I write this as the Middle East is still in the process of what looks like a major transformation. It is, of course, way too early to judge how this will affect the Israel-Palestine issue, if at all. I certainly think it is worth noting that in all of the various demonstrations and revolutions, reference to Israel or the burning of Israeli flags has been remarkably marginal. It is as if people in the region are starting finally to focus on their own issues and not deferring everything until the Palestinian refugees situation is resolved.
All this having been said, the attempts to delegitimize Israel; to push for boycotts, sanctions and divestment and to shut down Israeli speakers has apparently not abated. I have noted, for example, that the “Israel Apartheid Week” website lists some 70-75 cities that are to participate during March, although to be sure many of the cities are in the territories and many others have to date no actual activities listed. Nonetheless, the campaign seems to be alive.
Of course, SPME has not been standing still either. We just concluded our first major international conference, on the US-Israel special relationship, in Miami in January. Not only did the conference feature a number of stellar plenary speakers, but we became a venue for Jewish leaders from a number of organizations to meet with each other, to network, and maybe most importantly to get to know SPME and its membership.
What is happening on campuses is now on everyone’s radar and SPME is being seen as the “go-to” organization. We have earned our credibility in large part by maintaining our essential identity as a community of academics working within our own institutions and structures to insure informed, non-propagandistic and civil discourse about the Middle East in general and the Israel-Palestine conflict in particular.
In the meantime, our BDS Taskforce is monitoring the situation of boycott and divestment calls across the globe.
Our Legal Taskfoce is following up with having anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic remarks and actions considered violations of civil rights (as would be other racial or ethnic slurs) and we are moving forward with plans for more and better faculty trips to Israel to inform campus leaders about the real situation on the ground.
Also since the Miami conference, we have a number of new committees at work working on finances, personnel, programming, and bylaws among other topics. In short we are a dynamic and growing organization that is well-positioned to counter anti-Israel (and anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic) initiatives on campuses in North America, Europe and elsewhere.
While we have moved very far over the years since our founding, there is still much work to be done. I thank all of the people who have made this possible, who have helped us in our important work, and who are committed to see our mission come to a successful conclusion. We have achieved remarkable success so far, but the process is far from over. Let me end by saying that a number of new initiatives are under consideration or in the works, and you will be hearing about these in the months ahead.