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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BDS bill headed to California Senate floor next week


As early as late next week, the California Senate could vote on a bill signaling the California legislature’s disapproval of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, according to Guy Strahl, the legislative director for Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, who wrote the bill.

A 6-0 vote on Aug. 11 by the seven-member Senate’s Appropriations Committee cleared the way for the bill to go to the floor. Sen. Jim Beall was absent for the vote.

Though Strahl said Bloom is still looking for a Senate floor manager, the legislator intends to put the measure before the upper chamber as soon as possible. Because of procedural time limits, Aug. 18 is the first day it could see a vote, he said.

The bill mandates that companies contracting with the state certify that any policy they might have boycotting a nation recognized by the U.S., including but not limited to Israel, does not violate state and federal civil rights law.

Prior to the Aug. 11 vote, the committee determined the bill would cost upwards of $370,000 to implement in its first year on the books, a price tag that sent it to the so-called “suspense file,” a waiting list of bills deemed expensive enough to merit further review. Since that determination, an amendment made at Bloom’s request significantly reduced the projected cost of the measure, Strahl said.

In its previous form, the bill forwarded complaints about boycott policies directly to the attorney general. Bloom’s amendment drops that mandatory review and allows civil rights complaints to be vetted through relevant state agencies, such as the Department of General Services (DGS), which overseas contractors.

The measure has faced a long and winding road through various committees in both houses of the legislature. Consideration on the Senate floor would be among the final steps to passage. If the Senate approves the bill, it will head back to the Assembly, where it has already passed once, to be considered again.

New GOP platform language removes two-state solution


The Republican Party platform will likely reject the idea of a two-state solution, a pillar of U.S. policy under both previous Democratic and Republican administrations, according to a platform draft pending the approval of the Republican Party’s Platform Committee.

“We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier,” the platform’s language on Israel, approved by a subcommittee in Cleveland on Monday, reads. “Support for Israel is an expression of Americanism, and it is the responsibility of our government to advance policies that reflect Americans’ strong desire for a relationship with no daylight between America and Israel.”

The platform draft makes no mention of the two-state solution or reference to the creation of a Palestinian state in a possible peace settlement.

The platform also recognizes that “the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (“BDS”) is anti-Semitic in nature and seeks to destroy Israel” and calls for federal legislation “to thwart actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel, or persons or entities doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories, in a discriminatory manner.”

The amendment was proposed by GOP delegate Alan Clemmons, a South Carolina state representative, and approved by a 14-2 vote.

In the 2012 platform, the Republicans supported for “Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with secure, defensible borders,” and advocated for “two democratic states – Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine – living in peace and security.”

As previously “>lobbying for the adoption of the current language, told Jewish Insider. “We wholeheartedly endorse the new Israel plank and we hope and pray and are working to ensure that the full committee adopts the subcommittee’s language as well. The new language is much more in line with GOP voters – and stands far more clearly with Israel’s sovereignty and security.”

“Pro-Israel voters will be confronted with a very, very clear choice in 2016,” added Ballabon.

The Democratic Party’s platform,  ” target=”_blank”>Subscribe here.


Fight BDS with a pro-Palestinian narrative


After attending two anti-Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) conferences in New York City over two days last week – one organized by Israel’s Mission to the United Nations and one by the Conference of Presidents – I have some clarity about how to combat this demon.

Yes, demon. I know there’s a “cool crowd” in the Jewish community that underplays the BDS threat and argues that by fighting it so loudly and directly, we give it too much attention. That crowd often reminds us that, so far, the BDS movement has failed to inflict any real economic damage on Israel, and that, if anything, investment in Israel is booming. 

This economic news may be comforting, but I’ve come to appreciate that it’s a big mistake to view BDS strictly by the numbers. The purpose of the movement goes far beyond hurting Israel's economy – its core mission is to poison Israel’s image.

“It is working far better and spreading into the mainstream much faster than we had anticipated,” BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti said in an interview last week with Bloomberg. 

What is spreading into the mainstream is an orchestrated propaganda campaign that brands Israel as an anti-peace, all-powerful colonialist bully oppressing the helpless Palestinians.

It is the call to boycott that damages Israel, whether or not any actual boycott takes place. That’s why the boycott strategy is a brilliant PR maneuver. It reinforces the malignant narrative that Israel is the evil bully worthy of being boycotted.

If you're pro-Israel and anti-BDS, how do you combat such a strong narrative?

There’s only one way: You must reframe the enemy. Who hurts the Palestinians most? It is their corrupt leaders who glorify terrorism, who teach their people to hate Jews, who have rejected every offer of a Palestinian state and who pilfer humanitarian aid for their fancy villas, private jets and Swiss bank accounts.

Listen to Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Ayyad, who knows all about Palestinian corruption. In an interview last week with Arutz Sheva, an Israeli media network, Ayyad noted that, since the Palestinian Authority (PA) was created in 1994, Arabs living under the organization “only hear about corruption from it.”

In its entire existence, Ayyad asserted, the PA “hasn’t built a single kindergarten” for its people.

Ayyad is simply confirming what many of us have long figured out: The corrupt PA, just like its BDS mouthpiece, is out to crush Israel rather than assist the Palestinian people. 

This is the Achilles heel of the BDS movement: It has done absolutely nothing to promote peace or help improve Palestinian lives.

Anti-BDS activists must take advantage of this BDS hypocrisy to expose the movement as a fraud. Even more, they should create a counter movement to do precisely what BDS has failed to do – help Palestinians. 

We can call the movement, “Boycott Hate-Embrace Peace.” 

Among other things, this movement should hold Palestinian leaders accountable to their people.

For example, it could lobby the U.S. Congress to freeze aid to the PA until it can verify that the funds are going directly to the people. Call it the “PA Transparency Bill.” In addition, a special budget would be allocated to fund initiatives that promote normalization and peaceful co-existence.

The movement should enlist Palestinians like Bassem Ayyad to appear at U.S. college campuses to testify against the PA’s corrupt leaders and to promote the “Boycott Hate- Embrace Peace” movement. These testimonials should run as ads in college papers and in mainstream and social media to disseminate how the PA and BDS have abandoned the Palestinians.

In the U.S., one prominent fighter against BDS already is none other than presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who wrote last year in a letter to Jewish leaders:

“BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict. This is not the path to peace. From Congress and state legislatures to boardrooms and classrooms, we need to engage all people of good faith… in explaining why the BDS campaign is counterproductive to the pursuit of peace and harmful to Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Exposing BDS as harmful to Palestinians is the best way to ambush the movement and put it on the defensive. And if we get lucky, it may even be good for peace.

Name-and-Shame BDS posters stir backlash at SDSU, UCLA


A planned appearance by pro-Israel provocateur David Horowitz ignited a firestorm at San Diego State University in advance of a May 5 lecture there by the right-wing activist.

Posters distributed on campus late last month by Horowitz’s organization called out by name seven SDSU student activists, alleging they have “allied themselves with Palestinian terrorists to perpetrate BDS and Jew Hatred.” Similar posters naming individual students have appeared in recent weeks on the UCLA campus.

On April 27, protesters at SDSU demanding a condemnation of the posters blocked the school’s president, Elliot Hirshman, from leaving campus in a police car until he spoke with them.

In a video circulated by the SDSU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Hirshman engages the activists in a heated exchange, at close quarters, flanked by security personnel.

“We’re talking about people saying they support the boycott, divestment and sanction of Israel — that is a view, and others might share that view who might be terrorists,” Hirshman says in the video, laying out how he understood the posters.

“I don’t think that is saying our students are terrorists,” he says. “If there was a statement that said our students were terrorists and they weren’t, I would certainly condemn that.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that protesters allowed Hirshman to leave only after he apologized for any hurt he might have caused.

Similar notices have appeared on five California college campuses as part of a campaign by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The posters identify alleged SJP activists and other students aligned with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

At UCLA, posters named 16 students and professors — the most of any of the posters on the five campuses.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block took a different approach from Hirshman: “No student should be compared to a terrorist for holding a political opinion,” he wrote in an April 15 email to individuals named on the list.

“I and my administration will continue to speak out against Islamaphobia and ethnic bias,” he wrote. “I encourage you to do the same.”

Days later, when UCLA Vice Chancellor Jerry Kang sent an email to the campus community calling the posters “a focused, personalized intimidation,” a law firm saying it represented Horowitz sent Kang a letter demanding he retract his “malicious and defamatory claims,” the UCLA Daily Bruin reported.

Rahim Kurwa, a sociology graduate student at UCLA and BDS activist who was named on the posters, praised the administration’s response.

“We’ve been meeting with them, and I think that they’re making progress,” he told the Jewish Journal.

Kurwa said that while he doesn’t feel his safety is threatened, what Horowitz is “doing is not that far from an incitement to violence.”

“It’s not hard to figure out where my office is on campus,” he said. “That is an issue.”

Kurwa added that posters traceable to Horowitz are a frequent occurrence on campus — he estimated they have surfaced at UCLA about four times in the past year.

The most recent poster campaign, which defined BDS as “a Hamas-inspired genocidal campaign to destroy Israel,” also hit three other University of California campuses — Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Berkeley.

The SDSU College Republicans, the group scheduled to host Horowitz on Thursday, said it has no intention of canceling the event in light of potential disruptions.

In a statement, the organization said it was “not aware of the flyers being posted on campus and does not know who is responsible for posting them.”

The group added, “We will not be silenced by the upcoming protests.”

Meanwhile, on May 2, Hirshman and other administrators met with members of SJP and other student leaders to discuss the posters.

A wrap-up of the meeting emailed to the Jewish Journal by an SDSU spokesperson concluded that the administration and SJP, working with the student senate, will “undertake a review of university policies to ensure we are balancing freedom of expression and protection from harassment.”

SDSU’s chapter of Hillel, the Jewish student organization, rebuked the posters.

“We strongly condemn any efforts to demonize any racial or religious group, as the inflammatory language of the flyers does,” SDSU Hillel Director Jackie Tolley wrote in a statement.

Horowitz did not respond to a request for comment before this article went to press. But in a press release on a website affiliated with the David Horowitz Freedom Center, he explained his motivation.

“We’ve decided to get up close and personal with merchants of Jew hatred on our campuses,” he said.

Anti-BDS bill escapes legislative gridlock


For more than three months, a bill that would counter the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was stalled in California’s legislature. It was hamstrung not because of its content, but because of partisan disagreement between the California Legislative Jewish Caucus (CLJC) and the bill’s author, Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach).

But on April 13 and April 19, a virtually identical bill authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), a member of the Jewish caucus, made its first two significant steps to becoming law, passing the Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review and the Committee on Judiciary. On April 13 it passed the accountability and administrative review committee with a 5-1 vote and three abstentions, despite opposition from the committee’s chairwoman, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). It passed the judiciary committee by a unanimous 10-0 vote.

Assembly Bill 2844, also known as the California Combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel Act of 2016, would force the state to stop doing business, in most instances, with companies that participate in a boycott against Israel, which is California’s 18th-largest export partner. Which companies or how much money and investments might be affected has not yet been determined, but a fiscal review will be done before the bill reaches the Assembly floor for a vote, which still depends on passage in the Appropriations Committee. 

“I believe that this policy is going to be embraced by both the Assembly and the [Senate], and it will pass, but I wouldn’t want to predict what the numbers will be,” Bloom said.

He added that there remains much work to do before AB 2844 becomes law — a law that could possibly become the strongest legislation in any state to counter the BDS movement.

Bloom had previously agreed to jointly author another bill, AB 1552, with Allen, who first launched the anti-BDS effort in the Assembly in January. Although that bill gained support, it ultimately went nowhere when Bloom and the CLJC determined that an anti-BDS bill would have a better chance of passing if spearheaded by Democrats — who have a large majority in the legislature — and pushed by the Jewish caucus.

In late March, when the Journal broke the story of the partisan battle over AB 1552 and Bloom’s plan to separately introduce a bill with the same language, Allen opposed what he said was a “very transparent play to gain credit.” Now, though, the Orange County Republican has agreed to be a principal co-author on AB 2844 and applauds its passage in committee.

“We’ve got a big bipartisan win on our hands,” Allen said. 

Asked whether he was upset about losing control over his own bill, he replied, “Absolutely not.”

“Look, legislation is a process, and at the end of the day, what’s most important is not who gets credit but that good policy is enacted into law,” he said.

He echoed a cautiously optimistic tone about the future in emphasizing that pro-Israel advocates shouldn’t assume AB 2844 will sail through the legislature.

“Passing strong, anti-BDS legislation in California is a journey with many committee hearings and floor votes ahead,” Allen said. “We’re going to need all of our partners on both sides of the aisle to stand together.”

Bloom puts forth California anti-BDS bill in Assembly


State Rep. Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) has officially introduced legislation in Sacramento aimed at combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Assembly Bill (AB) 2844 is titled, “California Combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel Act of 2016.” Introduced April 4, it prohibits public contracts with companies participating in a boycott of Israel.

Bloom’s bill states that California companies’ participation in boycotts against Israel undermines the relationship between Israel and California, and it is thus in the interest of the state to not enter into contracts with companies boycotting the Jewish state. Israel is California’s 18th largest export partner. 

Its introduction is not without controversy. Bloom had agreed to co-author a similar anti-BDS bill introduced several months ago by State Rep. Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) before he withdrew his support. 

Bloom drew up his own bill because, as he said, he believed a bill drafted with the support of the California Jewish Legislative Caucus — which had not signed on to Allen’s legislation — would have a greater chance of passage. The two bills are virtually identical, the Journal reported. 

Boycotts of Israel are part of the larger BDS movement, which opposes Israel’s activity in the West Bank and has gained momentum on college campuses, in the University of California system in particular. Bloom, for his part, has previously spoken out against the BDS movement at UCLA. 

Bloom is a member of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.

American Jewish Committee (AJC) applauded the bill. “AJC commends Assemblymember Bloom and all members of the California legislature who take a clear stand against BDS,” AJC Regional Director Janna Weinstein Smith said in a statement on April 4. “The aim of the BDS movement is not a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but to delegitimize the existence of Israel, our democratic ally in the Middle East.”

Bloom’s bill likely will have its first committee hearing later this month, a press release said.

The country BDS doesn’t want Oscar winners to see


Last week, two groups affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement took out a full-page ad in the L.A. Times excoriating the Israeli Government for offering an all-expenses-paid trip to the Holy Land for Oscar nominees. Leveling the false, but oft-repeated charge that Israel is an apartheid state, they called on the nominees to turn down the opportunity to visit.

Many countries run public relations campaigns in the U.S. to burnish their national brands and promote tourism. Only Israel – the one democracy and America’s strongest ally in the region – is systematically singled out and criticized for it. 

While turning a blind eye to the horrific human right’s records of virtually every other country in our region – from Iran’s jailing of journalists and murder of political dissidents, to the Syrian regime’s slaughter of its own people, to Yemen’s brutal repression of religious minorities – the BDS Movement looks for any opportunity to go after Israel. 

This Movement’s goal is clear and simple: to demonize, delegitimize, and ultimately, destroy the world’s only Jewish state through economic warfare and vile lies – the same tactics long employed by anti-Semites to attack the Jewish people. Instead of pursuing peace and justice as BDS activists claim, these groups sow the seeds for hate and conflict, publicly rejecting a two-state solution and calling for Israel to be removed from the map. 

The ad raises the question: why exactly is the BDS Movement so desperate to keep people from seeing Israel with their own eyes? 

Perhaps it is because the boycotts and slander of BDS cannot hide a simple truth, which is that the freest Arab population in the Middle East lives in Israel. Far from an apartheid state, Israel is the only country in the region with an independent judiciary, a thriving and open civil society, and guaranteed political and legal rights for all of its citizens. 

Indeed, if Oscar nominees take us up on the offer to come to Israel, they will meet Arab-Israelis who serve at the highest levels of government, from the Prime Minister’s Cabinet to the Parliament to the Supreme Court, along with Arab-Israeli leaders in science, medicine, business, and the arts. In a survey by the Statnet research institute, 77% of Arab Israelis said that they would prefer to live under Israeli sovereignty rather than Palestinian rule. 

Israel is not perfect. Like minorities in many countries, the Arab-Israeli community faces challenges– and one of our government’s main priorities is to close the social, economic, and educational gaps that now exist between the general population and communities like Arab-Israelis and ultra-Orthodox Jews. 

We are making progress on this front. The presence of Arab students in Israel universities has risen more than 50% over the past decade and it continues to increase, particularly among women. Arab-Israelis are 20 percent of Israel’s population, but now account for 22 percent of the student body at the Technion – Israel’s leading institution of science and technology. Just last month, the Israeli Government announced a plan to allocate an additional $3.8 billion to improve housing, social welfare, infrastructure, transportation and education for Arab-Israeli communities. 

The situation for Arabs in Israel marks a stark contrast to life in Gaza – an area that Israel withdrew from completely in 2005 – where the Hamas terrorist organization continues to rule, brutally oppressing the population, particularly women, political dissidents, and members of the LGBT community. In the West Bank, Palestinians live with the tragic consequences of their failed and corrupt leadership, which has rejected far-reaching U.S. and Israeli peace offers that included a Palestinian state in 97 percent of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Today Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to sit at the negotiating table with Israel to pursue a two-state solution. 

The true path to peace lies in building bridges, not promoting boycotts. The real advocates for justice will look for opportunities to create dialogue between the two parties, instead of simply demonizing one of them. 

The good news is that aside from the very small group of radicals behind the BDS Movement, millions across America and around the world are building stronger relationships than ever with Israel, which has become a center of innovation and a magnet for solutions in so many spheres, from high-tech to water to medicine. 

As we have since our founding, Israel will continue striving to advance our core values of democracy and human rights, improve life for all our citizens, and extend our hand in the hopes of building a brighter future of prosperity and peace with our neighbors. 

David Siegel is the Consul General of Israel to the Southwest.

Resolutions Alone Won’t Protect Jewish Students From Campus Anti-Semitism


Breaking news from Palo Alto: Stanford undergraduate Molly Horwitz, a candidate for the Student Senate, was vetted by the Students of Color Coalition about her fitness for office. According to Horowitz, she was asked: “Given your strong Jewish identity, how would you vote on divestment?” Last February, the Stanford student government had approved a resolution for divesting in companies doing business on the West Bank as a way of punishing Israel.

What was Ms. Horwitz’s real sin?  Interviewed by the New York Times, her friend and campaign manager Miriam Pollock said that, earlier this year during the divestment debate, Horwitz wrote several posts on Facebook against it. But then the  two students scrubbed Horwitz’s Facebook page to hide all posts indicating support for Israel, including a photograph of a pair of shoes decorated to look like the Israeli flag.

Why? According to Pollock: “We did it not because she isn’t proud—she is—but the campus climate has been pretty hostile, and it would not be politically expedient to take a public stance,” Ms. Pollock said. “She didn’t want that to be a main facet of her platform.”

The Students of Color Coalition, which denies the charges, barred the Times from covering a “community forum” it held at Stanford’s Black Community Services Center. The Coalition is also being investigated for allegedly asking its endorsed candidates to sign a contract promising not to affiliate with Jewish groups on campus. Several Stanford students interviewed said they saw nothing wrong with this. 

Outrageous? Yes, it is ominously similar to another recent anti-Semitic intimidation at UCLA, where a campaign orchestrated by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to force Jewish students to take an oath—reminiscent of the McCarthy Era—that  they have never made a visit to the Jewish state sponsored by Israel-friendly organization. A Student Senate Council member, soon after passage of another anti-Israel divestment resolution, asked Rachel Beyda, a candidate for a student government judicial position: “Given that you’re a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community . . . how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view in your position?” The Student Council initially voted to block Beyda’s appointment, reversing itself only after an administrative watchdog warned council members that blocking Beyda on these grounds would be opening themselves to a Pandora’s Box of charges of conflict of interest.

We at the Simon Wiesenthal Center brought our protests to UC officials at multiple levels. At our meeting with UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block, he listened to our concerns about anti-Semitism on campus and expressed an interest in visiting the Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance to see our anti-hate programs at work. Now, we await confirmation that he will pay a long overdue exploratory visit.

Meanwhile, student activists have taken a positive initiative. The UCLA student government followed the UC Berkeley Academic Senate by unanimously passing a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and by adopting the U.S. State Department’s definition that includes anti-Zionism. An important step for sure. But a student-passed resolution alone will not protect Jewish students from future anti-Semitic intimidation, bullying or, Heaven forbid, worse.

Changes in training and policy must come from the top; from the adults in the room, who are paid for by California taxpayers and who have the responsibilities and clout to take substantive action. It has been claimed that First Amendment protections rule out punishing groups like SJP that arguably have created a hostile environment by intimidating Jewish students about their backgrounds and beliefs. But in reaction to these blatant moves, what prevents administrators from developing and implementing proactive educational programs aimed at the entire campus community? If such moves are already in the works, the public has a right to know about them now.

If the status quo remains, expect more onslaughts against the freedom of expression and thought against young people who dare express their love and affinity for the democratic Jewish State of Israel. The SJP has already made inroads on more than one campus establishing “loyalty oath” coercion, reminiscent of the McCarthy Era, as a template and strategy for anti-Israel—and anti-Semitic groups—active on campus nationwide.

We are urging that concrete steps be taken to protect Jewish student rights—and identity—on campus. This should include an educational module on the dangers posed on and off campus by “the new anti-Semitism,” to be made part of freshman orientation, paralleling existing educational programs teaching about racism and sexism.

We are ever ready to work with Chancellor Block and university administrators anywhere who have  the will to tackle the problem of campus anti-Semitism head-on. Perhaps there are those who believe the storm has passed and nothing else needs to be done. They are sadly mistaken. The international anti-peace and anti-Israel campaigns continue unabated. They will be target UCLA and many campuses again and again. Game plans need to be outlined to protect the rights and freedoms of our kids.

*Aron Hier is Director of Campus Outreach for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Historian Harold Brackman is a Center consultant.

U.C. Santa Barbara student senate votes down Israel divestment resolution


The University of California, Santa Barbara, student senate narrowly voted down an Israel divestment resolution.

Following an eight-hour debate, the resolution was defeated early Thursday morning in a vote of 13 against and 12 in favor, with one abstention. The Associated Students Senate president cast the deciding vote against the resolution.

The resolution, written by Students for Justice in Palestine, called on the university to divest from companies selling equipment to the Israeli government for use in the West Bank. The resolution singles out Hewlett-Packard, Raytheon, Motorola, Caterpillar and General Electric.

Dozens of students spoke during the student government’s public forum, according to the Daily Nexus, the student newspaper.

Santa Barbara and Merced are the only University of California undergraduate campuses whose student governments have not passed divestment resolutions.

Earlier this month, the student senate passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism by a vote of 24-0 with one abstention.

Stanford student candidate files complaint over Jewish faith questions


A candidate for the student Senate at Stanford University filed a complaint after she was asked how her Jewish faith would inform her decisions.

Molly Horwitz, a junior, filed the complaint with the student elections commissioner shortly after the March 13 endorsement interview with an umbrella group on campus, the Stanford Review student newspaper reportedSunday. The elections will be held Tuesday.

During the interview with the Students of Color Coalition, a member asked Horwitz, “Given your strong Jewish identity, how would you vote on divestment?”

In February, the student Senate passed a divestment resolution calling on Stanford to withdraw investments in companies that assist Israel in the West Bank.

Horwitz, a Paraguay native living in Milwaukee, told the coalition that she disapproved of the Senate vote for divestment, but reiterated her belief in the Senate’s democratic system and her hope for a peaceful Middle East, according to the Review.

Horwitz was among a limited number of candidates interviewed by the coalition, an umbrella for six student organizations.

Her endorsement application made reference to her Judaism, including statements such as “I identify as a proud South American and as a Jew,” and “I felt like I was not enough for the Latino community and further embraced my Jewish identity,” the student newspaper reported.

Horwitz reportedly has asked for a public apology from the coalition.

In a meeting with a university official, coalition members gave a different account of the line of questioning, according to the Review.

The incident comes two months after a similar one at UCLA. The four student government members who questioned Rachel Beyda during a confirmation hearing later apologized.

Stanford student’s impassioned op-ed says she was unfairly questioned during endorsement interview


The Stanford Daily on April 13 ran an op-ed by Molly Horwitz, a Stanford University junior, titled, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” in which she gives her account of events that transpired on March 13 when, she says, the Students of Color Coalition asked her, a candidate for Stanford Student Senate, whether the fact that she is Jewish would bias her decisionmaking on matters related to divestment from Israel.

“The rest of the interview was a blur to me,” Horwitz writes, describing how she felt  in the interview with SOCC when, she said, they questioned her about her Jewishness. “I barely kept it together. As soon as I left the interview room I began shaking and hyperventilating…what made me so distressed was not that SOCC had asked me about divestment, but that they had thought my Jewishness might make me a poor senator.”

In the oped, Horwitz asks SOCC to “apologize and work to address the needs of Jewish students, as well as other minority students.”

The divestment movement is a growing phenomenon on college campuses across the country. Recently, UCLA student Rachel Beyda underwent a similar line of questioning during a UCLA student government confirmation hearing. The incident became a national news story.

Horwitz filed an official complaint shortly following the SOCC interview.

Elections at Stanford take place this week.

UC grad students endorse Israel divestment by 30 point margin


Another domino has fallen in California for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement with the passage of a divestment resolution sponsored by UAW 2865, a union that represents more than 13,000 of University of California's approximately 50,000 graduate and post-graduate students.

Results tallied from a Dec. 4 vote among University of California graduate students show that among the 2,168 students who voted at UC’s nine campuses, a whopping 65 percent opted to call on UC administrators to divest the system’s financial investments from Israeli government institutions and from companies that assist the Israeli government in what BDS supporters say is its oppression of Palestinians. 

Of the 1,411 students who endorsed the resolution, 1,136 pledged to not “take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine.” The vote was brought forth by UAW 2865, a union that represents 13,000 graduate students. 

Although the vote is only symbolic (UC administrators have repeatedly refused calls to divest) and although only about 4 percent of the UC graduate student body voted, the move marks yet another success for the BDS movement in the country’s largest university system. Student governments at six of the system’s nine universities have endorsed divestment from Israel, with UCLA’s being the most recent, having

With pro-Israel groups all but absent, UCLA student government endorses divestment


UPDATE, 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 19: UCLA Chancellor Gene Block released a statement, which reads in part: “UCLA and the UCLA Foundation share the Board of Regents conviction that divestment decisions should not hold any one organization or country to a different standard than any other. The Board of Regents does not support divestment in companies that engage in business with Israel and UCLA agrees with that position.”


Some students held up posters, others wore t-shirts with pro-divestment slogans and most of the 400 UCLA undergraduates present repeatedly snapped their fingers along in near-unanimous agreement as they packed an auditorium on campus Tuesday night to hear – in the school's second public hearing in 2014 – their student government debate passage of a symbolic resolution that would call on school administrators to divest university funds from American companies that do business in the Israeli-controlled West Bank.

And unlike in the previous attempt in February, which failed by two votes, the student government voted this time for divestment by a decisive 8-2 margin, adding UCLA to a small but growing list of universities where the elected, representative undergraduate body endorsed the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to weaken Israel and promote the Palestinian cause via economic pressure.

Supporters of the resolution, who comprised nearly 100 percent of the audience, saw the move as a protest against American economic support of what they view as Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.

And prompted by a new strategy enacted by some of UCLA’s Jewish student groups, including Hillel at UCLA, Bruins for Israel and J-Street U, supporters of Israel effectively boycotted the hearing in an attempt to discredit and delegitimize UCLA’s strengthening pro-BDS movement. Only about 10 student representatives and members from those three organizations sat together during the hearing. While none of them participated in the public comment period that would have given the floor to dozens of divestment opponents in two-minute intervals, four of them made their case against divestment to the student government during a scripted 15-minute speech.

“We are not going to have our community sit through however long a session of bullying and hate speech,” said Tammy Rubin in an interview before the hearing began. Rubin is the president emeritus of Hillel at UCLA. She said that unlike last year, Hillel at UCLA, Bruins for Israel and J-Street U will now use the time not spent on opposing symbolic divestment resolutions to “reinvest in our community.”

“We’re not not fighting it [divestment],” Rubin said. “We are just fighting it strategically in a different way.”

Gil Bar-Or, president of the UCLA branch of J-Street U, described an approach that would differ markedly from that of last year’s pro-Israel community, which passionately and publicly opposed divestment actions in a climate of toxic relations between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students.

“We are trying to present an approach that’s creating positive things for both people that are involved in the conflict and not alienating anybody,” Bar-Or said. “In order to promote one community’s interests you do not have to trample on the other community’s interests.” In place of rallying against the divestment resolution, Hillel at UCLA, Bruins for Israel, and J-Street U hosted an alternate off-site meeting with about 125 pro-Israel students, where they discussed the thinking behind the new tactics and how Jewish UCLA students can strengthen their community.

At Tuesday evening’s hearing, while dozens of divestment supporters from a broad spectrum of various ethnic, national, religious and gender student groups took the podium during the hour they were granted for public comment, not a single pro-Israel student took the podium, even as the few present divestment opponents brought forward a list of 2,000 students who signed a statement opposing divestment.

And while the public comments coming from the pro-divestment side covered an enormously wide array of political grievances—from exploitative capitalism and U.S. drone strikes to discriminatory gender bathroom rules at UCLA and Chicano feminists—each settled on a similar opinion: UCLA should divest from American companies doing business in parts of Israel. Virtually every public comment was met with a sea of approving snaps and the occasional holler.

Some of the commenters included Arab-American UCLA students who described the plight of friends and relatives who live in the Gaza Strip, and two Palestinian students studying at UCLA—but who were not present—recorded an interview that divestment supporters played on a large projector.

During February’s vote, with no time limit and with members of the public permitted to submit public comments, the hearing went until dawn before the student government voted 7-5 against divestment. This year, though, security guards manned every door, only current UCLA students and approved media were allowed inside, and the student government ensured that the evening would end relatively early—this time officials voted just before midnight.

Just before the vote, when it was already clear that the student government would endorse divestment, Avinoam Baral, an Israeli native and the government’s president, emotionally lambasted divestment supporters, accusing them of targeting Jews and Israelis while purporting to be concerned about human rights in general.

“[The resolution] says this language that it’s not meant to target you, but there’s a difference between intention and action and if our intention is to divest from all countries violating human rights and the actual effect is to only divest from Israel, the only Jewish state in the world, it’s hard for me to take it any other way,” Baral said. “It’s hard for me to not feel targeted.” After Baral concluded, student government representatives voted, and as their votes were tallied, the auditorium erupted in applause. About 20 minutes later, around one hundred divestment supporters gathered outdoors and chanted slogans such as, “Free, free Palestine.”

Just moments after the vote, Amber Latif, a UCLA sophomore and member of the campus branch of Students for Justice in Palestine, was pleased with her side's victory but “unnerved” by Avinoam Baral’s vocal opposition.

“I’m trying to think if there’s anything that we could’ve done to make the Jewish community feel less targeted by this,” Latif said. “But I feel like we did everything to the best of our powers.”

The small and hugely outnumbered pro-Israel group of students that came all sat together and provided some lonely snaps in response to comments by Baral and the other representative who opposed the resolution. Those interviewed reaffirmed their support of the Jewish community’s decision to sit out the divestment vote, but still appeared visibly upset after the council resoundingly endorsed it.

Natalie Charney, the student board president for Hillel at UCLA, led the alternate off-site meeting and, while disturbed by what she saw at the divestment hearing, expressed no regret at Jewish groups’ decisions to avoid it.

“We don’t validate this conversation, not in a space where people are able to spew hatred and anti-Semitism,” Charney said. “We didn’t subject Jewish students, pro-Israel students, to the hate that is in this room.”

Omer Hit, the vice president of Bruins for Israel, said he’s concerned that UCLA may now be perceived as “not a good place for an entire Jewish community.”

“I am thankful that we did not have to bring our entire community to sit through that,” he said. “That would’ve been heartbreaking. Look at it now—it’s already heartbreaking for the six of us that came.”

“I know that this is all a PR thing,” Hit added. “I’m afraid that they were able to dominate that.”

Student committee votes 10-0 to delay confirmation of Jewish UCLA student to Board of Regents


A group that represents the University of California’s student body further highlighted how this state has become the flashpoint for the Israeli-Palestinian debate on American campuses when it requested that the powerful UC Board of Regents delay its confirmation of Avi Oved, a Jewish, pro-Israel junior at UCLA, as student regent-designate.

At the same time, the group — the UC Student Association (UCSA) — voted 8-0, with four abstentions, to appoint an independent entity to investigate conflict of interest allegations in regard to Oved’s relationship with Adam Milstein, a Los Angeles-based philanthropist who donates to numerous Jewish and pro-Israel causes, following the release of several leaked, private emails between the two.

Oved countered, during an interview with the Journal, that the allegations against him are “baseless,” adding that even after a 20-minute phone call with UCSA board members prior to their July 3 vote, he is still unaware of any bylaws UCSA intends to investigate. 

Outgoing UCSA president and UC Riverside student Kareem Aref said that an investigation would help UCSA determine whether Oved violated any election bylaws. He said that the board has “the utmost faith” in the nominee, but that it wants to reassure concerned students who feel “Avi’s intentions in being student regent may not have been the purest.”

How these actions are received by the Board of Regents remains to be seen. UC’s governing body scheduled Oved’s confirmation for its July 16-17 meeting in San Francisco. A UC spokesperson did not respond to a request for more information on the matter. 

The 10-0 vote, with two abstentions, came just two days after the student group hosted a public teleconference concerning the relationship of Oved and Milstein. Their relationship was introduced last month as a potential concern by Amal Ali, a UC Riverside junior and past president of that school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

She revealed private emails between Oved and Milstein that show the latter donated to Oved’s 2013 campaign for a position in UCLA’s student government. Although Oved’s acceptance of Milstein’s donation violated none of UCLA’s election bylaws, according to a school official, UCSA’s official statement faulted him with a lack of transparency.

During a two-hour July 1 teleconference open to the public, dozens of commenters identifying themselves as students dialed in to voice their opinion. Several bashed Milstein as “Islamophobic,” “racist” and “bigoted,” and expressed their fears of being represented by Oved. Some UCSA board members present on the call expressed their disappointment that Oved — who told the Journal he believes his email was hacked — did not take part in the call.

Ali refused to comment to the Journal about the leaked email’s “confidential source” but wrote in an email that Milstein’s contribution “raises a concern for potential conflict of interest” if Oved is ultimately confirmed to the Board of Regents. 

However, election bylaws do not require “a candidate running [for] a student government position to declare the origins of funding,” according to Berky Nelson, a UCLA administrator and administrative representative for the student council.

In one of three private emails leaked to UC Berkeley’s student newspaper, The Daily Californian, Oved wrote to Milstein on April 18, 2013, thanking him for a “generous donation” to his campaign for student government, reassuring him that he would continue to fight attempts made by pro-Palestinian students to push Israel divestment bills through the student senate.

Two subsequent private emails leaked on July 3 revealed that Oved wrote to Milstein in 2013 asking for his support in light of the UCLA divestment movement’s momentum at the time. Milstein, in response, wrote to Hillel at UCLA that he would make a $1,000 donation to Hillel earmarked for “UCLA student government leaders,” adding that Hillel should help Oved and a fellow candidate find other pro-Israel community members who would support their election.

Milstein denies that he or his philanthropic foundation ever donated money directly to Oved or the student’s political party, Bruins United. He wrote in a statement that the effort to oust the UCLA junior is an “anti-Semitic smear campaign that seeks to marginalize Jewish and pro-Israel students.”

If confirmed, Oved would sit on the Board of Regents for the upcoming school year as a non-voting member beside Sadia Saifuddin, a Muslim pro-divestment student from UC Berkeley and the board’s incoming student regent. She declined to comment pending the results of the UCSA investigation and Oved’s confirmation hearing.

While there has been speculation that the board’s nomination of Oved in May was an attempt to balance its nomination of Saifuddin with a pro-Israel voice, in a May interview with the Los Angeles Times, UC regent George Kieffer denied the two students’ views on divestment as an explanatory factor.

Does the Presbyterian divestment have widespread support among pastors? ‘Hell no’


In Rev. Drew Sams’ Sunday sermon before his congregation at Bel Air Presbyterian Church on June 22 — just two days after the national umbrella organization of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) endorsed divestment from three companies that do business in Israel — Sams registered his firm opposition to the vote to the 1,500 people in attendance.

Sams’ defiance against PCUSA may not be enough, though, for the members of the massive Bel Air congregation to avoid the question so many Presbyterian churches have faced in the past few years — stay a member of the liberal-leaning PCUSA and try to influence it? Or break away in protest against policies enacted by its leadership?

Netanyahu, speaking to Jewish journalists, slams Presbyterian divestment


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) vote to divest from three companies that do business with Israeli West Bank security forces.

Netanyahu, speaking Sunday to Jewish journalists from around the world at the inaugural Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem, said the vote late Friday to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard was misguided because Israel protects civil rights in a region with rising tides of Islamist extremism.

“The only place where you have freedom, tolerance, protection of minorities, protection of gays, of Christians and all other faiths is Israel,” he said.

Netanyahu suggested that American Presbyterian leaders “take a plane, come here and let’s arrange a bus tour in the region. Let them go to Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq.”

The prime minister told the more than 100 Jewish journalists gathered for the five-day summit that he sees three threats facing the Jewish people worldwide — heightened anti-Semitism in Europe, weakened Jewish identity in the United States and the rise of radical Islamist forces in the Middle East.

He lamented the June 12 kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, as well as the death of a 13-year-old Israeli killed by an explosive Sunday in the Golan Heights.

“We as a people, our heart is broken about the kidnapping of every youth and the murder of every youth,” he said.

Netanyahu also repeated his call for the world to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons capability. He connected Iran’s Islamic government to conflicts between Sunni and Shiite groups in Iraq and Syria.

“It is the height of folly to allow one of the Islamist camps to have nuclear weapons,” he said. “It will change history.”

Netanyahu reiterated many of the same points during a Sunday morning interview from Jerusalem on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Speaking before Netanyahu at the summit, outgoing President Shimon Peres praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ condemnation of the teens’ kidnapping and said Abbas is a good peace partner for Israel.

Peres encouraged Israel to restart peace talks, which Israel suspended in April after Abbas signed a reconciliation pact with Hamas, the terrorist group that governs Gaza.

“I think he is the best partner Israel ever had, and has now,” Peres said of Abbas. “I know him for 20 years. I think he’s a man of his word. I think he’s a man of courage.”

Netanyahu said earlier Sunday that Israel has clear evidence that Hamas participated in the kidnapping.

The Jewish Media Summit, which was organized by Israel’s Government Press Office, is set to occur every two years. More than 25 countries are represented at the event, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Presbyterian Church committee advances divestment resolution


A committee of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) passed a resolution endorsing divestment from three U.S. companies that “profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.”

The Middle East Issues Committee, in a 45-20 vote on June 17 at the church’s 221st General Assembly, advanced the measure to divest from Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Motorola Solutions. The resolution likely will be voted on during a plenary session of the full assembly later this week.

At the 2012 church assembly, delegates rejected a divestment initiative by a vote of 333-331. Jewish-Presbyterian relations already were strained following the publication in January of a study guide created by the church’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network. The document, “Zionism Unsettled,” depicted Zionism as a false theology.

Meanwhile, a letter opposing divestment signed by more than 1,700 rabbis, cantors and Jewish seminary students is being circulated at the assembly. The open letter, which has signers from all 50 states and the major streams of Judaism, urges commissioners to reject divestment from companies operating in Israel and other anti-Israel resolutions.

“We are deeply concerned that the PCUSA is considering several overtures that would threaten the prospects for future peace,” the letter says. “Oversimplifying a complex conflict and placing all the blame on one party, when both bear responsibility, increases conflict and division instead of promoting peace, reconciliation and mutual understanding.”

The letter goes on to say, “If we truly want to help both parties, we should encourage reconciliation, investment and a negotiated solution, instead of boycotts and divestments.” 

Calif. board votes in student leader of BDS movement as regent


A student leader in the anti-Israel divestment campaign at the University of California, Berkeley, was elected to serve on the University of California system’s Board of Regents.

Sadia Saifuddin, a student senator at Berkeley, was voted in by the board on Wednesday as a regent for 2014-15. She was up against two other students for the post.

Roz Rothstein, CEO of the pro-Israel group StandWithUs, in a statement criticized the selection.

“The choice of Sadia Saifuddin as student regent sends the wrong message and in fact, defeats the Regents own goal of being more inclusive,” she said.

The Berkeley student senate’s Israel divestment resolution co-sponsored by Saifuddin called  for divesting $14 million in university and Associated Students funds from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Cement Roadstone Holdings because they profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Jewish settlements. The nonbinding resolution passed in April by a vote of 11-9.

Saifuddin, Rothstein said, “instigated a bigoted campaign that purposely marginalized one group of students on campus. How can she be expected to represent all students when she has an extremist point of view against those who do not agree with her?”

The daughter of immigrants from Pakistan, Saifuddin told the campus newspaper following the resolution vote, “I don’t want one cent of my money to go toward fueling the occupation of my brothers and sisters,”

A former UC student regent, Jonathan Stein, praised Saifuddin.

“Sadia is what kept UC Berkeley from cracking apart through that experience,” he said.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center had launched a petition against Saifuddin’s nomination.

Saifuddin graduated from the Council on American Islamic Relations’ Youth Leadership Program in public speaking, media relations and governmental activism in 2008 and has maintained close ties to the organization, which has been accused of promoting radical Islam.

The Board of Regents sets educational policy for the 10 universities in the UC system and appoints their senior officers.

Student leader in BDS movement up for regent post in Calif. system


A student leader in the anti-Israel divestment campaign at the University of California, Berkeley, is a candidate for student regent in the University of California system.

Sadia Saifuddin, a student senator at Berkeley, is up against two other students for a regents post in 2014-15 in the vote on Wednesday by the UC Board of Regents.

Saifuddin co-sponsored an Israeli divestment resolution this spring that called for the divestment of $14 million in university and Associated Students funds from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Cement Roadstone Holdings, saying they profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Jewish settlements. The resolution passed the student senate by a vote of 11-9.

“I don’t want one cent of my money to go toward fueling the occupation of my brothers and sisters,” Saifuddin told the campus newspaper following the April 17 vote.

Saifuddin, the daughter of immigrants from Pakistan, also opposed the UC Regents report on Jewish students’ concerns about a hostile campus environment, according to StandWithUs, a pro-Israel advocacy organization which has mobilized its membership to oppose the nomination.

“While it would be an important milestone for a Muslim student to become the student regent, Ms. Saifuddin is an ill-advised choice because she promotes activities that marginalize a large group of students on campus, and she advances extremist positions,” StandWithUs wrote in an open letter to the Board of Regents.

“If you appoint a student who is prominently associated with the ‘BDS’ movement, you would send a message normalizing and even rewarding the very activities that are greatly harming the campus environment,” the letter said.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also launched a petition against Saifuddin’s nomination.

Saifuddin graduated from the Council on American Islamic Relations’ Youth Leadership Program in public speaking, media relations and governmental activism in 2008 and has maintained close ties to the organization, which has been accused of promoting radical Islam

The Board of Regents sets educational policy for the 10 UC universities and appoints their senior officers.

Lies, Apartheid and BS


I never thought I’d ever sit around a Shabbat table talking about bulls—, a word we don’t usually print in the Journal. But there I was recently at my friend David Brandes’ house, sitting across from the prominent philosopher and former Princeton University professor Harry Frankfurt, author of “On Bullshit” (2005).

Frankfurt’s book, which spent 27 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list, presented a theory of BS and analyzed the term in the context of communication. The theory’s key nugget, which Frankfurt briefly discussed at our table, is that BS is worse than lies.

Whereas a liar must know the truth in order to conceal it, a BSer couldn’t care less one way or the other. His goal is not to conceal or reveal but to make an impression — to advance an agenda.

This blatant disregard for the very notion of truth is what makes BS a greater enemy of the truth than are lies.

As I reflected on Frankfurt’s theory, I thought back to an event I’d attended a week earlier at the evangelical Tabernacle Biblical Baptist Friends of Israel church in downtown Los Angeles.

I went to hear the Rev. Kenneth Meshoe, a black pastor and politician from South Africa, talk about his efforts to support Israel and fight the movement to delegitimize the Jewish state.

Meshoe, whose appearance was arranged by the pro-Israel group StandWithUs, expressed outrage at those who label Israel an apartheid state: 

“Israel is not an apartheid state. Apartheid was something that was very, very painful. Black people were not allowed to vote, to live in areas separated for white people. And, having gone to Israel many times, you will find there is no place that is only for the white Jews.

“White and black Jews go to the same hospitals, the same schools, ride the same buses, which was not happening in South African apartheid. Someone sent me very interesting pictures — they are of black Jewish soldiers. In South Africa, the black was not allowed to join up.  

“Another picture I have is Miss Israel, the beauty queen, who is not white and who is black. During apartheid in South Africa, you would be arrested for saying that a black woman was more beautiful than a white person.”

In confronting Israel’s accusers, Meshoe didn’t use the word bulls—. He didn’t even use the word lies. He simply called it “nonsense,” which is perhaps how you express the profanity in polite company.

But it struck me that many of Israel’s accusers must be acutely aware that labeling Israel with the racist term “apartheid” is a lie.

One name that comes to mind is Omar Barghouti, founder of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, who is one of the leaders of the growing campaign to boycott Israeli universities.

When Barghouti agitates against anyone who has anything to do with Israeli academia, he tells them they are collaborating with a “racist and apartheid regime.” 

What he doesn’t say is that he himself doesn’t boycott Israeli academia, since he is studying for a doctorate at Tel Aviv University.

Obviously, Barghouti is well aware that, unlike in South Africa during the days of apartheid, blacks and Arabs are hardly segregated from “white Jews” in Israel. So, by calling Israel a “racist and apartheid regime,” does that make him a liar or a BSer? 

In fact, is the movement to label Israel a racist apartheid state one of lies or of BS?

If you ask me, it’s both. The movement started with lies and is now propelled by BS. While founders of the movement such as Barghouti certainly know the truths they are concealing, many of today’s Israel haters, just like classic anti-Semites, couldn’t care less.

I doubt, for example, that the “Boycott Israel” armies on Facebook and Twitter who swarm anyone who tries to engage with Israel — from academics like Stephen Hawking to performers like Alicia Keys — are interested in knowing that the millions who protested during the Arab Spring yearn for the very freedoms and opportunities they would get if they lived in Israel.  

This truth is irrelevant to the BSers, because they’re only out to impress and attack. And don’t think they’re worrying too much about Palestinian rights, either. As one of Israel’s harshest critics, Norman Finkelstein, recently acknowledged about the BDS movement, “They’re not really talking about rights. They are talking about destroying Israel.”

Maybe that’s why Frankfurt considers BSers more dangerous than liars. They have zero interest in any truth, let alone a complex truth. Their only “truth” is their agenda.

And in the case of Israel, that agenda is clear: to crush it.

I wonder if Meshoe figured all this out when he wrote the slogan for the street demonstrations he organizes in South Africa: “Stop Attempts to Crush Israel.”

In any event, as someone who has experienced the real apartheid, Meshoe is an ideal spokesperson to counter the vile movement to malign and isolate the Jewish state. I’d love to see him on U.S. college campuses next spring during the annual hatefest called “Israel Apartheid Week.”

If he doesn’t like to use profanity, he can use this slogan: “BDS is BS.”


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Attempted divestment at UCSB and the BDS machine


Over the last month the UC Santa Barbara student government has been voting on a resolution to divest from companies doing business with Israel. As a UCSB graduate and former student leader, I spoke at two senate hearings and worked with current students to defeat the resolution. It should now be very clear that what we are fighting at UCSB is the local face of an organized, global propaganda campaign against Israel.

Divestment activists at UCSB attempted to portray their campaign as grassroots and local. But evidence to the contrary abounds. Indeed, divestment is part of an increasingly organized and global movement. The language of the resolution introduced at UCSB was strikingly similar to those recently presented at UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and elsewhere. The Facebook pages set up in support of divestment at the different campuses were also very similar. These campaigns were carefully synchronized. They hit Stanford first, then UC Riverside, then UC San Diego,  then UC Santa Barbara, then UC Berkeley, and finally UC Davis. As the drama was ending at one university it would begin anew at the next one down the line.

Divestment did not happen overnight. It is the result of years of work by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and similar campus organizations. Their modus operandi is simple and extremely effective. They get involved in student politics, build relationships with student leaders, hone their talking points, and lobby. At some campuses, like UCSB, this issue has been elevated to the point where some candidates for student government run on a platform of divestment. The anti-Israel movement has evolved, drastically increasing its participation in the democratic process. 

It is clear that there is a well-oiled machine organizing and orchestrating this campaign behind the scenes. The main visible forces behind it are SJP-West, SJP National, and above all, the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Leading BDS organizations such as the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation, American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the American Friends Service Committee are making significant contributions as well. BDS heavyweights like Desmond Tutu and Alice Walker are supplying personalized statements to student government leaders and even speaking at student senate hearings in person. 

BDS portrays itself as a progressive human rights movement, but nothing could be further from the truth. BDS uses anti-Israel propaganda to promote a fundamentally immoral and illiberal political agenda: the elimination of Israel as the democratic state of the Jewish people. Some BDS leaders and organizations hide this or avoid stating it explicitly. But the undeniable reality is that the third core demand of the BDS movement, the return of millions of Palestinian refugees to Israel, is a call to replace the Jewish state with a Palestinian state. The involvement of legendary anti-Apartheid and civil rights activists like Tutu and Walker has helped BDS gain credibility and influence in progressive circles. But it seems Tutu and Walker left their opposition to bigotry at the door when they joined BDS. Tutu continues to endorse the Free Gaza Movement, which has been widely criticized for racism, despite receiving personal appeals to remove his endorsement. Walker has discriminated against Israelis directly, refusing to allow her book, The Color Purple, to be translated into Hebrew.

Despite the pretense that UCSB Divest was a local initiative, its supporters did little to hide their ties to the BDS movement. They organized a lecture about BDS by the infamous Richard Falk the day before the senate vote. The PowerPoint presentation they used on the night of the debate included slides promoting BDS. Representatives of the US Campaign to End the Occupation and American Muslims for Palestine read statements to the senate in person or by video. And in the nastiest surprise of the evening, a small army of community activists from Jewish Voice for Peace attended and spoke in favor of divestment, while grossly overstating their minimal influence within the Jewish community. It was quite the production.

By the time students began to speak the point of divestment was clear: to put Israel on trial in front of a captive audience. Israeli policies and legitimate Palestinian grievances were distorted and taken out of context. The daily hardships caused by the Israeli checkpoints and security barrier were presented as entirely arbitrary, as if the brutal suicide bombings of the Second Intifada had never happened. International laws were misrepresented or cited inaccurately. Israel’s presence in East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank, which is legal under the Oslo Accords, was twisted into the “illegal” occupation of Palestinian territory. Widely disputed claims were presented as indisputable facts. Israel was mislabeled an apartheid state in the very title of the resolution, trivializing the suffering of those who suffered, and continue to suffer, under real apartheid regimes. But facts matter little in a well-oiled propaganda campaign.

Indeed, the misrepresentations of history and international law were nothing compared to some of the slander and vile innuendo we heard as the evening progressed. Divestment supporters used the infamous fake-Zionist-quote technique, reading a damning quote about Israel and falsely attributing it to Ariel Sharon. They repeated the long-debunked lie that Israel committed a massacre in Jenin in 2002. They took a sensationalized scandal about birth control and distorted the issue even more, charging “racist Israel” with “sterilizing” Ethiopian Jewish immigrants. How birth control turned into sterilization is anyone’s guess. In an especially bizarre and horrifying twist, one student associated Israel with Egyptian Bedouin who harvest the organs of African refugees in the Sinai Desert. And of course, they saved the worst for last. After the senate voted against the resolution, a leader in the divestment campaign went outside and screamed in anger, “Zionism is a form of white supremacy!”

Let that last one sink in. Zionism, the movement for Jewish liberation and self-determination, a movement shared by an international Jewish community of all colors, is now being labeled “white supremacy”. A diverse, historically oppressed minority with indigenous roots in the Middle East cannot advocate for its inalienable right to self-determination on a college campus without being accused of the lowest form of racism. And the worst of it is that some of the accusers have the audacity to call themselves “progressive.” 

This scene repeats itself on every campus that divestment hits. The vicious accusations heard at the UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, and UCSB divestment debates echo one another. The new reality is that every student senate floor is a potential stage for the BDS movement’s anti-Israel theater. 

But there is another, brighter side to this story. Divestment has mobilized Jewish and pro-Israel students like never before. Motivated, bright leaders have emerged, ready to do what it takes to push the anti-Israel movement back on its heels. Ideally this motivation is something that must spread among pro-Israel communities before they are hit with divestment campaigns.

The global movement to delegitimize Israel has become more organized, more cohesive, and more troublesome. It is time for the pro-Israel community to recognize the new facts on the ground, get better organized, and adapt. Indeed, we find ourselves in a familiar position: having no choice but to stand up and defend ourselves against hate.


Max Samarov is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara and a research assistant at StandWithUs.

Oberlin College Student Senate endorses divestment resolution


The Oberlin College Student Senate endorsed a resolution that calls for the college to divest from six companies that do business in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and Gaza.

Following a three-hour discussion, the resolution was approved “by majority” on Monday, the Oberlin College Students for a Free Palestine said in a news release.

The six companies are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Group 4 Securicor, SodaStream, Elbit Systems and Veolia.

Similar resolutions have been passed this school year at the University of California campuses in Irvine, Berkeley and San Diego.

The Students for a Free Palestine group at Oberlin said it would bring the resolution to the Oberlin College Board of Trustees’ Finance Committee, which sets the college's financial policies.

“My concern about BDS is that it furthers the polarization between students who might consider themselves pro-Israel and students who might consider themselves pro-Palestinian,” Oberlin sophomore Noa Fleischacker, co-chair of J Street U’s Oberlin chapter, told the Oberlin Review student newspaper before the vote.

“What we really need to be doing is creating conversation and dialogue between those students, and also on the ground of creating negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.”

Cal-Berkeley student senate passes divestment measure


A student senate at the University of California, Berkeley narrowly passed a measure calling on the school to divest from three companies with dealings in the West Bank.

Following 10 hours of sometimes heated debate, the Associated Students of the University of California senate early Wednesday morning passed the resolution in an 11-9 vote, the student newspaper, the Daily Californian, reported.

The resolution calls on the school to divest more than $14 million in university and Associated Students funds from Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Cement Roadstone Holding, saying they profit from Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Jewish settlements there.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, a proponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, came to support the resolution. Many faculty and community members attended the debate.

“Tonight is not about corporations,” Sadia Saifuddin, one of the resolution's co-sponsors, told the Daily Californian, according to the j. weekly. “It's about asking ourselves before we go to sleep whether our money is going toward the destruction of homes, toward the erection of a wall” — a reference to the security fence.

Saifuddin added, “I don't want one cent of my money to go toward fueling the occupation of my brothers and sisters.”

Jason Bell, an opponent of the divestment measure, told the student paper, according to the j., that the resolution language “frames Israel as the sole aggressor.”

“This is more than just divesting from three companies,” he said. “Divestment is undoubtedly taking a side in the conflict.”

Similar resolutions have been passed at the University of California campuses in Irvine and San Diego.

The University of California, Riverside's student government passed a BDS resolution last month that was overturned on April 3 — opponents argued that they were not given enough time to prepare for the vote. BDS measures also were rejected in the last two months at UC-Santa Barbara and Stanford University, the j. reported.

U.C. Riverside student govt. rescinds Israel divestment resolution


The student government of the University of California, Riverside, rescinded a decision to divest from Israel.

The Associated Student Government's Student Senate on Wednesday voted 10-2 to cancel the March 6 resolution that called on the school to withdraw funds from companies that did business with the Jewish state.

Pro-Israel activists successfully appealed the resolution that was passed following a presentation by Students for Justice in Palestine organization.

“Their presentation was full of wild accusations, libelous, and since nobody got a chance to really answer them, the senators voted without really realizing what they were voting on,” Philippe Assouline, a research associate for the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs, told the Campus Reform website.

Activists supporting the Palestinians told the pro-Palestinian website Electronic Intifada that they planned to appeal the vote.

“We’re going to make sure it stays in the senate and if it is amended, that the language doesn’t change to the point that we no longer recognize our own divestment,” Amal Ali, a Palestinian activist, was quoted as saying.

UC Irvine student divestment vote rejected by school officials


A resolution passed by the UC Irvine undergraduate student council calling on the university to divest from companies that “profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine” has been rejected by the UCI administration.

At the same time, leaders of the Orange County Jewish community denounced “the nonbinding resolution, drafted and introduced with no forewarning by a small group of students with a personal agenda and deliberated in the absence of students with opposing views.”

The Nov. 13 student council resolution, titled “Divestment from Companies that Profit from Apartheid” and passed unanimously 16 to 0, asked the UCI administration, and the UC system as a whole, to divest specifically from Caterpillar, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Raytheon and other companies.

[Related: UC-Irvine student senate approves non-binding divestment resolution on Israel]

In a news release, the student council described the resolution, introduced by council members Sabreen Shalabi and Shadi Jafari, as “a historic move that could initiate a domino effect across American campuses.”

In response, the UCI administration released a statement on Nov. 14 on the resolution stating that “such divestment is not the policy of this campus, nor is it the policy of the University of California. The UC Board of Regents‘ policy requires this action only when the U.S. government deems it necessary. No such declaration has been made regarding Israel.”

Shalom C. Elcott, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation & Family Service of Orange County, lauded the strong ties between UCI and Israeli universities and promised that this work “will not be undermined by divisive efforts…that are contrary to the interests of students.”

In past years, the UCI campus has been the scene of numerous incidents between Muslim and Jewish students, with some Jewish groups criticizing the administration for its failure to take remedial action.

However, earlier this year, UCI Chancellor Michael Drake led a faculty delegation to Israel, which signed cooperation agreements with Ben-Gurion University, Hebrew University, Technion and Tel Aviv University.

UC-Irvine student senate approves non-binding divestment resolution on Israel


[UPDATE, NOV. 15] A resolution passed by the UC Irvine undergraduate student council calling on the university to divest from companies that “profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine,” has been rejected by the UCI administration. More.

[NOV. 14] The student senate of the University of California, Irvine unanimously passed a non-binding resolution calling on the school to divest from companies doing business with Israel.

All 16 members of the legislative council of the Associated Students of UCI voted for the resolution on Tuesday that calls on the university to divest from companies that “have promoted and been complicit” in “ongoing human rights violations systematically committed by the Israeli government.”

The companies are Caterpillar, Cement Roadstones Holding, Cemex, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Raytheon, Sodastream and L-3 Communications.

The measure also calls for a further examination of university assets” for investments in companies that profit from human rights abuses anywhere in the world.” It refers to what it calls “Israel's system of apartheid,” saying that “as the example of South Africa shows, it is imperative for students to stand unequivocally against all forms of racism and bigotry globally and on campus.”

The student government’s executive board must pass the resolution before it advances for consideration by the Irvine administration.

Irvine would become the first California university to divest from companies doing business with Israel.

“Our work today stands tall in the noble tradition of students advocating for justice, joining the ranks of those brave and visionary students who demanded that our Universities divest from the terrible crimes of South African apartheid,” said Sabreen Shalabi, a co-author of the legislation, in a statement issued by the council.

Quaker group divests from companies working in Israel


A Quaker group has removed a French and an American company from its financial portfolio due to what it calls the companies’ involvement with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.

Friends Fiduciary Corporation will drop the French multinational corporation Veolia Environment and the U.S.-based Hewlett-Packard from its portfolio following requests from Quakers concerned about the companies’ involvement in the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands.

FFC has investments of more than $250,000 in HP and more than $140,000 in Veolia, according to the We Divest Campaign. The money is part of an overall $200 million in assets and investments for more than 250 Quaker meetings, schools, organizations, trusts, and endowments around the country.

The Quaker group does not issue public announcements about such moves, but did send a letter confirming the information, Anna Baltzer, a spokesperson for the We Divest Campaign, told JTA.

“It’s not private; it’s public information and they’ve written a letter to the Friends Meeting in Ann Arbor Michigan that raised the issue,” she said.

However, Jeffrey W. Perkins, the FFC’s Executive Director, said in a press release issued by We Divest that HP provides information technology consulting services to the Israeli Navy and Veolia Environment is involved in “environmental and social concerns” with the Israeli military,

This decision comes a few months after the FFC dropped shares in Caterpillar Inc. because Caterpillar “would neither confirm nor deny the extent or type of modifications to equipment sold to the Israeli military,” according to the release.

Univ. of California student group raps moves to censure boycott efforts


The University of California Student Association voted to condemn attempts to censure boycott and divestment efforts by Palestinian human rights activists.

The unanimous resolution passed Sept. 15 also demands that the university stop profiting from what it termed Israel’s human rights violations.

The student association resolution comes less than a month after the California Assembly approved a resolution calling on colleges and universities in the state to combat anti-Semitism and quash campus demonstrations against Israel. Jewish students reportedly have felt under siege at several University of California campuses, where pro-Palestinian demonstrations are a regular occurrence.

The state resolution, according to the student group, “purports to oppose anti-Semitism,” yet “much of HR 35 is written to unfairly and falsely smear as ‘anti-Semites’ those who do human rights advocacy focusing on Israel’s illegal occupation, alleging that the UC faculty and staff involved in such work are motivated by anti-Semitism rather than by the political ideals of equality and respect for universal human rights they affirm, ideals UCSA and most California students share.”

Jewish students criticized the student association measure, according to the Berkeley campus paper, the Daily Californian.

“The UCSA resolution passed on Saturday blindsided the Jewish community,” Jason Bellet, a senator for Associated Students of the University of California and member of the Berkeley Hillel, told the paper. “When we talk about having a safe and welcoming campus climate, that can’t happen when a bill like the one opposing HR 35 is passed in a nontransparent way, in a way that leaves out members of the community criticizing the process. “

Olamide Noah, the external affairs vice president at the University of California, San Diego, said the student association had been working on the resolution since last month, according to the Daily Californian.

Opinion: Look between the headlines to understand the Presbyterians’ vote


The Presbyterian Church (USA)’s 220th General Assembly had just cast its first vote on an anti-Israel divestment resolution when the spin began. Major news outlets and activists on each side could hardly wait for the debate to finish the next day before declaring winners and losers.

This was my fourth GA and one thing I’ve learned is that reality lies somewhere between the headlines. Here are some reality checks on the GA.

* The defeat of divestment was narrow—and it wasn’t.

The widely reported 333-331 vote earlier this month was on a motion to substitute a positive investment minority report for the main divestment resolution. This means the very first time the plenary had a chance, it shot down divestment. It was close, but in subsequent votes the positive approach passed by a much wider margin—and additional pro-divestment motions continued to fail by increasingly wider margins. The Positive Investment substitute—passed 369-290—calls for financial support for projects that include collaboration among Christians, Jews and Muslims and that will help develop viable Palestinian infrastructure, job creation and economic development.

* The PCUSA is different from other churches – and it isn’t.

Think of the most intense anti-Israel delegitimizers you’ve ever seen, heard or read. They run the show at the PCUSA.

Before the GA, the PCUSA’s coordinator of social witness policy defended divestment, attacked positive investment and said an Israel-apartheid comparison is unavoidable. An advisory committee called as its resource person before the GA’s Middle East committee a Jewish representative from an anti-Zionist group that actively favors boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Even the church’s executive council backed divestment.

But there were also several major Presbyteries, seminary presidents, former national moderators and other key leaders who opposed divestment. One group, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, successfully advocated for a balanced approach that was clearly more in keeping with the mind-set of Presbyterians.

* The targeted companies are profiteers—and they aren’t.

The PCUSA’s Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment, or MRTI—the body that originally recommended divestment—concluded that no further conversations would matter for Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. They were irredeemably and unequivocally guilty. The Methodist pension board, meanwhile, reached the exact opposite conclusion.

A close reading of the MRTI report reveals that it relied on resolutions filed by radical groups better known for harassing corporations than engaging them.

Motions filed on a broader human rights issue were presented as if they were about Israel, and corporate transgressions like a corporate officer rescheduling a conference call were submitted as conclusive proof of indifference. But companies are companies. Their jobs are making money, not playing politics—and they get attacked so often, it’s just noise to them.

* The divestment debate is really about anti-Semitism—and it isn’t.

A church leader told me that he had never heard of Israel’s security fence described as being even partially a defensive move, indicating that the silencing of Israel’s legitimate security stance isn’t just about choosing sides but about something much deeper.

More than 1,500 American rabbis representing a broad geographical and ideological range sent a letter against divestment to every PCUSA commissioner. Had women or ethnic leaders in the United States sent a letter on a topic of concern, the PCUSA leadership might have stopped dead in its tracks. Disturbingly, that didn’t happen with this letter.

Even more disturbing was a pro-BDS letter signed by fewer than two dozen rabbis and trumpeted by a PCUSA committee that said it was tantamount to racism to suggest that the Jewish community opposes divestment. That doesn’t rise to the level of anti-Semitism. Yet the church leadership’s failure to challenge this outrageous comment certainly isn’t a measure of respect either.

* The divestment debate is actually about Christian Zionism—and it isn’t.

There is an intense struggle between left and right in American churches that plays out over many issues, including sexuality and Israel. The struggle is so intense that it drowns out the real debate over issues; Israel becomes a proxy for a much wider conversation.

We are told sometimes that we need to choose between friendship with liberal or with conservative Christians. Not true. We should not be forced to choose between neighbors and friends. Peacemaking requires a path that is faithful to all who seek peace, including Palestinians and Israelis, Christians, Muslims and Jews.

* The PCUSA has become irrelevant—and it hasn’t.

The membership of the PCUSA is dropping—rapidly. As with many of the “mainline” churches, it has lost half its members in 40 years, with one in five leaving in the past decade. The median age is 61 and fewer than one in 10 Presbyterians is aged 18 to 34. But there also is new life in many parts of the church—and little to celebrate in the exodus from other parts of the PCUSA. It is a major American institution and an important partner on a range of issues.

It helps no one if responsible voices bolt and leave behind a denomination less able to discern between peacemaking and radicalism.

* The debate is really about what Palestinian Christians want – and it isn’t.

The PCUSA has close connections with Palestinian Christians. They visit them, hear from them and care about them. They have skin in the game.

But there also are American denominations with sister churches in the Palestinian areas that have rejected divestment, most recently the Episcopal Church, which heard from Palestinian Christians who oppose divestment.

There are many myths about the Palestinian Christians. Some friends of Israel believe the only stresses that Palestinian Christians face are from Muslims. And many detractors of Israel have fabricated a story that the Palestinian Christian population is in free fall due to Israeli policies (it isn’t—the West Bank Christian population is actually increasing). Palestinian Christians do face stresses, as do Israelis.

* Not surprisingly, the story is far more complex than either “side” would have it. The battle continues.

Well, that is true.

The PCUSA passed a troubling boycott resolution. While there are committed Zionists who have supported a boycott of West Bank settlement groups, the effort in the PCUSA was led by groups that don’t support a Jewish state. For them it is incremental delegitimization.

Presbyterians have much to decide. Do they want their church to be positive or negative? One that understands that there are multiple narratives or just one version, with characters conveniently symbolized by American companies to reduce a painful conflict affecting real lives to a caricature of innocence and evil?

In the end, that is a Presbyterian conversation. And it isn’t.

Ethan Felson is the vice president and general counsel for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.