Well I returned from a brief visit to the University of Pennsylvania campus and I’m happy to report that – at least as far as I can tell – the sky is not falling.
Signs of the impending big-bad-BDS event were non-existent (although I did see Alan Dershowitz’s punim staring me in the face on multiple locations). And while PennBDS organizers were busy working themselves into an indignant snit over one less-than-elegant article responding to their event (such faux outrage serving as an excuse to continue pretending that other and stronger arguments against their cause do not exist), other people have been busy on the U Penn campus as well.
I mentioned Dersowitz who was invited by the local Jewish community to speak on the subject of “Why Israel Matters to You, Me and Penn” (although I suspect he’ll work a few words on what he thinks about the BDS “movement” into his talk). And, at last count, over 900 people have signed up to attend the event. On the surface, this seems like just three times the number of people who will be going to PennBDS, but when you realize that the number of actual Penn students involved with and attending the BDS program is between two and three dozen, you’re looking at a pro-Israel to anti-Israel campus attendance ratio of closer to 30:1.
And the response to PennBDS doesn’t stop there. Just as the Somerville divestment battles of 2004-2006 created a Zionist enclave alongside Boston and Cambridge, leaving no other BDS footprints beyond the city (except, perhaps, this blog), so to PennBDS seems to have kicked off a Zionist renaissance on campus.
The school’s administration, which has always been supportive of its relationship the Jewish state, was given the opportunity to speak out on the value of that relationship and to look at ways to strengthen and extend it. Jewish students who might have put their energies into other religious or secular extra-curriculars are instead raising funds Penn-Israel programs, talking to their friends about the real Israel (not the wicked witch Israel of BDS fairy tales) and marching en mass to buy out the very products the BDSers insisted be boycotted.
All in all, not a bad set of outcomes for a three-day event that has yet to happen. Oh sure, I know that the attendees of the PennBDS event come from a number of campuses, and they are likely to take what they learn this weekend and use it to try to gin up enthusiasm for boycott and divestment campaigns when they get back home. But it’s not like anything new is going on. In fact, such campaigns have been a cornerstone of campus life for more than a decade and today Israel’s relationship with American colleges and universities (like its economy and popularity among the US population) are stronger than they’ve ever been.
With that as backdrop, it’s time to take care of some housekeeping.
First, here is an editorial I was lucky to have been given the opportunity to pen for the Philadelphia Jewish exponent. While this will no doubt be used by BDS proponents as more evidence of their wild success (Look! Someone else is criticizing us! We must be powerful!), the fact that the PennBDSers have done everything in their power to avoid acknowledging (much less confronting) a month-long effort to take on their arguments just demonstrates that they are willing to do everything for their cause except defend it. In short, as my editorial makes clear: the big news story about PennBDS specifically is the same decade-old news story about BDS in general, that it’s a L-O-S-E-R.
Second, I’ve rearranged and re-titled items on the PennBDS-Oy landing page so that they better conform to the final agenda for the actual PennBDS program.
Third (and most exciting), I figured out a way to turn all of the material that’s appeared on this site over the last month into an ebook in a variety of formats. So if you’re looking for something to read while the PennBDS program is going on (ideally from within the conference itself), go to this page to download your book free of charge (or read it online at Scribd). And spread the word.
As this series closes up (and please forgive me if things slow down here starting tomorrow), I wanted to wrap with an answer to a question that’s come up a few times since this series started, namely why do this at all? After all, the PennBDS event is not that big a deal (other similar programs have come and gone without this level of response). And even if I were whoring for blog hits (as a PennBDS organizer once accused in the comments section on this story), historically the one sure way of reducing readership has been to write a multi-part series (like this one and this one that are actually points of pride).
Now I’ve provided lofty explanations regarding my choice to blog about this subject generally. And while I stick by those explanations, the reasons for the last 29 pieces in 29 days is far more mundane and simple: I like to write, I like a challenge, and I don’t like bullies.
The rest is commentary.