An associate professor in the American Culture program at the University of Michigan refused to write a recommendation for a student, Abigail Ingber, who seeks to study in Tel Aviv. John Cheney-Lippold informed the student, to whom he had said he would write on her behalf, and who he told he would be happy to write for study in other countries, that “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine.” He explained that “for reasons of these politics, I must rescind my offer to write your letter.”
In an important essay-length survey, “BDS: How a Controversial Non-Violent Movement Has Transformed the Israeli-Palestinian Debate,” in the Guardian (August 14, 2018), Nathan Thrall, Director of the International Crisis Group’s Arab-Israeli Project, argues that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in recent years has achieved significant influence in reshaping how the conflict is understood and has transformed the debate.
“Everything You’ve Heard About Israel’s Nation State Bill is Wrong,” David Hazony observed recently in the Forward, calling out criticism of the Basic law legislation passed in July 2018 as so much “prefabricated outrage” from American Jewish liberals, anti-Zionists and anti-Semites. Writings claiming that the legislation marks “the end of democracy,” he asserted, are just “nonsense,” and he defended the law as a reasoned statement about Israel’s reality, identifying it as neither the product of a right-wing conspiracy nor a harbinger of eroding democracy.
During the fall semester, when little was happening on the anti-Israel Hard Left on American campuses, we could have been forgiven for thinking that perhaps the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement had slowed. But as the year continued, coinciding with Israel’s 70th anniversary, the pace of BDS efforts increased and included something relatively new: efforts to mark off, isolate, and ghettoise Jews supporting Israel on campuses, while characterising Jews in ways that are deeply worrying.
Last month, protestors in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement who disrupted a Students Supporting Israel event at UCLA shouted the following clarifying words: “We don’t want two states. We want 48!” They were affirming that the BDS movement wishes to turn the clock back in the Middle East to 1948, before there was a State of Israel, and thereby to undo history. They were saying they oppose the existence of any Jewish state in any part of Palestine.
The screed Shaul Magid offers in Tikkun Magazine (November 30, 2017) defending the recent panel on “Antisemitism and the Struggle for Social Justice” held at the New School on November 28, 2017, staffed by Linda Sarsour, Rebecca Vilkomerson, and others, is an exercise in vapid self- and in-group-justification. The panel retailed the same position as does the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in its edited collection On Antisemitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice (Haymarket Books, 2017). This position is that – regarding antisemitism today – the great danger is not so much the threat antisemitism poses to Jews but the threat that Jews employ the charge of antisemitism to silence others. As Maggid suggested last year in an independent talk at Brown University, it is a way of controlling and deforming the Jewish conversation
Once again, a student group at the University of Michigan has put forth a resolution to the Central Student Government asking the university Board of Regents to divest from several companies “that violate Palestinian human rights.” This is the eleventh resolution in 15 years; all preceding attempts have been voted down or failed. Nevertheless, a vocal minority chooses again to force this issue, and the whole campus must therefore enter once more into the land of futile effort and escalated inter-group division.
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has had a cumulative negative effect on academic values and university campus climates In the United States. The introduction of repeated academic boycott resolutions, the frequent highlighting of discriminatory intentions and opposition to open intellectual exchange clearly violates principles of academic freedom.
Last April at San Francisco State University, anti-Israel protesters connected with the General Union of Palestine Students to disrupt a public lecture on campus by Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, preventing him from speaking. Protesters yelled at the Jewish students that they should “get the f— off our campus.”
resolution under consideration before the Student Association at George Washington University pushed by a group called Divest This Time calls upon the university to divest from all investments in companies “that contribute to the suffering of Palestinians.” The vote on the resolution is Monday, May 1st. The companies highlighted are Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Elbit Systems Ltd., Caterpillar Inc., CEMEX, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard Company, Northrop Grumman Corporation, The Raytheon Company, and Motorola Solutions, Inc.