SJP Thuggery – Are the Campuses Burning?

If any DT readers are in the Boston area, I’ll be part of a panel discussion next week on the subject of Defamation of Israel on College Campuses sponsored by CAMERA.  Other speakers include Richard Cravatts, President of Scholars for Middle East Peace and Gilad Skolnick, CAMERA’s Director of Campus Programming.

Unsurprisingly, I’ll be taking the BDS angle vis-à-vis colleges and universities, and will be spending the next few days trying to figure out the right balance to strike before a concerned audience who may be reading about campuses in flames in the Jewish (and even mainstream) press.

The balance I tend to strike in this blog – Don’t Panic, but Don’t be Complacent – still seems appropriate, even in a year when groups like SJP have shown enough organizational muscle to pull off a national conference (where tactics and resources were shared) and enough aggression to make life miserable for pro-Israel voices (if not Jewish students in general) on many campuses.

On the “Don’t Panic” side, keep in mind that it has been years (over a decade really) since it became clear no college or university in the country (if not the world) was going to actually divest from the Jewish state.

Even back in the early 2000s when BDS was just “divestment” (and divestment efforts led by the now-defunct Palestinian Solidarity Movement – PSM – vs. the new SJP incarnation of anti-Israel activism), college administrators (i.e., the grown-ups who actually make investment decisions) made it clear that they were not going to listen to demands from a propaganda campaign masquerading as a human rights  movement.  And we should never forget the fact that SJP rose to prominence by pushing that BDS hoax at Hampshire College, one which (among other things) convinced college administrators of the peril of even answering the phone when the divestment cru calls.

Which is why BDS battles on campuses have basically been fought within student governments over whether they would pass toothless divestment resolutions that everyone knows will be ignored.  And, even here, after years and years of effort by the boycotters, less than ten such resolutions have passed.  And even then, such “wins” have been the result of BDSers infiltrating student government and midnight deals passed during Shabbat rather than the Israel haters convincing anybody of anything.

But such votes do give groups like SJP the platform to rant and rave about Israeli “crimes against humanity” for hour after hour before a captive audience.  And the very impotence of their activity with regard to generating genuine consequential action may explain why they have to scream about their few “successes” ever louder in order to convince people that their message is embraced by more than a marginal fringe.

That screaming has also been coupled with ever-more aggressive “direct action” on campuses, and I suspect that this is one of the reasons passions about schools in flames run so high.

Part of this aggressiveness has to do with the nature of radical politics, a dynamic in which those who propose the most outrageous plans tend to rise to leadership positions due to their “passion” and “intensity.”  And let’s not forget that the BDSers are aligned to a broader, global anti-Israel project that has always been a mix of propaganda, threat and violence (with the latter two taking precedent as the Middle East goes up in flames).

But we should also not forget that a sociopathic political movement like BDS is all about pushing limits of civilized norms.  While every other political and human rights issue on the planet plays out in a reasonable fashion whenever they come up on college campuses, only the Arab-Israeli conflict has devolved into shout-downs of speakers, pat-downs of students in front of mock “Apartheid Walls,” hostile pranks like last year’s eviction notice outrages, and demands that every student on campus take a side (SJP’s) or be condemned as faux-progressives or enemies of human rights.

And when such limit-pushing is not met by significant resistance by those charged to keep campus live civil (i.e., administrators who know a Lawyer’s Guild shill for SJP is in the wings if they ever clamp down on the group’s outrageous behavior), that simply incentivizes the thugs to push even harder next time and communicate via the globe-spanning, free new media what others are now likely to be able to get away with on their campuses.

So what we seem to be dealing with are not college campuses slipping into the anti-Israel orbit, but a newly energized group of anti-Israel propagandists (ginned up – as they always are – after a war) that is out of control.  And how best to deal with this particular dynamic is something I’ll turn to next time.

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9 Responses to SJP Thuggery – Are the Campuses Burning?

  1. Fred Milton Olsen November 6, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    Here at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, an unveiling of a “BOYCOTT!! The Art Of Economic Activism” Poster exhibition about a historical timeline of boycotts leading up to the present BDS conflict. It was held in a campus church ministry by the Quakers. A professor of economics (?) gave the historical timeline verbally, ending with a BDS meassage.

    I attended as I had never heard of BDS at here in Madison and wanted to judge its level of support.

    In spite of the event happening at a University with over 40,000 students, one of America’s larger public institutions…. in spite of it being a heavily promoted on a popular Madison community radio station (where I heard about it), in spite of being an “art” exhibit on an artsy-fartsy campus, in spite of Madison being a very strong labor union city, in spite of it being a “reception” with food and drink…. it attracted fewer than 20 people.

    The current level of support here seems very low at what is considered to be one of America’s more “liberal” university campuses.

    In the Statehouse there is strong support for Israel, especially with the republican party’s big wins the day before yesterday (Nov. 4th) in our elections.

    • Fred Milton Olsen November 6, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

      Oh. More info.

      The attendees were mostly in their 60s, it appeared. I’m guessing they were mostly if not all Quakers. There were a few students there from a fledgling Fossil Fuel Divestment group, if you could call three people a “group”. They were there looking to pick off supporters from another divestment group and learn tactics, if any were to be taught.

  2. Michael Lumish November 6, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    Is there any chance that an audio file of the panel discussion will be made available online?

    • Fred Milton Olsen November 6, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

      No members of the press were present and I didn’t see anyone making a recording with a phone or camera. I’m actually waiting for a new LG Volt phone I bought on E-bay (half price) or I’d have recorded it myself. I did outline it.

      Definitions of words “boycott”, “nonviolent direct action” and “economic activism”

      1. Study of Nonviolent Action in 20th Century

      2. Some Historical Examples of Boycotts
      Rome 494 BCE
      USA 1790
      Ireland 1880
      Montgomery, AL, 1955
      UN 1962
      Delano, CA, 1965

      3. Other Boycotts
      Shell Oil

      4. Palestinian Call for BDS 2005
      Mention of recent SodaStream news.

      Sorry I didn’t have a recording. It wasn’t a panel discussion, it was just one professor speaking, a man named Joe Elder, I see from my notes.

      • Michael Lumish November 6, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

        Ah, no worries, Fred.

        Perhaps the “Defamation of Israel on College Campuses” panel discussion might be made available by audio file, tho.

        • Fred Milton Olsen November 7, 2014 at 12:19 am #

          Let’s hope our host will post a link for us.

          • Fred Milton Olsen November 7, 2014 at 12:55 am #

            Spit fire! Let’s hope our blog host here will have a national US tour and his American readers will be able to see him in person!

            I’ve got a hundred bucks that says he would get orders of magnitude better turnout at his presentation than have shown up for BDS here.

            ….pause…. silence….

            What, no takers?

  3. Passerby November 7, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    I think one problem with BDS, particularly on the most active campuses, is that it doesn’t just demonize Israel, but more to the point, it demonizes Israel’s supporters. Salaita’s tweets about Zionists are a perfect example of this.

    This demonization places tremendous pressure on students to either take sides or hide. After all, who wants to be affiliated with human rights-violators? This is undermining Jewish life on campuses to some degree by causing divisions and by distancing many students who might have been somehow connected (visiting Hillel sometimes, for example). Ultimately, bit by bit this undermines the Jewish community and its efforts to help young Jews maintain a connection to Jewish life and identity.


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