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.