John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan, has been the subject of withering criticism of late, but I’m grateful to him. Yes, he shouldn’t have refused to write a recommendation for a student merely because the semester abroad program she was applying to was in Israel. But at least he exposed what the boycott movement is about, aspects of which I suspect some of its blither endorsers are unaware.
Imagine yourself at the therapist’s office. “Doc,” you say, “there are invisible forces pressing down on me. I’m too weak to save myself!” The therapist replies, “You’re right. The danger is everywhere.” You ask, “What should I do?” The therapist replies, “Hide. But that’s a temporary solution. Unite with other victims and crush the sadistic fascists who run the show. It’s a long shot, but… sorry, our hour is up.”
Today, thanks to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, launched in 2005, campuses around the world are treated every year to Israeli Apartheid Week. The plan, orchestrated by an array of student and non-student organizations, and aided by academic departments that host breathtakingly dishonest anti-Israel speakers, is to depict Israel as just like apartheid-era South Africa.
At Ithaca College, of six “bias-related incidents” reported in 2017-18, three were “cases of aggravated harassment involving swastikas.” One Jewish student there reported that a mezuzah “was knocked off of his door and damaged.” At Western Washington University’s library, seven Jewish Studies books were defaced with anti-Semitic slurs or destroyed, and someone drew a swastika on “a poster outside a faculty member’s office.” The University of Miami is investigating multiple anti-Semitic incidents, including one in which someone drew a “large swastika” on a whiteboard hanging on a Jewish student’s door. At Knox College, a professor of African Studies tweeted, among other things, that Jews are “pulling the strings for profit.” A faculty member involved in discussing the incident “found an anti-Semitic image had been slid under her office door.”
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) was officially launched in 2005 in a statement whose author was identified as “Palestinian civil society.” Among the statement’s demands were these: that Israel end “its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands,” dismantle the West Bank security wall built during the second intifada, recognize the “rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality,” and promote the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees. To compel Israel’s submission to these demands, it called for “broad boycotts” and “divestment initiatives” akin to those levied against apartheid-era South Africa.
When the left refers to their political opponents as fascists, it’s nothing new. Even in the placid 1990s, I recall, a friend of mine referred to Republicans—milquetoasts by contemporary standards—as fascists and storm-troopers. But, at least in his case, one understood it as a bit of a put-on; a deliberate rhetorical excess. Few seriously imagined that George Herbert Walker Bush or Bob Dole were advance men for Mussolinis and Hitlers. Today, not so much.