Postscript to Harriet Sherwood’s ASA boycott story: Major BDS FAIL!

Though Guardian Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood consistently either ignores or plays down Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens, she rarely misses an opportunity to provide free PR for even the most marginal BDS and delegitimization campaigns targeting the Jewish State. Indeed, in December she of course found time to write an 800 word feature on a largely symbolic boycott resolution by a small number of American academics.

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In attempting to impute significance to the motion, Sherwood wrote the following:

A prestigious US academic body has joined a growing movement to boycott Israel in protest at its treatment of Palestinians, in a move both welcomed and condemned in a bitterly divisive international arena…The American Studies Association (ASA), which has more than 5,000 members, is the most significant US academic organisation to back a boycott of Israeli educational institutions following a two-thirds majority vote.

Sherwood further contextualized the boycott motion as a victory amid the ongoing “international boycott drive against Israel”.

However, days before the ASA boycott vote was even cast, a more sober assessment on the potential anti-Israel resolution was published at this blog.  

In his CiF Watch guest post on Dec 15, Jon (from the blog DivestThis!) argued that the ASA was setting itself up for failure, and that if the vote was to pass, “it will be a vote of an organization that has discredited itself, even before the rest of the academy marginalizes them still further by pointing out that…an academic boycott is the opposite of academic freedom“.

Then, following the vote, an interesting thing occurred: A remarkably large segment of American academia indeed took steps to marginalize the ASA and stand up for the principles of academic freedom threatened by the boycott resolution.

Thanks in part to the dogged efforts of tireless activists such as William A. Jacobson, the following is a current list (per Avi Mayer) of institutions whose presidents or chancellors have publicly rejected the ASA’s academic boycott of Israel:

Additionally, the following institutions’ American Studies programs have formally withdrawn their membership in the American Studies Association (ASA) following their boycott vote:

One of the most eloquent denunciations of the boycott was issued by the President and Dean of Faculty of Trinity College in Connecticut:

To The Immediate Attention of the President of the American Studies Association:

Our Dean of the Faculty, Thomas Mitzel, and I wish to go on record renouncing the boycott of Israel on the part of the ASA.

Trinity once years back was an institutional member (we were then advertising for an open position), and apparently some members of our faculty are individual members. Were we still an institutional member, we would not be any longer after the misguided and unprincipled announcement of the boycott of the only democracy in the Middle East. The Dean and I oppose academic boycotts in general because they can so easily encroach upon academic freedom.

In this strange case, why the ASA would propose an academic boycott of Israel and not, for example, of Syria, the Sudan, North Korea, China, Iran, Iraq, or Russia escapes rational thought. Trinity has participated in the Rescue Scholar program since its inception; we have welcomed scholars from some of the most repressive countries on the planet, and it is inconceivable to us that we would ever be welcoming a Rescue Scholar fleeing Israel for political reasons.

As President of the ASA, you have tarnished a once distinguished association.

Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be a single university or major academic group in the U.S. supporting the boycott.  Indeed, anyway you parse it, if the goal of the ASA – and its anti-Zionist supporters – was to create momentum for the boycott movement, they’ve clearly failed miserably at their task.  

You can chalk this up as yet another major BDS Fail.

American Studies Association purges their Facebook page of critical comments

Here’s the fourth guest post by Jon (from DivestThis!) on the ASA motion to boycott Israel 

In case anyone is interested in seeing exactly what the leadership of the American Studies Association means when they talk about a “debate” on the issue of their academic boycott of Israel, yesterday the President of the association sent a note to the membership, alerting them that the ten days they had been given to make a decision on the matter (in contrast to the months the leadership gave themselves to achieve consensus on the issue – months that didn’t overlap finals time, by the way) “was designed not only to give everyone a fair chance to vote, but also to promote discussion and healthy debate.”

So far, these leaders have contributed to this “debate” by only providing information supportive of one side (guess which one).  But no worries.  For according to the ASA President: “A simple Google search will also turn up scores of relevant links to commentary on the ASA resolution and on the issue of the academic boycott of Israel in general.”  And a specific resource he linked to was the ASA Facebook page.

Now I stopped by that page which, as it turns out, had only been created on December 3rd (and announced to the membership, as noted above, on December 11, or just four days before voting on the boycott will end).  The page has been set up so that only certain people (guess who) are allowed to start threads, and – in keeping with the theme of all ASA communication on the issue – nearly every thread featured some argument supportive of a boycott.

Now comments were open and filled with the same type of “Why don’t you boycott China” vs. “Why doesn’t Israel stop dropping white phosphorous on school children” arguments you see in any boycott-related online message board, with comments apparently coming both from member and non-members.  And so I posted a challenging couple of inquiries – mostly regarding the way this whole debate was being conducted.

Now this comment was not hostile (certainly not as hostile as the accusations of racism and genocide that already dotted the site).  But within an hour, not only had my comment been deleted, but the entire thread to which it was a response had also been “disappeared.”  And when I added a comment to another thread asking why the site’s history seemed to be being rewritten before our eyes, that whole thread also vanished within minutes.

Having seen this type of thing happen before, I decided to take a screen shot of the site after posting my last comment, so you can how much debate the ASA was not willing to tolerate.

ASA Facebook Comment (2)

If you visit the site today (at least as of this morning) you will see that it has been cleansed of every posting relevant to the boycott posted yesterday (December 11).

Under normal circumstances, I’d take solace in the notion of hypocrisy being the complement vice pays to virtue.  But what are we to make of an organization that, in attempting to shut down inquiry with their Israeli colleagues is ready to first shut it down among its own members while simultaneously sending out e-mails urging people to participate in “discussion and healthy debate”?

I expect comments on this site to stick around for a while, so any ASA members out there should feel free to tell me if I’m missing something.

American Studies Association ‘boycott Israel’ motion: The Justification

Here’s the 3rd post on the proposed ASA boycott, by Jon from DivestThis! (Here’s part 1 & part 2)

ASAProbably the most embarrassing part of the entire ASA boycott debate is the response of those defending a choice to flush devotion to academic freedom down the toilet for the sake of one (and only one) political pet peeve.

Long-time BDS watchers will recognize the well-rehearsed responses to typical questions about why an organization is choosing to target one nation and one nation only for boycott vs. targeting nations with far worse human rights records (which pretty much includes every nation supporting the BDS “movement”). 

First you’ve got the pre-digested word-blobs that seem to get trotted out whenever BDS selective morality is brought into question.  My favorite is the one about how the boycotters would gladly respond to any call if it came from members of non-Palestinian civil society organizations (implying that the best way to avoid the wrath of the morally perfect is to actually be a totalitarian government that crushes civil society, rather than one which lets it exist to organize global boycott campaigns).

And whenever these and all the other hypocrisies and inconsistencies are exposed (not to mention the truncated arguments and outright fabrications that fill the BDSer’s bill of indictment), the next automatic set of responses include:

  • Ignoring critics and pretending that smashed arguments were never responded to
  • Flooding the airwaves with pictures and stories of Palestinian broken children (even if some of those photos need to be imported from Syria) in hope to elicit an emotional response from the audience that will overwhelm reason
  • Claiming (falsely) that any argument against a boycott boils down to nothing but accusations of anti-Semitism

The thing is, when years ago I summed up the various defenses and responses you are now seeing used by the ASA leadership and its supporters as a blast shield against legitimate criticism, I was thinking about them in the context of how undergraduates use these tactics when making their case to other undergrads on a college campus.  But in the case of the ASA, it is not just grownups using the same tired strategies to avoid the debate they set in motion, but college professors who allegedly represent the virtues of open-mindedness, critical thinking and the importance of following evidence and inquiry wherever it leads.

In other words, the people claiming that their role as scholars gives them and their proposed boycott special meaning have chosen to act like garden variety propagandists – hiding facts, substituting gut emotion for rational debate, limiting rather than encouraging inquiry and debate – to get what they want.  And if they manage to eke out a victory, they will immediately try to use the virtues of scholarship they had so recently jettisoned to give their decision extra moral weight.

As this story plays out, don’t forget that nothing is preventing any ASA members from writing and saying anything they like about the Arab-Israeli conflict or joining a group dedicated to defaming the Jewish state.  But that’s not what they want, is it?  For a professor speaking in his own name is just a partisan individual who can be judged based on the strength and honesty of his or her arguments. 

But get a boycott passed by an organization (by any means necessary) and suddenly those partisans can claim to speak in the name of every man and woman in the association and, by extension, the field (if not the academy as a whole).  In other words, getting a voting majority (which may very well constitute a membership minority) to pass a boycott will allow a group of single-issue partisans to punch considerably above their weight, the needs of the association and the profession be damned.

As with other equally ill-conceived campaigns, Israel will survive this particular flaccid string and blunt arrow.  But I’m not sure the same thing can be said regarding the American Studies Association.

 

Divest This! A modest proposal to the American Studies Association

A guest post by Jon from DivestThis!

Any political tactic is going to start delivering diminishing returns after ten or more years of not accomplishing a single one of its goals. And with the BDS “movement” about to turn thirteen, we seem to be reaching a point where even their alleged “triumphs” can barely earn a mention beyond the fever-swamps of the anti-Israel blogosphere.

BDS was born at the now legendary 2001 Durban South Africa in 2001 when the global network of Israel haters decided the fight against global racism had to take a back seat to their own parochial concerns.  And their main concern was kicking off a world-wide propaganda campaign to brand Israel as the new Apartheid South Africa with divestment (since rebranded BDS) their tactic of choice.

This tactic required major organizations like famous universities, venerable churches, respected municipalities and unions to divest from the Jewish state, a program that generated some headlines in its early years but no actual divestment.  And more than a decade later, with investment pouring into Israeli companies from around the world, with colleges and universities falling all over one another to form partnerships with their Israeli counterparts, with Israeli power brands like SodaStream and Ahava on the shelves of retailers large and small, the BDSers have been reduced to getting largely unknown organizations to pass toothless boycott and divestment resolutions that accomplish less than nothing.

Most recently, a vote by the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli academic institutions was passed the same way other votes have gone the BDSers way in recent months: by stacking decision-making committees with people who are BDSers first, academics second, whose fanatic devotion to “the cause” means they are ready to pass politicized motions they had no mandate to even discuss.  And like stacked student council votes that passed on a few campuses in the Spring, the notion that these measures represent student or academic opinion is laughable.

That’s because for any political measure to have an impact it must either be seen to reflect the will of the people it is supposed to represent or have some direct consequential impact.  But BDS votes taken in forums that involve as few people as possible demonstrate that even the boycotters know they are acting in their own interest, rather than the interest of those they are supposed to represent.

And as for consequences, the ASA vote is likely to produce the same complete lack of action similar votes have led to over the years.  That means no programs linking US and Israeli universities will be severed, no Israeli scholar will be disinvited from participating in a conference or submitting to a journal, no Israeli graduate student will be denied a place at a university, even with a boycott in place that allegedly represents the policy of an entire academic discipline.

This is because those who make such decisions, including those who forced this ASA boycott vote, know that actually enacting the boycott program they just stuffed down the throat of the membership would earn them the immediate and well-deserved contempt of the entire academy.  Which is why this vote, like all “successful” BDS votes, represents nothing because it will lead to nothing.

But perhaps I’m wrong.  Perhaps this time, the people pushing an academic boycott are ready to do more than just strike a pose in someone else’s name.  In which case, they have a very simple and extremely effective path to follow.

For in 2007, as a response to a proposed academic boycott from the major academic union in the UK (which was soon rescinded – of course), over a hundred US college presidents declared that for purposes of any academic boycott that their institutions should be considered Israeli universities and also boycotted.

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Now this list includes schools like Tufts, the University of Minnesota, Rutgers, the University of Florida, Berkeley, the University of Connecticut, the University of Michigan, the University of Washington, San Francisco State, Wesleyan, Perdue, and Columbia – all colleges where members of the ASA Academic and Community Activism Caucus (the group that forced the boycott motion on the organization) are currently employed.  In other words, the very people who insist that their entire field distance itself from Israeli institutions are now drawing paychecks from colleges and universities that declared themselves (in a declaration that was never rescinded) Israeli institutions of learning.

So the “scholars” driving the boycott within the ASA are now in a position to demonstrate their commitment to the cause by resigning en mass before spending another hour continuing as scabs to the very boycott they initiated.  No doubt severing their ties to their current employers might cause some professional hardship, but such suffering is as nothing compared to the plight of the people they claim to be fighting for.

So how about it guys?  Are you ready to put up?  If not, you know what the only other alternative is.

Chloé Valdary: ‘Israel is the great cause of our time’ (Video)

As the Algemeiner wrote about the inclusion of Chloé Valdary (the founder of CCAP-supported Allies for Israel at the University of New Orleans) in their annual Jewish 100: She’s young, black, Christian and southern, and is one of the most articulate pro-Israel advocates around.

The following video was created and presented by Valdary, who recently launched a project entitled,“Once And For All,” which aims to combat antisemitism through film and other mixed media.

The Guardian is forced to correct a second false allegation by Antony Loewenstein

Last week we posted about a Guardian correction to a passage in Antony Loewenstein’s Nov. 7 ‘Comment is Free’ essay (‘To support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is not antisemitic) which had claimed that the Israeli-based organization Shurat HaDin attempted to sue Stephen Hawking over his support for BDS.

Here was Loewenstein’s original passage:

The law firm [Shurat HaDin] tried to sue Twitter for daring to host Hizbollah tweets, former US President Jimmy Carter for criticising Israel and Stephen Hawking for damning the Israeli occupation.

However, the claim that Shurat HaDin tried to sue Hawking was a complete fabrication, prompting the Guardian to publish the following correction:

Recently, an alert CiF Watch reader noted a second correction to the same Loewenstein essay.  Here’s the original passage:

Another front page story in the paper last week claimed that Hebrew University is a bastion of Jewish and Arab co-operation, yet ignored the litany of examples of the institution repressing Palestinian rights.

Now, that passage smearing Hebrew University has been amended, and the following additional footnote has been added to Loewenstein’s column:

second corex

It’s important to stress that these don’t appear to be simply honest errors.  As we noted in our previous post, the false claim by Loewenstein about Shurat HaDin suing Stephen Hawking was ‘supported’ by a link which took you to an article at the hate site, Mondoweiss. However, the Mondoweiss article in question never in fact made such a claim.  Likewise, this second erroneous claim by Loewenstein about Hebrew University was ‘supported’ by an article (at an Australian news) site written by Randa Abdel-Fattah, which didn’t at all cite “a litany of examples of the institution repressing Palestinian rights“.  The only relevant passage in Abdel-Fattah’s article was the following:

Jake Lynch has refused collaboration with Hebrew University because of its support of the illegal occupation of Palestine and close connections with the Israeli armament industry.

Beyond this vague smear, which includes no details or further links, there is nothing to support Loewenstein’s claim that there is a “litany of examples” of Hebrew University “repressing Palestinian rights”.

Much like his lie about “Jews-only roads” in the West Bank which we exposed previously, Loewenstein has again been caught red-handed smearing Israel based on links which don’t even minimally back up his fantastical allegations.

Yes, boycotting the goods and services of six million Jews is certainly antisemitic.

An Australian named Antony Loewenstein penned a piece at ‘Comment is Free’ on Nov. 7 which not only endorsed the unfiltered hate of Max Blumenthal, but defended the claim that the BDS movement against Israel is not antisemitic – specifically justifying the boycott of (of all places) Hebrew University, the Israeli academic institution known for its history of promoting coexistence.

Loewenstein wrote the following:

Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center is an Israel-based organisation that claims to be a civil group “fighting for rights of hundreds of terror victims”. It is currently taking Jake Lynch, head of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), to the Australian federal court. They assert that Lynch has allegedly breached the 1975 racial discrimination act by refusing to sponsor a fellowship application by Israeli academic Dan Avnon. Lynch and CPACS support BDS, and since Avnon works at Hebrew University.

Of course, as anyone who’s been to either its Givat Ram campus or its main campus at Mount Scopus can attest to, Hebrew University is where Jews and Arabs (both Christian and Muslim) can be found mingling freely in the classroom, the cafeteria, and other common areas – sometimes encountering each other for the first time. Indeed, it was no coincidence that the university was the target of a Hamas terrorist attack in 2002, where a bomb packed with shrapnel was placed in a bag in a crowded cafeteria, killing nine people – four Israelis and five foreign nationals – and injuring 85.

Loewenstein addresses the issue of BDS and antisemitism in the following sentence:

The Australian which has been driving the debate on the issue, publishing countless stories that deliberately conflates antisemitism and support for the BDS movement.

Interestingly, Lowenstein doesn’t spend any further space attempting to back up his argument. Indeed, as his own one-state advocacy demonstrates, BDS advocates who target the entire country and all of its institutions are typically not trying to undermine the legitimacy of the settlements but, rather, the legitimacy of the state’s existence within any borders.

As a comprehensive survey published recently by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) indicates, campaigns which seek the economic, cultural and academic exclusion of Israeli Jews is viewed as racist by a large majority of Europe’s Jews. This survey of Jewish people’s experiences and perceptions of antisemitism in the EU (which covers the UK, France, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Italy Hungary, and Latvia) reported that 72 percent believed that the boycott of Israeli goods was antisemitic.

Perceptions of the moral implications of boycotting the only Jewish state should be contextualized within the overall results of the poll, which found that an increasing number of Jews in Europe fear for their safety, with nearly 30 percent of respondents having seriously considered emigrating due to antisemitism.  Additionally, 26 percent had experienced one or more incident of antisemitic harassment in the previous 12 months and, quite chillingly, nearly 70 percent “at least occasionally avoid wearing items in public that might identify them as Jewish”.

John-Paul Pagano, in his superb essay at The Tower on the legacy of Norman Geras, wrote the following on the moral double-standards at play which unite antisemitism and anti-Zionism:

Norm had little patience for the standard defense that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. “No, it isn’t,” he wrote, “unless it is.” He granted that the two are not necessarily the same, but he rejected the idea that simply announcing the difference grants immunity from charges of racism. “In the outpouring of hatred towards Israel today,” he wrote, “it scarcely matters what part of it is impelled by a pre-existing hostility towards Jews as such and what part by a groundless feeling that the Jewish state is especially vicious among the nations of the world…. Both are forms of anti-Semitism.”

Anti-Zionist activists like Loewenstein evidently wake up in the morning, glance at the news coming out of the Middle East, and react in righteous fury not at the medieval antisemitism codified in Hamas’s founding charter, or the sick spectacle of Palestinian children reciting lessons learned on the immutable evil of those “sons of monkeys and pigs”, but, perversely, at the Jewish target of this monstrous, consuming hate. 

The unsettling reality is that seventy-five years after Kristallnacht an increasing percentage of Europe’s tiny Jewish minority again feel the anxiety born of racism, exclusion and violence.  And, the fact that this beleaguered community interprets a campaign of boycotts targeting six million of their coreligionists as antisemitic should only offend those who fail to interpret the refrain “never again” as a moral imperative to safeguard the rights and safety of living Jews, not merely the memory of those who have long since perished.

 

Sounds Israeli: Tom Jones – Delilah – Tel Aviv – BDS Fail

Tom Jones shrugged off an especially anemic BDS campaign, and performed in front of a packed house at the Nokia Stadium in Tel Aviv last Saturday, fifteen years after his last show in the Jewish state.

Here’s the ‘Welsh wizard’ performing his hit, Delilah. 

Just for fun, here’s the original recording of his song in 1968:

 

Sounds Israeli: Rapper Ari Lesser speaks truth to BDS hypocrisy

The following video, which has recently gone viral, was written and produced by the Jewish reggae rapper, Ari Lesser – an artist featured previously on ‘Sounds Israeli’.

CiF Watch prompts correction to false Guardian claim about SodaStream

We sometimes notice that headlines, or strap lines, used to illustrate Israel related stories at the Guardian or ‘Comment is Free’ are not supported by the subsequent text, and often serve, intentionally or otherwise, to sensationalize or even distort news items which are already critical of the Jewish state.  

A case in point is a Sept. 29th Guardian report by , titled ‘SodaStream: the Israeli-run shop dividing Brighton‘, about a small number of Palestine Solidarity Campaign protesters outside of an environmentally friendly Ecostream refill store – a division of the Israeli company SodaStream – which opened recently in the UK.

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Ecostream story in Brighton

As Guardian reports on fledgling BDS efforts against Israel go, Benedictus’s article isn’t too bad. However, the strap line falsely claimed that SodaStream’s company headquarters was in “the occupied West Bank”, when in fact only one of their factories (in Mishor Adumim) is in the disputed territory.  The company’s corporate headquarters is located in Airport City, adjacent to Ben Gurion Airport and not on the “wrong side” of the green line.

After contacting Guardian editors the strap line was corrected, and the false claim about SodaStream’s company headquarters was removed. 

Additionally, whilst the Guardian report on BDS efforts did include a quote by SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum, here’s an extended response to the boycott question by Birnbaum which a colleague and I recorded when we visited the company’s offices in July and interviewed both Birnbaum and one of the Mishor Adumim plant managers. 

CiF Watch prompts correction to false BDS victory claim by Irish Times

On Aug. 7 we commented on a piece of anti-Zionist agitprop published at the Irish Times which, among other distortions, included a passage falsely suggesting that the company Veolia had, under pressure from BDS activists, divested from Jerusalem’s Light Rail system.

veolia

Here’s the passage in question:

Veolia, the French conglomerate that operates Luas in Dublin, and Alstom, came under pressure from the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign to withdraw from the Jerusalem consortium. Veolia did, but Alstom kept building 46 trams.

We demonstrated that the claim that Veolia had already withdrawn from the Jerusalem Light Rail consortium was flatly untrue. We noted that while they do eventually intend to  abandon investment in all transportation projects (including light rail projects), this is only part of a broader business strategy to focus on environmental services, energy, and water – and cited an article in the financial paper Globes detailing the company’s significant ongoing investment in the Israeli energy sector.

We contacted editors at the Irish Times seeking a correction to the false suggestion of a BDS victory, and we recently received word that the correction had been made. The article was amended on Wednesday, August 14th, and the passage now reads:

Veolia, the French conglomerate that operates Luas in Dublin, and Alstom, came under pressure from the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign to withdraw from the Jerusalem consortium. Veolia, which denies it is acting under political pressure, has yet to sell out. 

Despite this victory, the Irish Times article in question is still an atrocious example of ideologically driven activist journalism, and we intend to continue monitoring the paper and holding them accountable when they engage in similarly false or misleading allegations.

Contrary to suggestion by Indy’s Alistair Dawber, Jon Bon Jovi does NOT support BDS

A story in The Independent written by their Jerusalem correspondent Alistair Dawber on the recent cancellation of a previously scheduled performance in Israel by Eric Burdon (frontman for the rock band The Animals) due, according to his manager, to death threats Burdon was receiving from BDS activists, included this passage:

The issue of artists giving performances in Israel is controversial. In recent years, Jon Bon Jovi and the South African band Ladysmith Black Mambazo have cancelled concerts in support of the BDS – or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – movement.

So, it is true that the popular American rocker Jon Bon Jovi cancelled concerts in Israel due to BDS?

Well, as Aussie Dave at the blog Israellycool reported recently, back in 2010 Bon Jovi indicated the band was going to be performing in Israel as part of their 2011 world tour, an announcement which garnered the attention of BDS activists, who had of course urged him to cancel.  Later, for reasons which were never made clear, the tentatively scheduled performance was cancelled, and the BDS crowd claimed victory.

However, Aussie Dave posted a video of Bon Jovi being interviewed on the BBC earlier this year, prior to a live performance on BBC Radio, which includes a comment that contradicts claims of the boycott proponents.  We’ve cut the longer video down to the 20 seconds relevant to the question at hand.

Listen carefully to the answer Bon Jovi gives to the BBC’s Jo Whiley:

So, unprompted, Bon Jovi clearly stated his desire to perform in the Jewish state.

What this means, other than a BDS Fail of course, is that the Indy reporter (who will soon become the paper’s foreign editor) should try fact checking instead of relying on the routinely inaccurate claims of BDS activists.