Israelis — Jews — have been called that and much worse. We don’t need to fabricate victimhood — but we also have no desire to wallow in it.

The Jewish people are not the world’s toy, to be taken out and abused when it’s having a bad day. “Have the courage to embrace who you really are,” Pelé’s father tells him in the film. It’s well past time that Jews did precisely that. Enough begging the left’s “social justice warriors” to include us.

Not surprisingly, these tolerant, compassionate folks were quick to try to shame Netta after she won, bizarrely calling her performance “cultural appropriation.” And some of Europe’s leftist pols saw Netta’s victory as a great opportunity to call for renewed boycotts against Israel. (So is “justice” their motivation — or jealousy? I get so confused with these compassionate types.)

Netta is not responding to the haters.  And why should she? She’s too busy “lighting up the night.” World, get used to it.


Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic.

Could The Iran Deal And BDS Hamper Israel’s Chances At Eurovision Competition?


Screenshot from Facebook.

Each year, hundreds of millions of people tune in to one of television’s most-watched non-sporting events: the Eurovision Song Contest.

Dozens of countries participating in the event submit an original song that is then performed on live television, with an expert jury and viewers voting for their favorite artist.

Though less well-known in the United States, the competition has come to represent European unity (or division, depending on who you ask) and also a symbol of the LGBT movement.

“Eurovision is one of the most popular television shows in Europe,” said Dr. Dean Vuletic, who first saw the song contest while he was studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1999.

Dr. Vuletic is the author of “Postwar Europe and the Eurovision Song Contest” (London: Bloomsbury, 2018) and a professor of history at the University of Vienna, Austria. The book, which was published earlier this year, provides an extensive look at the origins of Eurovision and how it evolved in parallel to developments in international relations.

“[Eurovision] has been very popular since its inception in 1956, and since then it has been held every year without fail,” he explained to The Media Line. “It has also reflected social and political changes in Europe.”

This year, the massively popular music contest being held in Lisbon Portugal, is taking place during a political climate marked by heightened tensions in the Middle East following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw Washington from the Iran nuclear deal. When President Trump announced the move, he specifically cited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation last week which proved that Tehran had not come clean about its atomic activities.

Concurrently, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement was ramping up efforts to influence Europeans to vote against Israel’s entry, Netta Barzilai. With her highly creative song “Toy” already a hit across Europe, the Israeli pop star has risen to the top of the contest rankings (in third place as of this writing).

However, many are concerned the tense political climate following the U.S.’ pull-out from the Iran deal, coupled with a growing push by BDS proponents, could hamper her chances at winning.

“Many people watching are not interested in the music,” said Moshe Morad, an ethnomusicologist and the director of Israel’s public service music radio station 88FM. Morad previously served as the head of the Israeli delegation to the Eurovision.

“Last year I went as a guest of the Israeli delegation to Kiev,” he recalled to The Media Line. Just after [then-Israeli contender Imri Ziv] made it through to the semi-finals, many people in Europe were bombarded by messages from the BDS…and it’s happening again this year as well.”

Whereas some fear that BDS campaigners will influence voting, others are downplaying the role of politics in what many consider to be the highlight of the European cultural calendar.

“The BDS was here, is here and it will always be here,” said Amnon Szpektor, the Head of Press for the Israeli delegation at this year’s Eurovision. “If it were not Netta, [they would be going after] someone else,” he contended to The Media Line. “Netta Barzilai has a chance to win, we’re still in second or third place in the rankings.”

When asked whether he believed politics could influence the final outcome, Szpektor was adamant it would not. “Positive politics are involved [in the Eurovision]. People do vote for the countries they feel closest to, culturally speaking. It’s not surprising that countries with a similar language, and who have existed side by side for hundreds of years, would vote for each other.

“But there is no hate,” he concluded, noting that those in Israel convinced that people would vote against the Jewish State for political reasons were “mistaken.”

“People really like her message and her song.”

Dr. Vuletic agrees, telling The Media Line that while “nationalism is still essential to the contest,” the political aspects have been exaggerated and the impact of the voting blocs “has been minimized since 2009 with the reforms and the introduction of an expert jury.

“The situation [with the Iran deal and Israel] is still not severe enough for it to have an impact,” he added, going so far to suggest that “if Israel were to be attacked, that could [even] influence a sympathy vote for Israel.”

Historically, Dr. Vuletic conveyed, Israeli entries have won “in a climate of peace,” pointing to past winners Dana International and Izhar Cohen, both of whom won the contest in times of relative quiet.

Still, in recent days Barzilai has been surpassed by a new fan favorite: namely, Cyprus’ Eleni Foureira, who stole the show during the first round of semi-finals Tuesday night.

Szpektor seemed unsurprised that the representative from Cyprus had surpassed Barzilai in the rankings, as her appearance and performance were more in line with conventional standards of beauty.

“Netta doesn’t sound like anybody else and loves herself,” the public relations manager affirmed.

“It’s 2018, we deserve someone like her.”

The finals of the Eurovision Song Contest, which will crown the competition’s winner, will take place Saturday night.

This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Giro D’Italia in Israel: People of the Bike?


Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev poses with Israeli cyclists from the Giro d’Italia. Photo courtesy of Yad Vashem.

More than 600 foreign journalists from every corner of the globe flew to Israel last week, but unlike other mass invasions of the international press, it had nothing to do with war or diplomacy.

They were in Jerusalem to cover the first leg of the Giro d’Italia, one of the cycling world’s top three Grand Tours, along with the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. It was the first time that any segment of the three Grand Tours has taken place outside Europe, and the first time an Israeli team has taken part in the Giro.

Known as the “Big Start,” the Israeli segment, from May 4-6, was by far the most prestigious sporting event in the country’s history.

The timing, just days prior to the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding according to the secular calendar, amounted to a public relations coup at a time when many around the world are trying to vilify and delegitimize Israel. In fact, pro-Palestinian activists accused the Israeli government of “sports-washing” — attempting to deflect the world’s attention away from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and weekly Palestinian “March of Return” demonstrations along the Gaza border.

Late last year, 120 pro-Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, sports clubs and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists pleaded with the Giro’s administrators not to hold the event in Israel. Doing so “will both cover up Israel’s military occupation and discrimination against Palestinians and increase Israel’s sense of impunity, encouraging continued denial of Palestinians’ U.N.-stipulated rights,” the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP) wrote in a statement.

Israeli government officials and the Giro’s Israeli organizers rejected these accusations and expressed hope that the race would spur a wave of tourism and goodwill toward Israel.

The officials readily acknowledged that Israel, a small arid country with a fledgling bike culture, was an unlikely place to host a cycling Grand Tour.

“This project has been created against all odds,” Ran Margaliot, co-founder of Israel’s professional team, the Israel Cycling Academy (ICA), told reporters at a press briefing. “It’s not normal to have pro-cycling in Israel. Not even regular cycling.”

Despite the presence of many recreational bicycle riders, cycling has long been considered an amateur sport in Israel. That changed in 2015 when Margaliot and businessman Ron Baron launched the ICA, Israel’s first-ever professional cycling team. Its goal was to enable the country’s best cyclists to compete in the international arena. Less than three years later, Israel was invited to compete in the Giro.

The team could not have achieved its goals without the financial backing and moral support of Sylvan Adams, a Canadian billionaire and competitive cyclist who made aliyah in 2016. The Big Start cost $33 million, most of it paid for by Adams. It was Adams who lobbied Mauro Vegni, the Giro’s director, to bring a segment of the race to Israel.

“I don’t think he thought I was being serious,” Adams said of their meeting in Italy two years ago. “I asked him to come to Israel, and he saw a beautiful country with good roads, with a cycling culture. He saw that Israel is democratic, open, tolerant, free and safe.”

Adams, 58, a physically fit man with white hair whose eyes sparkle with enthusiasm when he talks about Israel and cycling, recalled that Vegni began to mull the idea of expanding the “Giro brand” outside Europe.

“I asked the Giro director to come to Israel, and he saw a beautiful country with good roads, with a cycling culture. He saw that Israel is democratic, open, tolerant, free and safe.” — Sylvan Adams 

“It took a whole year of negotiations,” Adams said of the deal, which the two men sealed a year ago.

The businessman said nearly 1 billion people watched the Giro last year, so hosting its first leg in Israel “is like inviting 1 billion visitors to Israel. We’re inviting them to know us better. To see our beautiful country and our warmth. They will almost certainly be surprised and impressed. This is not what they were expecting.”

Adams said few people outside Israel realize that nearly 21 percent of Israeli citizens are Arab. “There are Arabs in the [Israel Defense Forces], Arab judges, including one serving on the Supreme Court. There are Arab policemen and Arab ambassadors,” he said.

Adams, who has a daughter living in Los Angeles and a second about to move to L.A., said he lobbied to start the Giro in Israel for three reasons: to get Israelis excited about cycling, to showcase Israel as a tourist destination and to bring top Israeli athletes to the Grand Tour.

“This is the first time we have two horses in the race,” he said, referring to the two Israeli cyclists, Guy Sagiv and Guy Niv, who earned a place on the team’s international roster of Giro cyclists.

Prior to the race, Israeli Tourism Minister Director-General Amir Halevi predicted that it would immediately inject “tens of millions” of shekels into the local economy and that the media exposure would lead to record levels of incoming tourism in the future.

Some 3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017, a 25 percent increase over 2016. Every 100,000 additional tourists leads to the creation of 4,000 direct jobs and 3,700 indirect jobs, according to the tourism ministry.

The Giro provided the ministry with the impetus to promote Israel as a sports tourism destination, a new marketing angle for a country known for its history, holy sites and culture.

“Given that Israel is a relatively small country, hikers and bikers can enjoy the experience of desert, mountains, valleys, urban terrain and more, all within a few hours’ distance from each other covering the entire country,” the ministry said in a press release.

For members of the ICA, the Giro was less about promoting tourism than about drawing Israelis to recreational and competitive cycling.

Days before the Big Start, the Tel Aviv municipality announced that it is building the Sylvan Adams Velodrome, the Middle East’s most state-of-the-art indoor cycling center, according to the city. Once completed, it will meet Olympic standards. Adams hopes the 2021 World Junior Championships for track cycling will take place at the velodrome.

Although there were many memorable moments just prior and during the race, the sight of cyclists from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates riding through the streets of Israel filled Israelis with pride and the hope that peace with its neighbors might just be possible. Many shared photos of the teams on social media.

The day before the start of the race, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Center, hosted participants of the Israel Cycling Academy and leadership of the Giro d’Italia at an event posthumously bestowing Commemorative Citizenship of the State of Israel on the late Gino Bartali, a three-time Giro d’Italia champion who helped save hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust.

In 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Bartali as a Righteous Among the Nations. His name is engraved on the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations on the Mount of Remembrance. A devout Catholic, Bartali acted as a courier for the Italian resistance against the Nazis and distributed forged documents. A modest man, he refused to speak about his deeds.

Looking back on the week, Baron called the Giro Big Start “the biggest present we can give Israel for its 70th birthday. It is a miracle, and so is this team.”

Michele Chabin is an award-winning journalist who reports from Jerusalem.

Pro-Israel Organizations Call On NYU President to Investigate Student Organizations Who Signed Anti-Israel Statement


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

StandWithUs and The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law issued a letter to New York University President Andrew Hamilton calling on him to investigate the over 50 clubs on campus who signed a statement calling for boycotts against Israel.

The anti-Israel statement, which was signed by the likes of NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) not only called for boycotts of Israeli goods, but also boycotts of pro-Israel clubs on campus due to supposed Israeli “occupation.”

“This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe), during which more than 700,000 Palestinians were violently expelled from their homes by Zionist militias, and of the establishment of the State of Israel, which continues its campaign of ethnic cleansing of Palestine to this day in the form of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights and brutal siege of Gaza,” the statement reads. “We support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement for Palestinian human rights as it is a non-violent method of resisting Israeli apartheid from abroad. We call on NYU to divest its holdings from companies and funds that are complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

The letter from StandWithUs and the Brandeis Center denounced the statement for how it targets Jews.

“There are violations of NYU policy here, and conduct foreseeably undertaken in support of this statement could potentially violate state and federal law,” the letter states. “Moreover, it indicates a reprehensible joint effort to marginalize and stigmatize the Jewish student community at your university. We urge your administration to investigate this matter, and if violations of student conduct rules or applicable laws are found, discipline responsible organizations accordingly.”

The letter pointed out that the statement violates NYU policy, which prohibits discrimination of any kinds, and could violate state law, which prevents boycotts of people of “national origin.” There could also be a federal law violation, as the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights stated in 2004 that Jewish students were protected from discrimination.

“This anti-Zionist statement, if not properly addressed by NYU’s administration, could create a hostile environment for students of Jewish and/or Israeli backgrounds on campus,” the letter states.

The letter concluded by calling for Hamilton to investigate the statement, denounce it and then provide training on how such anti-Zionism could lead to virulent anti-Semitism.

In an April 19 town hall, Hamilton condemned the BDS movement.

“The university will not participate in boycotting of academics based in Israel. We believe in academic freedom and the free flow of ideas,” Hamilton said. “Boycotting is antithetical to that vision.”

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

Don’t shoot the messenger: On Natalie Portman


When the Genesis Prize Foundation announced last November that the Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman would be the recipient of this year’s prize — often described as the “Jewish Nobel” — it offered Portman the highest praise:

“Without a doubt, she is a role model for millions of young Jews around the world.”

That compliment now seems both prescient and alarming.

Since Portman has decided to reject the prize and boycott the ceremony in protest of Israel government policies and practices — saying she did not wish to attend an event at which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be present — what must those millions of young Jews think now? And what does it mean that the most high-profile cultural censure of Israel to date has not come from the invidious Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, but from one of our own?

It is worse than a pity that Portman chose to rebuke Israel with her boycott. As Jane Eisner wrote in The Forward, couldn’t she have gone to the ceremony and given a killer human rights speech in Netanyahu’s face? If she wishes to protest Israeli policies, I wish she would say which ones. Or does she want us and the world to think the entire Israeli government, despite a robust democratic opposition, is a total disgrace?

But OK, I get it. Portman didn’t want her acceptance of the prize or her presence at the event to be seen as an endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. As a citizen of Israel, she’s entitled to her dissent. That’s what Israeli democracy is about. We can be proud that one of Israel’s democratic strengths is that it can tolerate criticism.

That problem is the collapse of peace talks and the idea and promise of a two-state solution.

At this point, I’m far less interested in whether Portman’s decision to refuse the Genesis Prize makes her a hero or a traitor. Scores of outspoken Jews in the opposing camps have issued their views over the past week, exacerbating an already painful situation. I don’t really care what your personal politics are, when an Israeli Jew rejects an Israeli honor, it should hurt. It signifies that the Jewish world has a big problem on its hands, far more disruptive than Jewish disunity. Portman isn’t the problem, she is a reflection of that problem and a harbinger of how much worse it could get.

That problem is the collapse of peace talks and the idea and promise of a two-state solution.

Yes, the two-state solution. Remember that old thing? You should, because it’s the only thing that could end the terrible occupation that has been a stain on Israeli and Jewish consciences for more than five decades. And, because the alternative to a two-state solution spells political and moral catastrophe for the Israel we love.

Maintaining the status quo — the current one-state solution — means more and more boycotts. It means international isolation. It means more and more Jews turning away from the Jewish homeland because they can’t conscience a triumphalist Israel over a virtuous one. The alternative to a two-state solution is personified by Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement and an enemy to the idea of a Jewish state, who said: “I can sense our South Africa moment coming closer.”

I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that South African apartheid didn’t end with a two-state solution. (Never mind that the comparison between Israel and South Africa is intellectually unsound; most people aren’t educated enough about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to know the difference, and as we all know, even fake news gets traction.)

Portman may not be the tipping point, but the tipping point may come if “millions of young Jews around the world” choose to follow in her footsteps and alienate the Jewish state when there are millions of reasons to love it. The tipping point is coming when the actions of those young Jews will be hard to distinguish from the actions of the BDS movement. Be angry about that outcome, but don’t dismiss it.

Whatever one feels about Portman’s decision or the “liberal American Jews” who might disappear in a generation, we should care about the reasons why they would want to distance themselves from Israel in the first place.

We should also want to find a way to get them back.

Entertainment Executives Sign Letter Denouncing BDS Threat to Sue Netflix


Screenshot from Facebook.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is threatening to sue Netflix if they don’t drop the Israeli television show Fauda. In response, over 50 entertainment executives have signed a letter saying that they stand with Netflix.

The letter, issued by the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), an organization that is aimed at countering BDS, denounced BDS’ targeting of Netflix as a “blatant attempt at artistic censorship.”

“The BDS movement seeks to isolate Israel in the cultural, academic, economic, and diplomatic arenas. Its myopic and simplistic anti-Israel worldview is threatened by the worldwide exposure Netflix has generated for Fauda’s nuanced portrayal of issues related to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict,” the letter states. “This worldview was evident in the letter BDS wrote to Netflix, in which they continued their habit of using inaccurate and inflammatory language, such as ‘colonialist’ and ‘apartheid,’ to describe Israel. As always, they assign every evil imaginable to Israel, while absolving the Palestinians of any and all responsibility or agency.”

The letter added that the show provides a balanced portrayal of all sides of the Israel-Palestine issue to help foster dialogue on the issue, but BDS is attempting to shut down that dialogue.

“Attempts to block true understanding and instead force a black and white, good versus evil view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict upon the world are nothing new for BDS. “In threatening to sue Netflix for distributing a television series with which they disagree, they have simply taken those attempts to the next level of absurdity.”

Among the executives to sign the letter included Chairman and CEO of Downtown Records Josh Deutsch and Orly Adelson, president of Orly Adelson Productions.

The BDS letter attacking the show called it “racist propaganda for the Israeli occupying army and displays aggression towards the Palestinian people, and the process it is leading for freedom and independence.”

Fauda, which is Arabic for “chaos”, centers on the undercover Israeli Special Forces operating in Judea and Samaria to track down a Hamas terrorist. The second season is set to premiere on Netflix on May 24, although it has already premiered in Israel. The characters in Fauda have become hot topics in Israeli culture and the show is starting to catch on in the United States as well.

Lior Raz, the main actor and co-creator of the show, told The Washington Post, “It allows people to see the complexity of the conflict and to understand that everyone has a backstory, on both sides, Israelis and Palestinians.”

Raz added that he and his co-creator, journalist Avi Issachoroff, will change scenes if the Arab actors think their characters are being wrongly depicted.

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 Act.il 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


1.

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.

Why?

  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.

2.

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.

3.

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 WisPolitics.com.

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 themedialine.org]

According to Israeli press reports, the proposed list includes large American companies such as Coca-Cola, Caterpillar, Priceline.com, 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 DailyStormer.com. 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 robe@jewishjournal.com. 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.

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