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The ASA Westin Two-Step

20 Oct

Note: A recent bout of comment spam has caused me to turn my troublesome spam block back on.  If anyone is trying to post legitimate comment and is having trouble with the CAPTCHA code, send them to me and I’ll post them directly.

Well the doofuses who run the American Studies Association (ASA) have found themselves in a conundrum that even those of us without PhDs could have anticipated.

I won’t rehash the whole sordid tale whereby the leadership of that organization, hell-bent on passing an academic boycott resolution directed at one nation and one nation only (guess which one), won a “landslide” victory (consisting of 16% of the membership) after the most lopsided faux-debate in the history of academia.

Almost immediately, their action was condemned by (among others) the American Studies Association’s own largest branches, American Studies Departments across the country (many of whom left ASA in protest), hundreds of college and university Presidents, and the largest academic associations in the country.

Initial attempts to explain their position (notably the statement by former ASA Presidnt Curtis “One has to start somewhere” Marez) were so embarrassing that the group’s leaders decided to “go to ground” and stop giving interviews (strange given that the justification for their boycott was to “open up conversation”).

Now their disappearance was not total.  For instance, when current ASA Prez Lisa Duggan thought she was talking solely to fellow BDS activists, she squealed like a schoolgirl over the chance to spend a weekend with like-minded partisans.  But, other than that, her communication to the world seems to have consisted primarily in situations that don’t allow for cross-examination.

This includes occasional one-time posting in the comments section of various web sites.  For instance, she recently commented on this story, one which describes how the hotel where ASA is planning its upcoming convention is being asked to confirm that they are not hosting a meeting that is in violation of California’s anti-discrimination law.  Apparently, that state has some pretty strict guidelines about events that discriminate by (among other things) national origin.  And so the entire ASA leadership team has had to double down on its whole “we’re not discriminating against individuals (like Israelis, although just the Jewish ones), we’re just targeting institutions” gambit.

As my regular reader knows, using legislatures and courts to win BDS battles is not my strategy of choice, especially if it drags a third party (in this case, the Westin Hotel) in the middle of someone else’s conflict.  But now that someone who doesn’t share this philosophy has raised the stakes over ASA’s BDS vote, it’s intriguing to watch the increasingly frantic dance those boycotters are breaking into in order to avoid any consequences related to the choice they forced onto the organization.

According to the story linked above, the original description of ASA policy was amended in recent days to try to bolster the “we’re only discriminating against institutions, not actual people” storyline (although, like most last-minute broomers, they missed a few files and forgot about the existence of screen-grabs and Internet caches). Meanwhile, leaders of the organization have taken to the airwaves demanding that any other possible interpretation of their policy is a lie that must be retracted.

Why a policy whose description ASA itself has had to amend has only one possible interpretation is unclear to me.  And their claim that even the Israeli Prime Minister could attend their event (so long as he only did so as “Mr. Netenyahu”) seems to indicate that any Israeli scholar who insists on representing their institution of learning (or anyone or anything other than themselves) would be discriminated against (vs., say, a professor from Fudan or Birzeit universities attending as representatives of those institutions).

Given that no American Studies department in the entire country has actually implemented the ASA’s boycott policy, and (as mentioned earlier) the organization’s largest chapters had rejected it, there seems to be no possible place for Lisa Duggan and her colleagues to put into practice the policy they insisted be the law of the organization except at their own events and programs (including their annual conference).  But, at least from we’ve seen unfold in the last few days, it looks like those bold defenders of the BDS cause cannot bring themselves to even take action there (or even explain what implementation of their policy would look like).

In other words (and as many of us knew when the vote was first taken), it’s all pose and no action by a group of “leaders” who are BDS activists first, academics second, desperate to give their prime consistency (fellow BDSers, not American Studies professors) something to brag about.

In my own comment on one of these stories (a reply to Lisa Duggan, as it happens), I pointed out that if Westin Hotel does indeed refuse to host ASA’s annual event, that the people who would have attended this year’s conference are completely free to register at the hotel as individuals and the ASA leadership team is free to hold the meetings they planned at various libraries and restaurants in the area near the Westin.  Under this scenario, the hotel chain would be simply following the rules outlined by the American Studies Association itself and shunning ASA as an institution while welcoming them as individual human beings.

We’ll see if Professor Duggan is ready to apply such a distinction to the institution she runs vs. those she is so desperate to have others shun.

A Source of Optimism in a Time of Ruthlessness

16 Oct

Some recent communication crystalized thoughts regarding how to approach events in the Middle East (and their associated blowback at home) with anything but despair.

Most recently, a brief discussion in the comments section required me to think again about the conundrum of treating BDS as both a failure and a threat.

As I’ve explained in the past, failure creates its own momentum, just as victory does.  So there is ample reason to communicate the inability of a propaganda campaign like BDS to achieve any of its stated goals, especially since it is one of the few elements of the global anti-Israel de-legitimization/propaganda campaign we “civilians” can directly impact.

But the scope of things we cannot impact (at least directly) was brought home when my Rabbi (who I have come to admire more and more over the years) sent we congregants a series of missives over the summer which described his attempts to carry on a normal sabbatical in Israel while dodging missiles trying to kill him every other day.

After such a harrowing experience, we were braced for a post-sabbatical holiday sermon that would focus on events in the Middle East.  But what impressed me most about his impassioned first-hand description of front lines in the recent Hamas-initiated war was his ability to clearly articulate reality (which includes both the Hamas Covenant and the organization’s official policy of child sacrifice) while still holding onto his long-standing optimism that peace (somehow, some way) would eventually emerge out of so much violence and catastrophe.

In more cynical moments, I might wonder whether someone’s longing for peace when groups like Hamas and ISIS are holding (and gaining) territory might represent an inability to grasp reality.  And the argument that 20+ years of peace processing seems to have led to noting but endless war is one I wish more people (including more optimists) would confront.

But, at the same time, I maintain my own optimism about not just ultimately defeating BDS but the ultimate success of Israel and the Jewish people over the forces of chaos which are clashing and burning and killing across the globe.

Now this optimism is not blind to the fact that what we can expect in the coming years is more and more darkness and that even “victory” over the bloody forces arraigned against us represents nothing but a limited respite.  For, despite the slogans and costumes and Koranic verses, what we face on all battlefields is not ultimately Islam (or Islamism or Jihad or whatever euphemism we use to sooth the sensibilities and prejudices of ourselves and others) but mankind’s oldest enemy: ruthlessness.

If you read this series (or other things I’ve written in the past), you’ll recognize my cribbing from Lee Harris who describes history as the halting progress of civilization against a ruthless foe always dogging its heels.  When mankind was capable of nothing but foraging and hunting, it was the ruthless who discovered they could get all the food they wanted by simply killing others to obtain it, making the survivors their slaves in the process.

Moving ahead ten-thousand years, who could have anticipated that a blend of 18th and 19th century philosophy and economics, or the racial ravings of an Austrian paper hanger would harden into ideologies used to justify the murder of millions and the enslavement of billions?  But if you think of movements like Communism and Fascism as the intellectual infrastructure the ruthless use to justify their means, then everything makes perfect sense.  For the ends these ruthless Fuhrers and Commissars pursued was not the utopias they promised the public (and gullible foreigners), but their own absolute rule with a power of life and death beyond anything history’s most vicious tyrants and emperors could ever imagine.

Today, it is the Islamic world where a lethal blend of historic fantasy, cultivated grievance, and ends-justify-means ideology is driving the planet to a new brink.  But it is also a war-weary world that can’t bring itself to do what must be done to drive off the ruthless that has created the opening where a new group of warlords will fight to the death to win the right (and the power) to expand their war world-wide.

To be fair to folks like Neville Chamberlain, at least he and his generation made their decisions within living memory of the killing fields of World War I, which helps explain why they went to the lengths they did to ignore and appease evil until it was almost too late to stop it.  Our excuse is that we have become too comfortable with a half a century of non-war (or, more specifically, a half a century where most of us never had to make sacrifices in order to defeat a ruthless enemy).  Which is why it has become so easy to blame Bush, blame Israel, blame ourselves for the world returning to a state of nature we’d rather believe does not exist.

So what can possibly provide anyone a sense of optimism when facing a new conflict that is sure to lead to the re-ordering of the world (and not for the better), a re-ording likely to be accompanied by the death of millions (if not tens of millions)?  In a word: Zionism.

How can it be that the most loathed label in the global political lexicon can be a source of hope, even salvation?

The inspiration of a people at the brink of extinction creating a nation three years later which has grown into a successful, prosperous, mighty and humane democracy should be enough (dayenu) to justify a high degree of optimism.  But think for a moment about how much the history of the Jewish state defies the laws of the jungle that hold sway nearly everywhere else on the planet.

Israel has the might (and has always had the might) to actually commit all of the crimes it is routinely accused of, and yet it has chosen not to do so.  And as galling as it might be to be accused of genocide by the genocidal leaders of a Palestinian less-than-state whose population exploded under dreaded Israeli “Occupation” (rather than go down, as it has during all other genocides in history), as ludicrous as it might be to be accused of ethnic cleansing by Arab state who cleansed their nations of Jews decades ago (with Christians next on the hit list), as vile as it might be to hear nihilists and allies of the warlords bringing misery to the rest of the world declare “Zionism” to be the ugliest word ever uttered, Israel’s choices represent its determination to not let its soul be driven by the same ruthless nature that has historically guided those with power.

Want another example?  OK – How about an atomic-scale one?  For rather than use its nuclear arsenal to dominate the region (like any “normal” nuclear power would do), Israel simply shut up about it with the assumption that it would remain a last resort (rather than an asset to be pulled out for this or that strategic reason).  My guess is that a nuclear Iran will not show similar restraint.

One can find other examples, all of which add up to Zionism demonstrating to the world that a state can succeed without devolving into bitter ruthlessness or ends-justifying-means on a national scale.  And, given the mayhem that now engulfs virtually every one of Israel’s neighbors, it is a lesson worth considering – especially by those who might prefer to nail to the cross a nation that may have found a way to live with the many paradoxes (past vs. future, faith vs. politics, national vs. individual identity, power vs. humanity) that has made modernity such a vexing, thrilling, yet bloody experience for all of us.

The Israeli Economy-Security Dialectic

9 Oct

A few years back, I put together this piece which looked at hard numbers regarding the growth of the Israeli economy and exports, both of which doubled during the BDS decade.  And while I don’t have the time to update that analysis for 2014, it is worth looking at an aspect of the Startup Nation story that demonstrates an interesting dialectic regarding Israel’s economy and its security situation.

One would think that a nation routinely subjected to heavy missile bombardment would be the very place investors would flee, given the instability such a military situation implies.  But in the case of Israel, the opposite seems to be the case as investment continues to pour into the country as if months of attacks from Gaza never took place.

The best example of this phenomenon is Intel’s decision to invest six billion dollars (that’s “billion” with a “B”) into updating its Israeli chip plant – the biggest investment ever made into the Jewish state – a decision which was announced in September, that is AFTER the country spent the summer on the receiving end of endless rocket fire.

Intel plays a key role in unlocking the reason behind such an unprecedented (and counter-intuitive) business dynamic.  For it was in 1991, well before Israel became the Startup Nation darling of the international M&A and investment communities, that keeping promises while under fire first demonstrated the mettle of Israel and the people who live and work there.

If you recall, that was the year Israel was first subjected to random missile fire, this time from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq which hoped to provoke Israel into joining (and thus “Zionizing”) a conflict begun when Iraq invaded, annexed and looted Kuwait.  As American and allied forces began shoving Iraqi troops back across their own border, Saddam decided to point his Scuds towards one of the few nations not arrayed against him, socking Israel with waves of rockets that many feared were armed with the same chemical weapons the ex (as in now ex-ecuted) Iraqi dictator used against his own people in the 1980s.

Israel never rose to that bait, but while coalition forces were demonstrating the paper nature of the Iraqi tiger, executives at the Intel Corporation who managed a plant in Israel that was turning out the company’s most valuable chips had different concerns: how to get their Israeli employees to stay home and safe, rather than show up for work.

Apparently, the Israelis who worked the chip factory had no intention of letting a tyrant living (and killing) miles away to disrupt their lives.  And if they had to defy their own government (which was urging people to stay indoors near shelters until the threat lifted), they certainly weren’t going to let some distant executives tell them what to do.

And so they showed up to work, keeping the factory firing on all cylinders, and delivering on every promise made to those Intel executives with regard to deliveries and deadlines.

It was this incident, more than any other, which demonstrated that the Jewish economy included something more than innovative inventors and programmers and a budding entrepreneurial culture that was shaking loose the vestiges of a planned economy.  For those Intel-employed Israelis were demonstrating tenacity, nerve, defiance and an unwillingness to not keep to their word even (or, should I say, especially) under fire.

So the minor impact of the Gaza campaign on the Israeli economy followed by a seemingly positive impact it had on that economy once the guns fell silent has an explanation: the continued demonstration of Israel’s ability to do remarkable work and get the job done, regardless of how harrowing the circumstances might be.

This should come as no surprise to those who understand that a citizenry brought up to defend itself, one which has lived on the precipice for  most of its existence, is not about to let a little thing like rocket fire from death-worshiping maniacs get in the way of carrying on a normal life.  And those who recognize this reality are ready to vote for Israel with their wallets, which is why Israel continues to receive the highest grade for investment – even as the rest of the region tumbles into self-imposed chaos.

This should provide another bit of perspective with regard to our old friends in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions “movement.”  For the BDS project is predicated on the notion that economic pressure deriving from their activities will so weaken the Jewish state that it will agree to capitulate to demands of those seeking its ultimate destruction.  But if weeks of direct military attack has only increased the nation’s defiant resolve, resolve rewarded by the very people the BDSers are asking to shun the Jewish state, then what is BDS left as other than a transmission belt for propaganda dedicated to ensuring that the millions of corpses being generated by #AlHamIsis across the Middle East never get noticed, much less mentioned.

Open Hillel

6 Oct

This coming long weekend, a group calling itself Open Hillel will be holding a conference at Harvard University.  And high on the list of issues they will be dealing with has got to be Hillel’s recent decision to institute a loyalty oath, demanding that anyone who joins their organization adhere to Hillel’s “Missions and Policy” statement which includes taking a stand against BDS.

Whoops!  My mistake.

Actually, it is the organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), one of the group’s behind the whole Open Hillel faux-“movement,” that requires anyone joining their organization to:

  • Pay them $60 (fair enough)
  • Agree to lead or partake in at least three JVP-related activities a year (again, perfectly reasonable); and
  • Adhere to the organization’s Missions and Policy statement that includes this paragraph regarding BDS:

Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions:
The boycott/divestment/sanctions movement (BDS) encompasses a variety of tactics and targets. JVP rejects the assertion that BDS is inherently anti-semitic, and we encourage discussion both within our own community and outside of it of the growing BDS movement. JVP defends activists’ right to use the full range of BDS tactics without being persecuted or demonized. We support divestment from and boycotts of companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. This includes companies operating in or from occupied Palestinian territory, exploiting Palestinian labor and scarce environmental resources, providing materials or labor for settlements, or producing military or other equipment or materials used to violate human rights or to profit from the Occupation.

Now it may surprise you that I also find this third principle perfectly reasonable.  The only thing I can’t fathom is why a group that insists anyone joining its ranks adhere to its rules and guidelines seems so hell bent on crashing someone else’s organization (Hillel), to the point of running campaigns and holding conferences demanding Hillel allow them in, even if they have no intention of adhering to the anti-BDS Hillel policy JVP doesn’t agree with.

Oh well.   Moving on, perhaps Open Hillel will directly address the fact that Hillel is insisting that only those who are already Hillel members or those vouched for by an existing member will be allowed to take part in Hillel events.  Such a policy, after all, seems calculated to ensure that no one who disagrees with the organization’s choices and policies will be allowed to contaminate an enforced consensus.

Oops!  I blew it again.  For in my après fast-and-binge holiday stupor I once again mistook for Hillel policy the policy of another group: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which has placed those very restrictions on anyone attending their upcoming conference (which takes place at Tufts University at the end of October).  And, as I recently discovered, those busy bees at SJP will be joining their Jewish Voice for Peace allies at the Open Hillel event next weekend.  Meaning that two organizations that readily exclude anyone who does not share their opinion are demanding another organization (Hillel) let them in without pre-conditions, all in the name of “openness.”

I considered asking about this contradiction in the comments section of one of the many web sites run by Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine.  But, lo and behold, most every one of those sites doesn’t allow comments.  Or, as I keep discovering, pro-BDS sites have a habit of disappearing any comments that contradict official doctrine, ensuring no one can soil their eyes with a dissenting thought.

Come to think of it, doesn’t JVP and SJP already attend all kinds of events put on by the Jewish community (including those organized under the umbrella of the campus organization Open Hillel is trying to “open up”) in order to disrupt them (most recently through the use of threats, intimidation and violence)?  And doesn’t SJP’s “de-normalization” policy (which forbids them from talking to anyone who has not already capitulated to 100% of their demands beforehand) mean that they have already refused in advance to partake in the kind of dialog “Open Hillel” is insisting must take place?

It’s tempting to see all of these contradictions as just one more example of the hypocrisy which underlies the entire BDS “movement,” (as in “shut up about the 168 kids Hamas killed digging terror tunnels or I’ll punch you in the face, now let’s talk about Israeli war crimes in Gaza”).  But I would suggest a military metaphor provides a more pragmatic explanation for the upcoming Open Hillel event, one which does not require us to guess what’s going on in the brain of a BDSer.

For as groups like JVP and SJP gear up for another school year of propaganda carpet bombing, including numerous BDS campaigns, they would understandably like to remove (or neuter) rival pro-Israel organizations, many of whom are likely to be affiliated with the campus Hillel.  And if they can get their nostrils inside that big tent, they can use their usual aggressive infiltration tactics to ensure no consensus can ever emerge on how to deal with the very boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns they will continue to run, regardless of what others at Hillel think about such efforts.  Meanwhile, the aforementioned loyalty oaths and screening processes baked into BDS groups like JVP and SJP allow them to greedily guard their own civic spaces while demanding entrance to everyone else’s.

To a certain extent, Open Hillel demonstrates how much cynical organizations like JVP and SJP understand that Hillel actually represents the kind of openness the BDSers only feign.  And rather than use this understanding to explore whether they should continue to maintain high fortress walls around their own groups, they instead see Hillel’s genuine open mindedness as a weakness to be exploited, rather than a model to be emulated.

So until JVP eliminates its loyalty oaths and SJP ends its “I’m not talking with you unless you agree with me in advance” anti-dialog policies, I think it’s fair to tell Open Hillel to spend the weekend talking to the folks they see in the mirror every morning, rather than wagging their collective finger at the rest of us.

Comments

29 Sep

This will no doubt come to bite me in the butt, but until I can figure out what’s wrong with the CAPTCHA utility I installed a couple months back to keep the site from being flooded with comment spam from various pants and Viagra salespeople, I’ve decided to turn it off so that anyone can contribute without going through a wall that seems to be keeping out almost everyone.

Speaking of comments, I’ve officially collected enough data points to describe a meaningful trend with regard to those dialog-starved, tough-lovin’ BDSbyterians who want everyone to know that their behavior over the last year simply demonstrates their faith-based virtues, something we’d understand if we only grasped their outstretched hand.

The trouble is, when I’ve reach out for that supposed “hand of reconciliation” by providing responses to over a half dozen entries on blogs run by Presbyterians in favor of last summer’s divestment vote, in five out of six cases the creators of those blogs deleted what I had to say (one going so far as to delete the entire comment thread – including his own responses).

The most recent example of this had to do with someone who made an appearance in the BDSbyterian piece linked above: Reverend Mark Davidson of the Church of Reconciliation (!) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

If you recall, Davidson was the fellow who decided the best way to show his devotion to justice and interfaith dialog was to plaster busses in the Chapel Hill area with those egregious “Be With Us” ads that have confused the public and appalled Jews and non-Jews across the country. And when he and his fellow BDSers were subjected to criticism for their thoughtless behavior, he decided that interfaith dialog could best be served by spreading this campaign across the country.

Recently, Rev. Davidson joined with a fellow NC BDSbyterian to write this piece which called for the church to stop pretending to not take a stand on the Arab-Israeli conflict and to be upfront with what everyone else can plainly see: that PCUSA has become a partisan in a hotly contested political conflict, favoring one side over the other (which, in this case, includes accepting the Arab characterization of events as the only acceptable truth).

In an odd way, I applaud Rev. Davidson’s honesty, just as I applauded John Spritzler who stumbled into stating plainly what others in the BDS brigade are trying to obfuscate: that the goal of BDS is the end of Israel as a Jewish homeland. And so I wrote the following comment to inform the authors and readers of that “Take a Stand” piece of the implications of such a decision:

“The problem (and the reason why so few take PCUSA’s opinion on the Middle East seriously) is that when there are two sides in a human conflict, then selecting to stand against one side means by definition that you are standing with the other. So by opposing the Israeli “side” (or, more specifically, standing against Israel and its allies, notably the US) in the conflict, you are embracing the Palestinian “side” (which must include *its* allies in the larger Arab and Muslim world).

But once someone starts probing how your choice of a side makes you complicit with the actions of those whose side you’ve chosen, suddenly there is an immediate retreat to the language of neutrality (often taking the form of claims that the church is simply embracing Christian love and peacemaking for all concerned). In other words, the notion that a church which has chosen a side must then take responsibility for that side’s behavior (including kidnapping, indiscriminate missile firing, use of human shields, killing of its own people – not to mention the repression of religious minorities: including Christians) is totally alien to an organization that wants all the benefits of taking a stand (including praise for its “bravery”) without having to live with any responsibility for its choices.”

Now you will notice that this response contained no obscenities or insults, no accusations of anti-Semitism or bigotry, but simply described what “taking a side” would actually involve (and cost).

And within minutes, my comment was deleted.

Stop and think about this for a moment. In a story specifically about “taking a stand,” the authors demonstrated an unwillingness to actually take a stand by defending their beliefs (although they did allow a couple of “you’re so wonderful” comments to appear below their posting). And, like other BDSbyterians who have been claiming since June that they are dying to engage in dialog with Jews (and non-Jews) who disagree with the divestment policy they stuffed down the throat of PCUSA, when it comes time to actually engage with critics, they do everything in their power to avoid the very dialog they constantly claim to crave.

While hypocrisy is always the easiest (and most obvious) explanation of such behavior, another explanation might be the fantasy bubble that BDSers routinely blow around themselves. For within this bubble, they can only hear the voices of those who shower them with praise and critics who shout vulgarities and accusations at them, which allows them to separate the world into the white-hatted, virtuous “we” and the right-wing-y, hysterical “they.” But when voices appear that ask challenging questions to which they have no answers, the response is to shut those words out and disappear them from any else’s view.

Anyway, I just discovered that this “Taking a Stand” piece was part of a series which also includes this piece which takes aim at the censorship (or “book burning”) represented by Zionism Unsettled being removed from the official PCUSA web site, to which I commented:

“Given how much the writers of this piece despise censorship (or “book burning at the courthouse steps”) in any form, you may be shocked to learn that the authors of another piece in this same series on the ecclesio web site (Taking a Stand, by Reverends Davidson and Shive) have repeatedly censored my comments, despite the fact that they contained no vulgarities or irresponsible accusations, just challenging questions that (I must assume) the authors were not comfortable confronting.

You can read about the issue at http://divestthis.com/2014/09/comments.html.  And, given the churches call for genuine dialog (no matter how difficult), I hope you will convince contributors to this site to not shy away from difficult issues going forward.”

I’ve got a stop watch going to see how long it takes for them to wipe those words from existence as well.

UPDATE: That comment I posted failed to appear, which would imply the site may not be accepting comments generally or has blocked yours truly.  Now it may be stuck in moderation, but I’m choosing to not hold my breath until it appears.  Nuff said.

Denormalizing Denormalization

23 Sep

With the Gaza war behind us (for now), things seem to be unfurling on campuses about as expected.

While anti-Israel activity is usually more of a second-semester phenomenon, the BDSers have been trying to leverage momentum from last summer’s war (and associated anti-Israel hysteria) to get their propaganda program rolling early at colleges and universities, even as chapters of groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are just raising recruits and getting off the ground.

Given the thuggish tactics these groups were trying on for size at the end of the last academic year, it’s no surprise that early tales of SJP on campus involve violence and intimidation as tactics of choice.  And given the amount of information coming out of Gaza that they need to suppress, we can expect the usual tactic of ignoring anything others have to say to be accompanied by ever-louder shout-downs of those who choose to mention little details like 4000+ rockets fired at Israeli civilians from behind Palestinian ones.

But a decade of manufactured anti-Israel hostility has also generated counter-measures in the form of bigger and better-organized pro-Israel campus groups that have proven their skill (and patience) again and again.  And following a dynamic I described nearly a decade ago, these groups have been given the leeway to take the lead on their own campuses, pulling in resources from the wider Jewish if and when they are needed.

Within this battlefield, Israel’s foes have some decided advantages.  To begin with, as the propaganda arm of a war movement, the BDSers – by definition – have militant goals which means they can be perpetually on the attack.  In contrast, Israel’s supporters are not interested in destroying anyone and thus do not have the incentive to spend semester after semester smearing Palestinians (or other Arabs) or even telling stark truths about what the Palestinians have done to bring so much misery upon themselves over the decades.

Similarly, the sociopathic nature of the boycotters mean they are free to pick the battlefield unhindered by worries over the damage they may cause to others.  Again, in contrast, pro-Israel groups are hesitant to drag the Middle East conflict into every civic space in the land and thus must wait until the Israel haters act before they can react to any situation (such as a BDS vote) that requires a fight.

Those advantages are somewhat mitigated by the fact that most college populations consist of roughly 5% of students hostile and 5% of students supportive of the Jewish state with the other 90% indifferent (above and beyond wondering why this particular political conflict must be in their face 24/7).  In theory, this vast majority can be swayed, possibly by propaganda (the BDSers preferred choice), possibly by reasoned argument.  But, in general, this large group tends to support dialog and are looking to see which groups seems most sincerely dedicated to working things out via genuine communication vs. screaming matches.

This makes the over-the-top nature of groups like SJP a liability, which makes an aspect of this year’s campaign – one having to do with “denormalization” all the more surprising.

If you recall, “normalization” means treating Israel like a normal country whose citizens have the right to participate in all of the activities allowed by citizens of any nation in the world.  Which means that “denormalization,” making normal life impossible for Israelis (and their friends), is at the heart and soul of the BDS project.

For instance, any scholar in the world is allowed to be part of the community of academic discourse – even if they come from nations rules by monstrous, murderous regimes that suppress academic freedom at home.  But an academic “denormalization” campaign seeks to make just one exception to this rule through attempts to bar Israelis (although just the Jewish ones) from the scholarly community.

Similarly, product boycotts and divestment campaigns are designed to make buying Israeli goods or investment in Israeli companies seem extraordinary, just as last year’s marches in Europe and elsewhere want to “normalize” the notion that just one country (the Jewish one) has no right to defend itself when enemies shower its cities with rocket fire.

But among anti-Israel campus groups, “normalization” would require treating interaction between pro- and anti-Israel student groups as a normal form of human discourse.  Which is why they reject it, insisting that any dialog can only begin once those that disagree with them accept every BDSer fact and opinion in advance.

While the term “de-normalization” tries to smooth over some rough edges, the proper description of this position would be “anti-dialog” and “anti-peace” which pretty much sums up the alpha and omega of the BDS “movement.”

Which means that it is worth it for pro-Israel groups on campus to continue extending a hand to their opponents and then communicate out every time it is slapped away, thus demonstrating that the only thing abnormal going on is what takes place in the minds and meetings of groups like Students for Justice in Palestine.