Earlier this month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called in his budget for laws which will stop state support for businesses that endorse or adhere to boycotts of Israel. Seventeen states have currently enacted anti-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanction) legislation, with states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio having done so in just the last few months. The Texas law address state pension plans. In a news brief released by the Jewish Telegraph Agency, Abbott is quoted as stating that “[w]hile Texas pension plans have the goal of maximizing returns…this mission should not come at the expense of our principles.” Abbott elaborated further, saying that “Texas funds…should be prohibited from making investments that directly fund our nation’s enemies or those…with stated anti-Israel policies.” Texas, like many other states, currently bans state pensions and retirement funds from investing in Iran. Abbott met with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, last year. During his time with the ambassador, as reported by The Algemeiner, Abbott stated that both Iran and the BDS movement against Israel “actively engage” in attempts to delegitimize the Jewish state. Texas is no stranger to BDS and BDS-aligned groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
Governor Abbott’s calls for Texas anti-BDS legislation mirror the attempts by Maryland legislators. Maryland lawmakers and Jewish advocacy groups are currently putting the final touches on a bill that would ban companies that support the BDS movement from doing business with the state. This new bill comes after a failed attempt to introduce similar legislation last April. The previous attempt never saw the proposed bill introduced, which opponents of the bill credit to “intense opposition from public and state legislators.” The text for the proposed bill uses language similar to that of U.S. Senator Ben Cardin’s (D-MD) anti-BDS bill, which defined BDS as “actions…intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations” with Israel. Cardin’s anti-BDS bill, H.R. 6298, was not enacted.
Both the Texas and Maryland attempts at anti-BDS legislation will face stiff resistance from the active members of BDS groups within both states. Critics of the Texas legislation claim it “infringes upon the First Amendment right to free speech,” specifically in regards to state issued funds. Defenders of anti-BDS legislation, such as Eugene Volokh, have responded that such anti-BDS bills do not restrict speech. Volokh explains that “a [business] doesn’t lose [federal/state] money just for condemning Israel or even praising a boycott, but only for actually boycotting Israel: refusing to deal with Israeli institutions or scholars.” Maryland’s legislation may face more intense opposition, since Mayland BDS groups believe that they helped to stop similar legislation from being passed last year, a belief that will no doubt embolden their resistance. Regardless of the challenges, legislators in both states are pressing on in their pursuit of legislation against the undue pressures targeting Israel and Israel’s supporters.
BDS is rapidly losing ground to the onslaught of legislation it faces at both the state and federal level. The BDS campaign’s attempts to stifle academic freedom and to demonize Israel are facing stiff opposition from an informed public, a public that became informed due to the now publicly litigated nature of the anti-Israel movement. Every attempt at a boycott motion, and the subsequent reaction from the states, leads to discrediting of the BDS movement. With more and more states now drafting anti-BDS legislation and several bills introduced through congress as well, it is only a matter of time before the BDS movement loses what little credibility it has left.
In an effort to condemn the actions taken by President Trump, some academics are now advocating a boycott against the U.S. similar as those attempted against Israel. Recent proposals to adopt sanctions and boycott measures against Israel have been mired in controversy and failure. The Modern Language Association (MLA) recently defeated a proposal for a boycott against Israel, as did the American Anthropological Association (AAA.) The failure of the proposed AAA boycott resolution has been credited, in part, to actions taken by the Brandeis Center and a team of litigators in pursuing legal action against the American Studies Association (ASA). Anti-American academics, incensed by President Trumps immigration policies, are now attempting to redirect such efforts against the United States.
The proposed boycott will take the form of a refusal to “attend international academic conferences held in the United States.” A petition entitled “In Solidarity with People Affected by the Muslim Ban” has been circulated among academics which asserts that academics must “question the intellectual integrity of these spaces and the dialogues they are designed to encourage while Muslim colleagues are explicitly excluded from them.” Helen McCarthy, writing for The Guardian, states that the boycott is a move taken purely in solidarity with Muslim academics now barred from U.S. conferences. McCarthy relates the feelings of one of the pledged academics: “How can free and open academic enquiry [sic] take place when one section of humanity is barred from participation?” The petition has garnered over 3,000 signatures, each of which constitutes a pledge to abstain from forthcoming conferences.
Some scholars have put forward concerns that this boycott may stifle academic discussion within the United States. Speaking with Legal Insurrection, scientist Max Berger stated that “any place that restricts the travel of [academics] to present their work is a problem.” These criticisms of the boycott have largely centered upon the shutting down of academic conferences which have nothing to do with the Trump administration or “Muslim Ban.” McCarthy’s article for The Guardian pointed out itself that “Trump will lose little sleep over a group of liberal academics from Europe boycotting a roundtable on 19th-century literature,” while “If US scholars find it harder to hold such meetings, or, as a result, to sustain networks with overseas colleagues, the action might be positively damaging.” Suggestions to have video conference and hold two-site conferences while the executive order is challenged in court have been put forward.
Several organizations have moved ahead with planned conferences, putting them in the crosshairs of those in favor of the boycott. The International Studies Association (ISA) has gone ahead with its conference this month in Baltimore, and has largely avoided boycott calls by pledging to refund registration fees to those academics denied visas or entry into the U.S. for the convention. The intentions of those calling for the boycott, regardless, remain clear. These members of the academic community want to show their disdain for the new administration by refusing to attend conferences organized by members of the academic community in the first place.
On Sunday, December 4, I had the pleasure of speaking at the CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) conference, “War by Other Means: Israel, BDS, and the Campus,” at Harvard Law School. In recent years, anti-Semitism has been on the rise throughout the country, and particularly on college campuses. Much of this anti- Semitism has taken on a new form, anti-Semitism “coded” as anti-Israelism. This conference addressed these very issues. Featured speakers included Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, Cornell Law Professor William Jacobson, executive director of CAMERA, Andrea Levin, and co-founder and director of the AMCHA Initiative, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin.
The aim of the conference was to further understand what drives the growing and aggressive anti-Israel Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that has engulfed our campuses in the United States.
The BDS movement is a call to boycott all cultural, academic, and economic ties to Israel in an effort to strangle the country, until they are held accountable for alleged human rights violations against Palestinians. This movement portrays itself as a global human rights movement, however, as explained by Alan Dershowitz in a video message addressing the conference, “there is no BDS movement.” Movements, explains Dershowitz, are a global effort to hold accountable all countries that violate their terms of human rights abuses. BDS is an effort that solely focuses on Israel. Jordan, which is also a previous territory of the British Mandate of Palestine, doesn’t find it’s discriminatory citizenship laws toward Palestinians on the BDS’s movement’s agenda. He explains that If they were a movement for human rights accountability, Israel would be at the very bottom of their list. As a plethora of severe human rights violations are littered across the Middle East, the BDS movement against Israel has gained more visibility than others among college students.
Authors, lawyers, professors, academic professionals, activists, and students from Harvard – including students from the Harvard LDB Law Student Chapter — engaged in the discussion of campus climate for Jewish students today. Presentations included “Countering BDS on Campus” by Alan Dershowitz, “BDS Has A History” by Professor William Jacobson from Cornell University, “BDS and Campus Anti-Semitism” by AMCHA initiave’s Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, “Academic Freedom, Free Speech, and BDS: Advancing Viewpoint Diversity on Campus” by Professor Miriam Elman from Syracruse University, and “Answering SJP Propoganda” by Dr. Alex Safian.
On a panel along with other current and recent graduates, I shared my personal experiences as an Israel advocate while studying at San Francisco State University (SFSU), a campus with a great presence of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity. I spoke about Professors like Hatem Bazian and Rabab Abdulhadi, both of whom are active leaders of the BDS movement. Abdulhadi, a professor of ethnic studies at SFSU, used University tax-payer funds to finance a field trip for students to Palestinian territory to meet with Palestinian resistance fighters, whom of some were linked with US designated terrorist lists. She met with Leila Khaled, whom Professor Abdulhadi describes as “an icon in women’s liberation and an icon in liberations movements.” Leila Khaled was arrested in 1969 for hijacking an airplane in an act of terror, and she became a famous Palestinian icon for being the first woman to do so. I talked about how leaders of student groups and professors at my school have both gone under FBI investigation, including the former SFSU student Mohammad Hammad, who infamously posted a picture of himself holding a blade on social media, saying: “I seriously can not get over how much I love this blade. It is the sharpest thing I own and cuts through everything like butter and just holding it makes me want to stab an Israeli soldier.”
Students from Vassar College, Brandeis University, Cal State Long Beach, and University of Central Florida joined me to discuss their unique experiences on their given campus which brought them to advocate for Israel. Students, including a Muslim speaker who previously was a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) activist and transitioned into a strong Israel activist.
The reality of campus anti-semitism captivated the audience and motivated younger students and academic professionals to take initiative to validate Israel’s existence in the classroom and through advocacy. We were left reminded that although the climate can be challenging, the knowledge and motivation of future generations is in our in our hands, especially in a vital environment like a University campus.
The conference was closed with a statement by Andrea Levin, executive director of CAMERA, commenting on the very concept of War By Other Means: “We Will Win”.
For more updates and footage on the conference, visit CAMERA’s Facebook page here.
2016 has state legislatures taking a firm stand against the Boycotts, Disinvestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This summer alone, the Brandeis Center reported that California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York all enacted various laws establishing themselves against this invidious form of discrimination.
Now, less than a month after California Governor Jerry Brown signed his state’s anti-BDS legislation, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf will have the opportunity to do the same. Pennsylvania Bill HB 2107 which states that “Israel is America’s dependable, democratic ally in the Middle East, an area of paramount strategic importance to the United States” commercial activities and to discourage policies that disregard that interest” passed the Pennsylvania State Senate this past week 47-1 after passing unanimously in the House
The bill, when signed into law will ensure that companies contracted by Pennsylvania would be barred from becoming involved in any form of boycott — defined as efforts “to blacklist, divest from or otherwise refuse to deal with a person or firm when the action is based on race, color, religion, gender or national affiliation or origin of the targeted person or entity” – specifically in relation to Israeli companies or individuals.
Last week, I visited the University of Minnesota Law School to deliver a lunch lecture on anti-Semitism in higher education. It was one of a few campus visits I made this fall, and until now, the law students have been gracious hosts.
This was different. The flyers announcing my lecture were torn down, apparently by one or more people opposed to any discussion of campus anti-Semitism. Twenty flyers were posted in the student locker room and on the law school’s information boards, all in compliance with school rules. All twenty flyers were torn down, while flyers announcing other events remained in place, undamaged.
The flyers announcing my talk could not have been more innocuous. They simply announced, “JLSA Presents: Jennie Gross and the Rise of Anti-Semitism on College Campuses,” the date, place and time of the talk, and the logos for The Brandeis Center and Minnesota Hillel (and a local sandwich shop). There was no mention of international issues, and no condemnation of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement in the flyers. Whoever tore them down responded only to the topic of anti-Semitism on college campuses in the United States.
The irony was not lost on me. Invitations to talk about anti-Semitism on campus, sponsored by campus Jewish groups, were torn down. A fitting example of the topic of the lecture.
It is also an example of a rising trend on campus: the attempt by opponents to silence speech they disagree with. We saw this happen at San Francisco State University last spring, when visiting speaker Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem, was shouted down by anti-Israel protesters for over half an hour, until he finally gave up and left the venue while protesters cheered. We again saw it happen at the University of California, Irvine, when approximately fifty protesters surrounded a room of approximately ten Jewish students who had gathered to watch a documentary. The loud, aggressive protest disrupted the small event, and did not end until the police directed the protesters away from the building, watching them while other officers escorted the students inside away and to their cars.
It is likely that this vandalism was the act of just one or maybe a small handful of people. I know it is not a reflection of the broad and diverse student body at the University of Minnesota Law School. The lecture went forward as planned and was very well-attended by bright law students that asked thoughtful, intelligent questions. They did not attack me or each other. That is not to say that they are all in agreement on the issues of the day. But those students who actually attended the lecture were not afraid of hearing (and responding) to divergent points of view, and they treated everyone with respect. That is more than I can say about whoever who tore down the flyers.
Today, Dean Garry W. Jenkins issued a statement to the law school community, condemning the act of vandalism. His statement says, in part:
People may disagree and they can even disagree strongly, but ours is an environment where lawyers, lawyers-in-training, and those interested in law and legal institutions engage in dialogue. Diverse opinions are not only welcomed, but encouraged. Any efforts to shut down communication, including removing notices, undermine the values of our school and our profession.
. . . .
Our uniquely collaborative and supportive culture is one of our great strengths. I hope all of you will join me in deploring this act of vandalism and rejecting attempts to silence or marginalize. This purposeful community must remain welcoming and inclusive, and only together can we build, support, and sustain it.
I thank Dean Jenkins for his statement, and I thank the students that welcomed me to the University of Minnesota Law School.
Dr. Diane B. Kunz, Esq.
Equal treatment before United States law and government. That is a foundational American principle. Its aspirational neutrality, usually achieved, is one reason why people from so many nations with different ethnicities and differing religious beliefs have thrived in this country. Now J Street would challenge this basic principle in the purported service of helping to bring about a two state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. This discriminatory and wrong-headed idea must be opposed by anyone who supports an objective government of laws not ideology.
J Street calls “on its supporters and all who support a just Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement to urge the US Treasury to review the tax-deductibility status of contributions to groups working to entrench or expand Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.” The rationale is that because the U.S. government has expressed opposition to Jewish settlments in the contested territories, charitable contributions that concretely aid such settlements should not be tax deductible under the U.S. tax code.
Does J Street and its allies, really want the IRS to determine which organizations supports goals and ideas that in some way oppose some aspect of federal government policy and which do not pass inspection?
Tax deductibility can be obtained by: A community chest, corporation, trust, fund, or foundation, organized or created in the United States or its possessions, or under the laws of the United States, any state, the District of Columbia or any possession of the United States, and organized and operated exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or literary purposes, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals. See here.
If so, here is a partial list of organizations that may lose tax exempt status:
- Save the Children, since it aids Morocco whose annexation of parts of the Western Sahara is not recognized by international law.
- SOS Children’s Villages, because it aids Turkish controlled North Cyprus, whose existence as an independent nation is recognized only by Turkey;
- Unicef, because it aids Indian Kashmir and Jammu, whose borders have been contested since 1948.
Most on point, any organization which in anyway supports the BDS movement because one of BDS’ founding principles is Israel is not and cannot ever be “a state like any other.” The” Israel as international pariah” position violates U.S and well as International law.
How about domestic policy? Should donations to Catholic churches and Evangelical Christian churches be denied because their priests and ministers preach against abortion? Should donations to Islamic mosques be denied because Imams preach against gay marriage?
To ask these questions is to show how disastrous the policy J Street advocates would be were it ever to be applied. But the “peace” advocates do not see past their one-sided obsession with Israel.They are willing to jeopardize a basic American core belief that federal agencies like the IRS must treat all taxpayers, including 501 (c) 3 non-profit organizations equally, regardless of whether or not they are for or against abortion, for or against giving aid to Turkish Cyprus or for or against settlements in the West Bank When Richard Nixon misused the IRS we rightly called foul. We call foul now.
This weekend brings more good news from the Sunshine State. A month ago, the California legislature passed Assembly Bill 2844 – an anti-BDS bill – requiring public entities and state agencies to certify that they have not created policies that discriminate against any sovereign nation by violating state civil rights under the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
This weekend, that bill was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown.
Governor Brown is now the 15th governor to sign anti-BDS legislation, joining chief executives in New Jersey, Tennessee, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, Georgia , South Dakota and South Carolina in the legislative fight against the Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Dreams Deferred: A Concise Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & the Movement to Boycott IsraelMichelle Yabes : August 31, 2016 9:22 am : Anti-Israelism, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Religious Freedom
Cary Nelson has published his latest book Dreams Deferred: A Concise Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & the Movement to Boycott Israel. Nelson is a professor of English at University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign and has published a wide array of works, Dreams Deferred marking his second book after The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel to strike back at the BDS Movement. His most recent publication provides an informative and succinct reference guide to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Comprising of 60 essays from experts and scholars, including LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus, Dreams Deferred offers a comprehensive look into various aspects of the conflict.
Each essay is illuminating, and highlights different issues on the topics of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, in addition to providing concise historical background. The expert contributors of this work delved into the connection between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, anti-Jewish boycott movements including BDS, contemporary anti-Semitism, and how the term “apartheid” has been used, among many other subjects. LDB President Marcus contributed several fascinating pieces on the history of anti-Jewish boycotts, anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism, and Jewish anti-Zionists.
This book makes a great encyclopedic guide for casual readers unfamiliar with the subject matter, as well as for other experts. With its vast range of perspectives and in-depth analyses of common debates, Nelson’s latest work provides a strong reference point for research into the various aspects of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism compacted into one source. Easily accessible and highly enlightening, Dreams Deferred is a must-read for those interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the issues and history surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
‘Dreams Deferred: A Concise Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & the Movement to Boycott Israel’ is now available on Amazon.
2016 is unfolding as another unsettling year for Jewish students across U.S. college campuses. According to a report released this week by the AMCHA Initiative, anti-Semitic activities have surged over the past six months. The AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to the investigation, documentation and contestation of anti-Semitism, investigated 113 schools with the largest Jewish populations across the United States. Defining anti-Semitic instances by three criteria: (1) anti-Semitic expression – which following State Department sanctioned guidelines includes anti-Zionist expression, (2) Targeting of Jewish students, and (3) BDS activity. The findings were definitive:
There were a recorded 287 anti-Semitic incidents at 64 of these institutions – an alarming 57% of the total colleges surveyed.
This number is up by 45% from the 198 occurrences documented by the AMCHA in 2015. The AMCHA research also found that suppression of the speech of Jewish students approximately doubled from 2015 to 2016, whilst calls denying Israel’s right to exist nearly tripled.
Moreover, the study provided “ample empirical evidence showing that the presence of anti-Zionist student groups, faculty boycotters and anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) activity are each strong predictors of anti-Jewish hostility.”
According to these findings anti-Semitic instances was twice as likely to transpire on campuses where BDS was present, six times more likely to occur on campuses with one or more faculty boycotters, and eight times more likely to happen on campuses with at least one active anti-Zionist student group such as SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine). more »