The Intersectional, Antisemitic ‘Deadly Exchange’ Campaign Comes to Campus

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An ‘apartheid wall’ erected by Students for Justice in Palestine at University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Photo: SJP at UIUC.

Now in its 15th year, Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is in full swing at many university and college campuses on five continents and across the United States.

On offer this year is the typical assortment of simplistic, offensive, and obsessively anti-Israel postersart work, wall murals, guest lectures and panels, and film screenings — along with the usual obnoxious stunts that have long been a staple of this annual springtime hate fest.

A lot of IAW’s propaganda gets recycled from year to year. Case in point: the mock eviction notices that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) activists taped to dorm room doors at Georgia’s Emory University last week, to mimic those that Palestinians are allegedly routinely issued by Israel for “no other reason than their ethnicity” and to “cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants.”

One blogger observed that Emory’s SJP left exactly the same flyers that had been used in a spate of intimidating “dorm storming” hoaxes on campuses back in 2014.

But for this year’s IAW, virulently anti-Israel campus activist groups, like SJP and the radical and fringe Jewish Voice for Peace(JVP) are also inventing some new ways to delegitimize Israel and demoralize Jewish and pro-Israel students.

Take the undeniably antisemitic “Deadly Exchange” campaign, which is making its debut on various campuses during this year’s IAW, especially at schools in the Boston area.

Launched several years ago by JVP, “Deadly Exchange” falsely blames Israel and its American-Jewish supporters for fueling police brutality and discriminatory policing practices against minority communities in America, and militarizing the approach to crime and public protests.

At its root, the campaign traffics in tropes and canards about Jewish power in order to accuse Israel and US-based Jewish organizations, like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), for conspiring to harm and oppress American black and brown people.

The “deadly exchange” supposedly happens, according to JVP, because the ADL is funding and sponsoring American-Israeli police exchange programs and counter-terrorism seminars where US law-enforcement officials allegedly learn “worst practices.”

Until now “Deadly Exchange” has largely been an off-campus initiative, with the campaign scoring some recent wins in Northampton, Massachusetts and in Vermont, where police officials recently pulled out of a planned ADL-sponsored counter-terrorism training seminar in Israel — and in Durham, North Carolina, which last year became the first city in America to impose a total ban on law-enforcement training with Israel.

But the fact that “Deadly Exchange” is now popping up at IAW shows that JVP and its allies are eager to mobilize students and to move this horrible campaign out of municipalities and local governments, and onto campuses.

Giving talks on the topic of “Deadly Exchange” last week at Wellesley College and Tufts University was San Francisco State University professor Rabab Abdulhadi, an ethnic studies and feminist studies scholar who has no expertise whatsoever in criminal justice or counter-terrorism. Abdulhadi achieved notoriety last year for saying that Zionists should not be welcome on her campus.

A search on Google Scholar doesn’t bring up any academic journal articles or books that she’s written about US policing practices, much less Israel’s national police force or its rules of engagement vis-à-vis violent protesters, which were in fact quite lax but out of necessity have been toughened up in recent years.

Also slated to speak about “Deadly Exchange” last week during IAW at the University of North Carolina at Chapel HillTufts University, and Boston University was Eran Efrati, an “investigative researcher” and the Director of Researching the American-Israeli Alliance(RAIA). Efrati has actually written on law enforcement policies in the US and Israel — but mostly for JVP and, best I can tell, not in any peer-reviewed outlets. Efrati’s RAIA is an organization whose sole purpose is to provide false data and misleading reports for the “Deadly Exchange” campaign.

A Board member of JVP and formerly an analyst for the widely discredited Israel-based NGO Breaking the Silence, Efrati is supposed to lend a scholarly patina to JVP’s propaganda. But, as I highlighted in an article for Legal Insurrection last year, the reality is that Efrati’s bogus research, packaged into slick multi-media materials, rests on inaccurate and misleading information, all stemming from his overarching demonizing perspective on Israel.

As I showed, Efrati claims without a shred of credible evidence that a US police chief’s participation in a week-long counter-terrorism seminar in Israel determines his or her police department’s procurement decisions and drives the behavior of cops on the beat. These are ludicrous accusations that make sense only to those who see Israel as a unifying evil force in the world, tied to issues that have no actual connection to the Jewish state.

But it is Tufts University’s SJP chapter that actually wins the prize for this shameful abuse of the intersectionality paradigm. In addition to hosting Efrati, last week it also sponsored a “Drag the Deadly Exchange!” event. Israel is the only country in the entire Middle East that guarantees rights for LGBT+ people, while Palestinian LGBT+ people in the West Bank and Gaza face endemic discrimination and persecution, and have few legal protections. Yet Tufts-SJP saw fit to appropriate the drag community’s pride, hijacking it for a vehemently anti-Israel message.

On campuses like Tufts, where a full-blown “Deadly Exchange” campaign is already underway, IAW campaigners are trying to convince progressive students that if they care about social justice issues like policing problems and prison reform or Black Lives Matter, then they must also revile Israel and detest its supporters, who stand accused of complicity in the suffering of blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and other minorities. Make no mistake. There can be no doubt that “Deadly Exchange” is a vicious antisemitic campaign that scapegoats American Jews for societal ills. Campus leaders must not hesitate to speak out unequivocally against it.

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs and the incoming Executive Director of the Academic Engagement Network, an independent organization based in Washington, DC that combats BDS and campus antisemitism, promotes Israel literacy, and advocates for academic freedom and campus free speech. Last year she was listed by The Algemeiner among the top 100 people worldwide who are positively influencing Jewish life. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @MiriamElman.    

The Intersectional, Antisemitic ‘Deadly Exchange’ Campaign Comes to Campus

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