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.

Clip Show 5: Et tu J-Street

With Hampshire’s BDS conference fading into insignificance, I wanted to wrap up the clip-show consolidation of information on that event with my last two entries on the subject. This one appeared the day before the Hampshire meeting when J-Street came out condemning BDS in general, and the Hampshire event in particular. Now there’s a lot to be said about J Street (which a friend of mine is saying), but I still consider it interesting how loathesome BDS has become that condemning it is a way for even contraversial groups to prove their alleged support for the Jewish state.

Oh, and I was wrong about the J Street statement being ignored by the Hamshire BDS-ites. So bereft of real victories are they that they talked incesssently about the statement, claiming it was proof positive that their ultimate triumph is assured. Dream on…

Well the Hampshire BDS conference begins tonight (be still my heart). Yet even as the divestment “juggernaut” keeps careening between defeat and hoax, the only thing that seems to be gaining momentum is the backlash against what will be discussed during the boycotter’s upcoming Sabbath celebration.

Academic boycott seems to particularly strike a nerve here in the US with organizations like the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers not only rejecting the notion in the US, but condemning fellow unions in other countries for even considering such an assault on academic freedom.

Think about San Francisco State College for a minute. Here is a school in which administration indifference has allowed Israel-hatred to reach such a fevered pitch that mobs hurling death threats against pro-Israel demonstrators are treated as free-speech practitioners. Yet even here, the President of SF State has seen fit to condemn BDS as “deeply wrong – and deeply dangerous.” On the academic boycott in particular, she says: “An academic boycott is a wrongheaded tactic that diminishes any institution that would pursue it,” Corrigan wrote. “It is antithetical to this University’s values of inclusion and mutual respect … An academic boycott is anathema to such civil discourse.”

Disgust with BDS has even reached the corridors of J Street, a lobbying organization that has drawn considerable controversy for the distance between its self-proclaimed identity as “pro-Israel” and its political stances that many claim are at odds with the security needs of the Jewish state. J Street has protested Israel’s actions in Gaza. It has lobbied against sanctions being placed on Iran. It has condemned the US Congress for its rejection of the Goldstone Report. Yet even J Street condemned BDS generally, and the upcoming Hampshire conference specifically.

Given the difficulty of characterizing SF State and J Street as “right-wing Zealots,” these latest setbacks are likely to be ignored as the Hampshire SJPians begin their “March to Victory” weekend celebrations and poetry readings. But it is intriguing to think about why BDS is receiving such widespread rejection on the furthest edges of both ends of the political spectrum.

One possible explanation is that people are starting to realize that actual (vs. fantasy) divestment and boycott comes at a cost. Particularly in the case of academic boycott, a boycotting school would have to formally place itself outside of the consensus regarding the free exchange of ideas. Now it’s one thing to stand back while a bunch of Jewish students get attacked by a mob on your campus, but to have your face plastered in the newspapers as supporting an end to academic dialog for political reasons is too much even for the leadership of San Francisco State.

There also seems to be a trend whereby controversial organizations (like J Street) use their condemnation of BDS to prove their pro-Israel bone fides. To a certain extent, this is meant to insulate them from criticism for their other activities, but it does say something that BDS is understood as being so loathsome that condemnation of boycott would be considered a safe choice for a political fig leaf.

The last possibility is reflected in a boldfaced line in the J Street condemnation against BDS: “we’re all going to get burned unless we speak out now.” Ever aware of the latest political barometric pressure readings, J Street understands that BDS is a big, fat loser, and rather than go down with the ship supporting a strategy that is not only loathsome but so bereft of victories that it has to invent some, they’ve taken the safe route of placing divestment beyond the pale.

Clip Show – Buycott, Invest, Celebrate!

I decided to take my response to last weekend’s Hampshire BDS yak-fest to a friend’s blog, which is why there’s been less about that event here at Divest This! Just so all of the info I’ve been gathering or creating on BDS is in one place, I’ve decided to re-post those messages here over the next few days. (And yes, those of you who realize it’s a long holiday weekend will recognize this as the equivalent of one of the holiday clip shows we remember from TV series of our youth.)

So without any further ado, it’s time to Buycott! Invest! and Celebrate!

I was going to celebrate Israel’s fantastic October, during which the country attracted a phenomenal 1.25 billion in new foreign investment (not bad during an economic downturn).

And given that those pikers peddling their boycott, divestment and sanctions wares were able to convince themselves that TIAA-CREF selling a measly $250,000 in Israeli real-estate stock was a major vindication of their cause (even though CREF let it be known that their sale had nothing to do with politics), by following the BDS rulebook I guess I can claim that support for Israel (as demonstrated by investment levels) has outstripped hostility towards the Jewish state (as demonstrated by divestment “success” – even if only imagined) by a factor of 500,000%.

But why quibble with these statistics when anecdotes can suffice to demonstrate divestment’s track record as an L-O-S-E-R of late?

After all, as I describe here and here, the BDS “juggernaut” can’t even pull off tricking an LA teacher’s union into swallowing their poison. And given that the only institution in America that rivals Evangelical Christians in their deep attachment to the Jewish state is the US Labor movement (which would explain why they keep that giant bronze statue of Golda Meir in the lobby of AFL-CIO headquarters), I’m not quite sure where all the excitement about “divestment ascendant” is coming from.

But I guess my favorite recent tale was about the failure of the usual suspects to get the New York Mets to cancel a fund raiser for the Jewish denizens of Hebron. I mean come on! A fund-raiser for the dreaded Settlers (Bogga! Bogga! Booga!) in the heart the most blue and green city in America, and the BDSniks can’t even get the Mets to lend their cause anything beyond a “F*ck y*u very much for your concern” letter?! (Oh, for an interrobang.)

I’ve heard that aptly named “movement” (i.e., the divestment brigade) will be gathering at the scene of last February’s hoax: Hampshire College for a weekend celebration of their wonderfulness. So what better time to highlight the failures of said movement over the next week here at my favoritist of all Web sites, Solomonia.

Stay tuned…

BDS: Taking Down “Giants”

I had the chance to swing by the Five College area last weekend when the Hampshire BDS conference was taking place. In addition to a quick run through the sleepy Hampshire campus (home of not just Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine, but also the Eric Carle Museum), I had the chance to meet with a bunch of students who have been at the forefront of battling not just divestment, but a whole host of anti-Israel activities that take place on a regular basis throughout the Happy Valley.

As has been reported for the last decade or two, campus supporters of Israel have it pretty tough these days. While support for Israel across the country still ranges in the 70-80% range, a large part of that other 20-30% seems to be concentrated on college campuses. And in places like Amherst and Northampton, significant numbers of school anti-Israel organizations are supplemented by a community beyond the campus who share their views, creating a zeitgeist whereby hostility to the Jewish state is “in” and any other attitude is marginalized or shunned.

In certain locations (notably the Five College area and certain Californian and Canadian campuses), the situation has gotten so bad that threats, physical intimidation and even violence accompany social ostracism directed at those who may not share the Free Palestine/Israel Apartheid/BDS agenda. While the cops haven’t been required to save Hampshire kids from threatening mobs yet, there have already been cases of students leaving Hampshire because of the toxic atmosphere created by militant hoaxers like Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine.

Given a situation more unpleasant than anything I remember from my college days, I was curious as to learn how local Israel supporters were holding up, and was thrilled to find out that they are not only holding their own, but they have only begun to fight.

For example, I was surprised to discover that hostility to Israel has been allowed to pollute nearly every level of academic discourse. After dodging a SJP pat-down next to a cardboard “Apartheid Wall,” one would think the classroom would serve as a refuge, but apparently tales of Israeli brutality (sans facts and context, of course) are regularly dragged into there as well.

But one student, who was clearly appalled at having to deal with ugly “aren’t the Israelis behaving like the Nazi’s” accusations (in a Holocaust history class no less), told how he took it upon himself to correct the record and fight the good fight whenever the Middle East conflict was dragged into yet another inappropriate venue. Asked how he felt about having to deal with such rubbish on a day-to-day basis, he simply proclaimed that he was ready to continue to fight for what’s right until the day he died.

In addition to their courage in the face of hostile and aggressive critics, this group was also impressive in their humility and humanity. There are certainly some people I work with who have legitimate issues with interfaith and inter-community outreach (especially when it’s designed to limit what Jewish groups can do on campus while leaving Israel defamers free to pursue BDS or any other agenda they like). But at the same time, it says something about the hearts of Israel’s Happy Valley supporters that they choose not to grow bitter about what’s been going on at Hampshire and elsewhere, but continue to combine their readiness to fight for the good with a willingness to reach out to others, even those uninterested in outreach (for now).

Do these young men and women have all the answers? Of course not. Do they need help (especially from those of us who are interested in listening to what they have to say, rather than just telling them what they should do)? Certainly.

But we should keep in mind that in addition to knowing who’s who and what’s what on their own campuses, these folks have already demonstrated that proud Jews and Zionists, friends and supporters of Israel cannot and have not been cowed by loud mobs with shriveled souls whose only offer false history, fake victories and hatred for the Jewish state masquerading as humanitarian concern for the Palestinians.

History is replete with tales of small armies defeating much larger ones. In fact, what is Jewish and Israeli history if not a tale of winning out over overwhelming odds? And unlike the opposition, the group of kids I met with isn’t going to waste time celebrating their wonderfulness, and talking about being a generation of giants. Rather, they seem content with rolling along as happy warriors who, like David, are ready to bring giants to heel in the morning while praying for peace before they hit the sack (with, I hope, a fair amount of cold pizza and beer in between).