Summary: Across American campuses, college radicals are fighting hard as they try to harm Israel and celebrate Palestinians. Though they call themselves nonviolent leftists opposed to racism, they actually have no problem with anti-Semites and violent terrorists. This report shines a spotlight on the outrageous deeds and words of numerous leaders in the “Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions” movement.
The deck has long been stacked against Israel on America’s college campuses. The Left’s BDS movement—the subject of this report—aims at Israel and Israel alone. BDS seeks to cripple the Jewish state whose creation gave refuge for the world’s Jews after Nazi Germany’s Holocaust incinerated six million of them. The B, D, and S are the non-military weapons—boycotts, divestments, and sanctions—that Israel-haters use to undermine America’s strongest Middle East ally.
The movement’s activists mostly live on university campuses, dress themselves in moral garments, and self-righteously denounce Israel as racist, even genocidal, because it defends itself vigorously and refuses to die. No other country gets scolded by the nations of the world for protecting itself from aggression or for using “disproportionate” force—itself, a dubious concept—against its enemies. Those who abhor Israel ignore the fact that it is surrounded on all sides by Muslim nations, many of which would drive the Jews “into the sea” if they could.
Yet in the United States, anti-Israel campaigners appear as occupying the moral high ground. Fighting for its existence continuously since 1948, the media depicts Israel as a bully and a regional hegemon. Radical pseudojournalist Max Blumenthal capitalized on this perception in his 2013 book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, which portrayed Israel as the “Little Satan,” compared to the “Great Satan” (America). This kind of propaganda is the norm when it comes to Israel.
The BDS movement has managed to accomplish so much with so little money (or at least, so little money discoverable by the usual means). The movement is amazingly well organized. Its activists stir up much controversy, media coverage, and undergraduate angst, draining activist energy away from more worthwhile causes. The money the movement gets its hands on comes from relatively obscure foundations and from anonymous donors through donor-advised funds. We can only speculate whether Muslim oil barons overseas are secretly underwriting BDS operations.
Covering up radical ties
Israel is widely popular among Americans, while those who oppose Israel tend to be radically left-wing in their politics. To increase the popularity of the anti-Israel movement, its leaders are forced to pretend their supporters are moderate, reasonable people.
The BDS movement “has exercised tactical sophistication in ‘dressing up’ its radical linkages and extremist ends,” analyst Dan Diker writes at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs website. Yet behind the façade of a “progressive, nonviolent campaign” that seeks “merely to pressure Israel toward a two-state solution” lurks a hate-filled “political and economic warfare campaign against Israel.”
BDS sprang out of events like the infamous 2001 U.N. World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa—a conference so outrageous that the U.S. delegation walked out in disgust and the Ford Foundation, which had funded Palestinian attendees linked to terrorism, had to apologize and institute a grantmaking reform: requiring grantees to promise not to “promote violence or terrorism” or to call “for the destruction of any state” (see “The Ford Foundation’s International Agenda,”Foundation Watch, June 2004). The movement has become the latest in a long line of Arab and European boycotts against Jews, Diker observes.
The BDS movement emerged on July 9, 2005, when 171 Palestinian non-governmental organizations launched a campaign to pressure Israel to “compl[y] with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights.” These Palestinian groups sought to force Israel, which they equate to apartheid-era South Africa, to “recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination.” The campaign makes three demands of Israel:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall.
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in U.N. resolution 194.
(Editor’s note: The Wall refers to the barrier built by the Israeli government in the West Bank. Israel credits the separation barrier with reducing terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, against Israelis. West Bank residents complain that the wall impedes their ability to move freely and commute to Israel for work. U.N. Resolution 194, adopted Dec. 11, 1948, established a theoretical framework aimed at allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.)
Diker opines that “all three of these conditions can be understood as promoting the dissolution of the State of Israel as a Jewish democratic state” and the “creation of another Arab-majority state in its place.” BDS “activists have more accurately characterized their activities as a complementary strategy to the policy of terror and political violence” of groups like Hamas that are trying to destroy Israel. The first demand “sounds at first hearing like a reference to the territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War” by Israel, but “Hamas and other rejectionist groups consider all of Israel to be occupied Arab land.” Indeed, the “Palestinian Authority’s official media promote the notion that all of Israel is ‘Occupied Palestine.’”
Diker finds it “noteworthy that two of these three demands are unrelated to the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War.” Consider the second point, which he describes as a seemingly “innocuous and uncontroversial appeal for equal rights for Israel’s Arab citizens.” Yet in the “political discourse by Israeli Arabs” the “concept of collective equality between Jews and Arabs means by definition that Israel can exist only as a binational state.” The third point leaves unmentioned that the “standard UN definition of a refugee does not apply to ‘Palestinian refugees’” from Israel’s 1948 war, because those refugees “uniquely inherit their status,” which is to say they pass their refugee status on to their progeny, and so the number of “refugees” has naturally increased to over five million in 2014. A “demand that Israel grant citizenship to some five million Palestinian Arabs who reject the existence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is essentially a call for Israel’s destruction,” Diker notes.
The BDS campaign, Diker notes, is a “Red-Green alliance” of “either far-left organizations or Islamist groups,” as analysis of the umbrella group U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (USCEIO) shows. Founded in 2001, the group’s formal name is Education for Just Peace in the Middle East, and it had a budget of just $477,740 in 2013, according to IRS filings. The group has received $20,000 from the Genevieve McMillan-Reba Stewart Foundation (Cambridge, Mass.) since 2012, and $20,000 from the Firedoll Foundation (Walnut Creek, Calif.) since 2007. Former USEICO organizer Noura Erakat, niece of Palestinian chief negotiator Saab Erakat, gave an indication in 2006 of USEICO’s views when she chanted before Israel’s U.S. embassy that “Palestine has been occupied since 1948.”
Current USEICO staff are no less radical. Executive director Yousef Munayyer, an Israeli Arab, was previously with the Jerusalem Fund (JF), an anti-Israeli think tank. JF founders supported Palestinian terrorism (FrontPageMag, Jan. 19, 2014) and this writer personally observed a caption on a temporary exhibit at JF that celebrated what it called a “symbol of the national struggle,” the terrorist Ali Taha, who was “killed in a hijacking operation he commanded” in 1972 (FrontPageMag, April 30, 2014). In an essay, one JF intern praised “Hamas and those who support it [who] have the potential to play a crucial role in the following years of the Palestinian resistance” (the document is available at TheJerusalemFund.org). JF director Munayyer himself refused to denounce Hamas as a terrorist group during a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity (July 24, 2014).
Munayyer’s USCEIO colleague, Anna Baltzer, some might argue, is the epitome of a self-hating Jew. Her website offers typical distortions of Israel, such as the canard that Israeli Arabs suffer discrimination in land purchasing. She has also claimed that Arab armies invaded a newly independent Israel in 1948 to prevent Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. During a 2015 appearance in Malaysia, she praised it for having “been a leader in having no diplomatic ties with Israel.”
Baltzer was most outrageous during a 2010 Irish radio interview in which she described how as an American Jew she became “anti-Zionist” during her travels to the Middle East (See http://theinfounderground.com/archives/TiU.Radio.25th.Jan.2010.guest.Anna.Baltzer.mp3).
She now wants to “bring down, inshallah, Zionism,” for “what Israel is doing has nothing to do with Judaism,” and considers the Hamas leaders she met in Damascus to be “reasonable, strategically smart, intelligent people.” (Editor’s note: inshallah is Arabic for “if Allah wills it.”) When her interviewer mentioned “a lot of Israeli, Zionist involvement, wall to wall” in the terrorism of Sept. 11, 2001, she replied, “I would not put it past my government or other governments to have been involved in what happened on 9/11.” She also revived the modern blood libel that accused Israeli soldiers of harvesting the organs of Palestinians, claiming it “has been corroborated by different reliable sources.” In 2014 Time magazine repeated the smear, which originated in an obscure Swedish newspaper in 2009, and retracted it the same day (The Times of Israel, Aug. 25, 2014).
Baltzer in turn differs little from her USCEIO colleague Josh Ruebner, an American-Israeli Jew with an Israeli father. In 2004 he wrote about burning his Israeli draft papers in front of Israel’s Washington, D.C., embassy and how with Zionism Jews “have turned our backs on our religious obligations and should cooperate with this evil enterprise no longer.” He often utilizes the dual-loyalty, anti-Semitic smear of “Israel Firsters” against Israel’s supporters and considers American military aid to Israel a “sure-fire sign of a morally bankrupt policy.” He made the distorted claim in a March 2012 speech that the Israeli government studied Nazi Warsaw Ghetto tactics in order to “attack and kill Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
Mike Coogan, who has written that “Israel views the mere existence of Palestinians as a threat,” and Ramah Kudaimi, round out USCEIO staff radicalism. Kudaimi once wrote that Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian who tried to deny her history of terrorism in Israel in order to avoid American imprisonment and deportation, deserved public recognition, not imprisonment. Yet Kudaimi condemned the “terrorism-defending ADL” (Anti-Defamation League) in a Twitter post.
USCEIO’s Steering committee offers more of the same, such as Andrew Kadi, a Palestinian-American who opposes film production and concerts in Israel. The Latino activist Garrick Ruiz likewise leads a Los Angeles BDS group that protested a local 2011 Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra performance. Later he led a 2014 protest against the unloading of an Israeli freighter in Los Angeles harbor with chants calling for Israel’s elimination: “From the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea, Palestine will be free.”
Steering Committee members like the American Jew Bekah Wolf have disturbing relations to terrorism. She founded the radical Palestinian Solidarity Project with her Palestinian husband, who spent time in an Israeli prison for being a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the equally radical Arab American Action Network, has complained that the “U.S. and Israel will continue to describe Hamas, Hezbollah and the other Palestinian and Lebanese resistance organizations as ‘terrorists,’” even though the “real terrorists are the governments and military forces of the U.S. and Israel” (FightBackNews.org, July 22, 2006).
Steering Committee member Nasser Barghouti leads a San Diego BDS group and condemned the “exclusionary Zionist vision of creating a Jewish state” in a 2008 article during Israel’s 60th anniversary. He affirmed the thesis of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe and argued that Israelis in 1948 expelled Palestinians during what they often call the “Nakba” (Catastrophe). “For Palestinians, denial of the Nakba is tantamount to denying the Holocaust for Jews,” he scandalously equated.
Leading Israeli historian Benny Morris, though, has carefully analyzed how “Pappe’s contempt for historical truth and factual accuracy is almost boundless” and “render his ‘histories’ worthless.” This befits an Israeli anti-Zionist whose “language is fully as virulent as Hamas’s, or worse.” Another Israeli concludes that Pappe “inverts the historical record and turns a coordinated Arab attempt at ethnically cleansing Palestine of its Jews into a Jewish attempt at ethnically cleansing Arabs.”
Barghouti shares with USCEIO Advisory Board member Nabil Mohamad an affiliation with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee or ADC. ADC exemplified its radicalism in 2010 by honoring the late anti-Semitic journalist Helen Thomas with the ADC Mehdi Courage in Journalism award. This award itself bears the name of Mohammed T. Mehdi, a bitter anti-Semite and onetime adviser to Omar Abdel-Rahman, leader of the first World Trade Center attack in 1993.
Various USCEIO personnel like Steering Committee member Sydney Levy and Advisory Board member Joel Benin, a radical Stanford University professor, are members of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). The Anti-Defamation League has analyzed JVP’s ideology and declared it “nothing but a complete rejection of Israel,” perfect for anti-Zionists like Levy and Benin. JVP, which had a budget of $1.1 million in 2014, has described itself as the “‘Jewish wing’ of the Palestinian solidarity movement.”
Diker has noted that such “Jewish and Israeli anti-Zionists play a critical role” in BDS, particularly as a “legitimizing force that the campaign uses to insulate itself against charges of anti-Semitism.” As the website Legal Insurrection has opined, JVP is “‘Jew washing’ the anti-Israel movement,” even as JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson manifested JVP’s extremism in an interview with the neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denying website American Free Press.
Such extremism has not prevented JVP from receiving grants from Wallace Global Fund II ($50,000 since 2010), Ploughshares Foundation ($30,000 since 2009), Tides Foundation ($16,500 since 2004), and from donor-advised funds provided by Schwab Charitable Fund ($693,450 since 2009) and Fidelity Investments Charitable Fund ($80,000 since 2012), according to philanthropy databases.
American Friends Service Committee
The Quaker American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) unites several USCEIO Steering Committee members, including the Palestinian-American Shirien Damra, who once dedicated an award she received to Odeh. Sandra Tamari once celebrated an Arab riot for “destroying a symbol of Israeli oppression, leaving only the tracks behind,” namely a tram line in the Jerusalem suburb of Shu’fat. She once appeared in a political advertisement with the hashtag “#PALESTINIANSSUPPORTFERGUSONBECAUSE,” saying the “murder of Mike Brown is driven by racism.” In fact, Brown, a young black man, was not murdered. He attacked a police officer who then fatally shot Brown in self-defense, as every official investigation, including one conducted by a local grand jury, determined in the case. But the truth is rarely an obstacle for the Left. BDS supporters try to link their cause and leftist movements like the Black Lives Matter campaign, as Kudaimi explained at a Jerusalem Fund event. These two movements, she said, “carry on a mutual struggle to subvert the same colonial logics of supremacy and exclusion that are inherent to the Zionist colonization of Palestine.”
USCEIO Steering Committee member and AFSC Palestine-Israel program director Mike Merryman-Lotze indicates the views that have made AFSC endorse BDS. In an Internet posting that “does reflect AFSC’s position,” he stated that Israel’s “denial of Palestinian rights is at the core of the conflict.”
“Israeli violence is the violence that must be exercised to maintain a neo-colonial military occupation and apartheid-like inequality. Palestinian violence is the inevitable response,” he added. “We must call for Palestinians’ right of return,” he wrote elsewhere, while “arguments against return that deny rights because of a perceived need to maintain a particular demographic balance are fundamentally racist.”
As one analysis states, the pacifist AFSC has “sacrificed its founding religious principles at the altar of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism” (TheTower.org, issue #9, December 2013). AFSC co-hosted a 2008 “gala dinner with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the guest of honor, despite Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, and genocidal threats against the Jewish state.” Yet AFSC continues to receive numerous grants for a variety of purposes from the Ford, Gates, Gill, MacArthur, Rockefeller, and Tides Foundations as well as the Open Society Institute, among many others, according to philanthropy database searches.
Advisory board member Kathy Bergen is affiliated with another Quaker institution, the Friends International Center in Ramallah. She once declared in a radio interview that “most of the struggle against the occupation since 1967 has been nonviolent.” She is a USCEIO co-founder and also sits on the advisory board of Friends of Sabeel—North America (FOSNA), whose formal name is Friends of Peace and Justice in The Holy Land Inc.
FOSNA and SJP
As the Anti-Defamation League has documented, FOSNA is an affiliate of Jerusalem’s Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. Sabeel and its founder, Palestinian Anglican priest Naim Ateek, cast Israeli-Palestinian conflict in supercessionist terms. “One of the primary Christian anti-Jewish ideologies is supersessionism, also known as replacement theology,” Diker has written, in which the “church had replaced ‘Israel’—that is, the Jews—in God’s plan.” Ateek has often used anti-Semitic deicide imagery, saying that the “Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.” FOSNA, which had a budget of $556,843 in 2014, has received $135,000 in grants from the Caitlin Foundation (Palm Beach, Fla.) since 1999, $15,000 from Charles and Mary Crossed Foundation (Rochester, N.Y.) since 2003, and $35,000 since 2002 from the Theodore Albert von der Ahe Jr. Trust (Pasadena, Calif.).
Like Damra, two USCEIO Steering Committee members, Abraham Greenhouse and Rahim Kurwa, have backgrounds in Students for Justice in Palestine. Currently with JVP, Greenhouse attracted notoriety in 2003 as the Rutgers University student who threw a pie into the face of former Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky (New York Times, Oct. 11, 2003). Kurwa, a member of SJP’s UCLA chapter, once traveled to Spain and appeared on a panel with a Hamas supporter.
Over 126 SJP American university chapters are the “primary organizer of anti-Israel events on U.S. college campuses and the group most responsible for bringing divestment resolutions to votes in front of student governments,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. Founded in 2001, “SJP has consistently demonized Israel” using Nazi, Jim Crow, and apartheid analogies. Several SJP chapters designate one week every academic year as “Palestine Awareness Week” or “Israeli Apartheid Week.”
Hatem Bazian founded SJP at U.C. Berkeley as a graduate student after he had been involved in the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), a pro-terrorist student organization begun in Egypt in 1959. GUPS members have included many notable Palestinians such as Yasser Arafat. Bazian had led the Berkeley chapter of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), a group that “overwhelming evidence” shows espouses “Wahhabism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism,” observes the Middle East Forum.
Bazian, as one analyst wrote, “found that there were practical limitations to what a group recognized as being Muslim could accomplish” (MSA received one $37,000 grant from Chevron Community Foundation in 2003.) Co-founded by Bazian, the new SJP “appeared to be a secular social justice movement whose agenda just happened to align” with the MSA’s ideological legacy in the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet MSA, another observer wrote, today often “interchanges its members with SJP on the campuses” and, as Diker has reported, “has been an anchor for BDS activity, such as the annual and sometimes violent” Israeli Apartheid Week.
Accordingly, SJP has consistently shown a radical, violent, and anti-Semitic nature, such as when a Vassar College SJP chapter tweeted a 1944 anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda picture. While SJP events feature supporters of terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, SJP members have often been involved in threatening, harassing, and assaulting Jewish students. Brandeis University student Daniel Mael has noted a “pattern by SJP of scheduling anti-Israel events on Jewish holidays.”
Increasingly, the Anti-Defamation League notes, SJP chapters support the “notion that a debate between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel activists should be opposed because it would grant legitimacy to the pro-Israel position.” This “anti-normalization campaign” has caused SJP chapters to reject dialogue with Jewish groups like even the dovish J Street, as explained during a 2006 speech at U.C. Irvine’s Israeli Apartheid Week, co-sponsored by SJP and MSA. SJP speaker Amir Abdel Malik Ali stated that to “sit down with Zionists, for cookies and cake, and talk about issues…gives the impression that Zionism is like, it’s okay … Now, you Jews, in all due respect, you wouldn’t sit down with Nazis for tea and cake.” Such “anti-normalization” led Merryman-Lotze to participate in a Palestinian nonprofit group’s “decision in late 2000 to end people to people programs with Israelis.”
American Muslims for Palestine
Bazian went on to found American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) in 2005. AMP, the Anti-Defamation League writes, “is the leading organization providing anti-Zionist training and education to students and Muslim community organizations in the country,” and “has also placed a heavy emphasis on supporting” SJP. Given AMP’s roots in the Islamic Association of Palestine, a defunct American propaganda arm for Hamas, it’s no surprise that anti-Semitic statements and calls for Israel’s destruction consistently appear at AMP events.
Such statements have not troubled Steering Committee member Manal Fakhoury who spoke at AMP’s 2015 annual conference. Advertising the “great speaker lineup” for the preceding year’s conference, she praised AMP’s “excellent job in teaching and empowering our community to help change the status quo on the issue of Palestine.”
Fakhoury argued in a 2013 presentation in her home state of Florida that “Islam does not support terrorism” and “there is not a single thing wrong with Islam” as a faith, but many observers are less favorable towards her (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGeInUzNk9g). Her relationships with Ahmed Bedier, a former leader with the Islamist Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), raised several concerns. Photos of her posing in the Palestinian territories with portraits of Palestinian leaders like the infamous Arafat also helped foil her ambition to create a sister-city relationship between her Ocala, Fla. home and Ramallah.
USCEIO’s Advisory Board listings hardly improve the organization’s image. Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, a close longtime friend of Barack Obama, is well known for his left-wing, anti-Israeli views as a one-time spokesman for the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization. His Columbia professorship is named for the late like-minded Edward Said, whose widow Mariam sits on the Advisory Board. “As an Arab American of Palestinian origin,” Mariam stated to USCEIO in 2004, Edward Said “linked the Question of Palestine to other struggles of the oppressed and colonized people.”
Huwaida Arraf was a founder in 2001 of the International Solidarity Movement. ISM was one of the organizers of the deadly 2010 flotilla to Gaza. Observers have noted that she proclaims nonviolence to Western audiences while supporting her fellow Palestinians in terrorism.
Several Advisory Board members have expressed an unremitting hostility towards Israel. Georgetown University professor Mark Lance decried the 1947 United Nations partition plan for Palestine as unjustly favoring a Jewish state. “Not surprisingly, Palestinians rose up and were joined by several Arab states,” he wrote of the subsequent war in which Israel faced annihilation. With a confidence not shared by many, he predicted that in any post-“apartheid” one-state solution, “Israel would no longer remain majority Jewish, but that is not to say it could not remain a haven for Jews.”
Similarly, writer Nadia Hijab has found it “heartbreakingly hard to accept” the “1967 Arab defeat.” This “drove home the fact that Israel was a reality and it was no longer possible to liberate the part of Palestine that became Israel in 1948.” The late Professor Naseer Aruri once declared to the anti-Semitic Veterans Today website that the “Oslo Accords constituted an act of surrender by Yasser Arafat.”
Palestinian writer Susan Abulhawa has shown bitter animosity towards Israel on Facebook, describing Israeli policies as “reminiscent of Nazi mentality.” Overlooking Arab countries, among others, she has counterfactually condemned Israel as a “country with one of the worst human rights records in the world”
(See https://electronicintifada.net/content/why-are-palestinians-paying-germanys-sins/11167). Perpetually viewing Israel as an aggressor, she has decried how Israel “has in the past attacked Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, all on the pretext of pre-emption. And now it wants to attack Iran under the same pretext.”
Among the Advisory Board’s leftists, Peace Action executive director Kevin Martin blithely assures that “Iran isn’t developing” nuclear weapons. The late Hany Khalil worked for United for Peace and Justice, a leftist pro-Castro group. Dr. Nancy Murray, whose Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights reflects the 2005 BDS appeal, endorsed a 2011 New York/San Francisco “Bring the Troops Home Now!” rally. Along with withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, the rally supported a potpourri of leftist demands such as “Support democracy movements all over North Africa and the Arab World” and “end to all foreclosures.”
Professor Barbara Ransby is another USCEIO member who links BDS with other leftist movements. She has condemned the “racialized nature of U.S. capitalism” in Dissentmagazine and called the “Ferguson uprising” a “story of black poverty and white supremacy” for the left-wing website Colorlines.com (for more on Colorlines, which now features a section on “Islamophobia,” see “The Structural Racism Racket,”Foundation Watch, March 2013). Ransby and other delegation members visiting Palestinian territories, meanwhile, would “deplore the Israeli practice of ‘pink-washing,’ the state’s use of ostensible support for gender and sexual equality to dress-up its occupation.” Speaking with groups like “Palestinian Queers for BDS,” she and other delegation members somehow “consistently found evidence and analyses of a more substantive approach to an indivisible justice.”
Such progressive sentiments clash embarrassingly with recurring anti-Semitism amidst USCEIO ranks. Advisory Board member Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel, a former Presbyterian Church General Assembly Moderator, recommended a speaker for a 2003 conference in Ohio. In comments from which Abu-Akel distanced himself, the speaker invoked the anti-Semitic fraud Protocols of Zion and indicated that Zionism was worse than Nazism.
Then there is the curious case of noted anti-Semite Alison Weir and her website If Americans Knew (IAK). As Anti-Defamation League research shows, “Weir employs anti-Semitic imagery and portrays Israel and its agents as ruthless forces”; she once defamed Judaism as a “ruthless and supremacist faith.” Weir has also praised “research” into the blood libel that Jews use the blood of Gentiles in religious ceremonies.
Accordingly, Weir has made frequent appearances in Holocaust-denying, white supremacist, and conspiracy theory media outlets, like the American Free Press website where JVP’s Vilkomerson once appeared. Yet through the years this never stopped Weir from collaborating at events with AMP, FOSNA, JVP, and USCEIO, until USCEIO and the wider BDS community suddenly noticed her nefarious associations in summer 2015. The Steering Committee announced in a July 16 letter the removal of Weir and IAK from the USCEIO coalition for violating “our anti-racism principles” through her questionable choice of media outlets (See http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=4510). Betraying a disturbing view of Zionism, the Steering Committee proclaimed that USCEIO nondiscrimination principles precluded “any overtly Islamophobic, Zionist, or homophobic groups.”
The Steering Committee letter nonetheless qualified its criticism of Weir and IAK, saying they “have long contributed to our movement, providing useful resources and tirelessly advocating for Palestinian rights.” Merryman-Lotze from the AFSC concurred that the “growth of If Americans Knew over the last 15 years is impressive and many of the materials that it has produced are excellent.” He did not “want to take away from the good work that If Americans Knew and Alison have done.” He also made an unconvincing distinction: what is “problematic is not individual statements or explicitly anti-Semitic and racist actions by Alison or If Americans Knew, but rather their repeated use of platforms that promote anti-Semitism and racism.”
Hurting, not helping conditions on the ground
For all of the venomous zeal dominating BDS supporters, the movement actually hinders rather than helps any amelioration of conditions for Israelis and particularly Palestinians. The “BDS movement,” Diker notes, “has triggered deep opposition and resentment among the Israeli population.” This has “set back prospects for a peaceful, negotiated solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
The Palestinian Authority, Mael has similarly written, officially supports a two-state solution in a peace process and has therefore repeatedly criticized BDS. American Task Force on Palestine executive director Ghaith al-Omari says BDS is “completely unacceptable” and “doesn’t fit with the idea of the two-state solution.” The ideology of the BDS-supporting SJP, Mael notes, is “in fact a lot closer to the beliefs and policies of Hamas than to the recognized Palestinian leadership.”
Ultimately, the BDS movement serves precisely the opposite of the goals leftists consistently invoke, such as peaceful reconciliation and human understanding across sectarian lines. Far from being progressive, the BDS movement encompasses anti-Israeli/anti-Semitic hatreds, hackneyed anti-Western leftist diatribes against colonialism, and false history. In the distorted BDS worldview, Israel can do no right and its various Arab opponents can do no wrong as the BDS movement strangely celebrates Palestinians as liberal icons. Contrary to the BDS movement’s often prominent donors, all people of goodwill seeking a better Middle East future should look behind the BDS movement’s veneer of fair-mindedness and reject this regressive agenda.
Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a J.D. from George Washington University Law School. He is admitted to the Virginia State Bar.