The Answer to BDS is Jewish Power

December 23, 2013 1:41 am 20 comments

The entrance to the Aida Palestinian refugee camp. A writer on the website of the “U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel” compares the situation of Aida with the bombing by the German Luftwaffe of the Basque city of Guernica in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. In its quest to portray the Palestinians as the most oppressed people on earth, there are few comparisons to which BDS proponents won’t stoop, writes columnist Ben Cohen. Photo: Mrbrefast via Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – On a virtual stroll through the website of the “U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel”—a deeply unpleasant experience, I should add—I came across an article that drew an analogy I hadn’t encountered before. Intellectually ludicrous and morally ugly, the writer compared the situation of Aida, a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem, with the bombing by the German Luftwaffe of the Basque city of Guernica in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War.

The Aida camp is not the most luxurious place on earth, yet it is far from being the worst. Its residents don’t live in tents, but in proper housing that clusters tightly around dilapidated-looking streets, a common enough sight across the developing world, and certainly far better conditions than prevail in large parts of Africa or Asia. By contrast, the bombing of Guernica—the subject of a famous Picasso painting—was one of the true horrors of the 20th century. The destruction wrought by German bombers, wrote George Steer, a British journalist who witnessed it firsthand, was “unparalleled in military history.” Steer described the human cost of the raid in plain terms: “In a street leading downhill from the Casa de Juntas I saw a place where 50 people, nearly all women and children, are said to have been trapped in an air raid refuge under a mass of burning wreckage… When I entered Guernica after midnight houses were crashing on either side, and it was utterly impossible even for firemen to enter the centre of the town.”

Here, in a nutshell, is why Jews are so rightly infuriated by the movement to boycott Israel. In its quest to portray the Palestinians as the most oppressed, downtrodden people on the face of this earth, there are few comparisons to which Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) proponents won’t stoop, no matter how outlandish—whether that’s the parallel with Guernica, or the Holocaust, or apartheid South Africa, or the slander that what Israel has done to the Palestinians approximates a genocide.

The moral vacuum at the core of the BDS movement has again come to the fore since the American Studies Association (ASA), an academic body with 5,000 members, revealed that it was signing up to the academic boycott of Israel—the second such announcement in 2013, following the same decision by the Asian American Studies Association in April. A third academic group, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, has now also joined the Israel boycott. What has stood out, unfortunately, in the media coverage of ASA’s shameful decision is not the fact that less than 1,000 ASA members supported the boycott, in a vote that attracted only one quarter of the entire membership, or the rank hypocrisy of boycotting Israel, given the slaughter that has consumed Syria next door. Instead, we are left with the sense that the boycott is a bold new initiative that will, as a New York Times headline put it, be regarded as a “symbolic sting” to Israel.

There is, however, another way of looking at this. And that requires us to remember that the academic boycott wasn’t launched this month, but ten years ago. And while its activities have roiled universities in the U.K., Europe, South Africa and Australia, it has signally failed to become a mass movement. We should be heartened by the knowledge that Israel’s robust economy and the first-class academic reputation of its universities have easily withstood this propaganda onslaught. Moreover, the American Association of University Professors, the closest thing in this country to a representative body of academics, has roundly rejected the boycott as an assault on academic freedom.

I don’t point those facts to make the case that we shouldn’t be worried—we should be. There is no room for complacency in the face of a movement whose worldview is rooted in the struggle against Jewish sovereignty in much the same way that the Nazis saw the Jews, or the communists saw the bourgeoisie, as the ultimate enemy. But in fighting the academic boycott and BDS more generally, we should not lose awareness of the power we 21st-century Jews have, nor our ability to wield it.

Hence, let’s by all means ridicule the pretensions of the BDS movement to be a latter-day incarnation of the movement against apartheid in South Africa. Let’s not hesitate in pointing out its failures. At the same time, let’s not permit it to mushroom because we don’t think it’s a threat. Both Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg have pulled out of ASA since the boycott was announced, and we should push for a similar outcome in the case of similar initiatives. Much as some Jews are uncomfortable with acknowledging this reality, we have the power to harass, frustrate, and crush the BDS movement wherever it appears. Let us do so without mercy.

Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for JNS.org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Ha’aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications.

20 Comments

  • I visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and was profoundly moved. Hoever having seen the exhibits on the Warsaw ghetto, I have to question how can the israeli people stand over the ghettoisation of Palestinians, especially the blockade of Gaza. Mans inhumanity to his fellow man

    • You forget that this “ghettoization” was the direct result of a coup d’etat by Hamas who refused to honor the prior PA-Israel security agreements on cross-border relations. Hamas, after butchering, exiling or imprisoning most of its political opponents, went on to fire rockets and mortors not at nearby Israeli military bases but at kindergartens and farms and houses. The blockade of Gaza was the direct result of this escalation of Palestinian war crimes, and was ruled lawful by the U.N.’s Palmer Commission which said this was a necessary response to Gaza’s incessant warfare against Israel.

  • But wait, I thought the idea that Jews, such a small percentage of the population, wield a great deal of power, is just an anti-semitic trope?

  • BDS stands for BULLDUST DUMMIES SPROUTING [crap]

  • Anti Semitism rearing its ugly head again.

  • Rashed Al-Sa`ed, Associate Prof. Sanitary & Environ. Engnrng., Birzeit University

    U.S. Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel:
    “In fighting the academic boycott and BDS more generally, we should not lose awareness of the power we 21st-century Jews have, nor our ability to wield it”
    Mixing up terms and truth twisting to generate sympathy with Jews e.g. : Nazis and the Jews
    Aida Palestinian refugee camp & German Luftwaffe
    Jews and BDS
    AAUP boycott and academic freedom
    The rocket is this “We [Jews, Israel] have the power [nuclear] to harass, frustrate, and crush [how smooth] the BDS movement [members] wherever it appears. Let us do so without mercy.”

    • Yes it is a great idea to crush the idea of a Palestinian nation sandwiched between the lowlands and the Jordan. Most of WB should go back to Jordan. If they want a Palestinian province let them negotiate with Abdullah.

  • An entirely misplaced notion of Jewish power is the ridiculous assumption that only Jews can define the nature of the opposition. We’ve been blabbing for decades about the Palestinians and have become so lazy to the concept that maybe, just maybe it’s time for all people to speak for themselves.
    The author has stupidly applied this presumptuous laziness with classic Judaic hysteria and has completely missed the nature of the boycotts against the Israel. Instead we hear absolute nonsense about some mythical innate hate the world has towards Jews and not one observation about the occupation. With the blatantly obvious recognition that occupiers of any kind are usually perceived as ugly despicable people.
    I have only three words for the author.
    Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

    This one eyed selfishness of the Jew centric arrogance will lead us all to Masada Vers. 2.0. The answer to BDS is the revival of Jewish Universalism. Something we stupidly forgot along the way to our silly fetish with military power.
    BDS people understand that never again means never again for all people. They are more Jewish than us.

    • the”occupyied territories” first, in 1967 Israel reacted after the arab countries closed the Tyran detroi at the south of th red sea, an the egyptians through away the UN soldiers posted in the Sinaie desert and they sent their own army. besides, in the north,Syria concentrated its army on the frontier.All these acts where offensive acts clearly directed against Israel. These have a name in international law:”Casus Belli”. All this justified the rapid reaction of Israel.
      Let me remind to who may have foprgotten, or did not know: the so called “frontier” of 1967 has never been a frntier but a cease fire line signed in 1949 with the 6 belligerant arab countries that opened fire against the new Israel state as soon as the UNO decided of the partition:two states for two people.
      considering the fact that the line of 1967 was not a frontier, Israel has the rihgt to keep some of the conquered land.The majority of Jourdan’s population is palestinians,why don’t the west bank palestinians join them?
      personnally, I am against Israel’s total domination over the territories where there is a majority of palestinians,Israerl may loose its jewish sprcification. Many, like myself do not want a bi-national state

    • Thank you for writing this intelligent response to Mr. Cohen.

  • I thought ASA academia is seat of knowledge, enlightenment & fair-thinking but alas one can make a mistake. Nowadays “academia “has sunk into a morass of unbridled ignorance, dishonesty, lies and with Arab money
    branching out into a branch of hatred against Israel & the Jews. ASA has shown by it BDS that it has become a follower of Hitler-s 1935 Nurenberg’s Anti Jewish laws. What next burning academic books by Jewish authors. A sad time for so called seats of “learning”.

  • People need to emphasize that anyone who compares what is happening with the Palestinians to what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany is ignorant of the nature of Nazi Germany, the nature of the Palestinian issue, or both.

    Telling professors and academics to their faces that their behavior reflects ignorance is about as damning as you can get.

  • Wallace Edward Brand, JD Harvard, 1957

    Are Israel’s Arabs Deprived or Just Radicalized: http://www.meforum.org/3423/israel-arabs-deprived-radicalized See what Professor Karsh has to say.

  • You offer valuable insight here. The historical perspective is most often overlooked, particularly when it comes to BDS. Reminding ourselves that this issue has been going on for generations reaffirms that there are many – of all different ethnicities – that see through the fallacies of the BDS assertions.

    I would add that our other strengths will always come from putting the humane and ethical at the forefront of our own actions. Those are lessons learned from Israel’s earliest wars. The world will then see that those who support the BDS movement is waging a PR campaign that just doesn’t match up to the terrorist attacks coming out of Gaza.

  • I have reached out to Algemeiner in the past to promote student participation both in the United States, Israel and other countries in participating in the Saving Hallowed Ground Monument Education and Preservation program.

    Engaging our youth in learning about our Living History Memorials and learning to provide hands on conservation care for these important sites, all the while sharing their stories with students in other countries…will foster a subtle diplomacy and grounding that is greatly needed.
    Again I hope to hear back from Algemeiner in order to continue discussing and hopefully begin this important out reach effort.
    Respectfully,
    Eugene Saving Hallowed Ground

  • it’s a Sisyphean task overcoming “the hatred that will not die.” you may want to visit SussexFriendsofIsrael on Facebook. At an Ecostream store in Brighton, England, an Israeli company that manufactures home systems to help the environment, employs Palestinian Arabs in its facilities.Brits wrapping themselves in Jew hatred, not bothering with any facts picket the store on a regular basis, videos of their hatred visible on FB attest to this.And here come some decent people SFI trying to make a difference.

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