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

New Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions effort against Israel


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

[This article originally appeared on themedialine.org]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Photo from Wikipedia

BDS activists prevented from boarding flight to Israel


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dear Jewish community,

So you wanna understand Israel-Palestine debates on campus?

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

Shocking, right? We try.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Wish You Weren’t Here Roger Waters


Boycott of Waters Launched With Petition, Website and Film

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Screenshot from Sears.com

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


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

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

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

The availability of the designs was first reported by Reuters.

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew Modine, Ed Asner, actress Ruby Modine and Hilary Helstein, executive director of the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. Photo Credit: James Franklin at RozWolfPR

Defending Ed Asner, and Israel


The defenders of Israel fought a noble battle last week on behalf of the survival Jewish state. They forged a united front, raised their voices and rallied their troops. They charged into battle and came close, very close, to defeating their common enemy: Ed Asner.

Yeah, really. Ed Asner. The actor from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Lou Grant.” The voice of Carl Fredricksen in “Up.” Santa Claus in “Elf.”

The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival was all set to honor Asner with a Lifetime Achievement Award at its gala opening on April 26. Days before the event, two self-appointed defenders of Israel sent out a mass email denouncing the festival for choosing Asner, and calling on advertisers and attendees to boycott the event.

Their issue was that Asner, who is 87, is listed on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an advocacy group that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.  BDS seeks to protest and reverse Israel’s policies, including its occupation of the West Bank, by boycotting all Israeli products and services, including its academic and cultural institutions. As I’ve written many times, it is a deeply anti-Israel movement under the guise of an anti-occupation movement. 

The connection between Asner, BDS and JVP — which, spoiler alert, turned out to be far more tenuous than it first appeared — raised the defenders of Israel to DEFCON 5.  Immediately, they sent out an email whose subject line read, “SHAME ON THE LOS ANGELES JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL.”

Because TRIBE Media, which produces the Jewish Journal, is the sponsoring organization of the festival, we found ourselves at the bizarre end of a very small but very noisy pro-Israel advocacy effort.

As the events of the week played out, the experience gave me time to reflect on how the Jewish community decides who is inside and outside the tent, who is kosher and who is treif

In Israel, this has become a policy issue with diplomatic implications. The same week two well-meaning L.A. Jews were trying to take down a third for not meeting their standards of “pro-Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu snubbed the German foreign minister because the minister refused to cancel his meeting with the anti-occupation groups B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence.

And since at least 2010, Netanyahu’s government has passed laws against not just those who support BDS, but those, like many Israeli artists, who support in principle a boycott on goods from the West Bank.

The aim of these actions is to normalize Israel’s now 50-year occupation and criminalize opposition to it. Those who oppose it went from being dismissed as doves to being persecuted as outlaws.

BDS poses a unique threat to Israel, though not necessarily an existential one. But one could easily make the argument that the occupation, if it results in a single chaotic binational state or apartheid rule over Palestinians, poses a far greater, truly existential threat to a democratic Jewish state.

The point is, we can have an argument over this without criminalizing, demonizing or ostracizing those who take one position or another. Some BDS folks really do want to erase Israel. But the (mostly) young Jews who are attracted to the movement see it as a way to redress an injustice. I think they’re wrong, but I want to engage them.

Similarly, those who think annexing part or all of the West Bank is the best way to manifest Jewish destiny or achieve security are wrong — and possibly even more dangerous to the state’s future — but I want to speak with them, as well.

Ed Asner, it turns out, doesn’t support BDS. In an interview with Avishay Artsy before the festival, he told the Journal he was rethinking it. Later, he flatly denounced it.

“I just want peace,” he said.

That didn’t quiet the defenders of Israel. They called him and the festival frauds because Asner was still listed as an adviser to JVP. Because at 87, after receiving more Emmy Awards for acting than any male in history, after standing up for the rights of workers, the oppressed and the disabled his whole life, after donating endless time and money in support of Jewish and non-Jewish causes, after playing an active role in his own Jewish community — in other words, after doing more for humanity and the Jewish people than the vast majority of us — Asner still wasn’t kosher enough.

Ridiculous.

It’s important to note that not one of the major groups that support and defend Israel — StandWithUs, the Zionist Organization of America, the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee — signed on to the anti-Asner campaign. They cut the guy some slack — maybe because they assumed he heard the word “peace” and said, “Sure, use my name.” Or maybe because the Jewish people and Israel have real enemies to fight, and Lou Grant isn’t one of them.

The night of the gala, the Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills was packed. Asner stood and received his award to a standing ovation.

And, I’m happy to report, somehow Israel survived.


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

Thom Yorke performing with Radiohead in Sydney, Australia, Nov. 1. Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

BDS petition calls on Radiohead to cancel scheduled Tel Aviv concert


Anti-Israel activists are urging British rock band Radiohead to cancel its July 19 concert in Tel Aviv. For now, however, its performance at Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv remains listed on the group’s official website, wasteheadquarters.com.

“We applaud Radiohead for joining their peers and using their art as a way to bring people together,” Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) said in an April 25 statement, issued in response to the publication of an April 24 petition urging Israel to cancel the performance.

Signatories to the open letter include Roger Waters, former member of Pink Floyd, who has a history of criticizing Israel, Tunde Adibimpe of New York band TV on the Radio and nearly 50 others.

Artists for Palestine UK, a network of artists that support a cultural boycott of Israel, addresses Radiohead members Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Philip Selway in its letter calling for the cancellation.

Radiohead, which this month headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in support of its latest album, “A Moon Shaped Pool,” has had ties to Israel ever since its 1993 song, “Creep,” became popular on Israeli army radio, according to Tablet Magazine. The article includes an audio recording of the band’s performance in Israel. Crowd members discuss the set list in Hebrew in-between songs. It’s a cool little historical pop culture artifact.

The band’s ties to Israel don’t end there. It recently completed a U.S. tour featuring Israel-based cross-cultural Jewish-Arabic project Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis as its opening act.

Nevertheless, those who signed the letter calling for the quintet to “think again” before playing Israel dismissed the band’s collaboration with Jewish-Arabic musicians as irrelevant, which reminds one of the controversy surrounding Paul Simon when he visited South Africa to brainstorm ideas for the album that eventually became “Graceland.”

“You may think that sharing the bill with Israeli musicians Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis, who play Jewish-Arabic music, will make everything OK.  It won’t, any more than ‘mixed’ performances in South Africa brought closer the end of the apartheid regime,” the letter says. “Please do what artists did in South Africa’s era of oppression: stay away, until apartheid is over.”

CCFP says the letter’s claims against Israel are “inaccurate.”

“Unfortunately, their letter is filled with inaccurate accusations against Israel, including false claims of ‘apartheid’ and ‘genocide.’ Trying to appeal to artists’ natural empathy for the downtrodden, the boycott movement falsely characterizes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as a movement seeking peace and justice, and drives the prospect of peace further away,” the CCFP statement says.

Radiohead ascended to cultural prominence in the 1990s. Its albums “The Bends,” “OK Computer” and, a personal favorite, “Kid A,” released in 2000, underscore the band’s intelligent, if impenetrable, lyrics and innovative soundscapes. Ironically, the band has drawn comparisons to Waters’ Pink Floyd.

CCFP has previously weighed in on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel targeting bands slated to play there. Rod Stewart, scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv on June 14, and Aerosmith, scheduled to perform May 17, were recently targeted by activists who support boycotting Israel, CCFP says.

A March 28 Jerusalem Post article says that the BDS influence on rock and pop acts booked in Israel is “waning.” The proof is Israel concert promoters are currently preparing for Israel’s “busiest concert season in history,” CCFP says. Radiohead, Stewart, Aerosmith and even pop queen Britney Spears are booked at Hayarkon Park. Spears is scheduled to perform there July 3.

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Asner. Photo from Wikipedia

Ed Asner: ‘I do not support BDS’


Legendary television actor Ed Asner made clear Tuesday morning that he no longer supports the movement to Boycott, Sanction and Divest from Israel, known as the BDS movement.

“I have a deep commitment to Jewish life, the Jewish people and the unity of the Jewish people worldwide,” Asner said in the statement, released through a publicist.  “I do not support BDS. I just want peace.”

The 87-year-old actor sought to clarify his position after a handful of critics took issue with his receiving an Award from the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. Asner is set to receive the award at the Festival’s opening Wednesday evening. (The LAJFF is a program of TRIBE Media, which also publishes the Jewish Journal).

The BDS movement has been criticized by a broad segment of the Jewish community as being anti-Israel because it promotes the boycotting of all of Israel and not just the disputed territories.  Left of center groups like J Street and New Israel Fund have gone on record as being against BDS.

After Asner viewed information LAJFF provided him about BDS, he released the statement.

In an interview with the Jewish Journal’s Avishay Artsy earlier this month, Asner had already distanced himself from supporters of BDS.

Ahad Ha'am, c.1913

Would Ahad Ha’am be denied entry to Israel today?


While reading an interview in the Forward with the 87-year-old literary critic and polymath George Steiner, I couldn’t help but think about the string of troubling bills that have been passed by the Knesset over the past few years.

The most recent bill, from March 6, denies entry to any non-Israeli who “has knowingly issued a public call to impose a boycott on the State of Israel.” It should be added that the bill includes those who call for a boycott of products produced in the settlements, which is a very different matter than calling for an academic, cultural or economic boycott of the State of Israel. A good number of prominent Israeli and Diaspora Jews support a settlement boycott, while a much more marginal group supports a boycott against Israel.

To the best of my knowledge, George Steiner has not called for a boycott of Israel. That said, he defines himself as “fundamentally anti-Zionist” in that he believes that Jews are called upon to be “the guest(s) of other men and women.” Given how things are going, I couldn’t help but wonder if the day might arrive soon when Jews deemed ideologically unacceptable — for example, self-declared anti-Zionists such as George Steiner — might be denied entry to Israel.

Steiner belongs to a long tradition of modern thinkers who have defined Jewishness as the quest for intellectual, cultural or ethical excellence, rather than as the aim to attain political sovereignty. Some of these thinkers have even been Zionists. Figures such as Martin Buber, Akiva Ernst Simon and Judah L. Magnes, founding chancellor of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, made aliyah based on the belief that Judaism would reach its greatest fulfillment in the Land of Israel. They also held to the view that Zionism should not aspire to the formation of a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, but rather should share power with the Arab population in a binational state.

One wonders how welcome such figures would be in the Israel of today. The Knesset has been chiseling away at the edifice of Israeli democracy through a raft of laws. In July 2016, it scaled back the principle of parliamentary immunity by making it easier to expel Arab parliamentarians. In the same month, it passed a law that called for new scrutiny of organizations that support a range of progressive causes in the country. Just last month, the “Entry Bill” turned the focus on individuals who, because of their political views, would be denied entry to the country.

Of course, many countries have used ideological beliefs as a criterion to deny entry to prospective visitors. The United States has done so itself, particularly in periods of heightened xenophobic and anti-immigrant fervor, such as the 1920s and 1950s. It is not something to be proud of. More recently, the U.S. Congress limited the practice of ideologically based exclusion through the Immigration Law of 1990 that prohibits entry only to those whose “proposed activities within the United States would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences.”

The Knesset’s new limitations on speech both erode Israel’s democratic foundations and do damage to its reputation in the international community.

That is a pretty high bar. It is hard to see how a single person expressing her views, even in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, would cause “serious adverse foreign policy consequences” for Israel. It is especially hard to see how Israel gains by denying entry to someone who expresses opposition to the occupation via a ban on settlement products, which he may believe to be essential in order to preserve Israeli democracy! Indeed, as a general matter, the Knesset’s new limitations on speech both erode Israel’s democratic foundations and do damage to its reputation in the international community.

What also is unsettling about the law is that it cuts against the tradition of sharp dissent that has been a constant feature of both Jewish and Zionist thought. The Zionist movement was born in contentious and productive disagreement, from the very first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897. It was at Basel that Theodor Herzl gave definitive public expression to the idea of a state for the Jews. It also was at Basel that another prominent Zionist, Ahad Ha’am, declared that he felt like “a mourner at a wedding feast.” Ahad Ha’am believed that Herzl’s emphasis on achieving sovereignty did not address the key problem of the day, which was the atrophying of Jewish and especially Hebrew culture. His solution was to promote a spiritual and cultural center in the land of Israel that would radiate out rays of vitality to the Diaspora. Ahad Ha’am was a central Zionist figure whose focus was on Jewish culture rather than power.

In retrospect, it seems clear that the divergence of views in various Zionist camps — Socialist, Religious, Revisionist, among others — was a source of strength, not weakness. This diversity allowed for different groups of supporters to enter the Zionist fold through various portals, as well as for a robust competition that fortified each ideological strain.

What has changed since that formative period? Simply put, Zionism has succeeded in placing a Jewish state on the map — and not merely a state, but a powerful, technologically advanced state without peer in the Middle East. It is strange to consider the prospect that this powerful state might no longer be open to the likes of Ahad Ha’am.


David N. Myers is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at UCLA.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signs state anti-BDS law


Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law a bill targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The legislation, which prohibits the state from contracting with companies that engage in boycotts of Israel, including firms located outside the state, and also requires companies to explicitly state in contracts that they are not boycotting or divesting, was signed Monday. It makes Ohio the 14th state to enact such a law.

“With Governor Kasich’s signature, Ohio becomes the latest state to stand up against the discrimination based on national origin inherent in efforts to boycott, divest or sanction Israel. It’s also a stand in support of free trade and academic freedom,” Howie Beigelman, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities, which represents eight Jewish federations and their constituent agencies, said in a statement.

The bill also included language that will increase from 1 percent to 2 percent the amount of funds the state treasurer or country treasurers are allowed to invest in foreign bonds meeting specified criteria, including Israel Bonds.

“But Ohio went a step further than anyone else. They included an opportunity for positive investment by the state and county treasurers in certain foreign bonds — including Israel’s — allowing our state to stand with Israel in a meaningful way, helping to create even more business, trade, and research opportunities,” Beigelman noted.

Pro-Palestinians disrupt NYC Council hearing on anti-BDS resolution


Pro-Palestinian activists and members of the Black Lives Matter movement on Thursday continuously disrupted a hearing held by the New York City Council Committee on Contracts on a 

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— Jacob Kornbluh (@jacobkornbluh) " charset="utf-8">

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio: Fighting BDS ‘consistent with progressive values’


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that defending Israel from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is “consistent with progressive values.”

[RELATED: Calif. Senate passes bill targeting Israel boycotts]

Speaking Saturday at the Hampton Synagogue on Long Island, de Blasio, a Democrat known as a progressive, said he plans to challenge “people who support BDS … who call themselves progressives,” JewishInsider reported.

The BDS movement, de Blasio said, “seeks to undermine the economy of the State of Israel and makes it harder for Israel to exist – therefore, renouncing the very notion that the Jewish people need a homeland in a still dangerous and unsettled world.”

“We in the United States, or in any nation, you can disagree with a particular government’s policy at that moment in time, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t believe in that nation, or its right to exist, or its founding ideals,” he said.

“Israel, in good times and bad, tough times and easier times, has been a beacon” to the world, de Blasio said. He noted its “many good works,” and when there are disasters in the world, “Israel is one of the first to be there in defense of those in need, regardless of their background regardless of [faith].”

De Blasio also remarked on how black-Jewish relations in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn have improved dramatically since the riots there 25 years ago.

“Go to Crown Heights today,” he said. “Is it perfect? No. Are all the tensions gone? No.

“But has there been an extraordinary, and consistent, and emphatic effort by the black community and the Jewish community to find each other, to work with each other, to listen to each other? Yes. Have the leaders made it common to meet with each other and look for ways to amplify harmony? Yes. Is there extraordinary understanding that everyone is in it together in that community? Yes.”

California’s Senate passes bill targeting Israel boycotts


A bill targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) of Israel took a final step towards passage in the California legislature as the state Senate voted 34-1 to approve Assembly Bill 2844 on Aug. 24.

The bill faced a long and winding path to approval by the Senate, passing through a number of iterations in an attempt to satisfy concerns about free speech.

Whereas other state bills aimed at rebuking the BDS movement may violate First Amendment rights, AB 2844 skirts those concerns, said Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego), who introduced the bill to the Senate.

“We carefully crafted this bill to not fall into any of those pits,” he said.

The idea behind AB 2844 when “>dub it “no longer a pro-Israel bill.” Bloom encouraged his colleagues to pass it anyway so that it could be salvaged in the Senate, and it passed without opposition.

Then, on June 20, the Senate Judiciary Committee tweaked the bill into roughly its current form.

Now, the measure doesn’t forbid contractors from boycotting Israel. Instead, it requires that companies certify they don’t violate state civil rights law in the course of boycotting a sovereign nation recognized by the United States – including Israel, the only country mentioned by name.

“We are looking not at people’s individual rights to speak, but whether or not what they’re doing violates existing California laws against discrimination,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who chairs the judiciary committee.

Block said the bill was intended to target boycotts rooted in anti-Semitism. He pointed out that proponents of BDS don’t seek to boycott Russia, China or Saudi Arabia, which he called far worse human rights violators than Israel.

“They don’t propose boycotting those nations for political reasons, only the Jewish state,” he said on the Senate floor. “Why only the Jewish state?”

The BDS movement, said Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Riverside), is “rooted in the same anti-Semitism that has surrounded Israel since its founding.”

Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) was the only legislator to vote against the measure.

“Those standards already apply,” he said of the anti-discrimination measures proposed by the bill. “So we have a bill on the floor that seeks to affirm laws that already exist and people are held accountable for already.”

He went on, “I would have much rather seen the energy generated around this bill be directed towards bringing stakeholders together on our campuses and in our communities to model the type of dialogue that is so desperately needed.”

The bill has until Aug. 31 to gain re-approval in the Assembly before the legislative session ends.

From the beginning, the bill received strong support from the mainstream Jewish community. Block dismissed as “fringe groups” the Jewish organizations, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, who have denounced the measure.

“Now we have another tool in our toolbox” in the fight against BDS, said Shawn Evenhaim, chairman of the Israeli-American Coalition for Action (IAX), which has led the move to pass AB 2844.

Evenhaim said that once the bill becomes law, IAX would look to see that it’s used to halt discriminatory boycotts against Israel.

“We’re not just going to frame [the bill] and hang it,” he said. “It’s a much longer fight and a much longer process.”

Dillon Hosier, the national director of state and local government affairs for IAX, said the federal government is producing a list of companies “engaged in a coercive political boycott against Israel.”

Once that list is composed it “will be a strong resource” in using AB 2844 to combat BDS in California.

In a joint phone interview, both officials praised the efforts by the legislature to fine-tune the measure.

“The bill was modified to really be very strong and secure from a constitutional perspective while also frankly confronting directly BDS and its effects,” Hosier said.

He said he’s continuing to work with Bloom and expects the bill to receive a vote in the Assembly on Aug. 29.

But the updates made to the bill as it wound its way through the legislature failed to quiet its opponents.

“From the start, the aim of AB 2844 has been to punish and chill First Amendment protected conduct – BDS campaigns for Palestinian freedom,” Rahul Saksena, staff attorney at Palestine Legal, said in an emailed statement. “The sponsors have jumped through hoops and hurdles trying to amend the bill to make it ‘less unconstitutional,’ but you can't fix a fundamentally flawed bill.”

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.

United Auto Workers rejects NYU graduate student union vote backing Israel boycott


The United Auto Workers union struck down a vote by the graduate student union at New York University to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Last week’s decision came two months after the resolution to support the BDS movement was approved by two-thirds of the 600 union members who  cast ballots in the Graduate Student Organizing Committee vote. The committee, an affiliate of the UAW, represents more than 2,000 graduate teaching and research assistants at the university.

The resolution called on the union and the UAW to divest from Israeli companies, and on NYU to shutter its program at Tel Aviv University, which it alleges violates the NYU non-discrimination policy. Fifty-seven percent of the voting union members also took a personal pledge to boycott Israeli government and academic institutions.

The boycott should remain in place, the resolution said, “until Israel complies with international law and ends the military occupation, dismantles the wall [West Bank security barrier], recognizes the rights of Palestinian citizens to full equality, and respects the right of return of Palestinian refugees and exiles.”

Members of the graduate student union who opposed the boycott resolution had filed an appeal against the UAW vote, claiming the resolution violated the UAW constitution.

In a letter dated June 21, the UAW’s president’s office wrote that the BDS resolution at NYU, as at other university locals, “is contrary to the position of the International Union.”

On Tuesday, leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations praised the UAW for its rejection of the NYU union’s decision.

“The action taken by the UAW demonstrates it is at the vanguard of promoting justice, and reaffirms the tradition of fairness and staunch opposition to discrimination which are the bedrock of the American labor movement and our society,” Presidents Conference Chairman Stephen Greenberg and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said in a letter to the UAW’s president, Dennis Williams.

“We urge other unions, church groups and academic institutions to follow the UAW’s lead and hope they will take the same principled and moral stand against the blatantly discriminatory BDS campaign,” they added.

NYU spokesman John Beckman told Capital News New York at the time of the vote: “NYU has a long-standing position opposing boycotts of Israeli academics and institutions. This vote is at odds with NYU’s policy on this matter, it is at odds with the principles of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas, and it is even at odds with the position of their own parent union, the UAW.”

In January, United Auto Workers International struck down a boycott resolution against Israel passed by the University of California Student Workers Union, UAW Local 2865, which represents more than 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors and other student workers in the UC system.

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.

Bernie Sanders says anti-Semitism is a factor in BDS


It would be a mistake to count out anti-Semitism as a driver of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, Sen. Bernie Sanders said.

“I think there is some of that, absolutely,” Sanders, I-Vt., said Monday evening on MSNBC after being asked if he would link BDS to anti-Semitism like his rival for the Democratic presidential nod, Hillary Clinton.

“Israel has done some very bad things, so has every other country on earth,” Sanders said. “I think the people who want to attack Israel for their policies, I think that is fair game. But not to appreciate that there is some level of anti-Semitism around the world involved in that I think would be a mistake.”

In the interview Sanders, who is Jewish, repeated some of the expansions on his Israel views that he delivered earlier in the day in a foreign policy speech. He said the United States needed to be more even-handed in how it dealt with Israel and the Palestinians, and singled out for criticism Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I spent many months on a kibbutz on Israel, so I know something about Israel,” he said. “Israel has got to be defended, has a right to exist, but you cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people.”

Sanders slammed Netanyahu particularly for the speech the prime minister delivered to Congress a year ago against President Barack Obama’s Iran policies. The senator appeared to be questioning Clinton, as well as the Republican presidential candidates, for their tendency to avoid criticism of Netanyahu.

“When you look at somebody like a Netanyahu, to simply not understand that this is a right-wing politician,” he said. “A guy who kind of crashed the United States Congress to give his speech there, ignoring President Obama, not even consulting with him, using it for political purposes back home, a guy who has supported the growth of settlements.”

Sanders was the only presidential candidate not to address this week’s annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference in Washington, D.C. He was traveling in Western states ahead of primaries this week, where he hopes to narrow Clinton’s delegate lead. He offered to deliver a speech via video link, but AIPAC declined, although it has hosted remote speeches by presidential candidates in the past.

Sanders in the interview also reiterated how his Judaism has shaped his political outlook.

“I would say that being Jewish, what has been most significant in my life is understanding what a Hitler, what horrible politics can mean to people, and I think that’s been one of the motivating factors in my life in fighting against racism and bigotry of all kinds,” he said. “Because when it gets out of hand, as we have seen, it obviously has unbelievable repercussions.”

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.

Ad accusing Israel of apartheid published in Los Angeles Times


A full-page ad that calls on Oscar nominees to refuse a free Israel trip worth $55,000 offered in their Academy Award swag bags was published in the Los Angeles Times.

The ad, which says “Don’t endorse Israeli apartheid,” appeared Wednesday in the newspaper’s Calendars section days after the entertainment magazine Variety refused to publish the ad, sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace, or JVP, a group that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Co-sponsored by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the ad has a top line reading “Free Trip to Israel at the Expense of Palestinians.”

The Israeli government is sponsoring the all-expenses paid, 10-day luxury travel pack with first-class air travel to Tel Aviv. The trip is included in swag bags for Oscar host Chris Rock and all nominees in the best actor/actress, best supporting actor/actress and director categories.

Variety initially accepted payment for the group’s ad, but then said it could not publish the ad since “it would need to have a softer tone.” JVP said in a statement it had asked for suggestions of “specific edits,” but was told “The topic is too sensitive at this time and we will not be in a position to add it to next week’s edition.”

“We’re glad the LA Times is running our ad,” Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of JVP, said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Censorship has no place in a serious publication, whether in ads or editorial content.”

Hillary Clinton: Taking the U.S.-Israel relationship to the next level


In this time of terrorism and turmoil, the alliance between the United States and Israel is more important than ever.  To meet the many challenges we face, we have to take our relationship to the next level.

Israel needs a strong America by its side, and America needs a strong and secure Israel by our side.  It’s in our national interest to have an Israel that remains a bastion of stability and a core ally in a region in chaos, and an Israel strong enough to deter its enemies and strong enough to take steps in the pursuit of peace.

I’m especially concerned about the new wave of violence inside Israel itself – brutal stabbings, shootings, and vehicle attacks that seek to sow fear among the innocent.  Recently, terrorists murdered an American Yeshiva student named Ezra Schwartz in a drive-by shooting.  These attacks must stop immediately, and Palestinian leaders should condemn and combat incitement in all of its forms. 

More broadly, the United States and Israel need to work together to address three converging trends: the rise of ISIS and the struggle against radical jihadism, Iran’s increasingly aggressive regional ambitions, and the growing effort around the world to isolate and delegitimize Israel.

First, we must work with our friends and partners to deny ISIS territory in the Middle East, dismantle the global infrastructure of terror, and toughen our defenses at home.  We can’t just contain ISIS – we must defeat ISIS. 

Second, we have to send Iran an unequivocal message.  There can be no doubt in Tehran that if Iran’s leaders violate their commitments not to seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons, the United States will stop them.  They will test our resolve with actions like their provocative ballistic missile test, for which we should impose new sanctions designations.  They need to understand that America will act decisively if Iran violates the nuclear agreement, including taking military action if necessary.  

Third, we must continue to fight against global efforts to delegitimize Israel.   The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, known as BDS, is the latest front in this battle.  BDS demonizes Israeli scientists and intellectuals—even young students—and compares Israel to South African apartheid.  That’s wrong and this campaign should end. 

Some of the BDS movement’s proponents may hope pressuring Israel will lead to peace, but no outside force is going to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.  Only a two-state solution negotiated between the parties can provide Palestinians independence, sovereignty, and dignity, and provide Israelis the secure and recognized borders of a democratic Jewish state.  As difficult as it is, everyone has to do their part to rebuild trust and create the conditions for progress.  Israelis and Palestinians should demand their leaders seek every opportunity to demonstrate commitment to peace.

With radical jihadism on the rise, Iran seeking to extend its reach, and growing efforts to delegitimize Israel, the United States and Israel need to stand together more than ever.  Israel’s search for security, stability and peace goes hand in hand with the broader effort of the United States to secure and stabilize the Middle East.  It’s time to take our alliance to the next level. 

As part of this effort, we need to ensure that Israel continues to maintain its qualitative military edge.  The United States should further bolster Israeli air defenses and help develop better tunnel detection technology to prevent arms smuggling and kidnapping.  We should also expand high level U.S.-Israel strategic consultations.  If we present a united front to the region and the world, I’m confident we can meet the threats and challenges we face today.

For me, this is more than policy – it’s personal.  I was born just a few months before Israel declared independence.  My generation came of age admiring the talent and tenacity of the Israeli people, who coaxed a dream into reality out of the harsh desert soil.  We watched a small nation fight fearlessly for its right to exist and build a thriving, raucous democracy.  And, through it all, Israel’s pursuit of peace was as inspiring as its prowess in war.  That’s why, like many Americans, I feel a deep emotional connection with Israel.  We are two nations woven together, lands built by immigrants and exiles seeking to live and worship in freedom, given life by democratic principles and sustained by the service and sacrifice of generations of patriots.

Yet even with all this history, with all our common interests and shared values, we can’t take this relationship for granted.  With every passing year, we must tie the bonds tighter and do the hard, necessary work of friendship.  Because there is a new generation in both countries today that does not remember our shared past; young Americans who didn’t see Israel in a fight for survival again and again, and young Israelis who didn’t see the United States broker peace at Camp David or kindle hope at Oslo or stand behind Israel when it was attacked.  They are growing up in a different world.  The future of our relationship depends on building new ties for a new time.


Hillary Clinton is a Democratic candidate for president. This essay was prepared for the Jewish Journal. The Journal will present views from candidates of all sides during the course of the 2016 election campaign.

Can Israel save itself?


Recent weeks have witnessed an intense debate surrounding the Israeli human rights group “Breaking the Silence” (BTS). Much of this is related to the Israeli government’s proposed legislation to require nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to display in demonstrable and public form the support they received from foreign governments, in sharp distinction from the free pass that the government gives to right-wing groups that receive a great deal of money from foreign, private sources. BTS, which receives part of its budget from the European Union, has been cast as the chief culprit, owing to its policy of reporting on abuses by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers in the occupied territories. Both President Reuven Rivlin and opposition leader Tzipi Livni went out of their way to criticize BTS at the New Israel Fund/HaaretzQ conference in New York in mid-December. Far more gravely, the right-wing Israeli organization Im Tirtzu produced a provocative video that depicted a leading member of BTS as a sinister foreign agent who endangered the security of the State of Israel.  

In the eyes of its opponents, the chief sins of BTS are two-fold: first, that it dares to criticize the most and perhaps only sacred institution remaining in Israel, the IDF; and second, that it does so not only at home, in Israel, but abroad, in Europe and the United States. Such reports abroad, it is argued, only strengthen the hand of Israel’s enemies at a particularly vulnerable point in time.  

This concern cannot be dismissed out of hand. There clearly is an uptick in anti-Israeli agitation in the West, especially through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which may well shift its tactic from attacking Israel’s occupation of the West Bank to advocating an academic and cultural boycott of Israel (and thereby questioning the legitimacy of Israel’s right to exist). This kind of agitation is often confused with, but nonetheless is distinct from, the decision by the European Union (EU) in November to label products coming from Israeli settlements. The EU’s policy is in fact an affirmation of Israel’s right to exist. Along with much of the world, it regards Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line as illegal according to the Fourth Geneva Convention.  But it recognizes Israel’s right to live in peace and security within the Green Line. By issuing a kind of censure on settlement products, it is seeking to push Israel away from a dangerous cliff: If the country continues to entrench itself in West Bank settlements, there will be no Palestinian state. In addition to denying Palestinians their legitimate right to self-determination, continued occupation will likely also spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state, given the demographic trends in the land between the Jordan and Mediterranean. 

The EU, therefore, is attempting to shake up the current geopolitical stasis, a state that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems intent on preserving. In parallel, BTS is attempting to call attention to abuses that result from Israel’s occupation. Its decision to air accounts of Israeli soldiers’ transgressions is discomfiting, to be sure. It taps into a deep-rooted fear in Jewish tradition that regards entreaties to gentiles as the height of disloyalty. Medieval Jews regarded with unrestrained animosity fellow Jews (known as mosrim) who informed on others to the gentile state.  Similarly, it was considered a severe breach of protocol to seek to adjudicate legal matters between Jews in a gentile jurisdiction (arka`ot shel goyim).  

We live in a different world now. There is a self-standing and powerful Jewish state. But it is not unblemished. The logic of groups such as Breaking the Silence is that self-scrutiny by Israel alone is not always sufficient. The IDF, professional and well trained as it may be, is not the best vehicle to monitor or pass judgment on allegations of abuses within it. Nor is Israel’s current right-wing government, whose leaders sometimes seem less interested in upholding the country’s increasingly fragile democratic foundation than the army or security services. 

Can Israel save itself at this point? As the country marks the ignominious 50th year of the occupation in 2017, this is an ever more urgent question. There is no evidence to suggest that Netanyahu can or wants to take the difficult steps necessary to preserve Israel’s delicate democratic balance and realize the promise laid out in its founding Declaration of Independence from May 14, 1948. In light of that, one can either accept the current anti-democratic drift, with its potential to make a bad situation in Israel/Palestine much worse, or one can appeal, as BTS has done, to external audiences who are interested in peace and justice in this troubled land. 

Undeniably, this is a risky proposition.  There are actors out there in the world who desire nothing more than to condemn Israel to extinction.  But there are also actors out there, such as the European Union, which distinguish clearly between Israel’s right to exist and the illegality of its occupation. Distinguishing between the two kinds of audiences is tricky, and Breaking the Silence must be mindful of this.  But it is not impossible. Above all, it is necessary, since the policy of keeping Israel’s woes in-house has simply not worked.


David N. Myers is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at UCLA.

Eagles of Death Metal producer denies reports of upcoming Israel concert


Contrary to earlier reports, the American band whose Paris concert was attacked on Friday has not confirmed any plans to perform in Israel.

On Monday afternoon, the Times of Israel quoted the Eagles of Death Metal’s Israeli producer as saying earlier Israeli media reports were based on “unconfirmed rumors” and were “simply not true.”

Ynet reported earlier in the day that the band, which performed in Israel last summer despite pressure from the BDS, or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, had confirmed plans to return in the summer of 2016.

Eighty-seven people, including three of the band’s crew members, were killed at the Eagles of Death Metal’s concert on Friday after gunmen entered the Bataclan theater and began shooting into the crowd. The attack was one of several terrorist attacks in the French capital that left 129 dead and more than 300 injured.

None of the musicians was hurt in the attacks.

European diplomat: Labeling won’t affect trade with Israel


The European Commission’s newest guidelines on the labeling of products from Israeli settlements will neither impact trade with Israel nor incur sanctions on non-complying EU states, a senior European diplomat said.

The diplomat, who spoke to JTA on Tuesday on condition of anonymity, citing EU regulations that require all messaging go through spokespeople, was referring to a document the diplomat said was due to be published Wednesday or later this week by the European Commission. It carries explanations on EU requirements for labels on products marketed from Israel to the European Union that are produced or packaged in disputed areas under Israel’s control: the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

“Our statistics show that in countries where this is applied, in the United Kingdom, for example, overall trade volume of Israel has gone up, not down, since separate labeling for products made in occupied territories began,” the diplomat said.

The document recommends separate labeling for each of the three disputed areas under Israeli control, according to the diplomat. The document was drafted following an appeal in April by 16 EU foreign ministers to the union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, asking her to push for implementing guidelines published in 2012. The foreign ministers said the guidelines on separate labeling settlement goods were part and parcel of the EU’s commitment to a two-state solution and to its commitment to consumers.

In addition to Britain, settlement goods are labeled as such in the EU only in Belgium and Denmark, the diplomat said. The new guidelines will likely increase compliance, but would probably not incur any sanctions of non-complying states, the diplomat added.

Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, referred to the labeling as facilitating “boycotting products from Judea and Samaria,” which she said was “a boycott against Israel.” But the diplomat said the European Union was interested in “the opposite” of boycotting Israel.

“Let’s not forget that the trade volume involved is tiny; it’s 1 percent of overall trade,” said the diplomat.

On Tuesday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry published a statement that said “these measures are discriminatory in nature. It is intolerable that Israel is the only country that has been singled out by the EU for such a policy, despite the fact that there are over 200 disputed territories worldwide.”

Bring Bill Clinton back to the Israeli-Palestinian peace table


Monday night in Beverly Hills, a dozen Israeli and American Jews gathered for a night of luxurious despair over the Middle East.

We were at the sprawling midcentury-modern home of Aviv Giladi, the Israeli-born serial entertainment entrepreneur. Good wines and a bottle of 12-year-old MacCallan greeted us, and, because this was a mostly Israeli gathering, a table spread with hummus, falafel, shwarma and fresh pita stood in for the requisite crackers, cheeses and grapes. 

Giladi and his business partner, producer Lawrence Bender, made some last-minute invites to gather a group to hear Alon Ben-David. Ben-David is the defense correspondent for Israel’s Channel 10, which Giladi and billionaire Len Blavatnik just purchased.

Ben-David is a handsome, commanding 47-year-old with a deep anchorman voice made even richer by cigarettes, Scotch and a slight cold. He gave an overview of a Middle East that is completely and irreparably breaking apart. Syria and Iraq are finished, Ben-David said, Iran is triumphant, and Israel is dealing with Palestinian violence that is neither an intifada nor a passing wave.

“I don’t like the term ‘wave,’ ” Ben-David said, “because wave is something that washes over you and goes away. I don’t think this is going to go away. We are located in a sea of violence.”

The violence wracking Israel is not a widespread organized revolt. But it does reflect a sense of despair, injustice and rage among Palestinians.

Of the 1.8 million Gazans, for instance, Ben-David pointed out that 800,000 are on United Nations food aid, which means they live on less than $2 day. Gazan boys have been sneaking into Israel hoping to get arrested, just so they can get three meals a day in prison. When the Israel Defense Forces stopped arresting the kids and just sent them back, the boys would return carrying a grenade, just to make sure they’d end up in prison.

For now, Hamas has no interest in resuming attacks, but Ben-David wondered how long that would last.

Among West Bank Palestinians, there is a similar sense of despair.

“They thought [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas was going to go to the U.N. and declare a Palestinian state,” Ben-David said. “Instead, he declared defeat. He said he failed.”

As borders throughout the Middle East get erased, Ben-David sees no clear solution for Israel besides drawing a border.

Sixty-seven years after the founding of the state, he said, and 48 years after the Six-Day War, it’s time for Israel to grow up and declare where Israel stops and a Palestinian entity starts.

“We have been telling ourselves a story about united Jerusalem forever and ever,” Ben-David said. “This city is not united. It’s completely divided.”

Unfortunately, Ben-David sees no movement on that front coming from the current government, and no serious leadership that can mount an opposition.

“A leader who tells us he can maintain the status quo is not telling the truth,” he said.

Given this situation, someone asked Ben-David, a former Middle East correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly, what he perceives as Israel’s biggest immediate threat.

“BDS,” he said, without hesitation, indicating that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement can turn Israel into an international pariah. “If the European Union says tomorrow we are not going to do business with any Israeli bank that has a branch over the 1967 borderline, boom, it’s game over.” 

(As if on cue, in the next day’s Guardian newspaper, 343 English academics from 72 institutions, including Oxford and Cambridge universities, published a signed pledge to boycott Israeli academic institutions.) 

Someone mentioned how ironic it was to be having such a bleak talk 20 years after the murder of Yitzhak Rabin. Ben-David said his host had requested he not be as unrelentingly hopeless as the Middle East itself. So he ended on the good news: Israel has no enemies surrounding it who can destroy it. In fact, many of its Sunni neighbors would be eager to make common cause with Israel against Iran and the Sunni extremist groups such as ISIS.

“We can work together with them to shape the region,” Ben-David said. 

The problem, of course, is that as long as there is no forward movement on the Palestinian issue, these powerful potential allies have to keep everything mum. “We have a mistress-like relationship with them,” Ben-David said, “relations only take place behind closed doors.”

The group of producers, media moguls and a stray academic adjourned for dessert by the pool on the warm October evening. I sat wondering how Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world, with no leadership in sight, could find their way back to the hope that Rabin personified. My mind wandered to that famous photo of Yasser Arafat, Rabin and Bill Clinton on the White House lawn during the signing of the Oslo Accords. Arafat is thankfully long gone, Rabin murdered — but Bill very much alive.

That’s when it hit me: Bill  is one of the few living figures who can unite the moderate Israelis, Palestinians and Arab states. He can offer a pragmatic, credible plan that will ensure Israel can remain a vibrant Jewish state, Palestinians can build a decent future, and the region can regain some chance of stability.  

Memo to whomever is the next president:  Send Bill back. The last man standing is the best man for the job.


Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

Another way to think about BDS


Every week, a new message rolls in from a Jewish organization decrying Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as a grave danger to the survival of Israel and the Jews. I don’t know how to react. On one hand, I oppose the global BDS movement, which seeks to boycott and divest from Israel at large. On the other, I can’t join in the rising chorus of demonization against it, to borrow Natan Sharansky’s term of accusation against BDS. A recent column in this paper by Rabbi Pini Dunner, whom I know and respect, went so far as to cast the BDS movement as today’s Amalek, the archenemy of ancient Israel, worthy of obliteration. I assume that this kind of lachrymose theology is not a warrant for violence, but one can never err too much on the side of vigilance when confronting exaggerated religious rhetoric in the service of political goals. After all, that kind of rhetoric has played no small role in the latest outbreak of tragic violence now in Israel and the West Bank.

The shrillness of the debate over BDS — and indeed, its promoters have contributed more than their share — makes it difficult to arrive at a balanced view of things. Here are five propositions to consider when assessing the movement:

Not all supporters of BDS are anti-Semitic: The assumption of many in the Jewish community, including Pinner, is that all supporters of BDS, Jewish or not, are anti-Semitic. The pro-BDS advocates whom I know don’t hold to biased or unflattering views of Jews. They are opposed to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and subjugation of the Palestinian people. Some believe that the most equitable arrangement for the residents of the region between the Jordan and Mediterranean is a single state (as does Israel’s impressive president, Reuven Rivlin). Is it discomfiting to hear people advocate for a solution that entails the end of Israel as a Jewish state? Yes. Is it anti-Semitic?  Not necessarily.

Is it discomfiting to hear people advocate for a solution that entails the end of Israel as a Jewish state? Yes. Is it anti-Semitic? Not necessarily.

Some supporters of BDS are anti-Semitic: The fact that not all BDS supporters are anti-Semitic does not mean that all of its supporters are free of that millennial malady. Some of BDS’ leading voices deny to Jews the right to self-definition as a nation, which is a curious inversion of Golda Meir’s lamentable statement that there was no Palestinian people. Moreover, at American colleges and universities, some BDS supporters have introduced a toxic tone into campus debates and refused to engage in dialogue with those with whom they disagree. At times, they have descended into dangerous assertions not simply about Israel, but about Jews and their putative political power, as in the case of UCLA student Rachel Beyda in February 2015. The result can be an anti-Semitism in effect, if not intent. It needs to be called out and challenged when it crops up.

BDS’ singularity of focus on Israel is troubling: Whether anti-Semitic in intent, the singular focus of BDS on Israel is curious. After all, the region in which Israel is located is rife with conflict at every turn. Just northeast of Israel, a quarter of a million people have died in the Syria war. Where is the outrage? Meanwhile, ISIS beheads innocent victims. Iraq and Yemen descend into tribal warfare. Egypt’s regime turns more corrupt and violent than ever. Turkey uses the cover of the West’s anti-ISIS campaign to strike out at the Kurds again. Saudi Arabia metes out brutal and primal Islamic justice. One can only ask of BDS supporters: In the midst of this region careening out of control, you see fit to focus the brunt of your attention on Israel? Really? A bit more fair-minded scrutiny of the offenders in the region — and elsewhere — wouldn’t hurt.

Beware of confusing cause and effect: While Jews should be at the forefront of those condemning the wanton violence in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, that doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility to attend to our own troubles. The Jewish community is very good at identifying the flaws of its opponents, but less so in confronting challenges within its own camp. Thus, we join together to take aim at BDS. It is good to have a clearly identified external opponent. But we kid ourselves if we don’t recognize that there would be no BDS movement if there were no occupation of the West Bank and ongoing denial of Palestinian national rights. BDS took rise in July 2005, after the collapse of the Second Intifada and the Oslo peace process. Its first declared goal was to end the occupation of the West Bank. Unlike prior Palestinian actions, it is a nonviolent form of protest against the ongoing denial of self-determination to the Palestinian people. There can be little doubt that Palestinians have been terribly served by their leaders, from Yasser Arafat to Hamas to Mahmoud Abbas. But Israel is the far stronger party in the conflict and continues to suppress the Palestinians through a system of land expropriations, checkpoints, security raids, intelligence operations and the invasive security barrier. This is politically and morally unsustainable.

It’s not enough to fight BDS; one must fight the occupation: Jews do themselves no benefit by taking aim at BDS without struggling to end the occupation and granting Palestinians the right to self-determination. We are rapidly losing credibility in the world, among long-standing friends, on college campuses and particularly with our own Jewish youth, who no longer buy the hasbara refrain of Israel’s unblemished virtue. To right an ongoing injustice (and halt Israel’s plummeting reputation in the world), it is imperative to fight the root cause of BDS, which is not anti-Semitism, but rather the occupation. We need a new campaign that makes clear that we stand with Israel and its right to exist, but can no longer tolerate the occupation and settlement-building. They are key factors in the denial of national rights to Palestinians and add fuel to the frustration-driven violence of today. Almost 50 years after the territorial conquests in 1967, with hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jewish civilians dwelling on land that the world regards as illegally settled, it seems hard to dispute that the occupation has been a tragic mistake. It is the Masada of our time — a seemingly bold and heroic pursuit, but ultimately a project of moral failing, political error and collective suicide.


David N. Myers is a professor and the Sady and Ludwig Kahn chair in Jewish History at UCLA.

To defeat BDS, enlist Israeli Americans


American Jewry has witnessed a tsunami of hate on college campuses and across our communities. In the past year, resolutions calling for a divestment and boycott of Israel have been considered or passed by 30 student governments across the U.S. Israel haters have charged Jewish undergraduates seeking student government positions at UCLA and Stanford with “dual loyalties,” claiming that their strong Jewish identities should disqualify them from representing other students. AEPi — America’s largest Jewish fraternity — has seen an unprecedented rise in attacks on its members and vandalism on its houses. On and off campus, pro-Israel and Jewish students have been targeted, harassed and even physically assaulted.

These developments have spurred serious concern and significant conversation within the American Jewish community. Many debate the causes for these incidents. Others question the seriousness of the threat. As philanthropists and pro-Israel activists, my wife and I have engaged for many years on the front lines of the fight, working with a range of organizations that seek to defend Israel and the Jewish people. We’ve observed three basic facts about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — and its affiliated hate groups — that must inform the way we move forward. 

First, this movement seeks to eradicate Israel, plain and simple. After failing to destroy the Jewish state with bullets and bombs, Israel’s enemies have turned to tweets, memes and YouTube videos. In recent years, these hate groups have learned that they are much more effective when posing as social justice activists who simply oppose Israel’s policies. Too many in our community have bought the lie that this is a response to actions taken by the Israeli government. They believe BDS will go away if Israel withdraws from the land acquired from Jordan during the Six-Day War — or finds another way to engage a Palestinian leadership that has rejected numerous peace deals offering 97 percent of this territory. The reality is that these hate groups don’t recognize the right of Israel to exist within any borders. The maps they publish of the region tell the whole story about their true goals, depicting a single Palestinian state that extends “from the river to the sea” with no trace of Israel. 

Second, BDS is anti-Semitic. While tyrannical regimes trample on human rights throughout the Middle East, BDS chooses to single out only the Jewish state, the region’s only democracy, for criticism and boycott. By trafficking in vile lies about Israel and launching accusations of genocide and apartheid, these hate groups seek to demonize the Jewish state and boycott it in the same way anti-Semites have long demonized the Jewish people and boycotted Jewish businesses. If their movement is really about Palestinian welfare, why hasn’t there been a single BDS resolution targeting Lebanon, where Palestinians are kept as second-class citizens, denied the right to own property, and prevented from entering professions such as law and medicine? If they are really concerned about human rights, why hasn’t there been a single BDS resolution about Iran, where women are subjugated, homosexuals are hanged and journalists are jailed? 

Third, this movement is well funded, nationally organized, and connected to a range of radical, anti-American, anti-Western and, in some cases, terrorist organizations. Hatem Bazian — the co-founder of Students for Justice in Palestine — publicly called for an intifada inside of the United States against the American government. Many former leaders of the Holy Land Foundation — a front group convicted of raising millions for Hamas that was shut down by the U.S. government in 2008 — now lead American Muslims for Palestine, the largest umbrella organization supporting BDS activities on and off campus by raising money, developing anti-Israel materials, organizing conferences and arranging speakers for events. Masquerading as social justice activists, this small group of dangerous radicals has been able to brainwash large numbers of students on campus after campus, forming alliances with groups working to promote rights of minorities, women and LGBT members.

In the face of an anti-Semitic enemy committed to the destruction of Israel — and willing to play dirty — what is the best way to respond? Many pro-Israel organizations are doing important work in education, public diplomacy and training, which must continue. Yet, in the face of this onslaught of hate and intimidation, we need a new infusion of resources, a new framework for fostering collaboration and new advocacy tools to beat back the bad guys.

Last month, I was honored to help organize a summit in Las Vegas hosted by Miriam and Sheldon Adelson to bring together more than 50 organizations in the battle against these hate groups. We’ve formed a task force called the Campus Maccabees, which will organize a nationwide movement to fight anti-Semitism and the hate groups that attack the Jewish people and Israel on American universities and beyond. 

We believe that this new task force will be a game changer in this fight, coordinating the work of the very best pro-Israel organizations in unprecedented ways. We will go on the offense against Israel’s enemies. We will reveal the baseline anti-Semitism of this movement, expose its desire to eradicate the State of Israel and give our students the tools to defeat it.

As part of this campaign, we must tap into a unique strategic asset that has not yet been fully leveraged: the Israeli-American community. For too long, most Israelis living in America have remained separate from the traditional Jewish community and disengaged from Israel advocacy efforts. Eight years ago, I joined with several other Israeli-American leaders in Los Angeles to found the Israeli-American Council and change this reality. Israeli Americans are knowledgeable and passionate about this subject. They can speak from personal experience — it’s much easier to explain Israel’s security challenges when your family lives in Sderot or you have served in the Israel Defense Forces. Israeli Americans — instilled with our culture’s characteristic boldness — can form an army of activists who are unafraid to stand up and speak out against the lies about the Jewish state and the Israeli people.

We’ve reached a critical tipping point. We need everyone in the pro-Israel community to lend their skills to this fight as we realign our strategic focus from reactive to proactive. With strength, determination and unity, we can show the anti-Semites taking over America’s universities that tsunamis travel in more than one direction.


Adam Milstein is an Israeli-American philanthropist, activist and real estate entrepreneur. To learn more about Milstein’s work in pro-Israel advocacy, visit the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation or follow him on Twitter @AdamMilstein.

Hillary Clinton has the answer to BDS


I’ve been thinking for years about the best way to respond to the threat of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. I’ve read pretty much everything on the topic and brainstormed every possible idea, but I’ve never heard anything that really made sense to me.

Until I heard from Hillary Clinton.

Ironically, Clinton wasn’t trying to provide any answers; she was merely asking for assistance. In a letter this week to a small group of Jewish leaders, including mega Democratic donor Haim Saban, that was made public, she asks for advice on how to fight the BDS movement, which she says is seeking to “isolate and delegitimize Israel.”

“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,” Clinton wrote. “From Congress and state legislatures to boardrooms and classrooms, we need to engage all people of good faith, regardless of their political persuasion or their views on policy specifics, in explaining why the BDS campaign is counterproductive to the pursuit of peace and harmful to Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

On the surface, this sounds like typical political talk designed to win points with major Israel donors, and maybe it is. Clinton is a politician, after all, and she’s focused like a hawk on becoming the leader of the free world in 2017.

But politics shmolitics — a good idea is a good idea, and focusing on the moral pursuit of peace is a darn good idea.

The genius of the BDS campaign is that its proponents have grabbed the moral high ground. They have crafted an image of fighting for the rights of powerless Palestinians. Inevitably, in this scenario Israel becomes the oppressor worthy of boycotting, just as the apartheid regime that once ruled South Africa was worthy of boycotting.

Any response to BDS that doesn’t address this moral issue is guaranteed to fail, especially when Israel’s image is already under siege throughout much of the world.

It’s not about demonizing BDS or defending Israel. It’s about providing calm, clear, credible information that will topple BDS from its throne of high morality.

That is the main problem with so many of the ideas I have seen as responses to BDS, and I include my own. They beat around the bush. They’re either too defensive or too mushy or too aggressive. “Demonizing the demonizers” sounds like a good strategy if you want to give red meat to angry right-wing donors, but it doesn’t address the real problem.

It’s not about demonizing BDS or defending Israel. It’s about providing calm, clear, credible information that will topple BDS from its throne  of high morality.

This is where Hillary Clinton comes in.

Her powerful moral insight couched inside her letter to Saban is that BDS is bad for the Palestinians. That’s right — it’s bad for the very people BDS claims to represent.

It’s bad for the Palestinians, and it’s bad for peace. When Clinton says BDS is “not the path to peace,” she is driving a stake through the heart of the movement.

When she writes that “BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict,” she is being fair, reasonable and moral. 

Clinton also writes that “Israel is a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy, and it faces existential threats to its survival.”

Those are strong words that provide important context. In terms of fighting BDS, however, they are nothing without her previous moral assertion that BDS is bad for the Palestinians and bad for peace.

If I were Saban, I would respond to her plea for advice as follows: 

“Thank you, Hillary, for your request for my assistance regarding the BDS movement, which, as you say, seeks to isolate and delegitimize Israel. I have to point out, however, that you have turned the tables on me. Your letter already lays the groundwork for a brilliant response to BDS with this one simple, moral insight: BDS is bad for the Palestinians, bad for peace and bad for the two-state solution.

“Everything we do in response to BDS — from campuses to Congress to the Israeli Knesset to the White House — should capture this messaging: BDS does not bring us closer to peace. In fact, it does the very opposite. Hopefully, with time and effort, we will develop an alternative movement that will attract all people of good faith, including Israelis and Palestinians, to sit down and do the hard work of engaging and wrestling with this complicated conflict.

“And when we do that, I hope we will announce it in the Rose Garden together, and that it will have your name on it.”


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

Behind the BDS curtain: 10 years ago, Israel ignored Barghouti’s movement. Not anymore.


In recent years, no three letters have inspired more passion or pain across America’s college campuses than BDS.

“When people, especially people in the Jewish community, hear ‘BDS,’ they think about it as this monstrous, monolithic thing,” said Noah Whinston, a 20-year-old Jewish student at Northwestern University, outside Chicago, referring to the acronym for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel movement. “For every Jew, there’s something instilled within us where those three letters are really scary as soon as you put them in a line.”

Whinston is the only Jewish member of Northwestern’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter. Earlier this year, thanks in large part to SJP lobbying, his private Midwestern college became one of roughly 20 universities in the United States whose undergraduate student governments voted to demand their schools divest from companies profiting from Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. (Until now, SJP has focused primarily on the D in BDS.) Around 75 percent of these student divestment resolutions have passed within the last two years — many of them after being repeatedly voted down in prior years. 

Although to date, the administration of only one small liberal-arts college in Massachusetts has agreed to actually divest — Hampshire College, which also was the first U.S. school to divest during the campaign against South African apartheid — today’s university students have mobilized. No longer does the argument that pressuring Israel is less important than preserving campus unity stave off divestment resolutions like it used to.

[UPDATE 7/13/2015] Correction: Hampshire College's board of trustees clarifies that while the initial review of its investments in 2009 was set in motion by an SJP complaint, “no administrative or board level action took place in support of SJP.” The college's decision to divest from various companies that violated its policy on socially responsible investments was not based on their activity in Israel, according to the board.

Northwestern’s resolution passed on its first run last February.

“This isn’t about campus politics — this is about our survival,” a Mexican-American student from the Chicano Students Movement of Aztlan (MEChA) testified at the hearing. She likened her people’s historic oppression to that of the Palestinians. “You say we’re divisive. ‘Build bridges not walls.’ Why don’t you tell the Israeli government that?” the student said, raising her voice, empowered by the hum of hundreds of finger snaps — the campus equivalent of applause.

“The room had 400 or 500 people in it,” Whinston remembered. “It was packed. I think that was the most well-attended student government meeting in the history of the school.”

At the University of California, more than in any other school system, SJP-endorsed divestment resolutions have spread like wildfire. Elected student reps at six of the UC system’s 10 campuses — along with the greater UC Student Association — have voted that the UC should divest from Israel-invested companies such as Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard. Last December, a UC student-worker union voted to support a full call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel — becoming the first major U.S. labor union to do so.

Students for Justice in Palestine 

This week, on July 9, the BDS movement marks its 10th year. But many of BDS’ opponents argue that its core narrative was born several years earlier, in 2001, at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. There, various European nongovernmental organizations defined Israel’s social and physical divisions as true apartheid — likening it to South Africa before a global BDS movement pressured it to desegregate.

“The blueprint was there; the South Africa model was there,” claimed Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor. “Omar Barghouti then jumped on the bandwagon, took what was there, claimed credit for it and built it into this website, which he calls a movement.”

Barghouti, 50, is the Palestinian academic widely considered the founding father of the BDS movement. He currently serves as director for the closest thing BDS has to a control room: the BDS National Committee, or BNC, headquartered in Ramallah. 

If Barghouti was not a household name in Israel before this spring’s rash of BDS wins, that has quickly changed. Israeli TV stations have been crediting him as the mastermind behind the FIFA debacle, Wind said. And Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s most-read newspaper, recently dubbed him “Explosive Omar” in a front-page story. 

In a rare interview, Barghouti described to the Journal the hot July day 10 years ago when Palestinian organizations from all over the political spectrum came together in support of a new, nonviolent movement. “Within days” of issuing the call for BDS, he said, “171 organizations, parties and unions signed on, turning this into a sweeping manifestation of the Palestinian will to resist injustice and live in freedom and dignity.”


“Within days [of issuing the call for BDS] 171 organizations, parties and unions signed on, turning this into a sweeping manifestation of the Palestinian will to resist injustice and live in freedom and dignity.” — Omar Barghouti

July 9, 2005, also marked the one-year anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s ruling that Israel’s separation barrier defied international law. Barghouti called the decision — compounded by the world’s silence — “the last trigger for the BDS movement.”

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, a Northern California resident who’s been involved in the Palestinian rights struggle since the 1960s, sees the July 9 call as “key in bringing different activists around the world together.” It was a clear-cut campaign around which they could rally.

Indeed, by the time the call came from Ramallah, the groundwork for what would become one of BDS’ most effective battlegrounds had already been built in Berkeley by UC professor and radical leftie Hatem Bazian. Back in 2001, he had formed the first chapter of SJP. (To this day, many Israel advocates pass around an old 2004 video of Bazian calling for a U.S. intifada. “They’re going to say some Palestinians are being too radical,” he tells a crowd of supporters at UC Berkeley. “Well, you haven’t seen radicalism yet!”) 

In 2010, and again in 2013, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a pro-Israel group that seeks to call out anti-Semitism in all its forms, published a list of “The Top 10 Anti-Israel Groups in the U.S.” SJP was named in both reports.

The ADL claims SJP-backed divestment resolutions have created a campus atmosphere in which anti-Semitism can thrive. (Recently, at Stanford University and UC Davis, swastikas were spray-painted on a Jewish frat house.) It also condemns SJP’s cross-campus practice of tacking mock Palestinian eviction notices to students’ dorm rooms and has accused activists of singling out Jewish students in the process. 

“If the university and college environment can be viewed as the incubator for tomorrow’s leaders, SJP’s success at introducing anti-Israel ideologies to today’s college students is enormously significant,” the ADL said in its 2013 report.

SJP membership has continued to grow rapidly since then. Its leaders now estimate more than 150 SJP chapters are spread across the U.S. — and those chapters have entered into hundreds more collaborative unions with other campus groups that share their principles, many of them representing ethnic minorities. 

“Campus politics have been hijacked by a group of students who are intent to conquer,” Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, then the executive director of Hillel at UCLA, said in a controversial statement after the school’s divestment bill passed. “The coalition of Arab, Muslim, Latino, Asian and gay students — they’re all oppressed minorities.” (At Northwestern’s divestment vote later that month, a student representing the Chicano activist group MEChA quoted Seidler-Feller at the podium. Many in the crowd crossed their arms and shook their heads in disbelief.)

Various Israel advocates and Internet sleuths claimed in interviews with the Journal that SJP is running on significant outside capital. However, the Journal could not find any evidence of this.

SJP’s campus branches are largely autonomous from their parent group, SJP National, which exists mostly to plan SJP’s annual conference. Leaders from a handful of SJP’s approximately 150 campus chapters said they count on student government funds and independent fundraisers to stay active. UCLA’s SJP branch, for example, was allocated about $8,000 in student fees for the 2014-15 school year. And the SJP chapter at Northwestern raised an extra $4,000 toward its divestment campaign via the crowd-funding website Rally.org.

But there’s another group included in the ADL’s top-10 list that has experienced an even more meteoric rise than SJP, and the finances to support it: Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

Jewish Voice for Peace

In February, JVP leaders decided to endorse the full BDS call — boycott, divestment and sanctions against all companies and institutions on both sides of the Green Line. 

BNC, led by Barghouti, “has been incredibly patient with us,” JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson said in an interview. In the past few years, she said, BNC leaders “were willing to work with us despite us not endorsing the full call.” 

In the past five years, JVP’s annual budget has catapulted from a few hundred thousand dollars to $2.5 million in 2015. Since this time last year, its roster has expanded from 40 to 60 chapters, its list of online supporters has jumped from 140,000 to 200,000 names, and its social-media following has tripled.

Vilkomerson points to Israel’s 2014 military operation in Gaza as the cause for most of this growth. “Every time there’s a conflict in Israel-Palestine,” she said, “a new group of Jewish people starts to question Israel.”

JVP does not release the names of its donors to the public for fear of harassment. However, Vilkomerson did reveal that the group counts around 9,000 donors, mostly individuals. “People were beside themselves this summer,” she said. “They would just write us checks because they didn’t know what else to do.”

Jacob Manheim, 22, is a recent UCLA graduate who helped found a JVP chapter at the school after a previous divestment resolution failed in early 2014. With JVP’s help, a similar resolution passed in a landslide 8-2-2 vote on its second try. 

“We lobbied student council members and held meetings discussing the myths and facts regarding divestment” in the months leading up to the decision, Manheim said. “Moreover, we were able to show our classmates the diversity of the Jewish community, and that being Jewish does not necessarily mean that you support state violence against Palestinians.”

Campus Maccabees

At a much-talked-about summit at the Las Vegas hotel of American-Jewish mogul Sheldon Adelson in the first week of June, Prime Minister Netanyahu pledged to allocate $50 million toward a new government PR campaign specifically targeting BDS. 

“Delegitimization of Israel must be fought, and you are on the front lines,” Netanyahu told representatives from the 50-plus organizations present at the summit. And the trio of wealthy men who had organized the event — Adelson, Haim Saban and Adam Milstein — called on philanthropists in attendance to match that sum with another $50 million in grants for those fighting BDS.

“You work together and we will raise you the money,” Milstein, an Israeli-born Los Angeles real-estate investor and a co-founder of the Israeli American Council, reportedly told pro-Israel activists at the summit. “You no longer have to worry about financing and fundraising. You just need to be united.”

The new anti-BDS campaign is being called the Campus Maccabees, a nod to the Jewish rebels of ancient Israel.

In an email interview with the Journal after his summit, Milstein said: “The Campus Maccabees will reverse the rising tide of anti-Semitism by bringing together the most effective ideas and organizations, along with the funding necessary to make them successful in winning this battle on campuses and across the country.”

In fact, the Maccabees’ strategy going into the 2015-16 school year isn’t a far cry from that of BDS campus activists interviewed by the Journal. Both said they were focusing on educating the largest possible number of fellow students and faculty members. 

“By creating a new hub for cooperation — which moves the fight against this growing anti-Semitic movement from defense to offense, from a reactive posture to a proactive posture — we can and will win this battle,” Milstein said. 

Many BDS activists see this new $100 million, counter-education campaign as a sign of their own growing success. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,” said Vilkomerson, quoting Gandhi. “Now we’re in the ‘fight you’ phase. We weren’t there 10 years ago. We weren’t even there two years ago.”

Stubborn believers in the peace talks argue that with every BDS victory, symbolic or not, both the Israelis and the Palestinians retreat farther into their respective narratives of victimhood — causing an impasse in negotiations.

But Gideon Levy, one of the farthest-left columnists in Israel’s farthest-left daily, Haaretz, wrote that while BDS may be deepening Israel’s “sense of victimhood, isolationism and nationalism” in the short term, it could also “result in a major change in attitude” in the long run, if the economic pressure becomes too much to bear. 

Others are skeptical about the BDS movement’s underlying intentions. “In the early days, it was relatively easy to show” that BDSers were really calling for the destruction of Israel, said Jonathan Rynhold, an Israeli economics professor and diplomacy expert. “Because they just said it, pretty much. But what’s happened over time is they’ve become more sophisticated and learned to use the language of the liberal left … and blur the difference between ’48 and ’67 lines.” For example, as pro-Israel activists often point out, maps of the region in logos used by groups such as SJP and American Muslims for Palestine don’t leave room for Israel.

BDS co-founder and leader Barghouti rejects this accusation. “Taking any political stance outside our human-rights mandate would have divided us and stripped us of our strongest assets — the near Palestinian consensus behind the movement and the compelling moral quest for universal rights,” he said.

Right now, following Barghouti’s lead, SJP and JVP chapters are gearing up for another year of education campaigns on campus. They plan to set up mock apartheid walls and checkpoints, start new petitions, push more divestment bills, and host lectures and informational sessions. Once they gather enough support on the ground, student leaders said, they expect policymakers will be forced to take notice.

“We’ve been able to present to students in a very factual way about the occupation and our involvement in it,” said Safwan Ibrahim, a 24-year-old UCLA student and SJP board member. “UC funds are invested in these companies that are profiting from the occupation. It’s not so far removed anymore. People are seeing this as a very tangible, changeable issue. People can see it through their own identities.”

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