Israel Advocacy Op-eds May 24, 2013: Asaf Romirowsky: The voices of BDS

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The voices of BDS

Source: YNet News, 5-24-13

Op-ed: Pro-Palestinian groups hijacked narrative of peace and justice, yet in reality they yearn for Israel’s destruction

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement’s biggest success is rooted in its ‘soft power.’ The ability to influence behavior through values, policies, institutions and culture, as opposed to ‘hard’ or coercive power exercised through military or economic pressures, plays a tremendous role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict….READ MORE

Israel Advocacy News May 16, 2012: A Look Back: 2011-2012 in Campus Israel Advocacy

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A Look Back: 2011-2012 in Campus Israel Advocacy

Source: Israel Campus Beat, The Jewish Press, 5-16-12

israel+in+the+mirror
Photo Credit: Israel Campus Beat

UN vote reactions. BDS efforts. Anti-Israel Conferences. Gilad Shalit’s release. Social media advocacy. Failed and successful collaborations.

It’s been an eventful year on campus, and through it all, Israel Campus Beat has been reporting on the Israel-on-campus reality. Here’s a look at the 2011-2012 academic year through the keen eyes of ICB.

In the Beginning

The year began with the debate over Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly (GA) in September. In preparation for the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) bid for statehood at the GA, Hillel’s Center for Israel Engagement led an initiative, Tents for Israel, to educate students about Israel and enable them to ask questions about Israel in a secure space.

Even prior to Hillel’s initiative, however, the Israel on Campus Coalition and partners launched the Real Partners. Real Peace (RPRP) campaign in July to prepare students on campus to deal with questions about the Palestinian statehood bid. The RPRP campaign promoted the need for direct negotiations between responsible partners to end the conflict by encouraging students to write op-eds on campus, circulate petitions, and undertake other efforts to raise awareness in the campus community. At the launch, students gathered from across the nation, sharing ideas for effective campus advocacy, and used ideas from their discussions not only for the RPRP campaign but also for larger Israel advocacy efforts. To help spread the campaign and keep students connected, RPRP relied heavily on social networking, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Social Media Advocacy

Social media was a major tool for Hasbara Fellowships, who created the “Friend Request Pending” campaign (as part of RPRP). Using Facebook as their theme, Hasbara created a YouTube video to spread the message that Israel wants to become “friends” with Jordan, Egypt, Palestine and others, but the friendship requests are rejected.

Activists on other campuses, such as Brandeis University, have also used video to promote pro-Israel messages. Other students attended the David Project’s Video Production Seminar back in November to learn more about promoting Israel through video; one video, created by a David Project video intern, has been viewed more than 20,000 times.

Social media is quickly becoming a top tool for Israel advocacy. When IDF soldier Gilad Shalit’s release (after more than five years in captivity) was announced in October, Israel supporters turned to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to spread the good news and share their support. Campus Israel groups use Facebook and Twitter to keep students informed of upcoming meetings and events on campus. Students are taking advantage of the technology of the 21st century and using it for Israel advocacy.

Reaching Out

As important as social media is, it does not replace the fundamental need for building relationships. In the past year, pro-Israel students have sought to establish relationships with pro-Palestinian student groups, though the efforts are fraught with challenges. Early in the school year, ICB reported on a coalition between Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Noles for Israel (NFI) at Florida State University (FSU). Such efforts are so rare that they can seem too good to be true, and in this case, it was. A mere month after the start of this new, hopeful coalition, FSU’s SJP invited Norman Finkelstein, a notoriously anti-Israel speaker, to campus and the partnership ended bitterly.

A successful partnership, however, blossomed this year at a different Florida university. At the University of Miami, an MZ-Grinspoon Intern started a new pro-Israel organization on campus, the I-Team, that includes Jewish, Palestinian and Christian members who work together harmoniously.

Countering anti-Israel Sentiment

In response to a conference at the University of Pennsylvania that sought to advance the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) effort, Israel supporters galvanized to offer a broad range of activities designed to counter the anti-Israel activity. Student activists from all over traveled to Penn to engage students in discussions about Israel. With Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz as the keynote speaker and over 800 students attending Friday night dinners devoted to discussing the conflict, the effort succeeded in creating a positive view of Israel on campus and yielded an Ivy League joint leadership statement condemning the BDS movement.

Later in the year, Dershowitz shared his views with ICB about the Harvard University student conference in March, entitled “Israel/Palestine and the One-State Solution.” Student activists and the professionals who support them have learned a lot from the encounters with anti-Israel activity on and off the campus over the past year. But the most prominent lessons to be learned may be the importance of building and maintaining coalitions and partnerships with diverse groups.

The Collaboration Key

Israel groups are learning that their events are most successful and best received when they utilize cross-cultural programming that engages a wide cross-section of the campus community. Long gone are the days when Jewish students are seen as the only Israel advocates; nowadays, Israel advocates span a broad spectrum of diverse backgrounds, whether they are Christians who are trained on a summer tour or students who attend advocacy leadership training in Texas, Jewish and Latino students in a coalition at the University of Texas, or non-Jewish fraternity brothers keen on helping their Jewish fraternity brothers advocate for Israel on campus.

The 2011-2012 academic year has been filled with ideas, challenges, and successes for the campus Israel community. Israel advocates have strengthened their resolve to build partnerships and share information, and they have become increasingly aware of the many organizations and networks that are available to assist them.

Israel advocates can reflect on a successful year of activity, but are not wasting time to plan for the future. Summer offers many opportunities to gain insights and build skills that will serve Israel on the nation’s campuses next fall, when the cycle begins again.

Israel Advocacy News March 6, 2012: One-state conference at Harvard signifies possible new front in campus Israel wars

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One-state conference at Harvard signifies possible new front in campus Israel wars

Source: JTA, 3-6-12

To critics, the one-state conference held at Harvard University was a thinly veiled assault on the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

To organizers, the condemnations and calls on Harvard to cancel the conference amounted to thinly veiled attempts to silence any criticism of Israel.

In the end, “Israel/Palestine and the One-State Solution” — arranged by a group of graduate students at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and held at the university — held few surprises.

Activists and academics came together over the weekend to talk about how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a colonizer-settler relationship. A handful of pro-Israel activists stood outside the Kennedy School bearing signs that read “Shame on Harvard, Haven for Jewish Hatred.” Organizers declared the conference a success, while critics denounced it as a sham.

“The reality is, no matter what the conversation, if it’s critical of Israel, the response is the same,” Israel-born Elisha Baskin, one of the conference organizers, said of criticism of the event. Baskin is a research fellow at the Kennedy School and a graduate student at Brandeis University.

The fact that the conference took place at all — and at Harvard, of all places — may have signified a possible new front developing in the campus wars over Israel.

Until now, most of the campus agitation over Israel has centered on the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel known as BDS. But the Harvard conference, and the intensity with which opponents fought to derail it, suggests a great anxiety among pro-Israel groups about the one-state solution turning into a new anti-Israel rallying cry on U.S. campuses.

“To the extent that the idea of a one-state solution is gaining currency, it is important to fight this line of thinking,” said Rob Leikind, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Boston office.

In the weeks leading up the event, pro-Israel groups sought to discredit the conference as an exercise in delegitimizing Israel, and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) called on Harvard to cancel the forum….READ MORE

Israel Advocacy News March 2, 2012: Harvard Kennedy School of Government “One-State Conference” on Israeli-Palestinian conflict draws fire

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Harvard conference draws fire

Source: Boston Globe, 3-2-12

An upcoming conference at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government on the “one-state solution’’ to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is drawing ire from organizations who believe it promotes the elimination of Israel.

The “One-State Conference,’’ which will take place this weekend at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, is meant to investigate the feasibility of a creating a unified Israeli-Palestinian political state as a potential solution to war in the region.

But the event has caused some to criticize the Kennedy School for failing to adequately distance itself from the conference’s controversial subject matter….

Officials from the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights organization, have lambasted the event, saying that it has dangerous implications for the Middle East’s lone Jewish state.

Kenneth Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he fears that attaching Harvard’s name to the conference will legitimize the one-state solution movement, which he called “a euphemism for eliminating the state of Israel.’’

“When something so egregious takes place at Harvard, it really merits our attention,’’ Jacobson said….

Last week, Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote a letter to Harvard president Drew Faust, asking the university to denounce the conference’s subject matter.

“There can never be any legitimate discussion of a concept which, by its very nature, will result in the end of the Jewish character of Israel,’’ Foxman wrote.

Jacobson said the organization does not want Harvard administrators to censor the event, but instead wants the school to renounce its theme….READ MORE

Israel Advocacy News February 27, 2012: Israel Apartheid Week in Great Britain What has it achieved?

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Israel Apartheid Week: What has it achieved?

Source: The Jewish Chronicle, 2-27-12

Israel Apartheid week. The one week in the year when the rules of genuine engagement, constructive dialogue and all forms of moderation, are dispensed with.

It is the one week where it is acceptable to stop and harass students on a British university campus in fancy dress as Israeli soldiers; where speaker events, which are often an orgy of self-congratulation and hysteria, are packed to capacity with people who have turned up to hear people bashing the Jewish state, where fist-raising replaces applause as a sign of support for speakers in a way that not even Orwell could have imagined would become a reality. It is the one week where the word “Apartheid” is thrown around mercilessly as merely another adjective in the inventory of vulgarities with which to describe Israel.

Devastatingly, this week is the time when Palestinian societies around the country waste rare opportunities to raise awareness and engage a wider body of students with the harsh realities that exist within the Palestinian territories and Israel. Instead they seek to erode any kind of legitimate debate. My wish for Palestinian societies is that their efforts and energies will be focused instead on creating tangible ways to improve the lives of Palestinians on the ground.

Our Jewish values dictate the necessity of protecting human rights and, Jewish students, despite being called “Nazis”, “racists” and “occupiers”, still continue to work to better the lives of those living in the region. Last week, Birmingham Jewish Society raised money for a Palestinian child in Gaza to receive life-changing heart treatment; this week members of the Jewish community are on a UK Taskforce trip, attempting to find ways to proactively challenge discrimination within Israel. I seriously question the credibility of anyone that suggests that we are blind to the suffering of others within the Middle-East.

The frustration felt by many Jewish students about this week is that repeatedly JSocs are doing their best to promote both the dialogue of peace and tangible action to secure this goal. Fake walls, mock-checkpoints and flotillas (glorified cruises) in a handful of the roughly 280 higher education institutions are merely theatrical stunts which do nothing to help bring about an end to the conflict. So, at the end of this week, I can’t help but ask myself what has been achieved?

The answer: the continued condemnation of the state of Israel. They say we don’t get it – it is because we do get it that we continue our efforts on campuses to ensure there is fair and constructive debate. It is because many of us have family in the region, many of us have invested time speaking to people that are affected daily and because it is our homeland that we have such a vested interest in obtaining peace. We know the price at stake and we are not prepared to let that slip away to make room for extremism, theatrics and destruction – both in the region and on campus.

No doubt the planning for the next Israel Apartheid Week has already started. It promises to be bigger and better than this year’s festivities – more checkpoints, more walls and more mocktillas. These will be staged irrespective of the political situation and irrespective of the difference these will make to the Palestinian people. They just don’t get it.

Alex Green is a law student at Birmingham University, a former campus relations officer for Birmingham JSoc and the UJS president-elect. Follow him on Twitter here.

Want to write for Campus Comment? It’s your chance to see your words published. Whether you’re a budding journalist, a political thinker or simply have an idea you want to share, send in opinion pieces of up to 600 words on topics of interest to Jewish students and young people. Email jenniferlipman@thejc.com for more details.

Israel Advocacy News February 26, 2012: Israeli Apartheid Week marked in US campuses

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Israeli Apartheid Week marked in US campuses

Pro-Palestinian campaign, marked in European universities last week, arrives in US. CEO of pro-Israeli organization says there is hostile environment toward Israel in 60-80 out of 4000 American universities

Source: YNet News, 2-26-12

The Israel Apartheid Week, a pro-Palestinian international campaign which includes films, lectures, demonstrations and calls for a boycott of Israel, commenced in US campuses on Sunday. The anti-Israel event was initiated in Europe eight years ago. This year’s event will last six days in the US and then move to Canada.

Related Stories:

Contrary to alarming headlines in local media, US students are not as troubled by Apartheid Week events as it would seem. A survey among American students reveals that 80% are in fact not interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The survey also indicates that 15% students are pro-Israeli compared with only 5% of students who are pro-Palestinian.

In fact, many students regard Apartheid Week with its rallies and “checkpoints” as mainly annoying. Out of roughly 4,000 campuses in the US, almost all do not have an anti-Israel atmosphere. Only a few dozen campuses hold a prominent debate on the issue.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry assists some 10 Jewish and non-Jewish organizations in their efforts to promote a pro-Israel discourse in these campuses. One of them is the the David Project, which was founded in Boston in 2002 during the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The organization aims to promote the idea that Israel plays the part of “David,” of the David and Goliath story, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"80% לא מתעניינים בסכסוך". הפגנה פרו-ישראלית בלונדון (צילום: רועי גולדמן)

 Pro-Israeli demonstrations in England (Photo: Roi Goldman)

In a new report on the state of anti-Israel sentiment in the campuses, the David Project determines there is anti-Israel hostility in 60-80 US campuses, mainly in art programs. These colleges don’t necessarily have a hostile environment for Jewish students, but there is a spillover effect of anti-Israeli opinions, especially among student leadership that are dangerous in the long-run.

“The main challenge is not to stop de-legitimization, but to prevent it from rising in the first place”, said Executive Director David Bernstein….READ MORE

Israel Advocacy News February 20, 2012: London School of Economics Students clash at Israel Apartheid Week

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Students clash at Israel Apartheid Week

Source: The Jewish Chronicle, 2-20-12

Jewish students have clashed with anti-Israel protesters during a fight at the London School of Economics.

A scuffle broke out between Jewish and Israeli students and demonstrators who had erected a mock “Israeli apartheid wall” as part of an Israel Apartheid Week protest.

LSE’s Israel Society condemned the violent scenes and claimed a Jewish student was injured in the melee.

Israel Apartheid Week events are held around the world annually by anti-Israel activists.

The incident at LSE was sparked when students, thought to be Israeli, threw water bombs at the protesters who then responded and a scuffle broke out.

In a statement LSE Israel Society admitted the water bombs had been thrown and added: “We condemn all violence that was seen today. Jewish students were attacked by Palestine Society protestors in response to water balloons thrown at their mock wall.

“The LSESU Palestine Society’s interpretation of an Israeli checkpoint… was intimidating for Jewish students as they held [mock] guns, called Jewish students ‘Israelis’ as they walked through, and the protests further angered students who have been directly affected by the conflict.

“Provocative acts instigated by the Palestine Society today only serve to fuel tensions on campus. Dragging women kicking and screaming along the floor, as the Palestine Society simulated, is not an accurate description of reality; rather it is a disgusting simplification of a complex situation for both sides.”

The statement called on LSE to “restore calm” on the campus, and for members of the Palestine Society to apologise for the “provocative nature” of the protest.

A Union of Jewish Students’ spokeswoman said: “UJS has consistently opposed these fake security checkpoints as being intimidating against Jewish students. These stunts reduce what is a serious and complex situation between Israelis and Palestinians into theatrical provocations that can only ever prove divisive here on British campuses.

“UJS sincerely appeals to Jewish students at LSE and elsewhere not to be provoked into aggressive actions; and hopes that university authorities will play a responsible and fair part in calming tensions at this time.”

An LSE Students Union statement said the checkpoint re-enactment had initially been “peaceful”, and that security guards had responded “instantly” when the water bombs were thrown.

“The Students’ Union believes in the right to peaceful protest but condemns the violence. The safety and welfare of students is of the utmost importance and the union will be investigating the matter immediately in conjunction with the school.”

Israel Advocacy Op-ed February 20, 2012: The demonization of Israel

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The demonization of Israel

Op-ed: For anti-Israel Palestine fans, Jewish state has become shorthand for all manner of evils

Source: YNet News, 2-2o-12

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement more commonly known as BDS is the new abbreviation stalking American campuses. But at least for the University of Pennsylvania, the immediate crisis has presumably passed. The BDS Conference arrived and left the campus without untoward incidents.

Passions were inflamed and rhetoric heated up, but University President Amy Gutmann and Chair of the Board of Trustees, David L. Cohen, announced they would not be moved by the call to boycott Israeli educational institutions or divest the university of its securities in companies that do business with the Jewish State even as they wrapped the decision to host the conference as a commitment to academic freedom.

Does this mean the Conference failed in its proclaimed strategy of mobilizing the campus around a set of actions to end what they call Israel‘s occupation of Arab lands? With its stated objectives rejected even before the conference began, one might be tempted to dismiss this movement as marginal despite the relatively large numbers of students and faculty attending its workshops and lectures. And its calls for one state of Palestine presumably in accordance with what was proclaimed as a clear and universal consensus on international law might be described as either utopian or wildly out of touch with reality and most especially, with the terms of the rulings so glibly but selectively cited.

While the notion of a single Palestine is not new and has been rejected not simply by most Israelis but also by almost all officials trying to broker an agreement, it has been resurrected to provide a common stock of references and allusions primarily to delegitimize the idea of the Jewish state as illustrated now by the forthcoming conference at Harvard University entitled “One State Conference: Israel/Palestine and the One State Solution.”

Radically recasting the language conventionally deployed to talk about Israel and the conflict, BDS leaders remove words that might engender a favorable view of Israel or promote the kinds of compromises that take Israel’s interests as seriously as those proclaimed by the Palestinians. How can one be reconciled to a Jewish state that is described – wrongly – as practicing apartheidREAD MORE

Israel Advocacy News February 10, 2012: The Daily Pennsylvanian’s Coverage of the University of Pennsylvania BDS Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Conference — Roundup & Reactions

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Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Conference

Source: The Daily Pennsylvanian

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is a pro-Palestine movement to force Israel to comply with the movement’s interpretation of international law. In 2011, students at Penn founded PennBDS — a group that supports the movement on campus.

Activists from around the country will attend the two-day BDS conference at Penn in February to listen to keynote speakers and participate in panel discussions and question-and-answer sessions. The conference is hosted by PennBDS.

Articles in “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Conference”

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Noah Feit | The truth about Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and Israel

By Noah Feit · 02/10/12 1:21am

I have read Matt Berkman, Madeline Notewaré, and Abbas Naqvis’ guest column of Jan. 26, entitled “BDS Explained” with curiosity.

Your Voice | BDS a ‘tool’ to challenge racial inequality

02/09/12 11:53pm

BDS is a tool that challenges racial inequality, dispossession, displacement and genocidal violence.

PennBDS activists fight for their cause

By Sarah Smith · 02/10/12 12:05am

Student members of the group, which was founded last year, come from various backgrounds. Though each have become active in different ways, they all share passion for their cause and the conference they organized.

Ian Lustick | Who benefited?

By Ian Lustick · 02/08/12 10:32pm

Now that the brouhaha surrounding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference held at Penn this weekend is passing into memory, we can answer that question. Who benefited from the conference?

Editorial | Behind the rhetoric

By The Daily Pennsylvanian · 02/07/12 10:44pm

Penn BDS can be thanked for reinvigorated debates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict among students, but the quality of these debates — which took place in closed circles — remains to be questioned.

BDS conference proceeds without conflict, protest

02042012_bdskeynoteakiff057By Sarah Smith · 02/07/12 10:44pm

Despite heated rhetoric in the weeks leading up to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference, the weekend proceeded relatively smoothly.

Panel on faith-based approach to BDS unites Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups

By GLENN SHRUM · 02/07/12 10:44pm

On Saturday, the panel discussion “A Faith-Based Approach to BDS” brought together leaders from national Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups to examine ways interfaith groups can promote the BDS cause.

Lawyers speak on academic freedom at BDS conference

By Mark Hendrax · 02/07/12 10:45pm

Two lawyers from the New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild came to Houston Hall Sunday afternoon to teach pro-Palestinian activists about their rights.

Professors take sides on BDS conference

By Prameet Kumar · 02/07/12 10:45pm

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference held this weekend exposed a wide gulf of disagreement among Penn professors on opposite sides of the issue.

BDS Academic Boycott session discusses restrictions to education

02042012_bdsjessie004By Kai Syuen Loh · 02/07/12 10:45pm

The Academic Boycott session was among the series of events held on the second day of the National Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Conference. The panel speakers defined “academic boycott” with parameters outlined by the United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

State senator Anthony Williams addresses student leaders at Hillel

02032012_anthonywilliams014By Nikkita Collins · 02/06/12 11:11pm

Williams sought out Penn Hillel to express his support for Israel, to encourage dialogue among students and to speak with students from the Jewish and African-American communities.

BDS keynote speaks on Palestinians’ struggle for equality

02042012_bdskeynoteakiff086By Sarah Smith · 02/05/12 10:21pm

Ali Abunimah spoke to a full lecture hall in Meyerson Hall. Abunimah is a Palestinian-American activist and the creator of Electronic Intifada, an online publication focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

BDS conference opens with criticism of UN, Israel

By Kate Gheen · 02/09/12 9:26pm

Addressing a crowd of more than 200 people, Abulhawa — the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, an independent organization that establishes playgrounds as safe refuges for Palestinian children in Palestine and Lebanon — spoke of the injustices Palestinians face in Israel and the Middle East.

Alan Dershowitz advocates support for Israel

02022012_alangershowitz007By GLENN SHRUM · 02/05/12 10:10pm

Thursday night, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz made his contribution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict debate brewing on campus this weekend. 10

BDS conference arrives this weekend

By Sarah Smith · 02/05/12 10:10pm

The two-day conference will feature panels, speakers and question-and-answer sessions to educate and mobilize the BDS movement.

Letter from the Editor | A forum for free speech

dsc_5190By Dana Tom · 02/05/12 10:10pm

While we do not necessarily agree with or endorse the views we publish in guest columns and letters to the editor, we think it’s important for our content to reflect the diversity of views on this campus.

Your Voice | A civil discourse

By Judith T. Beck · 02/05/12 10:10pm

It is troubling to see my own alma mater faculty is resorting to hateful discourse.

Your Voice | A letter to Penn President Amy Gutmann

By Yali Elkin · 02/05/12 10:10pm

I urge you to be resolute in your defense of Penn’s reputation as a place where the BDS movement’s lies and agenda will find no quarter.

Max Blumenthal | Torture, violence advocate to keynote anti-BDS event

By Max Blumenthal · 02/02/12 10:28pm

Alan Dershowitz is an open advocate of torture who has urged Israel to destroy entire Palestinian villages, attack civilians and bulldoze their homes.

Your Voice | Promoting a pluralism of ideas

02/02/12 10:28pm

With no evidence whatsoever, and in direct contradiction to everything we’ve ever said or written, Gur designates our student group “genocidal” and equates our upcoming conference with Nazi anti-Semitism.

Your Voice | Choosing words wisely

By Amy Kaplan · 02/02/12 11:50pm

As scholars, we demonstrate how to carefully assess historical analogies rather than deploy them for rhetorical advantage.

Your Voice | Protecting speech we may not like

By Amy Gutmann · 02/02/12 11:51pm

Penn President Amy Gutmann and Chair of the Board of Trustees David L. Cohen address the upcoming Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions conference.

Ruben Gur | BDS is ‘hateful’, ‘discriminatory’

By Ruben Gur · 02/02/12 10:26pm

I read with amazement the Guest Column by Penn BDS Conference organizers, BDS Explained. I could barely believe my eyes.

Dov Hoch | Why we should invest, not divest

By Dov Hoch · 02/02/12 10:26pm

BDS can enhance the condition of the people of Gaza and the West Bank by personally coming and investing in them, instead of threatening one of the stalwart pillars of their economy.

Your Voice | ‘Brazen lies’ behind BDS

02/02/12 10:26pm

Penn is now witnessing another phase of the Arab War Against Israel. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is designed to isolate and restrict Israel in every way. Its goal is the destruction of Israel.

Jewish students react to BDS Conference

By GLENN SHRUM · 02/01/12 10:37pm

Though many Jewish students see the views of the BDS conference against Israel as inflammatory, they do not plan to respond in a hostile manner.

Students sign petition against BDS

By Sarah Smith · 01/31/12 8:56pm

Penn students who oppose the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions conference now have a formalized venue in which they can voice their opinion.

Guest Column | BDS Explained

By Abbas Naqvi · 01/31/12 12:34am

As three of the conference’s organizers, we would like to take this opportunity to respond more comprehensively to some of the questions we have received.

Upcoming BDS talk sparks dialogue

By Sarah Smith · 01/24/12 12:22am

Several student groups, as well as alumni, have been engaging in activism and discussion in anticipation of the national Boycott, Divest and Sanction Conference that will be hosted by PennBDS in early February.

Your Voice | Think twice about tokenism

01/15/12 3:37pm

A Van Pelt Library clerk writes a letter shedding light on the problem with tokenism in conversations about Israel.

Shlomo Klapper | BDS: Bigoted Double Standards

By Shlomo Klapper · 01/31/12 12:33am

By withholding the university’s imprimatur from BDS and its boycotts, President Gutmann reflects the Penn community’s strong and long-established ties with Israel.

Upcoming pro-Palestine movement conference sparks debate

By Sarah Smith · 01/30/12 1:05pm

Even before its arrival on campus, the national Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference — to be held at Penn in February — is generating heated debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel Advocacy News February 10, 2012: BDS Movement Hopes To Go Mainstream National Boycott Israel Conference Uses Language of Left

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BDS Movement Hopes To Go Mainstream

National Boycott Israel Conference Uses Language of Left

Source: The Forward, 2-10-12

Showing ‘Human Face’: Organizers encourage boycott Israel activists to frame their push in the language of the mainstream American left. They hope to avoid being marginalized as a radical fringe group.

peter tobia
Showing ‘Human Face’: Organizers encourage boycott Israel activists to frame their push in the language of the mainstream American left. They hope to avoid being marginalized as a radical fringe group.
Published February 10, 2012, issue of February 17, 2012.

The movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel — long painted as a fringe group by the Israel advocacy community — is seeking to wrap itself in the mantle of the mainstream American left. At the movement’s first-ever national conference, presenters and attendees compared BDS to the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott, the Cesar Chavez grape boycott and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, from which it draws inspiration.

They also worried about how to brand themselves in easily accessible sound bites.

“Palestine has to become part of the American vocabulary in the way Americans learn about and digest information, like in the kinds of magazines you read in the laundromat,” said Sarah Schulman, a professor of English at the City University of New York who spoke at the conference, held at the University of Pennsylvania the first weekend in February. “We have to brand BDS as something alive, progressive, increasingly available, with a human face, something Americans can relate to.”

But Penn’s Israel advocacy community greeted all this with a cold shoulder. Rather than protest the event, Rabbi Mike Uram, director of Penn Hillel, urged the group’s pro-Israel member organizations to steer clear of the program, lest they legitimize the BDS movement by drawing attention to it.

Click to view a slideshow.

“On Penn’s campus, people don’t know what BDS is,” Uram said. “To engage in a conversation is to raise them to a level that they are not at.”

“Spending our time and resources and efforts standing outside, protesting the event, says that this is mainstream political discourse,” added Noah Feit, a sophomore who is president of Penn Friends of Israel. “We decided not to stage a protest, because we prefer not to legitimize radical political discourse. We think there are better and more effective forums to express our opinions.”

This contrast — a nascent pro-Palestinian movement craving legitimacy, with the Jewish establishment ignoring it — was a surprising outcome of what some had expected to be a volatile few days on an Ivy League campus with a large percentage of Jewish students and graduates. Area Jewish leaders had signed on to advertisements decrying the conference; some criticized the university for even allowing it to occur.

For the Israel advocacy community, BDS represents a threat to Israel’s sovereignty as a Jewish state. The movement was founded by Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005 after the International Court of Justice, the judicial body of the United Nations, deemed Israel’s separation barrier to be illegal. The barrier, which Israel justifies as a security measure, departs at numerous points from Israel’s pre-1967 border to take in land deep in the occupied West Bank. BDS centers on three demands: an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories and the dismantling of the barrier, the recognition of rights of Palestinians living in Israel proper and the right of return for Palestinian refugees….READ MORE