June 18, 2019

Simon Wiesenthal Center, AJC Criticize Jewish, Israeli Scholars Urging Germany Not to Recognize Anti-BDS Resolution

Photo from Wikipedia.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) both voiced support for the German parliament’s May resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic after 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars condemned the resolution.

The scholars issued a June 3 statement calling for the German government to not endorse the German parliament’s resolution, accusing the resolution of being “deceitful” because it “ignores the explicit opposition of the BDS movement to ‘all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.’ The BDS movement seeks to influence the policies of the government of a state that is responsible for the ongoing occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people. Such policies cannot be immune to criticism.”

They added that “the three main goals of BDS – ending the occupation, full equality to the Arab citizens of Israel and the right of return of Palestinian refugees – adhere to international law, even if the third goal is undoubtedly debatable. We are shocked that demands for equality and compliance with international law are considered anti-Semitic.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that “any Israeli academic who signed this [statement] doesn’t earn my respect until they resign,” calling their actions hypocritical.

“BDS today equals a global campaign to delegitimize, demonize and ultimately get rid of Israel, and they don’t hide it anymore,” Cooper said. He argued that the BDS movement initially claimed that they only wanted to leverage Israel to make concessions toward peace in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but today BDS openly calls for Israel’s destruction, which is anti-Semitic, Cooper said.

“Maybe some people in Israel didn’t get the memo, or some people, because their positions are guaranteed because Israel’s a democracy, so whatever they say they can’t be fired,” Cooper said. “Then I guess they’re free to say whatever they want and we’re the ones collectively – Israelis and supporters of Israel around the world – that get to pay the price for their freedom to denigrate Israel.”

AJC Los Angeles Regional Office Assistant Director Siamak Kordestani said in a statement to the Journal, “When the goal of a movement is to end Israel as a Jewish and democratic entity, and when Israel is subjected to disproportionate and selective punishment among the nations of the world, then that movement is anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent. It is commendable that the Bundestag [parliament] recognized this reality.”

The German government is still mulling over whether or not to adopt the German parliament’s resolution. Germany’s Interior Ministry supports it but the Foreign Ministry opposes it, according to Haaretz. If the government approves it, Germany would be the first nation in the European Union to adopt the position that BDS is anti-Semitic.

Report: 30 Pro-BDS Organizations’ Financial Accounts Closed Over Ties to Terrorism

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A new report from the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs revealed that the financial accounts for 30 pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) organizations have been closed since 2017 due to their ties to terrorism.

The Jerusalem Post reports that 10 of these organizations were in the United States and 20 were in Europe. One example was Samidoun, an organization that aims to free Palestinians from Israeli prisons, having their PayPal, Donorbox and Plaid accounts shut down over their reported ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group. Al-Haq, a Ramallah-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that claims to be a human rights watchdog on both sides of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, similarly had their credit cards canceled over their reported ties to the PFLP.

Additionally, Interpal, an organization that purportedly provides financial aid to impoverished Palestinians, had myriad credit cards canceled and fundraising accounts shut down due to the organization’s reported ties to Hamas.

“For years, boycott promoters have disguised themselves as ‘human rights activists’, managing to raise tens of millions of euros from Western countries and citizens who thought they were contributing to causes supporting justice and equality,” Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement. “Over time though, we have revealed that the supposed ‘human rights’ NGOs are in reality, filled with anti-Semitic operatives with deep ties to terrorist groups fixated on destroying the State of Israel. As a result of our actions, countries and financial institutions are now distancing themselves from these organizations.”

A February report from the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and a June 2018 Tablet exposé document the various pro-BDS organizations that have ties to terror groups like Hamas, the PFLP and Islamic Jihad.

Cornell Student: ‘Jewish Community Found Its Voice’ in Defeating BDS

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Cornell student Josh Eibelman, who warned of the normalization of anti-Semitism on campus, wrote in a June 5 Op-ed for The Forward that the campus “Jewish community found its voice” after they defeated a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution.

Eibelman wrote that Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) anti-Israel rhetoric, which included accusing Cornell’s Chabad of engaging in “shady politics,” provided a wake-up call to the Jewish community. Eibelman told the Journal in a phone interview that the community had gotten too “comfortable,” but once the Jewish and pro-Israel communities realized that “BDS and SJP were actual threats,” it became apparent that “more action had to be taken.”

The threat of SJP and BDS “mobilized hundreds of Jewish students on campus to attend student assembly meetings, to make pro-Israel and anti-BDS posters, and learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and that he, along with Cornellians for Israel and Hillel at Cornell, frequently met with members of the student assembly to convince them to vote against the BDS resolution, Eibelman wrote.

Eibelman told the Journal that most of the Student Assembly members didn’t know much about the conflict.

“I personally had a positive experience with a freshman on the Student Assembly who had no idea about any of the history, and I was able to convey the facts to him and also respond to all the things SJP was telling him, and he was able to become an advocate himself,” Eibelman said.

In his Op-ed, Eibleman wrote that the aforementioned assembly member “met with the BDS activists and challenged them with the facts” Eibelman provided him.

The BDS resolution narrowly failed on April 11, with 14 assembly members voting in favor and 13 against, with two extra “community” votes that ultimately defeated the resolution.

In our attempts to organize to defeat the BDS campaign, the Jewish community on campus found its voice,” Eibelman wrote in the Op-ed. “In other words, it totally backfired.”

Eibelman told the Journal that he still thinks anti-Semitism remains as much of a threat as when he wrote his April Algemeiner Op-ed on the matter and that likely there will be another push for BDS in the new school year. However, he is “hopeful” that the campus climate will improve for Jewish and pro-Israel students.

“We have organized and I think we’re in a better position to deal with it than we were last year,” Eibelman said.

On a personal level, Eibelman said that his recent experience in fighting against BDS has caused him to reconsider his pre-medical education track and move more toward a law background.

“I saw that I was capable of really effectively arguing for Israel and responding to some of the claims that SJP made and the BDS activists made, and I saw that those were some skills that I had,” Eibelman said.

Cornell student John Dominguez similarly wrote in an April Op-ed for the World Jewish Congress’ Digital Ambassador Club he formed a closer bond with the Jewish community on campus after the fight against BDS.

“Numerous friendships have been forged between myself and members of Cornell’s Jewish community,” Dominguez wrote. “I’ve become a ‘regular’ at Shabbat events on campus. My experiences at Hillel and Chabad have led me to develop a renewed knowledge of Judaism, its rich traditions and customs, and community. I’m proud to have to stood with students to reject BDS and invest in peace.”

De Blasio Calls Anti-Semitism a ‘Right-Wing Movement’

New York City Mayor and Democratic Presidential candidate Bill de Blasio attends a rally against new restrictions on abortion passed by legislatures in eight states including Alabama and Georgia, in New York City, U.S., May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said that anti-Semitism was purely a “right-wing movement” during a June 4 press conference.

De Blasio said, “I think the ideological movement that is anti-Semitic is the right-wing movement.” When a reporter asked him on if left-wing anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide via the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, de Blasio responded, “I want to be very, very clear, the violent threat, the threat that is ideological is very much from the right.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement to the Journal, “You cannot properly treat a cancer without a complete diagnosis. The mayor with the world’s largest Jewish population and surging anti-Semitism must recognize that there are three sources of this cancer: far-right, far-left and Islamist extremism.”

Former New York State Assemblyman and Americans Against Anti-Semitism Co-Founder Dov Hikind similarly tweeted, “How do you combat anti-Semitism if you deny its existence? Democrats are desperate to reject the obvious anti-Semitism emanating from the progressive left; they can deny it exists, but it won’t disappear! Hate can come from ALL sides!”

De Blasio’s office did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

The New York City mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate’s remarks come as the New York Police Department (NYPD) announced on June 4 that hate crimes have increased by 64 percent in New York City so far in 2019 from the year prior; nearly 60 percent of the recorded hate crimes have targeted Jews.

De Blasio has been critical of the BDS movement, saying on June 2 during New York City’s Celebrate Israel parade, “New York City stands with Israel. We say, ‘Yes to Israel.’ We say, ‘No to BDS.’”

Disturbed Lead Singer Criticizes Roger Waters, BDS

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

David Draiman, lead singer of the American heavy metal band Disturbed, criticized former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters and the rest of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in a video interview posted to the Bring Disturbed to Israel Facebook page on May 30.

Draiman, who describes himself as a secular Jew, said that as a member of the Creative Community for Peace’s advisory board, he constantly tells rock musicians performing in Israel to tune out “the ridiculous words of Mr. Roger Waters and his gang of morons” in the BDS movement. He added that “the BDS crew know well enough to not even try to contact me. I think they understand my position pretty well.”

Later in the video, Draiman called himself “a very, very strong supporter of Israel forever and for our people. Regardless of whether it’s Israel or anywhere else, boycotting an entire society, an entire people, based on the actions of its government is absolutely ridiculous.” He pointed out there aren’t boycotts being conducted against “oppressive, closed-off regimes” like Russia and China.

“It’s just Israel that gets this treatment, and I think we all know the reason behind that,” Draiman said. “There’s a special hatred that exists for the Jewish people in this world and it unfortunately can’t be explained. It’s something that has lasted and has been deep-seated for centuries and that’s part of our burden as a people, unfortunately.”

The metal singer explained that the best way to achieve peace is to “build bridges, you don’t knock them down,” arguing that BDS shuts off dialogue.

“The very notion that Waters and the rest of his Nazi comrades decide that this is the way to go ahead and foster change is absolute lunacy and idiocy,” Draiman said. “It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s only based on hatred of a culture and of a people in a society that has been demonized unjustifiably since the beginning of time.”

He went on to say that music brings people together, and that it’s “mind-boggling” there are those who try to use music to divide people.

“It’s just completely the antithesis of what art is meant to do,” Draiman said.

דיוויד מתראיין לכבוד ההופעה בארץ

"אתם הולכים להיות מופתעים. אני לא הולך לגלות שום דבר ולו פרט קטן אחד. תכננתי את זה למעשה במשך כל חיי, חיכיתי ליום הזה."בתחילת החודש ישבנו עם דיוויד לשיחה לקראת ההופעה בישראל ובין היתר על הארץ, החיבור עם הקהל, והBDS.הראיון המלא לפניכם:

Posted by ‎Bring Disturbed To Israel | הבאת דיסטרבד לישראל‎ on Thursday, May 30, 2019

Draiman previously criticized Waters in 2013 for putting a Star of David on a flying pig during one of his concerts, which Draiman said was “abhorrent and blatantly anti-Semitic.”

Before becoming Disturbed’s frontman, Draiman studied to become a rabbi. He has nearly 200 relatives in Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post. His father, YJ Draiman, ran for mayor of Los Angeles in 2017.

Disturbed’s hit songs include “Ten Thousand Fists,” “Stricken,” and a Grammy-nominated cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.” The band will be performing in Israel for the first time on July 2.

H/T: Loudwire

UC Davis BDS Resolution Overturned

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Associated Students of UC Davis (ASUCD) Judicial Council struck down a 2015 Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution on May 13, Campus Reform reports.

According to the Aggie, UC Davis’ student-run newspaper, the Judicial Council unanimously ruled that the resolution violated Article II, Section 2 of the ASUCD Constitution, which states the ASUCD “shall promote the welfare and interests” of all students on campus, as well as the portion of the Student Bill of Rights barring “discrimination and harassment on the basis of your race, gender, sex, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, status within or outside the university, or political belief in all activities sponsored or conducted by the University.”

The Judicial Council’s ruling stated that the resolution “caters to the welfare of a group of students… at the expense of the welfare of other students” and “has led to the discrimination and harassment of students whose ethnicity, national origin or political beliefs are in opposition to the content of the Resolution.”

Former ASUCD Senator Daniella Aloni, one of the students who challenged the resolution’s constitutionally, told the Aggie that the resolution “has created a toxic environment for students on campus.” She argued that “this academic boycott also prevents American students in the U.S. from attending Universities in Israel. These boycotts lead to discrimination against students from Israel, and from the United States.”

ASUCD President Justin Hurst argued in favor of the resolution’s constitutionality, telling the Aggie that the resolution “specifically targeted against the actions of the Israeli government, not the individuals of Israel.” He also said the ruling “would have a chilling effect” on free speech, per the Aggie.

The ASUCD Senate had passed the resolution by a vote of eight in favor, two against and two abstentions in January 2015; the ASUCD court struck it down a month later. The ASUSD passed the resolution again in May 2015 with 10 votes in favor, zero against and two abstentions. The resolution called on the UC Board of Regents to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel.

Several pro-Israel groups and figures on Twitter celebrated the Judicial Council’s decision:

UC Davis now joins UC Santa Barbara as the only UC campuses that currently don’t have a BDS resolution endorsed by their respective student government.

NYC Mayor Denounces BDS in Radio Interview

New York City Mayor and Democratic Presidential candidate Bill de Blasio leaves a rally against new restrictions on abortion passed by legislatures in eight states including Alabama and Georgia, in New York City, U.S., May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave an unequivocal “no” to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in a recent radio interview.

Speaking to radio host Nachum Segal during New York City’s Celebrate Israel Parade on June 2, de Blasio said, “New York City stands with Israel. We say, ‘Yes to Israel.’ We say, ‘No to BDS.’”

De Blasio, who announced on May 16 that he was running for president in the Democratic primary, has been previously critical of the BDS movement. In 2016, de Blasio said at the Hampton Synagogue that progressive support of BDS is “ahistorical,” arguing that BDS is antithetical to “the very notion that the Jewish people need a homeland in a still dangerous and unsettled world.”

“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,” de Blasio said. “Israel, in good times and bad, tough times and easier times, has been a beacon.”

De Blasio also criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) dual loyalty comments in a March press conference as “unacceptable.”

“I believe strongly in the state of Israel,” de Blasio said. “I don’t feel beholden one bit to a foreign power. I’m a proud American who believes in the state of Israel and believes it must exist.”

According to Jewish Telegraphic Agency, around 40,000 people participated in the recent Celebrate Israel Parade on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. ZAKA Search and Rescue President Edward Mermelstein served as the grand marshal at the parade.

Anti-Zionism Worse than Anti-Semitism

I always get suspicious when I hear someone flaunt their pro-Israel credentials by saying, “I firmly believe in Israel’s right to exist.” Gee, thanks. I firmly believe in your right to exist, too.

The real question is: How did Israel’s “right to exist” ever become an issue in the first place?

After all, we never hear about Syria’s right to exist or Libya’s right to exist or Sudan’s right to exist or Yemen’s right to exist. A country can commit genocide against its people and inflict the worst humanitarian disaster and no one will ever bring up its “right to exist.”

So, why is it OK to single out Israel?

Here’s my theory: If you hate Jews so much that you want to challenge their very presence, your best bet is to go after Israel. Jew haters know they can’t start a movement to eliminate the Jews, so they do the next best thing: They work to undermine, in sneaky ways, the world’s only Jewish state.

Anti-Semitism revolves around an emotion — hate. Anti-Zionism revolves around an action — destruction.

A stark example is the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, the leading global force against Israel. Its very name is misleading. Words like “boycott” “divestment” and “sanctions,” which are taken straight from the social justice manual, create a façade of genuine protest to hide a purely destructive agenda.

This charade shouldn’t shock anyone who’s been paying attention. In recent years, it has become more and more evident that the BDS agenda is not to criticize Israel but to crush it.

Even prominent BDS activists, like Ahmed Moor, have come clean: “OK, fine. So BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state.” Or university professor As’ad
AbuKhalil, another BDS activist: “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the State of Israel.”

Omar Barghouti, the founder of BDS himself, has said on the record: “Definitely most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”

To undermine the 3,000-year Jewish connection to the land, Barghouti uses language like “acquired rights” and “indigenized.” His vision includes “de-Zionization” of Israel and the return of up to 5 million Palestinian “refugees” to flood the Jewish state.

Had BDS called itself the WIN movement — Wipeout Israel Now — no one would have taken them seriously. Instead, it uses the messaging of protest and intersectionality to attract well-meaning activists who don’t want to see Israel wiped out. This subterfuge is their strategy, and for the gullible crowd, it’s working.

BDS’s core success is sucking in much of the mainstream media and others who believe in “two states for two people” and assume that BDS is a way of pressuring Israel to get there.

It is far from that. The BDS mission originates straight from the founding mission of the PLO in 1964, before any Jewish settlements existed, which was to eliminate what is still seen as the unacceptable and humiliating sovereign Jewish-Zionist presence in Arab-Muslim lands.

Jew hatred may fuel the Israel hatred behind BDS and other anti-Israel forces, but after that, Israel-hatred wreaks havoc on its own. This is why, in my eyes, anti-Zionism is more lethal than anti-Semitism: It carries the virus of elimination.

As author Gil Troy writes in an email from Jerusalem, “Thousands have been killed and maimed by modern anti-Zionism, which requires the ideological and rhetorical inflammation to get people to blow themselves up and kill innocents. As a result, not only have we absorbed the notion that Israel’s existence should be up for grabs, but our outrage has been dulled –— we accept attacks on Israel as normal.”

Demonizing Israel and singling it out for special condemnation is immoral and discriminatory regardless of any claims of anti-Semitism.

Underlying the whole assault on Israel, he adds, “is the rejection of us as a people — we are just supposed to be a ‘nice’ religion confined to our synagogues and JCC’s, not a people taking up real space in the international arena.”

In sum, it is hardly enough to argue that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. In at least one crucial way it’s worse than that. Anti-Semitism revolves around an emotion — hate. Anti-Zionism revolves around an action — destruction.

Anti-Zionism must be fought on its own terms. Demonizing Israel and singling it out for special condemnation is immoral and discriminatory regardless of any claims of anti-Semitism.

Israel doesn’t just have a right to exist. Like any other imperfect state, it has a right to thrive, whether you hate Jews or not.

Pitzer President Visits University of Haifa

Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver, and University of Haifa President Ron Robin at the university's 47th Board of Governors meeting on May 28, 2018. Photo courtesy of University of Haifa

Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver visited the University of Haifa in Israel, where he spoke out against academic boycotts.

Oliver spoke to around 200 people at the University of Haifa’s 47th annual Board of Governors meeting on May 28. He said given Pitzer Professor Daniel Segal’s frequent pro-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activism, Pitzer “faculty were primed to vote positively and promptly” in favor of a resolution to suspend Pitzer’s study abroad program at the University of Haifa in November.

“Segal is a successful one-man media operation, gaining international coverage of the Pitzer faculty vote, even though at that point there was no change in Pitzer’s policy,” Oliver said.

After the Pitzer College Council — which consists of Pitzer faculty, students and staff — voted 67-28, with eight abstentions, in favor of suspending the program on March 14, Oliver said he decided to veto the vote later that evening because of his “unapologetic defense of our educational mission. We are not a political institution to take sides to determine winners and losers of our academic community, and among our institutional partners. To do so, we destroy the backbone of sociality and equality that is necessary to discuss, debate, create knowledge.”

He added educational institutions need “to be ruthless critics of validities of all sides and generous appreciators of truth and virtue.

“Academic boycotts of any nation set us on a path of breaking the free exchange of ideas,” Oliver said. “To boycott a country on the basis of their policies is, by definition, a blanket indictment of the nation itself, and by extension, its citizens. This is whether we are talking about Israel and its immigration policies or the United States and its [partial] Muslim ban.”

“I am here today to say thank you to the University of Haifa and President [Ron] Robin for standing with us in the defense of the educational mission of both our institutions.” – Melvin Oliver

Oliver concluded his speech, saying, “I am here today to say thank you to the University of Haifa and President [Ron] Robin for standing with us in the defense of the educational mission of both our institutions. It is a credit to your institution that in this debate, no one can point to any policies or actions by the University of Haifa that would even be remotely linked to a rationale of suspending our program. With your diverse student body, you are really a model institution for us to partner with and I hope we can continue for years to come.”

Robin thanked Oliver and gave him a hamsa symbolizing good luck.

Anti-Defamation League Los Angeles tweeted, “We commend @pitzercollege President Oliver for his leadership by visiting @HaifaUniversity reinforcing opposition to the misguided Pitzer resolution calling for an academic boycott.”

Associate Dean and Global Social Action Agenda Director at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement to the Journal, “Pitzer President Oliver’s speech at the University of Haifa reaffirming the school’s ties to Israel should be emulated by the Presidents and Chancellors of NYU, Northwestern, Columbia, University of Chicago and UCLA. That’s the only way to put an end to the bullying and hate-threatening [of] Jewish students and an honest, user-friendly learning environment.”

StandWithUs Co-Founder and CEO Roz Rothstein said in a statement to the Journal, “We applaud President Oliver for visiting Haifa University and taking this strong moral stand against bigotry. His staunch opposition to campaigns of hate against Israel has ensured that Pitzer College will not fall on the wrong side of history.”

NYU President ‘Shocked’ At Grad Speaker’s Anti-Semitic Tweets

Photo from Flickr/Lars Kiesow.

New York University (NYU) President Andrew Hamilton told the Journal that he was “shocked at NYU Doctoral Graduate and soon-to-be Northwestern University Professor Steven Thrasher’s recently unearthed anti-Semitic tweets and that Thrasher shouldn’t have spoken at the May 20 Graduate School of Art and Sciences (GSAS) convocation ceremony.

Thrasher endorsed the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement and called Israel “an apartheid state” during his speech at the ceremony. Aussie Dave of the Israellycool blog unearthed a series of anti-Semitic tweets from Thrasher, including a May 2018 tweet that states, “As the Nazis did on Jews, Africans & the disabled… as the enslavers did to Africans… and as U.S. police departments have on Black urban neighborhoods, US backed Israel is testing the limits of what it can get away with in controlling humans in Gaza. Will the world care?”

Aussie Dave also highlighted a Thrasher tweet from September 2016 that stating that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is not a happy camper. Is ‘camper’ ever a good word to use for Israeli Jews?” as well as a June 2018 tweet that reads, “Peak white cultural New York liberalism is when a musical from Israel wins a Tony [award] & no one mentions the genocide of Israel-occupied Palestine & a play nominally about AIDS wins & no one mentions the ongoing genocide of HIV/AIDS.”

Additional Thrasher tweets include him accusing Israel in May 2018 of testing “weapons of war on colonial subjects” and asking in August 2015, “What is this obsession with Iran and ISIS (who non [sic] one) but scant mention of white supremacy & police killing endless Americans?”

NYU President Andrew Hamilton said in a statement to the Journal, “We were shocked when we were made aware of these undoubtedly vile and anti-Semitic tweets. Steven Thrasher should never have been a speaker for the doctoral convocation.”

GSAS Dean Phillip Harper told the Journal in an email that he hadn’t seen the aforementioned tweets until the Journal brought them to his attention. He called the tweets “breathtakingly wrongheaded. Had we known of these posts earlier, Steven Thrasher would not have been a speaker at our Convocation ceremony.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement to the Journal, “How convenient for Dr. Thrasher to tie his vicious anti-Semitism into a neat package by connecting the non-existent dots of so-called intersectionality. This NYU graduate glibly libels our people by comparing Jews to genocidal Nazis and immoral slave traders. In Gaza, instead of denouncing terrorist Hamas for using Palestinian civilians as human shields and cannon fodder at Israel’s international border, Thrasher attacks [the] Jewish [state] for defending herself from violent assaults. In a final flight of fancy, he compares Israel to US police departments operating in Black neighborhoods. Next stop for Thrasher’s fact-free alternative reality: Northwestern University.”

Adela Cojab, who graduated from NYU earlier in the week and spearheaded a legal complaint against the university for giving SJP an award in April, told the Journal in a Facebook message, “SJP shouldn’t have gotten a President’s Service Award after promoting physical aggression and continuous harassment against their peers, and Thrasher should not have been chosen for the GSAS convocation, given his misuse of a public platform and his now-news-worthy twitter history. The administration cannot continue to [issue] reflective statements after public outrage. Gross oversight is not remedied by counterfactual concession.”

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer sciences at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member, Daniel Pearl Foundation president and NYU alumnus renounced his 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award in April, said in a statement to the Journal, “Psychologists have written volumes on mental, social and environmental pressures that may drive seemingly educated folks toward racist ideologies such as Nazism, KKK [Ku Klux Klan] or ISIS. Thrasher demonstrates that, when soil conditions are right, poisonous weeds can grow in our best universities, on our own very watch. I dread the thought that a racist deformity of such toxicity will be given a podium and clone students at Northwestern University. The public trusts us, educators, with the soil conditions; are we worthy of the trust?”

StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “NYU should have fully vetted this speaker, who has a clear record of spreading hate on social media. We urge them to change their procedures to ensure such extremism is not rewarded again in the future.”

Thrasher and Northwestern University did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

NYU School of Medicine Faculty and Alumni Urge University President to Take Action Against Anti-Semitism

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Nearly 150 New York University (NYU) School of Medicine faculty and alumni urged President Andrew Hamilton to take action against anti-Semitism in a letter May 22.

The letter, which was spearheaded by Alums for Campus for Fairness, argues that while Hamilton has expressed opposition to NYU Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) receiving a Presidential Service Award, no action has been taken against SJP and they continue to have “a megaphone to spread bigotry at our institution and has been rewarded for doing so.” The faculty and alumni also praised Hamilton for condemning the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (SCA) for advocating a boycott against the NYU’s Tel Aviv program, however, they “believe there is still work to do.”

“The problem of anti-Semitism on college campuses nationally has been growing and has been clearly documented,” the letter stats. “We believe it is critical for NYU to take the lead, not only at our own institution, but for other institutions as well. Silence is tantamount to condonation and lack of clear condemnation is equal to acceptance.”

The faculty and alumni called on Hamilton to revoke SJP’s award, rebuke the SCA and clearly state his “commitment to protect and uplift all students, including Jewish and Zionist students.”

Alums for Campus Fairness Associate Director Joel Bond said in a statement, “Alums for Campus Fairness is proud to have been part of this crucial effort to bring together alumni and faculty from the NYU School of Medicine to speak out about the climate of antisemitism on campus. Our chapter at NYU, 500 strong, stands in support of the signatories of this letter to President Hamilton.”

Hamilton responded with a Thursday letter stating that he is on “the same side” of the faculty and alumni.

“The fixation that some groups on campuses across the country, including our own, have on pillorying and ostracizing Israel is deeply troubling,” Hamilton wrote. “I do not believe these ideas are embraced by large numbers of people either at NYU or elsewhere; nevertheless; those of us who disagree with their point of view and their tactics will need to remain firm. So, in looking at your letter, I could not help but think what a satisfaction it must be to those who do wish for sanctions and the ostracism of Israel to see those who are on the other side divided rather than united. Perhaps you did not intend that; I would like to think so.”

Hamilton concluded his response with a pledge that NYU’s “operations in Israel or elsewhere” will remain intact and that he won’t let any of the recent incidents of anti-Semitism impact “the well-being and sense of belonging of any of our students.”

On May 20, Northwestern University Professor NYU Doctoral Graduate Steven Thrasher praised NYU SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace as well as the SCA for supporting the BDS movement and “against the apartheid state government in Israel.” Hamilton called Thrasher’s speech “quite objectionable” and apologized to attendees.

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer sciences at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member, Daniel Pearl Foundation president, said in a statement to the Journal that Hamilton needs to explain “why BDS is morally reprehensible, why Jewish and Zionist students and faculty are welcome to NYU, explicate the distinct contributions they are making to the cultural tapestry of NYU, and emphasize the inspirational power that Israel’s miracle has had on other minorities aspiring for self-determination.” Pearl renounced his 2013 NYU Distinguished Alumnus Award in April due to NYU SJP receiving a Presidential Service Award.

NYU President Calls BDS-Supporting Graduation Speech ‘Quite Objectionable’

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

New York University (NYU) President Andrew Hamilton called a recent graduation speech that endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement “quite objectionable” in a statement May 23.

Northwestern University professor and NYU doctoral graduate Steven Thrasher spoke May 20 at NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science Doctoral Convocation Ceremony. Thrasher praised NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Jewish Voice for Peace, student government and Department of Social and Cultural Analysis for taking a stand “against the apartheid state government in Israel.” He went on to call it “our NYU legacy” to “stand together to vanquish racism and Islamophobia and antisemitism and injustice.”

Hamilton said he “found it quite objectionable that the student speaker chose to make use of the Graduate School of Arts and Science doctoral graduation to express his personal viewpoints on BDS and related matters, language he excluded from the version of the speech he had submitted before the ceremony.” He went on to apologize to those who attended the speech.

“We are sorry that the audience had to experience these inappropriate remarks.  A graduation should be a shared, inclusive event; the speaker’s words — one-sided and tendentious — indefensibly made some in the audience feel unwelcome and excluded,” Hamilton said. “Let me use this occasion to reaffirm the University’s position — NYU rejects academic boycotts of Israel, rejects calls to close its Tel Aviv campus, and denounces efforts to ostracize or exclude those in the University community based on their location in Israel, their Israeli origin, or their political feelings for Israel.”

Adela Cojab, graduated from NYU earlier in the week and spearheaded a legal complaint against the university for giving SJP an award in April, told the Journal in a Facebook message that she supported Hamilton’s statement and that she “could not have said it better myself.” She also called Thrasher’s speech “disturbing.”

“It should concern every single student and parent that the Graduate College of Arts and Science is not only praising a hate movement, but directly praising two organizations that are the subject of a civil lawsuit and promote student-on-student aggression,” Cojab said.

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer sciences at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member, Daniel Pearl Foundation president and NYU alumnus renounced his 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award in April, said in a statement to the Journal, “It seems to me that NYU administrators try, but do not see how to contain the Zionophobic monster that was created on their watch. It is simple. Simply tell the campus the reasons why BDS is morally reprehensible, why Jewish and Zionist students and faculty are welcome to NYU, explicate the distinct contributions they are making to the cultural tapestry of NYU, and emphasize the inspirational power that Israel’s miracle has had on other minorities aspiring for self-determination. Truth telling is not ‘taking sides.’ When BDS cronies learn that lies, accusations, and populist slogans result in truth unveiled, the monster will change tactics.”

Pearl similarly tweeted:

Other NYU alumni spoke out against Thrasher’s speech:

Thrasher and Northwestern University did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

West Hollywood City Council Hosts Pro-Israel Movie and Panel

L to R: Mendi Safadi, Zohreh Mizrahi, Denise Eger, Yaffa Weisman and Lisa Daftari.

On May 7, two days before Yom Ha’atzmaut — Israel’s Independence Day — the West Hollywood City Council hosted a screening of the 1997 documentary “The Long Way Home,” followed by a panel discussion.

Close to 100 people packed the City Council chambers to watch the film, narrated by Morgan Freeman and produced by Moriah Films, a division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The movie features Jewish refugees from the Holocaust explaining how their plight was largely ignored in the aftermath of World War II. The film also documents the creation of the State of Israel and how Clark Clifford, an adviser to then-President Harry Truman, convinced Truman to support the establishment of the Jewish state.

After the screening, panel participants Mendi Safadi of the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Human Rights and Public Relations, Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami, Hebrew Union College professor Yaffa Weisman and Zohreh Mizrahi of the Iranian American Jewish Federation discussed why Israel is important to them.

“Israel continues to play an important role in the life of the Jewish people and the Jewish community,” Eger said, explaining that Israel is “the spiritual place of birth for the Jewish people.” She added it’s “important for us to understand the truth rather than the lies put forth [under] this roof about the creation of the State of Israel,” a reference to the city council’s screening of the anti-Israel film “1948: Creation and Catastrophe” on April 16.

Mizrahi said the ayatollahs “hijacked” Iran in 1979, turning the Iranian government into “the spokespeople for the Palestinians” and “going as far as threatening to wipe out Israel.” Despite this, “Iranian people and Israel have always been friends,” Mizrahi said. “Israel has been our moral compass all these years [and] we need to reciprocate all the goodness that has been done to us and for us.” 

Yaffa Weisman said she believes the BDS movement has permeated college campuses because “when you’re young, you want to be a rebellious progressive and you fall prey to empty slogans that we learn to regret as we get older.” 

Journalist and moderator Lisa Daftari, asked the panelists their thoughts on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Weisman, who grew up in Israel, said the movement is “hateful” because it seeks “to delegitimize the existence of the State of Israel.” She added it has also been detrimental to Palestinians, saying, “BDS was so successful with [its boycott against Israeli manufacturer] SodaStream that they closed the plant in the West Bank and 1,500 Palestinians lost their jobs.” 

Weisman added she believes the BDS movement has permeated college campuses because “when you’re young, you want to be a rebellious progressive and you fall prey to empty slogans that we learn to regret as we get older.” 

Eger argued that the roots of the Israel-Palestinian conflict began in 1948, when the Arabs “rejected the creation of two states. To never recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel is not rooted in recent times but the BDS movement is rooted in that notion not to just force Israel into a particular position but to actually create an Israel-free zone,” Eger said. 

She cited the “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” chants, arguing that the “river” is the Jordan River and the “sea” is the Mediterranean Sea, with the entirety of Israel between the two.

Mizrahi added that the BDS movement manipulates the “emotional side of individuals who prefer to be the underdog.” 

On the issue of Iran and whether United States policy will rein in the Iranian government’s activities, Mirazhi said, “The current U.S. administration seems to be acting consistently with the promises that it made during the campaign that Iran has to curb its funding of terror groups.”  

Eger added, “Israel is the target in many ways of [Iran’s] terror,” stating that Iran has established “air forces and missile bases now lined up against the State of Israel” in Syria and funnels money to Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Responding to an audience member’s question about their feelings on anti-Zionist Jews, Weisman said her “inclination [is] to sit down and have a dialogue” with them. Eger said she would tell anti-Zionist Jews that the story of Israel “is the history of our people. For the Jewish people that are anti-Israel and claim to be anti-Zionist, the truth is Zionist is that movement that is the aspiration of our people,” Eger said. “Zionism is that opportunity for us to tell our story.”

More Than 100 Artists, Entertainment Industry Members Condemn Efforts to Boycott Eurovision

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

More than 100 musical artists and members of the entertainment industry signed a statement condemning those advocating for a boycott of the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

According to a press release from Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), the statement reads, “The spirit of togetherness is under attack by those calling to boycott Eurovision 2019 because it is being held in Israel, subverting the spirit of the contest and turning it from a tool of unity into a weapon of division. We believe the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition.”

The statement goes on to say that “a cultural boycott is not” a viable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Gene Simmons of KISS, Sharon Osbourne and Disturbed lead singer David Draiman were among those who signed the statement.

“This year, approximately 200 million people will watch, visit and take part in the Eurovision song contest, celebrating music and the diversity of our different cultures,” Ari Ingel, CCFP director, said in a statement. “The members of the entertainment industry who have signed this statement, along with the thousands of individuals who have endorsed its message, all believe in building bridges through music and the arts as a means to achieving greater understanding and peace in the region.”

In February, Netta Barzilai, the Israeli singer who the 2018 Eurovision contest, told the BBC, “Boycotting is preventing light from being spread, and when you boycott light, you spread darkness.”

The 2019 Eurovision contest will take place from May 14-18.

Cal Poly SLO Student Government Passes Anti-Hate Bill

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo’s (Cal Poly SLO) Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) student government passed a bill Wednesday condemning all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism.

The bill, titled the Freedom of Speech and Anti-Discrimination bylaw amendment, states that ASI is barred from discriminating based on “veteran status, uniformed service member status, race, color, religion, gender identity, gender expression, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy (including childbirth, lactation, or related medical conditions), age, national origin or ancestry, immigration status, citizenship status, physical or mental disability, or genetic information (including testing and characteristics).”

Student Nina Krishel, a fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, (CAMERA), wrote in a letter to the student newspaper Mustang News, “With this bill, Cal Poly ASI stands with the Jewish community against anti-Semitism and discrimination.” Krishel also noted that ASI Board of Directors members Noah Krigel and Aliza Herzberg, both of whom assisted in drafting the bill, said the legislation addresses “Jewish students who are concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism nationally and especially on college campuses, in addition to other forms of xenophobia and discrimination of marginalized communities at Cal Poly SLO.”

Krishel also noted that Krigel and Herzberg said the bill would help prevent ASI from passing a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolution.

“I applaud Cal Poly ASI for taking the necessary measures to stand against discriminatory movements and demands from our college campus,” Krishel wrote. “As a Jewish, pro-Israel student, I am proud and lucky to feel safe and supported by my student government.”

Yoni Michanie, CAMERA’s west campus coordinator said in a statement, “This is a major victory for our students. It is a preventive measure to deny any access to the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the BDS campaign. It not only allows our students to feel safe and included, but it shapes the academic atmosphere needed to have genuine, accurate, and productive conversations about the complexities of the conflict.”

The Cal Poly pro-Israel student group Mustangs for Israel wrote in a Facebook post Thursday, “We are so excited that ASI has voted to institutionally protect marginalized communities, including our Jewish community, at Cal Poly!”

UPDATE: Mark Borges, the chair of the ASI Board of Directors, told the Journal in an email “that specific language regarding BDS and other social movements are not mentioned in the document” because “the bill is broad in nature.” The full bill can be read here.

Cornell Student Speaks Out Against Anti-Semitism on Campus

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Cornell student Josh Eibelman spoke out against the festering anti-Semitism on campus in an April 25 op-ed in the Algemeiner and a subsequent phone interview with the Journal.

Eibelman, a junior, wrote that “anti-Semitism at Cornell has been normalized,” highlighting various instances of anti-Semitism that occurred during his tenure at Cornell. One such instance was when he was called “Jewish scum” by a resident in his 2018 dormitory. Eibelman said he reported it to the director of the dorm, but no action was no taken outside of the director announcing what had happened “months later.” He also highlighted the university’s slow response to the three swastikas found in nine days on campus in November.

But Eibelman saved most of his criticism to Cornell’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter.

“The majority of the anti-Semitism comes from SJP and the BDS movement,” Eibelman told the Journal.

In the op-ed, Eibelman cited an incident during the recently failed BDS campaign in which Cornell SJP alleged in a March Facebook post that Cornell Chabad had engaged in “shady politics” by attempting to persuade members of the student government to oppose the BDS movement. However, Cornell Chabad director Rabbi Eli Silberstein said at the time that Chabad had nothing to do with it since the organization is apolitical – the president of the Chabad organization had met with members of the student government but it was not a meeting on Chabad’s behalf, Eibelman told the Journal.

“The idea of Chabad engaging into shady politics steeps into anti-Semitic tropes,” Eibelman said.

Additionally, Eibelman noted in his op-ed that after the BDS vote failed on April 11, a pro-BDS Cornell student vented about the defeat and frequently used the anti-Semitic slur “Zio” in her post. Eibelman told the Journal that the student was “pretty involved” in the BDS campaign and that she later edited her post to replace “Zios” with “Zionists.”

Despite the anti-Semitism on campus, Eibelman praised Cornell President Martha Pollack’s handling of anti-Semitism on campus.

“She took a strong stance against BDS early on, and recently, [when] there was a swastika on campus, she called that out as anti-Semitism,” Eibelman said.

He added that changing the campus climate must occur from “the bottom-up,” as “there are many students who are just not really aware, don’t really fully understand the history of anti-Semitism” and the importance of Israel’s existence to the Jewish community.

“I think the answer to that is education,” Eibelman said. “It won’t convince everyone but it would definitely help make progress.”

Rena Nasar, Tri-State Campus Director and Managing Director of Campus Affairs for StandWithUs, said in a statement to the Journal, “Josh’s account of the antisemitism he’s witnessing at Cornell is disturbing. We stand with him and urge the university to take immediate action by making it clear that such hate has no place on campus.”

The university and Cornell SJP did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

Divestment Bill Fails at University of Maryland

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A bill calling for divesting from companies that conduct business with Israel failed during the University of Maryland’s student government meeting on April 24. Twenty-five were against and nine were in favor, with two abstentions.

The Diamondback, the university’s student-run newspaper, reported that 74 students spoke out against the bill and 55 spoke out in favor during the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting. One student arguing against the bill said it would foment an “unsafe” environment on campus and “shut down dialogue”; one of the bill’s sponsors, SGA journalism representative Sarah Elbeshbishi, said it was necessary “to stand up against [Israel’s] human rights violations.”

Terps for Israel, a pro-Israel student group on campus, said in a Facebook post shortly after the vote, “Thank you to all the students that came to the meeting tonight to voice their concerns against this bill. Also, thank you to all the SGA legislators who took the time to hear from their concerned constituents, as well as take time to continue to educate themselves on these issues. We look forward to keeping these nuanced conversations going with the greater UMD community.”

Maryland Hillel similarly wrote in a Facebook post that they were “incredibly relieved” by the outcome of the vote.

Our students worked tirelessly on bringing together the community, writing speeches, and running educational programs,” Maryland Hillel’s post read. “We are proud of the sophistication and dignity with which they confronted this anti-Israel bill. Their leadership, first and foremost, is the reason we achieved a favorable result. They deserve our gratitude.”

UMD Divest, who spearheaded the effort behind the bill, wrote in an April 25 Facebook post that while the bill failed, they took solace in the “progress that our campaign made as we were able to educate countless students on our campus about Palestinian human rights and the Israeli Occupation.”

“We are confident that we are getting closer and closer to passing divestment and in the coming semesters our University will join Brown, UCLA, Northwestern, and many other colleges in supporting human rights,” UMD Divest’s post stated.

More than 2,000 students, alumni and faculty members had signed a petition started by Terps for Israel opposing the bill. A similar bill also failed in 2018. The SGA has been under fire for scheduling the vote during Passover.

We are very proud of the students at UMD who once again stood up against this campaign of hatred and propaganda,” Rena Nasar, managing director of Campus Affairs at StandWithUs, said in a statement. “BDS has no place on campus and has only served to divide students and damage efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together.”

Rep. Sherman on Anti-Semitism and Foreign Policy

Rep. Brad Sherman and Eitan Weiss; Photo by Aaron Bandler

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Porter Ranch) discussed the various forms of anti-Semitism as well as Israel, the Palestinians and Iran at an April 22 town hall at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills.

Sherman, who spoke alongside Eitan Weiss, deputy chief of mission at the Consulate General of Israel, and Temple Aliyah’s Rabbi Stewart Vogel, told around 250 attendees that he has been serving in Congress since 1996 and is currently the second-ranked member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He said that under current law, over a 10-year period the United States is giving Israel $3.8 billion per year for its security.

 “I consider that a floor, not a ceiling,” Sherman said, adding that he hoped to add another $750 million to the annual payments toward Israel.

“It’s got to be the best investment we make in our national security,” he added, arguing that it’s necessary to have the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on the front lines “protecting us from those who want to do us harm.”

He then commended President Donald Trump’s April 22 announcement ending exemptions on China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey from sanctions for buying oil from Iran. Sherman touted the fact that he was one of the first members of Congress to oppose the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but he pointed out that the deal was nonbinding.

“A treaty is like there’s a rabbi and a bride and a groom and a chuppah, and you smash a glass,” Sherman said. “This version of the agreement was like you’ve got five margaritas … at a singles bar.”

“A treaty is like there’s a rabbi and a bride and a groom and a chuppah, and you smash a glass. This version of the agreement was like you’ve got five margaritas … at a singles bar.” 

— Rep. Brad Sherman

The congressman added that “a better deal” could be reached with Iran by applying pressure on the regime in Tehran.

He also acknowledged that “a few in my party who are freshmen” are undertaking efforts to “delegitimize” Israel; however, he pointed out that most of the 62 new Democratic congressional members are staunch supporters of Israel. “In Congress, support for Israel is very strong on both sides,” Sherman said.

The congressman said that the general American populace should care about Israel because “Israel is a place where pancreatic cancer or colon cancer or heart disease could be cured. In the future, when you think of Israel … you’ll think of science instead of Palestinian terror attacks,” Sherman said.

During the Q&A session, which featured Vogel reading out written questions from audience members, Sherman was asked about the various forms of anti-Semitism. He highlighted three: acts of anti-Semitism done just to grab media attention, far right “Nazi anti-Semitism,” and “left-wing anti-Semitism” masquerading as criticism of Israel.

In the first instance, Sherman said that there are “punk kids just looking for a reaction, people who would put up flyers saying ‘I hate Albanians’ except they know they won’t get a lot of press.”

On right-wing anti-Semitism, Sherman said that it manifests in extremists “feeling empowered” when they see Nazis chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” as they did during the 2017 Charlottesville, Va., march.

“Those marchers then made someone on the internet in Pittsburgh go one step further,” Sherman said, referring to the October shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue.

When it comes to delineating between legitimate criticism of Israel and criticism of Israel that crosses the line into anti-Semitism, Sherman suggested using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which was adopted by the State Department in 2010. Under the IHRA definition, using images and symbols associated with Nazism and saying that Israel is the only country in the world that should be “abolished” constitutes anti-Semitism, Sherman said.

Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) remarks that American support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins” and her use of the “dual loyalty” trope is “emblematic of this effort to delegitimize Israel and in this case try to delegitimize American support for Israel,” Sherman said. 

He pointed out that among the strongest supporters of Israel are evangelical Christians, but they’re not being given “bags of money” to support Israel; they support Israel because they recognize that it’s in America’s best interests to do so, he said.

In response to an audience question about what the federal government is doing to fight against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, Sherman joked that he supported BDS … against Iran. He proceeded to call BDS “a symbolic effort to delegitimize Israel” since the movement has been ineffective in slowing Israel’s burgeoning economy.

Sherman went on to state that he co-sponsored the Combating BDS Act of 2017, which was passed by the Senate in February as part of Senate Bill 1 — as well as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act in 2017. The former protects the rights of state and local governments to not provide contracts to businesses that boycott Israel; the latter prohibits companies from engaging in foreign government-led boycotts against Israel.

Anti-BDS legislation, Sherman argued, doesn’t violate the First Amendment because it doesn’t “prevent anyone from doing anything as an individual or a group,” it simply says that “international pressure” isn’t going to affect U.S. businesses.

The BDS movement inhibits progress toward a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestinian conflict because the movement is “opposed to the entire country” of Israel, Sherman said.

However, Sherman did tell attendees, “It is critical that you advocate for a two-state solution. Whichever side is dedicated to a two-state solution will gain support in Europe and the U.S.,” he said, adding that “the world will never accept” Israel potentially annexing all of the West Bank. He also argued that even if the push for a two-state solution proves to be futile, there is “no harm” in continuing to advocate for it.

Pro-Israel Organizations Urge UMass to End Departments’ Sponsorship of Anti-Israel Panel

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Eighty pro-Israel organizations wrote an April 23 letter to the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst calling on the university to end all departmental sponsorship of an upcoming anti-Israel panel.

The May 4 panel at the Fine Arts Center, titled “Not Backing Down: Israel, Free Speech, & the Battle for Palestinian Rights,” will feature Women’s March, Inc. co-leader Linda Sarsour, former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Water, Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill and Dave Zirin, sports editor of The Nation. According to a press release promoting the event, the panelists will convey the message that anti-Semitism is being used to silence criticism of the Israeli government, specifically against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

The letter, which was spearheaded by the AMCHA Initiative and has signatories that include the Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs and the American Jewish Congress, states that the panelists “are all outspoken anti-Israel activists who have engaged in expression deemed anti-Semitic not only by the vast majority of world Jewry, but also by the standards established by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, which has been adopted by dozens of countries including the United States.”

“These activists’ anti-Semitic expressions include charges that Jewish Americans are more loyal to Israel than America, calls for the elimination of the Jewish state, comparisons of Israelis to Nazis, and other false and defamatory accusations about Israel and Israel’s supporters that draw on classic anti-Semitic tropes,” the letter states. “Official departmental sponsorship of this event will provide the appearance of academic legitimacy to the kind of political hatred that will undoubtedly be purveyed by these speakers — hatred that can’t help but encourage open hostility towards Jewish and pro-Israel students on your campus.”

Sarsour has ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and accused progressive supporters of Israel of having dual loyalty, Hill was fired by CNN in November after for calling for “free Palestine from the river to the sea” in front of the United Nations, Zirin criticized Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green for visiting the Israel Defense Force in July, and Waters has a long history of pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activism.

The letter also notes that the event is being co-sponsored by the UMass Department of Communication, Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the Resistance Studies Initiative UMASS. Additionally, the event is being co-sponsored by The Media Education Foundation, an NGO that is directed by Sut Jhally, who chairs the Department of Communication.

“This is not an educational event but a political rally,” the letter states. “Rather than aiming to promote an understanding of a highly contentious and polarizing issue by including speakers with a variety of perspectives, this event includes speakers with only one extremely partisan perspective and clearly aims to promote a political cause and encourage political action. Providing the imprimatur of three academic departments to such a politically motivated and directed event violates the core academic mission of the university, suppresses student expression and impedes the free exchange of ideas so essential for any university.”

The letter concludes by urging the university to “rescind all named university sponsorship of this event and ensure that no academic unit or other university entity is connected to this event in any way” and “provide us with assurances, highlighting relevant university policies and procedures, that UMass faculty will not be permitted to use their academic position or the university’s name or resources to promote a personal, political agenda that compromises the university’s academic mission and imperils the safety and well-being of UMass students.”

Similarly, Anti-Defamation League New England Regional Director Robert Trestan wrote in an April 17 letter to the university that the event is featuring “speakers who engage in rhetoric that demonizes the State of Israel and seeks to marginalize its supporters,” causing “significant consternation among Jewish students and many others on campus and in the community.”

“This event links the university with a discredited concept having a singular outcome: the elimination of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people,” Trestan wrote. “Our experience indicates that programs of this nature are highly divisive, impacting Jewish students’ sense of belonging, as well as their sense of safety and security on campus.”

UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy responded to the AMCHA Initiative with a letter of his own on April 23, which was obtained by the Journal, stating that the event “is being presented by a private foundation.”

“No university or taxpayer funds are being used to support the event,” Subbaswamy’s letter stated. “UMass Amherst is committed to fostering a community of dignity and respect and rejects all forms of bigotry. The campus is also firmly committed to the principles of free speech and academic freedom. As such, and as is required of a public institution under the First Amendment, UMass Amherst applies a content-neutral standard when making facilities available to outside organizations for the purpose of holding events.”

Subbaswamy added in his letter that department sponsorships of events constitute as “academic freedom.”

“Departmental sponsorship of various types of events does not constitute an endorsement of the views expressed at those proceedings, rather it is an endorsement of the exploration of complex and sometimes difficult topics,” Subbasswamy’s letter stated.

His letter concluded by reiterating the university’s opposition to the BDS movement.

Elan Carr Calls Out BDS: ‘Hatred of the Jewish State Is Hatred of the Jewish People’

Elan Carr, the recently appointed State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, criticized the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement during an April 16 press conference for promulgating “hatred of the Jewish people.”

Carr was asked by a reporter if he viewed the BDS movement as anti-Semitic rather than just criticism of the Israeli government.

“If there is an organized movement to economically strangle the state of Israel, that is anti-Semitic, and the administration’s gone on the record as being opposed unequivocally to the BDS movement,” Carr said. “And the idea that somehow there can be movements organized to deny Israel its legitimacy and not to allow Israel to participate in economic commerce in the world, sure that is [anti-Semitic].”

“Hatred of the Jewish state is hatred of the Jewish people, and that’s something that’s very clear and that is our policy,” Carr added.

In the Journal’s February 8 issue cover story, Carr made similar comments to the Journal regarding the BDS movement.

“The idea that Israel should be singled out for disparate treatment and should be subjected to boycotts and to demonization is anti-Semitism,” Carr said. “An obsessive hatred of the Jewish state is nothing more than an obsessive hate for the Jewish people.”

He also told the Journal on the matter of anti-Zionism that “anyone who seeks to deny the Jewish people that form of expression is seeking to deny the Jewish people the ability to express themselves as Jews, and that is anti-Semitic.”

H/T: Jerusalem Post

Divestment Resolution Fails at Cornell

Photo from Pixabay.

A resolution calling for Cornell University to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel failed at the April 11 Student Assembly meeting.

The Cornell Daily Sun reports that 14 members of the assembly voted in favor of the resolution and 13 voted against, with one abstention. However, the resolution failed because of the “community vote,” where the 582 undergraduate students present at the meeting were allowed to cast a vote on the matter. The “community vote” was 248 in favor, 330 against and four abstentions, resulting in two votes being added to the “against” tally.

During the meeting, Student Rep. Mackenzie Smith alleged that she was among the assembly members that was subjected to “threats, insults and attacks” from those in favor of divestment, Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) told the Sun that the resolution doesn’t single out any individuals and that they denounce “all political attacks targeted at individual students.”

Cornell Hillel celebrated the resolution’s failure in a Facebook post.

“We are grateful to the hundreds of members of our community who showed up tonight and voted in support of Israel!” the post stated. “Thank you to the student leaders from Cornell Hillel, Cornellians for Israel (CFI), allies on the SA, and other organizations within the University community who organized a thoughtful response to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] resolution.”

Cornell Hillel added that “the BDS resolution has caused hurt and division within our campus community.”

“We understand that it may feel challenging for you to share publicly your support for Israel,” the post stated. “Please remember that you have the support of the Cornell Hillel community and Cornell Hillel professionals.”

Cornell SJP framed the vote as a victory in their Facebook post.

“When we last brought divestment before the Student Assembly five years ago, the resolution died within minutes of it being introduced because the SA didn’t even consider it worthy of debate,” Cornell SJP’s post read. “Today, we saw a majority of SA members vote for divestment, with the resolution only being defeated by a quirk of parliamentary procedure. Coming into this campaign, we knew how well-funded and well-organized our opposition was. The odds were stacked against us from the start. But nonetheless, our campaign accomplished everything we could have hoped for and more.”

Rena Nasar, the managing director of Campus Affairs at StandWithUs, said in a statement, “We are incredibly proud of the students at Cornell University who stood up against this hateful campaign. With this vote, the Student Assembly ensured that it would not further divide students for an unjust cause.”

This article has been updated to include Cornell SJP’s statement to the Cornell Daily Sun.

Founder of BDS Movement Denied Entry Into U.S.

Screenshot from Twitter.

Omar Barghouti, the founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, has been barred from entering the United States.

According to National Public Radio (NPR), Barghouti, who lives in Israel, was set to fly out of Ben Gurion International Airport on April 10 to embark on an East Coast speaking tour when he was told at the airport that the United States would not let him enter the country. He was not given a reason why; a State Department official told NPR, “We cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases.”

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, told NPR, “It is disturbing that policymakers and the American people will not have the opportunity to hear from Omar directly about his views.”

NPR also notes that the Israeli government held off on renewing Barghouti’s travel documents over the past few years due to him “using his resident status to travel all over the world in order to operate against Israel in the most serious manner.” The Israeli government eventually renewed his travel document in February.

According to Canary Mission, Barghouti said during a 2010 talk in San Diego that Palestinians “have a right to resist by any means, including violent means.” He similarly said during a 2014 speech in UCLA that the Palestininas can pursue “‘resistance by any means, including armed resistance.’” In a 2014 speech at Wayne State University, Barghouti accused Congress of being “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” In a 2013 Norway speech, Barghouti said, “We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”

Barghouti also co-founded the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) in 2007, which has reported ties to the terror groups Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

UCSB Divestment Vote to Happen Tonight [UPDATE: Vote Fails]

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

UC Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) Associated Students Senate will be voting on a resolution to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel at 6:30 p.m. on April 10.

The student-run Daily Nexus reports that the resolution, which is being spearheaded by the campus Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), calls on the university to divest from 13 companies – including Boeing, Caterpillar and General Electric – that “profit from human rights violations in Israel/Palestine.”

A student involved with the Associated Students department, who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons, told the Journal in a phone interview that the vote seems to be evenly split and could come down to Internal Vice President Steven Ho breaking the tie. According to the student, Ho supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in 2018 as a student senator. Ho didn’t respond to the Journal’s request for comment on how he would vote on the 2019 divestment resolution.

UCSB is the only UC campus that hasn’t passed a divestment resolution; pro-Israel writer Noah Pollak tweeted that if divestment were to pass at UCSB, the BDS community will likely target the UC Board of Regents next:

UCSB student Sarah Mehrnia wrote in a letter to the editor in the Daily Nexus that she felt “directly targeted by this resolution” given that her parents fled to Israel to escape the 1979 Iranian revolution.

“Many Jewish Israelis are people of color who came from Middle Eastern countries where their families faced persecution and discrimination, and Israel was the only place where they could find refuge,” Mehrnia wrote. “The descendants of these refugees make up the vibrant and diverse society that is Israel. For us, Israel is a safe haven and the embodiment of our liberation. This resolution attempts to erase this history.”

Mehrnia added, “Instead of advancing a one-sided resolution, we should be supporting initiatives that promote a better life for Palestinians and Israelis. Instead of divesting, we should be investing in collaboration and coexistence. Instead of dictating a political solution to a faraway conflict, we should be coming together to bridge our gaps and better understand one another here at UCSB. This resolution impedes progress towards justice and the goal of peace for both Israelis and Palestinians. It promotes a dangerous pattern that divides our campus, stifles dialogue, and creates a hostile atmosphere at UCSB.”

UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang was one of the 10 UC chancellors to sign a pledge opposing academic boycotts of Israel. The university did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment on the divestment resolution.

UPDATE: The divestment failed by a vote of 14-10. More information can be read here.

House GOP Push for Vote on Bill to Protect States That Penalize BDS Supporters

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) (Getty)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Top Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are joining in an effort to force a vote on a bill that targets Israel boycotters.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the House’s second-ranked Republican, on Wednesday announced plans to force a rule change that would bring to the floor a broad Middle East policy bill. The law would protect U.S. states that penalize businesses that participate in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. It already passed the Senate, but many Democrats have renounced it as an infringement of civil liberties.

“The House must follow the Senate’s lead and take immediate action to support our allies and combat the BDS movement that aims to delegitimize and economically isolate Israel,” Scalise said in a statement.

The broader bill includes codification of $38 billion in defense assistance for Israel, assistance for Jordan and new sanctions on Syria’s government — elements most Democrats support. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants to break up the bill into its separate components to keep the anti-BDS language from coming to the floor.

Joining Scalise in launching the effort are Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Tex., the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and the two Jewish Republicans in Congress, Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee.

Republicans need a majority of the House, or at least 218 members, to sign on to the request in order to force the floor vote. Scalise can count on all but two or three of the 197 Republicans and would have to get another 20 or so Democrats to sign on.

Israeli Cornell Student Told to ‘Quit Complaining’ by Pro-Palestinian Campus Group

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A pro-Palestinian group at Cornell University mocked an Israeli student whose home was struck by a rocket from the Gaza Strip by telling her in a Facebook comment to “quit complaining about how it ruined your brunch plans.”

The student, Shir Kidron, wrote in an April 7 op-ed for the Cornell Daily Sun that in 2009, her Gedera home was struck by a rocket, killing her dog Rosie.

The story of my home in Gedera is not unique,” Kidron wrote. “It resonates with tens of thousands of Israelis who have been under a constant threat of rockets from Gaza over the past 18 years. According to the Israeli Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, 40 percent of the children in the Israeli border town of Sderot suffer from PTSD. This is what happens when, at any moment, you could be given only 15 seconds to run for shelter.”

A Facebook page titled “Reject Radicals at Cornell” posted Kidron’s op-ed on April 9 and tagged Cornell Collective for Justice in Palestine (CCJP). CCJP commented on the post by stating, “Palestinians have a moral and legal right to use armed struggle to shake of the yoke of occupation. If you want the rockets to stop, end the occupation. Otherwise quit complaining about how it ruined your brunch plans in Ashdod.”

The Reject Radicals at Cornell page then highlighted CCJP’s aforementioned comment in a subsequent post:

Cornell Collective for Justice in Palestine – CCJP responded to a Cornell student who said, "I saw the [Palestinian]…

Posted by Reject Radicals at Cornell on Tuesday, April 9, 2019

CCJP responded by commenting, “I don’t know what kind of astroturf operation you all are running here, but if you tag our group in another post I’m reporting you for harassment.”

CCJP was one of the groups that signed onto Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine’s February 20 letter to Cornell President Martha Pollack calling on the university to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel, accusing Israel of engaging in “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing.”

Rena Nasar, StandWithUs’ Tri-State campus director and managing director of campus affairs, said in a statement to the Journal, “It is inhumane to minimize the rockets Hamas shoots into Israeli civilian homes and nursery schools. There is no justification for such barbaric terrorism and Israel has a right to defend its citizens.” 

“It is shameful that CCJP would skirt the issue of the need for negotiations, and blame only Israel for the lack of peace,” Nasar said. “This is yet another example of how boycott campaigns on campus descend into outright hate speech. We urge university leaders to take a clear moral stand by condemning this rhetoric.”

The university did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

Kidron was arguing against a divestment resolution that could come up for a vote in the Student Assembly on April 11, writing that those in favor of it are promulgating a “one-sided and violent attempt at delegitimizing me and my country.”

ADL, Other Jewish Groups Applaud Airbnb for Changing Its Policy

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other Jewish groups applauded Airbnb for announcing on April 9 that it would be rescinding its policy of de-listing Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria.

As first reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Airbnb’s reversal came as part of a settlement with Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center, which represented several American Jews who owned housing properties in Judea and Samaria. The plaintiffs had argued that Airbnb’s policy was in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Airbnb confirmed on their website that they would be ending the policy, stating: “We understand the complexity of the issue that was addressed in our previous policy announcement, and we will continue to allow listings throughout all of the West Bank.” They will instead be donating profits from such listing toward “non-profit organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world.”

Airbnb also said they have “always opposed the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement, “We appreciate that Airbnb and [CEO] Brian Chesky listened to us and the wider community, and course-corrected on how they implement their listing policy. We also welcome their clear rejection of BDS and embrace of the Israeli market.”

Greenblatt had sent a letter to Airbnb in November stating that the ADL was “dismayed” by Airbnb’s policy since it “further emboldened” the BDS movement. According to the ADL, Greenblatt recently met with Airbnb prior to the April 9 announcement.

Similarly, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement, “The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which denounced Airbnb’s initial decision to drop Jewish homeowners living on the West Bank as anti-Semitic, is pleased that the company has rescinded its ill-conceived political move. Airbnb can now return to its mandate of bringing people of all backgrounds together around the world, whatever their nationality, race, or religion.”

StandWithUs tweeted, “StandWithUs is proud to have fought back against @Airbnb‘s discrimination with over 8,000 emails sent opposing their anti-Israeli policy. Now, that policy has been reversed.”

Roz Rothstein, CEO and co-founder of StandWithUs, similarly tweeted that Airbnb’s reversal is “wonderful news.”

Siamak Kordestani, assistant director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles region, told the Journal via email, “We welcome Airbnb’s cancellation of its announced ban on Jewish listings in the West Bank and its explicit rejection of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement which targets Israel. Discriminatory boycotts are not a way to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

World Jewish Congress tweeted, “Cooperation is the solution, not boycotting.”

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president Shurat HaDin and one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, said in a statement, “The policy Airbnb announced last November was abject discrimination against Jewish users of the website. The rescinding of Airbnb’s discriminatory policy is, thus, a powerful defeat for the anti-Israel boycott movement.”

“BDS is an anti-Semitic campaign which purports to care about human rights but whose real goal is to completely replace the Jewish State with a Palestinian one,” Darshan-Leitner said. “Other international companies need to learn the lessons from Airbnb’s mistake and understand that boycotting Israel and discriminating against Jews are unlawful acts which will ultimately result in dire legal consequences, public condemnations and embarrassment. No outside party can decide for Israel what its legitimate borders will be or where Jews will be permitted to live. We commend Airbnb for recognizing that it had landed on the wrong side of this issue and changing the policy.”

Airbnb Will Cancel Its Ban on West Bank Settlement Listings

Photo from Flickr.

(JTA) — In a reversal of a 2018 policy announcement, Airbnb will not remove West Bank settlement listings from its website.

The policy change came in a court settlement Monday between the vacation rental company and a dozen American Jewish plaintiffs who had sued the company, organized by Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center, a pro-Israel law organization. A copy of the settlement obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency says that Airbnb will now allow rentals in both Palestinian areas and Israeli settlements of the West Bank.

“Airbnb takes no position on the Host-Plaintiffs’ claims, or others’ claims, to legal title to the properties on which the accommodations are located,” the court settlement reads. “All listings for accommodations located in the Affected Region [the West Bank] will at all times be permitted on its platform, subject to applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”

Airbnb announced in November that it would remove some 200 rental listings in West Bank settlements because it contended that the settlements “are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” The movement to boycott Israel saw the decision as a victory.

But Airbnb never actually removed the listings. And about a week after the decision, Shurat Hadin organized the suit on behalf of a dozen American Jewish families, most of whom own properties in West Bank settlements. The suit was filed under the Fair Housing Act, which was meant to prevent discrimination against minorities in the United States. Because Airbnb is based in the United States, it must adhere to the act in all its listings worldwide.

The plaintiffs claimed that Airbnb was discriminating against them for being Jewish, given that it still allowed listings by Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the West Bank.

“As a provider of a service to the public, Airbnb is not permitted to refuse to provide services to selected religious group to engineer who it thinks should be allowed to live where,” Robert Tolchin, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said in a statement. “We are gratified that the legal process has worked and that as a result of the case we filed Airbnb came to recognize the mistake it had made and changed their policy.”

According to the court settlement, Airbnb does not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.

“Airbnb recognizes that its decision to apply its Policy to Subject Listings in the Affected Region has been met with strong objections by some members of the Airbnb community as well as other individuals and groups supportive of Israel,” the document reads. “Some have even sought to associate Airbnb with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (“BDS”) movement. Airbnb is clear that it does not intend, and has never intended, to align itself with the BDS movement or to otherwise position the company as adverse to any segment of its community.”

Israeli Student on Cornell BDS Resolution: Stop ‘Delegitimizing Me and My Country’

Photo from Pixabay.

An Israeli student at Cornell University wrote in the student-run Cornell Daily Sun about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution that is being debated in Cornell’s Student Assembly.

Shir Kidron, a senior at Cornell, explained her April 7 op-ed that in 2009, when she was 12 years old, a rocket from the Gaza Strip struck her home Gedera and killed her dog Rosie.

“The story of my home in Gedera is not unique,” Kidron wrote. “It resonates with tens of thousands of Israelis who have been under a constant threat of rockets from Gaza over the past 18 years. According to the Israeli Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, 40 percent of the children in the Israeli border town of Sderot suffer from PTSD. This is what happens when, at any moment, you could be given only 15 seconds to run for shelter.”

Kidron argued that “the reality is not easy for both sides.”

“On the Israeli side, we live in fear of rocket attacks, suicide bombers and stabbing attacks,” Kidron wrote. “On the Palestinian side, the civilians are living under Hamas rule dealing with poverty and population density while the Palestinians in the West Bank are living with the presence of the Israel Defense Forces. Their society is plagued by a corrupt Palestinian government and relentless terrorist groups.”

Kidron warned that the BDS rhetoric is becoming “more extreme” on Cornell, pointing to a February 20 letter from Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to Cornell President Martha Pollack that accused Israel of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing.”

“As an Israeli citizen who has paid the price of violence, and as a Cornell student cognizant of the civil and human rights of the Palestinians, I plead you: Stop this extreme, one-sided and violent attempt at delegitimizing me and my country,” Kidron wrote. “Promote genuine dialogue that will lead to a real improvement in the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians. Don’t fall for the shallow rhetoric of the BDS movement, which takes one of the most complex geopolitical mazes in history and forces it into the unfitting settler-colonial narrative.”

The resolution calling on Cornell to “divest from companies participating in the human rights violations in the Israeli occupation of Palestine” was hotly debated during a March 28 public forum at the Student Assembly; the assembly will bring up the resolution again in its upcoming April 11 meeting.

Pollack announced her opposition to the BDS movement on March 1, writing in response to Cornell SJP that BDS “places all of the responsibility for an extraordinarily complex geopolitical situation on just one country and frequently conflates the policies of the Israeli government with the very right of Israel to exist as a nation, which I find particularly troublesome.”

Resolution Calling on Pitzer President to Resign Fails

A resolution by the Pitzer College Student Senate calling on school President Melvin L. Oliver to resign has failed.

The vote, held on April 7, was 20-12 in favor of retaining Oliver.

The resolution was initially introduced on March 31 in response to Oliver’s decision to veto the Pitzer College’s vote to suspend the college’s study abroad program at University of Haifa until Israel ended its immigration ban on supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Had the resolution passed, it could have resulted in Pitzer’s faculty issuing a vote of no confidence in Oliver, according to the Claremont Independent.

The resolution denounced Oliver for vetoing the council’s vote for the first time in Pitzer’s 56-year history as an unwarranted “intervention in autonomous, democratic, student-led decision-making on issues related to the College’s complicity in the oppression of the Palestinian people.”

The Student Senate then called for Pitzer’s immediate resignation or removal from office. 

According to the meeting’s minutes posted on the Student Senate’s website, member Brendan Schultz said that while he disagreed with Oliver’s veto, Oliver still has “the community’s interests in mind.” Another member, Arman Ahmed, said that calling for Oliver to resign would be “a bit drastic” since it would mean Pitzer would be searching for its fourth president in five years, which “doesn’t look good for [Pitzer’s] reputation.”

Student Senate member Caroline Joseph, on the other hand, argued in favor of the resolution, stating that Oliver’s veto showed that he “doesn’t have confidence” in the student governing body. “This is a message to him that we want him to represent the students instead of just the board of trustees,” Joseph said.

Had the resolution passed, Pitzer’s faculty could have issued a vote of no confidence in Oliver, according to the student-run Claremont Independent newspaper.

Siamak Kordestani, American Jewish Committee Los Angeles’ assistant director for Policy and Communications, told the Journal in a statement via email, “AJC is pleased that Pitzer College’s Student Senate voted down this misguided resolution. We have commended President Oliver for standing up for academic freedom. Pitzer students interested in studying at the University of Haifa and learning about Israel firsthand should be able to do so without any hindrances.”

While that resolution failed, a separate resolution censuring Oliver’s veto passed by a vote of 29-0. The censure is symbolic but the resolution took the president to task, stating, “We find President Oliver’s overturning of the vote at College Council to be fundamentally at odds with Pitzer’s values and pedagogy of shared governance; and be it further resolved, we find that the decisive margins of approval at this College Council rule out the possibility that President Oliver genuinely engaged with many portions of the community on this issue.”

The resolution added, “We censure President Oliver’s veto and demand that President Oliver and his administration immediately implement the motion as approved by College Council on March 14, 2019.” 

On that day, the Pitzer College Council voted by a margin of 67-28, with eight abstentions, to suspend the University of Haifa study abroad program. Shortly thereafter, Oliver announced he would be vetoing the council’s vote.

“The recommendation puts in place a form of academic boycott of Israel and, in the process, sets us on a path away from the free exchange of ideas, a direction which ultimately destroys the academy’s ability to fulfill our educational mission,” Oliver said. “I categorically oppose any form of academic boycott of any country.”

Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs, said in an April 8 statement to the Journal, “President Oliver did the right thing morally and for the interests of Pitzer as an academic institution. The backlash he has faced is disgraceful and we are glad he stood strong and that the campaign against him seems to be losing momentum.”

A spokesperson for Pitzer College did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

Former NY Assemblyman Slams BDS in New Video: ‘My Tax Dollars Do Not Have to Support Your Discrimination’

Screenshot from Twitter.

Former New York Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind released an April 3 video on Twitter criticizing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as “discrimination.”

Hikind began the video by pointing out that the BDS movement singles out Israel, yet ignores countries like China, which has imprisoned 1 million Muslims, or Russia, a country that has murdered journalists. He added that supporters of the BDS movement frequently invoke freedom of speech, but “that is not the issue,” Hikind argued.

“My tax dollars, the tax dollars of the 26 states that have passed anti-BDS legislation, do not have to support your company that makes a decision to boycott the people of Israel, the Jewish state,” Hikind said. “My tax dollars do not have to support your discrimination.”

Anti-BDS legislation typically involves states barring companies that engage in boycotts of Israel from receiving government contracts and/or preventing such companies from receiving public investment funds.

Hikind concluded the video by highlighting that “the biggest supporters of BDS are the leaders of Iran, the leaders of Syria, the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela.”

“BDS equals anti-Semitism,” Hikind said.

In the tweet posting the video, Hikind wrote, “BDS targets Israel while ignoring rest of the world.” He added that BDS is “the same force” that removed New York City Councilman Kalman Yeger from his spot on the council’s immigration committee for tweeting that “Palestine does not exist” but shields Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) “a free pass on her anti-Semitism.”