Now They’ve Done It: JCPA/JCRC vs. BDS

Some interesting news out of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) last week. By a unanimous vote, the organization decided to confront the issue of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), and urged the constituency of the organization (which includes Jewish Community Relations Councils across the country) to make thoughtful but forceful confrontation with the issue a top priority.

As I had a small role in the drafting of this resolution, I thought it might be valuable to let you, my reader, know something about its significance. JCRCs form the backbone of Jewish community life in many parts of the country, especially with regard to interaction between Jewish groups and the wider world. Outreach to local government officials, minority groups and religious organizations frequently flows through a local JCRC.

In general, JCPA/JCRCs tend to compartmentalize between domestic and foreign-policy positions, focusing on what they refer to as “social justice” issues (such as healthcare and civil rights) domestically while dividing their international activity between Israel-related matters (most recently how to deal with a nuclearizing Iran) and the needs of Jewish communities in the Diaspora (JCRC’s have played a particularly important role in revitalizing Jewish towns in the former Soviet bloc, for example).

These positions are not without their controversy (debate over gay marriage, for example, has divided more than one JCRC). But putting those debates aside, an important aspect of last week’s vote is that it marks an important fusion of often-disconnected domestic and foreign-affairs agendas. Simply put, the JCPA vote recognizes in no uncertain terms that BDS – the propaganda campaign to delegitimize Israel in the eyes of the American public as well as internationally – is a domestic threat to American Jews and a threat to the State of Israel that must be confronted and defeated.

As people who have been following this blog know, BDS has always been more about noise than actual success. In fact, during the last decade when BDS has been the strategy of choice among Israel’s opponents, support for the Jewish state as well as economic success of that Jewish state have both skyrocketed, attesting to the enduring failure of boycott and divestment as an actual economic threat.

But the wider Jewish community now recognizes that as a propaganda threat, BDS must be challenged head on. While it’s easy to mock and ridicule a “movement” that has accomplished so little after so much effort, we should also not stop confronting it (a confrontation that will include continued ridicule of its pretenses and fiascos) until the boycott/divestment does what Israel haters always do once a decade: realize their latest campaign has been a flop, slink away to lick their wounds before coming up with another nasty strategy to inflict on the public for another decade.

What does this mean for American Jews? Well, at the very least it means that the fight against BDS is now on the radar and part of the mainstream Jewish agenda (always a good thing, especially after divestment took people largely by surprise 7-8 years ago). Among other things, this means that activists working on local campaigns can point to the unanimous JCPA resolution when trying to get the support of local synagogues, Hillels or other community organizations.

And how about the BDSers? Well no doubt they will declare the fact that JCPA has noticed them enough to pass a resolution condemning their activity as yet another triumph (it’s hard to find anything that happens anywhere that the boycotters don’t consider a victory). Yes, the noise level of BDS has finally reached the point where mainstream Jewish organizations are no longer ignoring it. But as I’ve said before, considering that a success is similar to a loud drunk measuring his sexual prowess by how many women tell him to piss off in a single night.

Having spent years screaming at the top of their lungs and waving their metaphorical privates around in order to catch someone’s notice, the divestment crew can hardly complain once last week’s vote turns into actions that continue to ensure BDSers ongoing reputation as a L-O-S-E-R.

BDS Avatar?

The best BDS hoax story yet has just arrived from Canada, causing one of those truly “you can’t make this stuff up!” moments.

I spent much of last year chronicling the tendency of boycott and divestment activists to make fraudulent claims of victory, from the academic hoax at Hampshire, to false claims that the financial firms Blackrock or TIAA-CREF or companies like Motorola had made financial decisions for political reasons.

More recently, the forging of signatures on boycott petitions made its debut in the UK, so it was just a matter of time before this practice found its way to North America.

The story actually begins last Fall when a relatively obscure Canadian film maker, John Greyson (also a teacher at York University), pulled his work from the Toronto Film Festival in protest of that festival’s inclusion of movies from Tel Aviv in their celebration of international urban cinema. This action was accompanied by a petition declaring the festival was, in effect, celebrating Tel Aviv and thus the brutality of “The Occupation,” the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza who struggle to live while Tel Avivians make movies, blah, blah, blah.

This non-story got some ink when a collection of celebrities (including Jane Fonda) signed onto the petition, with some of them (again, Jane Fonda) eventually signing off. As usual, supporters of Israel rallied, the press railed at this attempt at censorship masquerading as artistic “solidarity” and Israeli films were the hit of the Festival.

Flash forward to 2010 when a new petition began circulating around film schools asking them to not participate in this June’s Tel Aviv Student Film Festival because (you know the drill).

The letter itself is worthy of dissection as an example of mental gymnastics (trying to portray an unambiguous attempt to punish a country by boycotting its film makers as something other than the shunning of artists in the name of someone else’s politics). But the real interesting part of the story is the signature section which features none other than “The King of the World” himself: James Cameron.

Now (as far as I know) the Canadian-born Cameron has never had a word to say about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and his name on such a letter would certainly represent a coup for boycott promoters. If it was real. Which it’s not.

As near as I can tell (and details are still coming in) this letter was initiated (and/or promulgated) by the same people involved with Toronto Film Fest boycott fiasco. Supposedly a press conference on the matter was scheduled for today, but was mysteriously called off. This may just have something to do with the fact that someone who saw the letter contacted Cameron’s people and discovered he not only didn’t sign the document, but he’s never seen it and is demanding answers as to how his name got onto such a letter.

In short, the hoaxers who seemed to be trying to leverage famous names to give their project credibility now face the wrath of one of the world’s richest and most powerful film makers. Forgive me a little shadenfreude, but what I would give to be in the home/apartment/dormroom/studio of those who thought they could get away with such an obviously exposable fraud.

I’ll post more details on the story as they become available, but we seem to have clearly entered an age when the sheer scale of BDS failure after a decade of so much intense effort has left boycott and divestment advocates somewhat unhinged. That, or they simply continue to believe that their self-righteous fury allows them to do absolutely anything, even if (or especially if) it involves treating the public (or, in this case, peers in the film making world) like absolute idiots.

Blame Canada

I’m hoping to get to the hundred-post mark sometime in February (which is why you may see some shorter pieces here than usual over the next couple of weeks 😉 ).

Word has it that Carleton University is the next target for the BDS “juggernaut.” “For the past four and a half years, BDS has spread like wildfire,” BDS proponents claim, naturally anchoring their effort to the signature “triumph” at Hampshire College (“The most notable victory came at Hampshire College, where in February 2009, the administration gave in to massive student pressure to divest from six companies complicit in the Israeli occupation.”) Does anyone else want to give them the bad news?

So far, I’ve only had the chance to write something on Carleton here at Muzzlewatch-Watch, but if they manage to stray from the same-old-same-old of 36-page denouncements-by-committee and bombast, you’ll hear about it here first.

Hampshire and The Brain – Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Hampshire and the Brain

This latest piece was done on a dare from my reader.

In one of the final pieces I wrote on the Hampshire BDS conference, I made reference to the Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine’s “Pinky-and-the-Brain” type schemes to get Hampshire on board the BDS “bandwagon.” This is a reference to a 10+ year old Warner cartoon series featuring a pair of genetically engineered lab mice who every night concoct a sure-to-fail scheme to take over the world. This intro clip doesn’t do it justice, so anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about (at least more than usual) should feel free to remain bewildered.

Hampshire and The Brain – Part 1

Pinky (running on a wheel in his cage): What are we going to do tonight Brain?

Brain (turning towards the camera): The same thing we do every night Pinky: try to get Hampshire College to divest from Israel!

They’re Pinky and The Brain
Yes Pinky and the Brain
One is a genius, the other’s insane
They’ll do their very best
To get Hampshire to divest
They’re dinky, their Pinky and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain

Scene 1: Pinky is playing with a keffiyeh, trying desperately to tie it around his head in a form that resembles Israel. Unfortunately, his attempts leave the scarf looking more like the former Soviet Union. Brain, in the meanwhile, is tinkering with some undisclosed technology.

Pinky: Look at me Brain! I’m Yassir Aeroflot!

Pinky puts his arms in the air and begins running around the cage. Brain grabs him by the snout, causing his keffiyeh to fly off.

Brain: While I appreciate your attempts at solidarity with the downtrodden, my cretinous companion, we have no time for such tomfoolery. For tonight, I have come up with my most ingenious plan yet for getting Hampshire College to remove investment’s that benefit the Zionist Entity from its $10,000 endowment.

Pinky: Are you going to send out press releases pretending the college already divested?

Brain: Pinky, think for a moment. What imbecile would believe a press release coming from a set of experimental laboratory mice? Why the idea is almost as ridiculous as a press release from a student group claiming to speak for the college. No, in order for such an announcement to be taken seriously it must come directly from Hampshire’s administration and Board of Trustees. And in order to secure such an annoucement: Behold, the Hypno-Hat!

Brain pulls off a sheet covering his latest creation: A top hat featuring a spinning hypno-wheel bolted to its brim. Pinky starts staring at the wheel, his head spinning in circles.

Brain: Just a few minutes of exposure to my Hypno-Hat and Hampshire’s Board of Trustees will do whatever I command. And I shall command them to sell off the $437.85 they currently have invested in the state of “Israel”.

Pinky (getting dizzy as he continues to stare at the hat’s spinning disk): That’s great Brain, but why do you have quote marks around “Israel?”

Brain: Never mind that now, Pinky [turning off the hat before his companion falls under its spell]. For tonight we shall achieve the greatest triumph for BDS in ten years.

Pinky: But wait a minute, what about Katie Couric?

Brain: Not CBS, you dolt, BDS: the global movement for boycott, sanctions and divestment against the so-called “Jewish state.”

Pinky: Oh right Brain! Oh wait, no. No. Your hat is really whirly-twirly and everything, but how are you going to get it in front of the entire Hampshire board?

Brain: I’m glad you asked that, Pinky. [Walking towards a computer which he operates with a pair of robot arms typing on the keyboard.] For as we speak, a six-point ballot I have created using my free SurveyChimp subscription is winging its way to every Hampshire student, alumni and teacher, including everyone who has ever visited the Eric Carl Museum. Behold!

Brain’s ballot/survey appears on the screen that reads the following:

We, the Undersigned, agree to the following six point plan for Hampshire College:

· Free beer in the dining hall
· Bongs installed in the public lavatories
· Sabbaticals extended to every month containing the letter R
· An end to ROTC recruitment on campus
· Free Eric Carl finger puppets for each museum visitor

Pinky: I can’t read the sixth point Brain. The print is too tiny.

Brain: Let me magnify it for you friend.

Brain hits another button which zooms in on the tiny print which now reads:

· And we declare The Brain to be the sole, legitimate representative of the Hampshire Student body

Brain: Now let’s see what has transpired since my petition hit Facebook a half an hour ago.

[The screen indicates that the petition has been signed by 800 people.]

Brain: Yes! The student body has unanimously declared me their spokesmouse. And tomorrow we will present our demands to the Hampshire Board of Trustees!

Pinky: Oh, nummy!

Go to Part 2