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Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Zionist Assault On US Campus Free Speech

Marginalizing the Momentum of the BDS Movement

By Fair
Despite increasingly frequent victories for the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement confronting the state of Israel, and the heightened panic expressed by its critics, the New York Timesvirtually ignores the movement’s momentum. When attention is paid to BDS, coverage doesn’t focus on the role of the movement in the struggle for Palestinian rights, but instead amplifies critics of BDS and focuses on charges that the movement is a form of antisemitism.
The BDS movement, initiated in 2005 by Palestinian intellectuals and activists, is a nonviolent resistance movement that calls for economic pressure on the state of Israel to recognize the rights of occupied Palestinians.
In a New York Times article  about two failed divestment efforts that, according to the story’s lead, “dealt a blow” to “a pro-Palestinian economic campaign against Israel,” reporter Rick Gladstone acknowledged that BDS “has been gaining traction in the United States.” That throwaway line is the end of the story for readers, since the Times rarely covers successful BDS efforts, either in the US or abroad.
Although the Times did cover both the United Church of Christ’s vote and the Presbyterian Church’s vote to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine, here are seven recent BDS victories that were  ignored by the Times:
  • September 2015: The Icelandic capital Reykjav√≠k’s to boycott Israeli goods and the backlash from pro-Israel groups that led the city to severely the boycott.
  • August 2015: The that “wholeheartedly endorse[d]” BDS, signed by over 1,100 black scholars, activists, artists, students and organizations, including Cornel West (mentioned by the Times 34 times in the last two years), Angela Davis (14 times), Mumia Abu-Jamal (nine times) and Talib Kweli (19 times).
  • June 2015: The United Nations’ annual World Investment Report, which that foreign direct investment in Israel plummeted by half after Israel’s 51-day assault on Gaza in 2014.
  • April 2015: French multinational Veolia’s decision to most of its business assets in Israel after seven years of pressure from BDS activists.
  • February 2015: Stanford University student government’s to support divestment (though see below).
  • January 2015: University of California/Davis student government’s to support divestment, making it the seventh of ten UC schools to do so.
  • October 2014: Anthropologists’ to boycott Israeli institutions, signed by over 1,000 scholars.
When the Times does cover campus activism on the Israel-Palestine conflict, it opts to focus on the  debate about antisemitism instead of focusing on the role of divestment and boycott resolutions in the campaign for Palestinian rights.
A May 2015 front-page article by Jennifer Medina and Tamar Lewin, “Campus Debates on Israel Drive a Wedge Between Jews and Minorities”, centered on the idea that Jewish students are threatened and marginalized by BDS activism. Ali Abunimah later reported in the Electronic Intifada that Medina only asked Safwan Ibrahim, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCLA, questions about claims of antisemitism—ignoring the BDS movement’s tactics or motivations.
David McCleary, a Jewish member of SJP at UC Berkeley, said he felt like he was being given a Jewish “litmus test” by contributing reporter Ronnie Cohen, who apparently questioned McCleary’s Judaism in light of his involvement with SJP. “For them to find out that SJP at UC Berkeley is disproportionately Jewish interferes with that narrative that they are trying to invent,” McCleary told the Electronic Intifada.
An earlier story by Medina, “Student Coalition at Stanford Confronts Allegations of Antisemitism”, also focused on the “debate over what constitutes antisemitism” in light of the Stanford student government’s vote to support divestment—an event that the Times did not cover in its own right, but only as an opportunity to run a piece about a Jewish student’s experience of being asked about divestment.
Times reporter Adam Nagourney ended an article with a quote from Natalie Charney, student president of the UCLA chapter of the Jewish student organization Hillel:
People say that being anti-Israel is not the same as being antisemitic. The problem is the anti-Israel culture in which we are singling out only the Jewish state creates an environment where it’s OK to single out Jewish students.
Despite the reference to “the Jewish state,” the territory controlled by the government of Israel contains more Arabs than Jews–though most of the Arabs are excluded from political participation. Why does only activism in support of Israel’s disenfranchised majority, and not the defenders of Israel’s system of ethnic apartheid, prompt questions of campus bias in the New York Times?

Gunar Olsen is an editorial intern at FAIR and a student at Fordham University. Follow him on Twitter 


  1. A member of the University of California’s governing body has called for the expulsion or suspension of students for expressing their views about Israel, under the guise of combating anti-Jewish bigotry.

    This comes as Israel lobby groups, flush with huge new injections of cash, are stepping up their efforts to silence the Palestine solidarity movement on campuses nationwide.

    During a 17 September meeting of the University of California (UC) Regents to discuss a "statement of principles against intolerance," Richard Blum also threatened to have his wife, US Senator Dianne Feinstein, publicly criticize the university if it did not enforce penalties against perceived bigotry.

    Feinstein's criticism could put the university system under federal scrutiny.

    Another regent, Hadi Makarechian, agreed, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, saying that without punishment, "we're just stating a lot of stuff on paper."

    Blum and other regents, backed by Israel lobby groups, are pushing the university to adopt policies that free speech advocates warn could violate the First Amendment.

    The Board of Regents had been due to vote on whether to adopt the US State Department's definition of anti-Semitism as university policy at its meeting in July.

    That definition is based on a "working definition" of anti-Semitism once considered by a European Union body but later dropped.

    Palestine solidarity and free speech advocates point out that the government definition conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry. A key strategy of Israel advocates, they say, has been to urge university administrators to treat criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism as one and the same.

    1. Flow of Cash

      As the new academic year begins, university students in California and across the US are certain to face renewed public relations campaigns to denigrate the BDS movement and silence organizing in support of Palestinian rights.

      Palestine Legal says many students involved in Palestine solidarity activism have been accused of anti-Semitism and terrorism, threatened with death and violence and targeted for their ethnic or religious background.

      In the first four months of 2015 alone, the group documented 60 cases of false accusations of anti-Semitism "that were in fact incidents where students or faculty criticized policies of Israel."

      Of 102 requests for legal support from across the country, 67 were from California.

      Earlier this year, Republican Party mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, along with Haim Saban, billionaire friend and contributor to Hillary Clinton, joined forces to pour millions of dollars into Israel advocacy groups working in American universities.

      The Jewish Daily Forward reported that university-based Israel activists would be returning to campus this year "fueled by a large new flow of cash."

      One organization, the Campus Maccabees, backed by more than $50 million from Adelson and Saban, has "a declared aim to reshape the face of Israel advocacy in colleges nationwide."

      Israel lobby organizations on campus are especially alarmed by growing relationships between Palestine solidarity groups and students of color and marginalized communities, the Forward noted.

      Back in Berkeley, McCleary said that although student activists are not backing down, they know they have to brace for a long fight.

      "We have truth and justice on our side and they [anti-Palestinian groups] don't," he said.

      "That said, they play for keeps - and we're expecting this to get a lot dirtier and messier and for people to get hurt," McCleary added.

      "This is going to get a whole lot worse for activists before it gets any better. It's not guaranteed that we'll win this. We need people who support truth and justice to join this movement."

    2. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/33067-are-pro-israel-bullies-on-us-campuses-planning-dirtier-tactics