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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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 ” target=”_blank”>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

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.”

Clinton says campaign will talk up countering BDS

Hillary Rodham Clinton said she will speak out against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel during her presidential campaign.

“I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority,” Clinton said in a July 2 letter to Haim Saban, the Israeli-American entertainment mogul who has been a major fundraiser for Clinton in the past. “I am seeking your advice on how we can work together – across party lines and with a diverse array of voices – to reverse this trend with information and advocacy, and fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”

The Democratic front-runner concludes the letter, which Saban released through a public relations agency, by saying that she plans to address the BDS threat in the coming weeks, as her campaign intensifies.

“I will be speaking out publicly on this in the weeks ahead, so I am eager to hear your perspective and advice,” she wrote.

In a handwritten sign-off, Clinton added, “Look forward to working with you on this.”

Saban, in a release by Puder PR accompanying the release of the letter, said it underscores Clinton’s commitment to Israel.

“As I have been saying all along, when she becomes president, Hillary will reinforce the U.S.-Israel relationship,” he was quoted as saying.

Thinking about BDS differently — and strategically

Not long ago, along a stretch of Venice boardwalk, I watched a weightlifter stroll over from Muscle Beach to where the chess hustlers play. One of them asked him to sit and play. The bodybuilder complied and was quickly defeated. His failure? He was playing a game chosen by someone else — someone far better at the game than he.

This is the problem with the Jewish community’s response to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on campuses. The game is fixed, yet the Jewish community continues to engage naively in a futile effort, expecting “justice” but receiving none. It is time for us to disengage from this game and instead offer up a different idea — one committed to meaningful academic inquiry.

American Jews tend to see the BDS debate being played out on campuses across the country as a thoughtful debate by knowledgeable opinion leaders about the fate of university divestment from Israel. And we willingly engage in this debate on the merits. But the game really is a series of carefully orchestrated show-votes that result in win after win for BDS proponents and, importantly, far more publicity than is warranted.

I submit that we are going about this all wrong. This is a fight that ought not be joined and cannot be won. I am not suggesting that we shy away from celebrating Israel, educating people or engaging in conversations about the Middle East. I am merely suggesting that the response to the BDS movement’s obsession with vote after vote — as if the imprimatur of student governments is the critical factor in the conflict — is wrongheaded and counterproductive.

Let’s consider the problem with continuing along the current path.

First, the body adjudicating the battle is fixed, as is the voting process. Many years ago, I was active in USC’s student government. The fact is that student governments are populated by those who try hardest and care the most. The dirty little secret is that few students either care to vote or pay much attention to the actions of the student government. Because of this, supporters of BDS can manipulate the composition of the very body being asked to vote on the resolution. And they need to win only once. Even in defeat, there is another chance the next year, with a newly elected student government. At Stanford, it was even easier. There, sufficient pressure was applied and a “re-vote” took place weeks later, yielding the desired result. Not only is the process fixed, but the very impartiality and motivation of Jewish participants is suspect. As we have seen at UCLA and Stanford, if a student government official might dare to be Jewish or have visited Israel or, even worse, be a Zionist, that individual will find himself or herself delegitimized.

Second, supporters of the BDS movement are of singular purpose, enabling them to be better organized and prepared. Their supporters are primarily motivated by joining the political battle and securing student government support. The Jewish students, be they Hillel, AIPAC or J Street supporters, are engaged in a multiplicity of activities, including social justice projects, worship and community building. And this is as it should be. We cannot urge our children to become foot soldiers in a futile battle, changing the very nature of their college and Jewish experiences.

Third, we cannot prepare enough students on enough campuses to effectively engage to do battle in a hostile environment. I have been party to a number of conversations among Jewish leaders about how to deal with BDS on campus. Inevitably this leads to someone concluding that “we aren’t preparing our kids for the battle they’ll face in college.” And this is true: Our students are poorly armed. But arming them poses the risk of turning them away from love of Israel. So why fight? Teach them instead to celebrate their heritage, live their Jewish values, and pursue Israeli advocacy in forums of their choosing, and not the suffocating confines of student government hearings where student representatives have been appointed as arbiters of Middle Eastern policy. 

Fourth, let’s remember that the pro-Israel response focuses on the notion that there are “two narratives” that can exist simultaneously. All but the most extreme supporters of Israel acknowledge that the Arab-Israeli dispute is complex and nuanced. The BDS objective is not to pursue a clearer understanding of the challenges and propose meaningful compromises. They do not buy into the idea that there is “another side.” Until Palestinian supporters accept the “two-narrative” proposition, there really is no point to the conversation.

Critically, we confuse the objective of the BDS movement. We all know that the boards of trustees of major universities are not likely to follow a student government election with divestment or sanction. The BDS movement’s objective is not necessarily to achieve divestment; they know the likelihood of success as well as we do. Their objective is publicity and the achievement of a single “up or down” vote — a single dispositive rejection of Israel and further delegitimization of the Jewish state. Since we know that’s the case, why would we voluntarily engage in a battle before a kangaroo court? 

Finally, we must consider the damage being done to the interests of Israel — and of Jews — on college campuses. Supporters of Israel increasingly are being stigmatized and categorized as “colonialists” and “oppressors” by their peers. Other interest groups on campus have been co-opted through a conflation of past historical injustices inflicted on other groups (groups that often lacked the political and economic power that the Palestinians and their Arab benefactors possess). We have seen this in the “us and them” paradigm of the oppressor and the oppressed being played out at places such as Northwestern University. By seeing their support of Israel as ostracizing them from the mainstream on campus, Jewish students are faced with the Hobson’s choice of marginalization versus abandonment of Israel. By using an impending resolution vote as a tool, the BDS movement is able to co-opt other groups. And the vote itself, particularly if hard fought, may be one of the singular most significant events of a student’s college life. And these students will later be the trustees of the future, who may well view BDS through a different lens than current leadership.

So, what to do? Two things.  

First, stop playing the game as it has been created. If pro-Israel supporters stop attending these votes and refuse to fight a battle that is lost before it begins, the publicity aspect is removed. The votes of student governments will again be the stuff of page six news in the campus paper. 

Second, we need to change the game. Stop being suckered into playing a game that’s fixed and instead play a game that might make sense.  

The game that should be supported by Jewish leaders is to urge engagement in constructive debate, and universities are the perfect forums for this. We should construct a template program to be offered nationwide, a “plug and play” symposium on the Middle East. It should include the Palestinian-Israeli issue, but also the challenges to liberal democracy in the Middle East, the role of women, the social stigmas of political and economic suppression of gays. We should offer the pro-Palestinian movement the opportunity to co-host and co-fund these symposiums. We should invite scholars and thought leaders to conduct meaningful seminars and dialogs on great issues and, if possible, come forth at the end with joint resolutions.

Universities are supposed to be places of intellectual discourse — of probing great issues and proposing, if not solutions, then ways in which to reconsider these difficult issues. Let’s be the proponents of dialogue that involves risks — the risk that we and the supporters of BDS might be forced to address uncomfortable facts and alternative narratives — risks that we challenge those with whom we disagree to share with us. It is only through the university — qua university — that we can adjust the playing field to a game that is neither stacked against us nor for us, but for the future.

Glenn Sonnenberg is president of Stephen Wise Temple. He also serves on the boards of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and Bet Tzedek — the House of Justice. He is a former member of the Board of Trustees of USC.

Boycott tests depth of Palestinian market

This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

Responding to Israel's decision to withhold tax and tariff revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian officials have initiated a boycott against products manufactured by six leading Israeli companies.

The campaign was announced on February 11 by Fatah Central Committee member, Mahmoud Aloul and PLO member Wasel Abu Yousof.  The targeted companies, all of whom are top tier producers, include dairy giant Tnuva; food manufacturer Osem; chocolate, coffee and ice cream maker The Strauss Group; and soft drink manufacturers Prigat and Jafora-Tabori. Israeli produce also falls under the ban.

The Israeli move to withhold more than $100 million per month was intended as blowback for the Palestinian foray into membership at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, a move Jerusalem and Washington call unilateral and provocative. Although the Israelis have used the tactic in response to other acts by the Palestinian Authority that it deems to be offensive, officials in Ramallah have, until now, believed it lacked the ability to utilize a boycott: in particular, having substitute providers lined up to replace the boycotted goods. This time, those behind the boycott are promising customers that the subject goods will be replenished on their supermarket shelves within the two week period merchants have been given to rid their stores of the selected Israeli products.

Despite those assurances, though, boycott leaders say it has not – and will not – be easy to abide, again citing concerns that there are insufficient alternatives to the consumer goods that will not be available.

Amjad Mohtaseb, a sales manager at local dairy products manufacturer Al-Junaidi, told The Media Line that he hopes that his company, as well as other Palestinian owned dairy manufacturers, will be able to cover consumer demands. Mohtaseb points out that not only are all dairy products provided by Israel not currently manufactured in the Palestinian Territories, but most “in-put resources”  – the ingredients from which product is made – are also obtained from Israel.

Nevertheless, many Palestinians see the economic boycott as a way for Palestinians to express their anger at the Israeli withholding of funding at a time when the PA's economic situation is in dire straits.  Dr. Nafteh Abu Baker, an economist at An-Najah University in Nablus, believes that the economic boycott is a useful “non-violent tool of the struggle” that will eventually help create jobs and boost sales of local goods, predicting that the boycott campaign will be rather effective in the long run.

“Having a complete boycott is unattainable when there are goods or services we cannot import from other countries or provide locally, such as electricity, fuel, gas, and water,” Abu Baker told The Media Line. “If we want to see substantial changes, the government, civil society, and consumer protection bodies need to change their attitudes about Palestinian goods.”

Rather than being a spontaneous reaction to the Israeli-Palestinian tit-for-tat, the Palestinian “BDS Movement” – boycott, divestment and sanctions – has its fingerprints on the campaign.  Aisha Mansour, a volunteer with the global BDS movement, said, “Six years ago when I would talk about boycotting Israeli goods, people would roll their eyes at me. Today the boycott is growing as a culture among consumers.”

Nevertheless, many Palestinians realize the limitations of the boycott call, in particular because the Palestinian market is so strongly reliant on Israel. Through May 2014, 86.5 percent of Palestinian exports went to Israel, while approximately 65 percent of all Palestinian imports came from Israel, approximately $300 million worth of goods.

Zim has not suspended operations in Long Beach, says BDS protestors have had no impact

On Wednesday morning a spokesman for Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. in Israel denied in an interview

Israeli shipping giant Zim suspends operations in Long Beach

UPDATE [Nov. 19]: 

Young Americans and Israel – a disconnect

The new concern in the American-Jewish community is the number 25. According to a Gallup poll conducted in the midst of the Gaza war, 42 percent of all Americans supported Israel’s action. Among people aged 18 to 29, that number was 25 percent.

This set off all the usual alarm bells here and in Israel. Israel has one great and powerful ally in the world — the United States of America. But that support ultimately depends on the will of the people. And the young people — they’re not so willing.

“Israelis need to look both outward and within,” Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea wrote this week in Yediot Aharanot. “Israel is at a nadir in its foreign relations. The problem begins with public opinion in the West, including Jewish public opinion in the United States. … Israel is losing the young people.”

What’s happening is a generational shift in the quality and quantity of younger Americans’ support for Israel. Pew Research Center surveys indicate that young people still show more overall sympathy to Israelis than to Palestinians, but that number is also in decline. It’s a problem that may be easier to explain than to solve.

When it comes to Israel, there are two generations of Americans:

Generation ’67 sees Israel as a historical redemption story that began with the Holocaust, came to fruition with the War of Independence and climaxed with the Six-Day War.  

Millennials see an Israel apart from Jewish history, a country among countries; 20-somethings came of age during two intifadas, the Second Lebanon War and three Gaza wars. The Israel they saw in headlines blasted homes, put up a wall, built settlements. Where Generation ’67 sees the lamb beneath the lion, millennials just see a lion.

For this generation, the arguments of Israel’s defenders clearly don’t resonate.

Devorah Brous, who works with many young people through her food-justice organization, Netiya, explained it to me this way:  “The younger generation saw Gaza as an offensive war against the Palestinians, not a defensive war against Hamas.”

This despite all the fact books Generation ’67 distributes on campuses, all the exposés we send one another against the biased media, all the cool new social media initiatives. These open donors’ wallets but not young people’s hearts. It is all, to borrow Brous’ phrase, “Jewish conversation with other Jews about Jewish things.” 

So, who has been successful in mobilizing a younger generation? 

You’re not going to like the answer. 

Jewish Voice for Peace’s (JVP) growth in popularity among Millennials is inversely proportionate to Israel’s decline. According to federal tax filings, JVP revenues went from $310,000 in 2011 to $1.1 million in 2012, and almost doubled again this year. Since Operation Protective Edge began, the organization, with 40 chapters nationwide, reports it has had 50,000 new people — Jews and non-Jews — register on its website.

JVP is a leader of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Its email alerts bring Jewish and non-Jewish activists out to disrupt speeches by Israeli officials. It calls for “democratic participation and equality” for all people of the Middle East, an end to Israeli military force against Palestinians, and for Palestinians to stop attacks on Israeli civilians.

JVP uses the language of civil rights and nonviolence to garner support among Millennials. It relies heavily on social media to inform or sway its members. And it’s a Jewish group that speaks to more than just Jews.

Students are drawn to JVP because it draws a crowd that reflects the world they know. During the debate on Israel divestment at UCLA this spring, some 600 people showed up to speak for and against, and sat on opposite sides of the room. 

“On one side of the aisle were mostly Jewish students and Jewish faculty members,” Estee Chandler, JVP’s regional director, told me, “and on the other side, you saw America: gay, straight, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, black.”

“Israel is no different than other social issues for the younger generation,” Chandler said. “It is about equality and justice and civil rights across the board.” Younger people, she said, are turned off by identity politics — they don’t get the ‘Jewish’ part of the Jewish state.

She bristles when JVP is called “anti-Israel,” especially because her father is Israeli, and many of her family members still live there. (“They don’t know what I do,” she said, “I don’t talk about it.”)

The right-wing Jewish groups that blame the Palestinians, President Barack Obama, The New York Times and Islam for all of Israel’s ills? JVP is their mirror image, putting all the blame on Israel. Yes, this sounds like nonsense, considering that the people in charge of Gaza aren’t exactly Quakers, but that’s the rhetoric, and it seems to be working.  

More openness, greater appeal to universal values, more engagement with the kind of diverse, uncomfortable opinions and images students see on their Facebook pages, even more dialogue with groups such as JVP that make the mainstream cringe — perhaps that’s where Israel’s supporters should start, said Brous.

And with numbers like 25 percent, they have a long way to go. 

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 Twitter @foodaism.

BDS is destructive

I never intended to write about politics, let alone about religion and politics. I usually write about art, sexuality, dating, identity – the issues that generally preoccupy my brain. But when the war broke out in Gaza, it was impossible for me to stay detached. After all, I was in Tel Aviv when rockets were fired. These were my family members, my homeland, fighting for its own self-preservation, and I was there, seeing it firsthand. My emotions ran high as the war confronted me directly, as I felt acutely that the soldiers fighting were doing so to protect me and my mother and my sister. My beloved country (a country where I am not even a citizen but still a place that feels unmistakably like home) was under siege.

I will be the first to admit that Israel is not blameless. That Netanyahu could have done far more to push a mission of peace and compromise. That a two-state solution is necessary and inevitable. That the current situation is miserably complicated and that both parties hold a certain amount of guilt.

But that said, I also fully embrace the right of Israel to protect herself, and I also feel that the poor citizens of Gaza need to be protected from Hamas. I’m not declaring Israel as liberators, and I am refusing to condemn all Palestinians as evil because of the actions of a few.

Long story short, I’m invested. I post news articles and editorials on Facebook about the situation. I get riled up by ignorant simplifications and cries of hatred against the Jews. I struggle to maintain as healthy a distance as I can—until I can’t anymore.

A few weeks ago, I received an email that reported that the UCLA Student Workers Union had decided to support the BDS movement, a movement advocating to “Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel.” There had been no vote. It had simply been decided by those in charge. I was told it was impossible for me to resign from the union despite my extreme disappointment over this issue. Nonetheless, I did write a very stern letter saying that I was resigning, even though I knew I was still obligated to pay my union dues.

And then yesterday, I received an email from the Queer Caucus of the Society of Cinema and Media Studies, of which I am a part, calling for a vote in support of the BDS movement.

When I raised the question why the Queer Caucus would be advocating a boycott of the one country in the Middle East where queers are appreciated and respected and given more legal rights than in the United States (and especially more so than in the other Middle Eastern countries, where they would be publicly stoned or whipped to death), I was told to stop using pro-Israel talking points. When I asked why it was relevant for the Queer Caucus even to take a stance on this issue, I was accused of being callous and deflecting.

So instead I have decided to write a general response to the BDS movement and an elaboration of my feelings on it.

First of all, the BDS movement will not bring any kind of real peace or resolution. It is a propaganda tool, a vehicle of ideological hostility, meant to shut down communication rather than foster it. It will not effectively improve anything for Israelis or Palestinians. It contradicts what I see as the fundamental purpose of academia, which is to encourage dialogue and education and to promote specifically the kind of foundation that will enable people to have articulate and informed opinions. 

By banning Israeli academics from conferences, by telling artists and musicians to boycott Israel, we are slamming the door on empathy, and most importantly, conversation. We are punishing the innocent as well as the guilty. Israel is a progressive country in many ways. There is increased support for a Palestinian state among the growing moderates, there have been many High Court decisions expanding rights not only for Arabs, but for women and the LGBT community. Israel has a better record on environmental rights than most countries in the world. Israel’s record of avoiding civilian casualties is remarkable. This is a society that appreciates and recognizes dialogue. That encourages debate. That is not afraid of progress and change. Jews, Muslims, and Christians can criticize Israeli politics freely. And yet, somehow they have become the villains, the only country academic institutions are actively boycotting.

Israel is not South Africa. Israel is not an apartheid country, contrary to the ignorant accusations. It is a country where thousands protest in the street in support of Palestinians. It is a country with Arabic Theater Festivals. It is a country where Arabs serve in the Knesset, in the Judiciary, in the Foreign Service, in the academy, and in business.

And yet it is the only country being threatened with BDS.

Regardless of those who insist that the BDS movement is not anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, I would like to say, REALLY? Either you are in denial or just naïve. Many supporters of the BDS movements call explicitly for the end of Israel as a sovereign state. The BDS movement does nothing to acknowledge the frequent terrorist intentions propagated against Israel, and it does not respond to the complexity of the current situation (which cannot be dealt with via harsh ultimatums or divisive campaigns). Merely condemning Israel does not address actual Palestinian problems or move us closer to peace.

The BDS movement is merely a continuation of the boycott called for by the Arab League against Israel since 1945, which picked up after the Nazi boycott against the Jews ended. Jews were also excluded from European universities until the 19th century and then again after Hitler’s rise to power. Is this really a legacy we want to perpetuate? By targeting Israeli businesses, academics, cultural activities, this merely supports the Arabic movement to refuse to recognize the state of Israel. Artists and academics are often the most vocal advocates for peace. Why silence them?

The BDS movement is hypocritical because there is no comparable boycott called for against other non-democratic countries with significantly worse records of human rights abuses. It is based on a complete double-standard. Many Jews (myself included) are hurt by the continued hostility to the idea of the Jewish homeland, while countries with far worse violations, like Darfur, Iraq, Syria, China, etc. are not discussed. In China, there are no free trade unions and independent trade union activists are often jailed, with strikes and demonstrations violently broken up, and documented horrible working conditions. But yet where is the movement calling for the boycott of Chinese goods?

The BDS movement will not help Palestinians, and, in fact, may worsen their situation, as it will directly affect their jobs if economic sanctions are directed at companies that employ them. As a rule, boycotts are organized in conjunction with the unions. But Israeli unions very clearly argue that the BDS movement merely strengthens the Israeli right, rather than the moderates, who are our best hope for peace.

If you really want to help, why not invest rather than divest? There are hundreds of organizations working actively to build civil society in Israel and in the territories. Why do we not support them? Give them a louder voice?

The BDS movement does not foster any kind of healthy debate on the issue. My mother works actively with international theater companies precisely in order to foster a sense of collaboration and unity – and as a result of the BDS movement, many theaters now refuse to return her messages. What good will that accomplish?

The BDS movement does not acknowledge that three times the state of Israel has tried to reach peace. In 1967, there was a UN resolution for ending the occupation in exchange for Israel’s right to exist. Israel accepted it. The Palestinians, along with other Arab nations, rejected it, saying no peace, no negotiation, no recognition. No one advocated a boycott of these Arab countries. In 2000-2001, Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Barak, along with President Clinton, proposed Palestinian statehood and the end of the occupation. Yasser Arafat rejected the offer. No one called for any kind of boycott then. In 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered an even better deal to the Palestinians. They rejected it. No one called for any kind of boycott then.

So why call for a boycott now without acknowledging Israel’s repeated attempts at peace? Why call for an overly simplistic ultimatum without acknowledging the complexity of the issue? The way to peace is not paved with ultimatums but with negotiation, compromise, and dialogue – and isn’t that what academics are supposed to promote?

“No longer to listen is no longer to engage in the dialogue of thought,” argues Howard Jacobson. “Which disqualifies you as a scholar and a teacher, for what sort of example to his pupils is a teacher who covers truth’s ears and buries it under stone. A university that will not listen does far more intellectual damage to itself than to the university it has stopped listening to.”

Academic freedom is not something to be rejected under times of duress. That is, instead, when it is all the more essential. When our dialogue needs to intensify, not be silenced.




Judea Pearl: Standing up for Israel on campus

It’s going to be a tough year on campus.

Anti-Israel rallies nationwide indicate that the atmosphere has turned toxic for all of us who love and support Israel.

But from many conversations with my university colleagues, I know that, despite what we see and read in the media, there is tremendous passion and affinity for Israel throughout our educational institutions, perhaps suppressed for the moment, but still strong.

The open hostility on the other side makes it difficult, even frightening, for us to find a way to project our pro-coexistence voices back into the mix. Many of us may be hesitant to speak up, and our silence further emboldens our detractors and demoralizes our students.

I recently had an experience that may reflect on how we can end this silence, clearly and elegantly, without uttering a single word, and in so doing, influence others to do the same.

At a recent scientific conference in Quebec, I decided to wear a simple U.S.-Israel Friendship flag lapel pin, which pairs the Israeli and American flags. For me, it just felt good to make a statement of support for a tiny country fighting for the safety of her citizens.

What I did not anticipate was the reaction I received from people around me. From passengers at the airport, hotel receptionists, colleagues at the conference, students and professors, known and unknown, Jews and gentiles, I was amazed and delighted to hear things like, “I love the pin you are wearing!” “Do you have one for me?” “I have a friend on a kibbutz!” and so on.

That was a surprise! And all it took was a simple gesture to release those bottled-up feelings awaiting an excuse to get out. 

Imagine what could happen if a few of us … then a few more … and a few more. .. started sporting those pins on campus. Could we actually begin to change that toxic campus atmosphere?

I believe we can.

Let’s display the pin proudly. Let’s wear it to classes, to lectures, to the cafeteria, to meetings with students and administrators, everywhere.

Let’s show our colleagues exactly where we stand.

Even more important, let’s make sure our Jewish students know they’re not alone, that they have a safe place to go, role models they can talk to — mentors with whom they can share their love for Israel, their passion for democracy and justice.

As for those with opposing views, they, too, need to know which side common sense is on.

Wearing friendship pins does not represent “advocacy” or “having all the answers” or “imposing an answer” or a “taking a definite public stand” or “an issue” — concerns I have heard, verbatim, from other professors.

It represents personal support of universal values, no less so than a pin of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines or the Wildlife Conservation Society. 

The preposterous idea that any mention of Israel should be “controversial” or “political” or “taking sides” or “an issue” is precisely the kind of intellectual terror that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement attempts to create on our campuses. I refuse to bend to this terror. Israel’s being and friendship are as normative as Diet Coke and French wine, and perhaps a bit more noble.

As to wearing a pin with Israeli-Palestinian flags, as a statement of peace and reconciliation, I would have considered it a year ago, but not today — not after seeing the faces and hearing the slogans of those who waved Palestinian flags in the anti-Israel demonstrations of the past few months. Too bad, but those faces transformed the flag they were waving into a symbol of death.

Let’s not shy away from engagement. Let’s welcome it. The stature we have earned through our dedication to research and education commands more weight than all the BDS forces put together, all the anti-Israel resolutions that student unions can draft or pass. I believe this non-imposing statement of identity and concern, heralded by that little pin, will portray us as people of principle and earn us respect in both camps: those who agree with us and those who don’t.

So simple an act. So powerful the message.

I hope you’ll join me in making our sentiments visible, empowering our students to action and, we hope, restoring sanity to campus life.

More than 100 campuses have already ordered the U.S.-Israel Friendship pins. You can receive yours free of charge by emailing shipping@standwithus.com.

Sinead O’Connor trying to back out of Israel concert

Sinead O’Connor said she will try to back out of a scheduled performance in Israel because she was unaware that she had been asked to boycott by pro-Palestinian groups.

“I was not informed by my booking agent, and was unaware myself, that a boycott of Israel had been requested by the Palestinian people,” O’Connor wrote in a statement published Jume 13 on her website, which has since been removed. “I agreed to perform having been unaware any such boycott had been requested.”

The Irish singer is scheduled to play Caesarea on Sept. 11. The concert date is not listed on her website.

O’Connor added that she will pull out only if there is no financial cost, pointing out that she is the sole breadwinner for her four children.

“No one should assume musicians can afford not to work. Neither should anyone assume we can afford to pay the legal costs involved in pulling out of shows,” she wrote.

O’Connor criticized supporters of the Palestinians and of Israel.

“I do not appreciate being bullied by anyone on either side of this debate any more than I appreciate not being properly informed by my booking agent of the potential ramifications of accepting work in war zones,” she wrote.

In a post on O’Connor’s Facebook page, Irish composer Raymond Deane called on her to observe the cultural boycott of Israel.

“Our Irish government, as part of the EU, is complicit in Israel’s crimes — it’s up to us, representing civil society, to stand up for truth and justice,” he wrote in part.

UCLA and the anti-Israel students, should we be worried?

As I sat waiting to testify at Sunny Singh’s hearing before the University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA) undergraduate student judicial board on May 15, it occurred to me that on college campuses today, students seem to want to hear only from people with whom they agree. And I wondered: Should we be worried?  

Evidence of this disturbing trend abounds: Headlines in recent weeks talked about students protesting against commencement speakers — not just disagreeing with them but demanding that they be barred from speaking. Commentators have correctly noted that closing off debate is emblematic of closing minds — not the healthiest environment for a college campus. At UCLA, however, it wasn’t activists protesting commencement speakers being given a place on the stage, but anti-Israel students seeking to shut down and discredit fellow classmates with whom they disagree.   

It started when Singh, a bright young history and economics major, accepted and participated in an educational trip to Israel sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) last summer. ADL’s Campus Leaders Mission exposes students from all over the U. S. to many facets of Israeli life. Singh’s trip included meetings with a broad spectrum of influential people, including a leading consultant to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a group of Palestinian students, an Ethiopian community leader, Israeli government officials and academics, Arab-Israeli partners in a high-tech startup, a popular Muslim-Israeli television anchor and the chair of Israel’s premier LGBT organization.There were discussions about geopolitics, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the conflict was not the emphasis of the trip, nor was the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campus movement. 

ADL’s goal is to spark critical thinking, offer diverse perspectives and arm students with firsthand knowledge of the complexity of issues in Israel and the Middle East. Although students are encouraged to use what they have learned on the trip when they return, they are not expected to take any particular position on any issue. For the students, the singular benefit is education, and the trips are part of ADL’s overarching mission to combat anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds. Whether through anti-bias and anti-bullying programs in classrooms, drafting model hate-crimes legislation or training law enforcement on hate groups and extremism in the world, ADL fights all discrimination and hatred, including racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. 

Months after the trip, Singh, then a proud member of UCLA’s student council, was called upon to take a purely symbolic vote on a resolution to divest from companies doing business in the West Bank.  This divestment resolution ultimately failed, as have a number of similar BDS resolutions on campuses around the country.  (Indeed, the broader BDS movement, a coordinated anti-Israel movement that is alarming in tone, has been unsuccessful by any rational measure.) But that’s not even the story here.  Students have every right to talk about and even vote on foreign policy issues over which they have no actual jurisdiction.  It is a time-honored part of the undergraduate experience.  Open debate and exposure to differing points of view is part of this tradition – and the BDS resolution, argued by UCLA students for over 12 hours, was no exception.   

The real story starts after the resolution failed. A group of anti-Israel students simply couldn’t accept that the debate was over. They mounted a vicious campaign to discredit Singh and attack his motives online and in person.

The campaign — although despicable and hate-filled — went largely unnoticed. However, both Singh and Lauren Rogers, another student council member who had gone on a similar trip to Israel sponsored by another American Jewish organization, were harassed to the point of missing classes and fearing for their safety. 

Even as the smear campaign dragged on, Singh decided to run for student body president. On the very same day he filed his candidacy, months after the vote on the BDS resolution, the anti-Israel students filed a series of petitions with the Judicial Board of the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association seeking to discredit Singh and claiming he and Rogers committed “ethics violations” simply for voting on the BDS resolution months earlier.  

When the Judicial Board scheduled the “ethics violations” petition hearing for a date after the presidential election, the anti-Israel group took their smear campaign up a notch. They asked all student government candidates to sign a pledge promising to refuse to participate in educational trips sponsored by any of three specified American Jewish organizations, including ADL. The group characterized both Singh and ADL as divisive and discriminatory, without offering the slightest bit of evidence to support either accusation.  

In the end, Singh lost the election by just a handful of votes. Ironically, the candidate who narrowly won the election participated in a similar trip to Israel sponsored by another American Jewish organization just a year earlier. He was spared a smear campaign, presumably because he supported the BDS campaign after participating in the trip.

Following the election, the Judicial Board held its hearing on the ethics violations charges. I was there as Singh’s witness and to testify to the fact that ADL required no quid pro quo from students participating in the Campus Leaders’ Mission.

It was at once inspiring and chilling to watch the almost five-hour process. On the one hand, the tone was civil and the students were articulate. Although the students charged with ethics violations were not allowed to bring attorneys, they could engage fellow students to represent them, and their representatives made a brilliant impression, obviously having spent a great deal of time researching and preparing the case. The board also demonstrated high levels of intelligence and maturity. Needless to say, no evidence was presented to support the ethics violation claim.  

But the experience was also chilling. Two students were dragged through the mud, made to “defend” their integrity and required to spend countless hours responding to frivolous petitions filed against them, simply because they accepted opportunities to spend time abroad learning about the Middle East on trips sponsored by American Jewish nonprofit organizations.

The day after the hearing, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and UC President Janet Napolitano added their voices to the campus community discussion, denouncing the smear campaign and the singling out of American Jewish organizations.

I was relieved, though not surprised, to hear the final decision of the Judicial Board on May 21.  The student board found no ethical violation and rejected the petition to disqualify the months-old votes of Singh and Rogers on the BDS resolution.  Although Sunny lost the presidency, at least this insult to his integrity – and ADL’s – was vindicated.

To return to the question at hand: Do we need to be worried about the trend of students who not only shut down speech but resort to smear campaigns against any person or organization with whom they disagree? I believe so. These tactics are compromising civil discourse and freedom of thought, which are both central to higher education.

Amanda Susskind is the regional director of the Pacific Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League.