Barghouti Flogs Books in Brooklyn

7 Feb

I’ll admit to being of mixed mind with regard to how to respond when Omar Barghouti (or any of his clones) comes to town.

On the one hand, if we just shut up about it, then he’s likely to draw a crowd no larger than the two dozen or so people who went to see him at UC Irvine earlier in the week.

And this “crowd” (made up primarily of the like-minded and the few brave souls who hope they can pin him down during Q&A) would quickly discover that he’s not just a bore, but a PowerPoint bore who, if stripped of clichés that have become part of the BDS catechism (“Apartheid, “Worse than Apartheid,” “colonialist imperialism,” “imperial colonialism,” “Gandhi!,” “King!” “99%”) would be rendered speechless.

On the other hand, when the BDSers do something that attempts to make their program, their agenda and their doofus of a speaker look like they represents the opinion of the wider community (vs. just their narrow cult), it seems perfectly reasonable for members of their wider community to say what they think about the subject.

True to form, the BDSers stand ready to nail themselves to the cross the second anyone begins to “suppress” them (even if such suppression consists solely of describing them accurately).

I’ll admit that in the current Brooklyn College controversy, a number of political leaders have gone overboard in calling for the school to face punishment for the irresponsible behavior of one department.  But as we saw during the UPenn BDS event last year, the boycotters are ready to strike a pose of martyrdom, even if “attacks” upon them consist of nothing more than an angry letter written by a single middle-aged prof.

The role of free speech champion and martyr is particularly rich coming from groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) that policies its own events and shuts down any discussion (especially questions of its speakers) that get too close to the truth, or from Jewish Voice for Peace who have hermetically sealed off every platform they control from contamination by alternative voices (while simultaneously demanding immediate access to everyone else’s venue).

But here we are, with a sell-out crowd planning to listen to Barghouti bellow his tripe for an hour, followed by Judith Butler spewing post-modern gibberish to cover up the fact that neither really has anything to say, certainly not about the real human rights abuses in the region.  (Did you know the number of Syrians killed in the last few years is now greater than the number of Palestinians killed in clashes with Israel since 1948?  Don’t’ expect that topic to make it to the stage in Brooklyn tonight.)

And once the fawning has finished, the challenging questions from the audience shouted down and the book signing completed, Barthouti will cash his check and move onto the next locale in his tour.  Nice work if you can get it (especially if you’ve got a nice safe, warm, comfortable perch at an Israeli university to return to when you’re done shaking down the crowd).

20 Responses to “Barghouti Flogs Books in Brooklyn”

  1. BDS February 7, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

    Oh please stop acting like you actually care about Syria. How sad it is that the only argument you have left to make is one of, “Well, at least we’re not as bad as those guys!”, as if what’s happening in Syria in any way absolves Israel of 45 years of military occupation and 60+ years of ethnic cleansing. I can only imagine (with disgust) the excitement you must feel every time you check the Syrian death tolls, knowing that you’ll have a new talking point to add to your already exhaustive list of diversions and distractions.

    • DivestThis February 8, 2013 at 10:11 am #

      Dear BDS – Your argument (like similar ones that come up whenever Israel or its supporters mention any other human rights problem on the planet) rests on an implied compliment, namely, that the Jewish state is so morally superior to any other nation you can name (not just Syria, but virtually every other nation in the Middle East, including the PA and Hamastan) that even mentioning these other human rights catastrophes in any defense of Israel is grossly unfair.

      While I appreciate the sentiment (even if you cannot state it explicitly), I would reply that there is a great deal of suffering in the world that cannot all take a back seat to the obsessions of Israel’s detractors, even if they are willing to hijack the human rights machinery that was supposed to protect the weak from the strong in order to perpetuate their propaganda war.

      Oh, and by the way, the only reason you perceive that this is our “only argument” is because you have systematically ignored or pretended did not exist the hundreds of other arguments made by Israel’s supporters, on this site and elsewhere for years.

      As for waiting excitedly for the next Arab casualty, I believe this too is a projection since it’s been my experience that it is the boycotters who lick their lips in anticipation of the next Palestinian body count which they can use to fuel their self-righteous fury.

      • BDS February 8, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

        Isn’t it funny that you suddenly care about human rights in the Middle East, especially after you published such a despondent reaction to the removal of the tyrannical Egyptian human rights abuser, Hosni Mubarak, from power? ( http://divestthis.com/2012/06/reality-check-egypt.html ) Oh wait, now I remember why! Mubarak was good because he heeded Israel’s every beck and call, quietly honoring peace with Israel as he was torturing and murdering political dissidents within Egypt. But let’s be honest with ourselves. You don’t give a damn about human rights abuses, popular revolution, or democracy in the rest of the Middle East. You only care about what all that means for Israel. That’s why you were so willing to support Mubarak despite his human rights record, and oppose Assad because of his human rights record. You supported Mubarak because he was good for Israel and you “oppose” Assad because it gives you a nice little talking point which you can use to distract from Israeli human rights violations.

        • DivestThis February 9, 2013 at 10:11 am #

          If you’re going to mischaracterize someone else’s position (or invent your own self-serving interpretation), I recommend you avoid sharing a link to that source where anyone with eyes and a brain can read that I have said nothing remotely resembling what you describe.

          For the point of that piece was that the various Middle East crises are NOT driven by Israel, Occupation, Settlements and various other BDS obsessions, but by the dysfunctional politics of every other nation in the region where monarchs fight it out with military strongmen who, in turn, battle religious fanatics to see who can tyrannize people inside their borders and terrorize people outside of them. In the case of Egypt, the tyrant Mubarak was simply the warmed over version of tyrant Nasser (once the darling of the anti-Israel alliance) who has now been replaced by the tyrant Morsi who has managed to not just duplicate his predecessors violent intolerance for dissent but intensify it (while insisting defying him actually means defying God).

          At first, I thought that you might just be using the usual BDS tactic of avoiding arguments you can’t answer (like those in my Egypt piece) by inventing your own version of them and insisting everyone respond to your fantasy interpretation. But looking over the rest of your comment, I suspect we’re dealing with an intensification of the projection we see running throughout BDS thought and communications.

          After all, when it comes to turning your gaze away from major human rights abusers (Syria, Egypt, Gaza, etc.), the BDS “movement” has no equal with regard to ignoring, excusing or apologizing for the worst of the worse (so long as they are pulling their weight in the anti-Israel coalition).

          Actually, I take that back. For the Palestinians you support with all your heart and soul have managed to throw their lot in with every totalitarian movement of the last century: from Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to the Iranian Mullahs. And, in each and every case, all is forgiven by their supporters who can live with Palestinians cozying up to history’s greatest mass murderers, saving your intolerance for those Arabs interested in living in peace with their Jewish neighbors (who are subject to your boycott campaigns).

          In fact, not only are anti-Israel forces dedicated to ignoring every human rights violation in the world in order to further their political agenda, but they have actively worked to corrupt every institution designed to protect the weak from the strong (the UN, human rights NGOs, etc.), all to ensure that their (your) agenda takes precedent over every suffering man, woman and child on the planet.

          So please forgive me for seeing your accusation of “not giving a damn about human rights” as something you should more appropriately be shouting into a mirror.

          • fizziks February 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

            Wow, Jon, that was an epic comment!

  2. gary fouse February 8, 2013 at 3:42 am #

    Seems to me people may have erred in making a big deal out of this putz coming to speak. Look at the attention he gets, which he did not get at UC Irvine. People like Barghouti and Butler are a dime-a-dozen on virtually any university campus. They have the right to speak, and we should have the right to engage them in an open q and a afterward, something the SJP and MSA’s strive to prevent-as evidenced at UCI.

    Keep in mind these are the same folks who disrupted Israeli ambassador Michael Oren at UCI a couple of years back (I was present). To them, freedom of speech is for them, but not for their opponents. Time and time again, they show what fascists they are.

    I do think it is proper, however, to question the appropriateness of a university department putting its imprimatur on such an event. Is it the official policy of the Political Science department to oppose Israel in favor of the Palestinian narrative?

    I just hope that someone in the audience can stand up for Israel and America during the Q and A.

    Gary Fouse
    Adj teacher

    UC Irvine Ext

    • BDS February 8, 2013 at 4:44 am #

      Do you have a problem when political science departments sponsor blatantly pro-Israel events?

    • Stop BDS Park Slope February 8, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      Yes, it did get publicity. According to Tablet, pro-Israel people were asked to leave the event or were not admitted.
      http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/123792/pro-israel-students-ousted-from-bds-event

      However, the event did generate strong condemnations of BDS by just about every politician in New York City. In addition, the President of Brooklyn College made very clear her opposition to BDS and said the College has no intention of participating in the boycott.

      Nycerbarb

  3. Mike Lumish February 8, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    Jon,

    If I may say so…

    It often strikes me when I read what you write that there is a disconnect between your assurances that BDS is a failing movement and the heightening of tensions toward Israel around the world. On the one hand, you often point to these constantly failing efforts to get this university or that co-op to divest from Israel. You reference in this piece how virtually nobody dropped in to see our friend Omar at UC Irvine, and if there is one place that you would think that he’d get some numbers that would be the place.

    At the same time, however, when I look at relatively mainstream venues such as the Huffington Post or Daily Kos or the UK Guardian, I see considerable hatred perpetually spit at the Jewish State and the New York Times is not a whole lot better, really.

    I see the Democratic Party distancing itself from Israel and the president of the United States demonstrating contempt for that country in various ways, such as suggesting that Jewish Israelis need to search their souls to see if they really want peace.

    There is, thus, an inconsistency between your micro-analyses and the larger situation. This is not to say that your arguments are wrong, but that they don’t seem to well reflect the bigger trends.

    I have to tell you, I read what you write and then feel pretty good and then I read the Jerusalem Post and, uhhh, not so much.

    • DivestThis February 8, 2013 at 11:20 am #

      An excellent question, Mike. I suspect your reaction comes out of the fact that I’ve been using this blog to develop a set of overarching ideas and while blog publishing provides an excellent medium to generate and share thoughts, it’s reverse-chronological form makes it tough to present anything as part of a coherent whole.

      For instance, one mission of this site is to report accurate information on BDS success and defeats and since there have been more of the latter than the former, I can see how you might get the impression that I’m chronicling Israel’s foes on the retreat.

      But looked at with a wider lens, the point I have been making is that Israel is under siege and faces all of the challenges you state. The nations which oppose it are numerous, wealthy, powerful and ruthless. It is threatened by this century’s top totalitarian movement (Islamism). And a Red-Green alliance that ultimately hates modernity has focused on destroying the Jewish state as a stepping stone to greater power (or anarchy).

      Given this overwhelming reality, I have tried to use BDS as a case study to learn about the strategy, tactics and rhetoric of the de-legitimizers in order to work up strategic, tactical and rhetorical techniques to oppose them. And while I have highlighted BDS’s many defeats, I have tried to use these examples to present the question of why – given all the advantages the other side possesses (especially with regard to their alliance with the wealthy and powerful) – they tend to lose among the very constituencies (grass roots civic organizations) they so desperately want to hijack.

      This is not a small or side issue since the ability of civil society to reject the anti-Israel message of BDS might point the way towards getting it out of the system of larger entities. Also, it’s been these civic organizations from which the most successful foes of BDS have emerged.

      Finally, if BDS turns out to be the weak link in the de-legitimization chain (given that it requires the cooperation of civic organizations that, for the most part, have shown enough common sense to avoid them – at least for now), that gives us a way to de-legitimization the entire de-legitimization project by pointing out that it is just as ugly, manipulative and (yes) ridiculous as the BDS movement chronicled here.

    • Lynne T February 11, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

      The Huff Po, Daily KOS and Guardian have their followers, but they certainly aren’t “mainstream”.

  4. gary fouse February 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    BDS,

    I think a university department has to be cautious when it comes to such contentious issues that it is not appearing to endorse one side or the other. A few years back, UC Irvine put up an announcement of the MSU’s week of anti Israeli events on its outdoor marquee. It read (under the UCI heading): MSU presents Israel-The Politics of Genocide. It left the visual impression that UCI was putting its imprimatur on the message. Complaints went all the way to the governor’s office, and it was taken down. And don’t blame the Jews. I was the first one to report it since I am on campus everyday. I am not Jewish.

    Anyway, based on the reports I have seen so far here is my take on last night.

    http://garyfouse.blogspot.com/2013/02/omar-barghouti-and-judith-butler-don.html

    • BDS February 8, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

      When did I ever “blame the Jews”? What a disgusting and nonsensical accusation. And you still haven’t answered my initial question: Do you have a problem with political science departments sponsoring pro-Israel events? In general, political science departments sponsor your side’s events much more often than my side’s, so I don’t understand how you could possibly argue that the BC sponsorship of Barghouti’s lecture was wrong unless you want to concede that political science departments shouldn’t sponsor any pro-Israel event either.

      • Edward February 9, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

        BDS, Who assassinated US Senator Robert F. Kennedy?

        Hint:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_F._Kennedy

      • Ben February 11, 2013 at 3:24 am #

        Let me give your hypo an analytic overview:
        If a pro-Israel movement or idea was completely hypocritical, dismissive of any human rights issues unless they perfectly dovetailed with support for its specific political agenda, consistently spun arguments out of misleading non-contextual items at best and outright lies at worst (and skewed to the latter most of the time), called on its supporters to break the law on a regular basis, and ultimately made clear via its self-appointed gurus that it sought out a genocidal zero-sum solution to its area conflict, then yes, it would be absolutely wrong for a public university to lend any credible to such a bunch of diseased assholes.
        I think that clarifies things nicely, yes?

  5. gary fouse February 8, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    BDS,

    I did not mean to imply you personally were ready to blame the Jews, but when I get in these exchanges, the issue of the so-called Jewish lobby is never far below the surface.

    I have been attending MSU-SJP events at UCI for about 7 years, and have heard several anti-Semitic comments made by speakers such as Amir Abdel Malik Ali, Mohammed al Asi and Abdul Alim Musa. The MSU strongly denies they are anti-Jewish-only anti-Zionist, yet Ali comes virtually every year to UCI, where he spits out the words, “Zionist Jew” to identify certain public figures. True, I have also heard Jews like Hedy Epostein, Norm Finkelstein, Rabbi Ysroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta and JVP speak against Israel at UCI. I consider them useful idiots, but the Jewish community is quite fragmented-even on issues of life and death to them.

    As to your question. Maybe I was not clear enough. If I object to a university department sponsoring such a one-sided presentation of such a contentious issue, then I do concede your point that it would not be appropriate to sponsor the other side. I think a two-sided event like a debate would be proper. Of course, student groups can sponsor whatever they wish.

    Make no mistake, however. The BDS movement was created by Palestinians and is part of a world-wide effort to deligitamize the Jewish state. The eventual goal is the elimination of Israel. Barghouti, responding to a question at UCI, stated that even if a treaty were reached between Israel and the PA, if it did not contain everything they wanted (right of return), BDS would continue.

    And in my opinion, so would the drive to eventually destroy Israel. It’s not so much about the land as it is the religion.

  6. gary fouse February 8, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    Here is a post about the flap we had at UCI.

    http://garyfouse.blogspot.com/2010/09/belated-response-re-uci-marquee.html

  7. Edward February 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    Boycott Divest Socialism

    It’s strange that 60,000+ have died in Syria, yet the FAKE “anti-war” crowd doesn’t protest the killing in Syria, Arabs killing Arabs, in demonstrations across from the Syrian embassy/consulate/mission.

    Why is that?

  8. Lynne T February 11, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    See Normblog for “What Judith Butler saw” http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2013/02/what-judith-butler-saw.html

    and the original disection of Butler’s latest tome by Prof. Alan Johnson at Fathom:

    http://www.fathomjournal.org/reviews-culture/parting-ways/

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