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.