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February 22, 2015 3:10 pm

As Stanford Falls to BDS, It’s Time to Strike Back

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

Email a copy of "As Stanford Falls to BDS, It’s Time to Strike Back" to a friend

Photo: Mohamed Ouda via Wikimedia Commons.

The dominoes are falling one by one. The student governments of major and highly prestigious universities, comprised of giant Jewish student populations, are voting to divest from major companies doing business with Israel.

The latest to succumb is Stanford University, who this past Tuesday voted in favor of BDS. Stanford, with its large Jewish student body, is a particular blow seeing as it is such a very important university in the world in relation to hi-tech and the internet as well as the large and influential Jewish presence in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area.

How can this be happening, especially when the SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) groups who loudly influence the passing of these resolutions usually number fewer than a hundred members at their Universities?

Take UCLA, which voted in favor of BDS a few months back. There are more than 3,000 Jewish students there. Could they really have allowed their elected student government to vote so unjustly?

There’s an old joke about the professor who was asked, “What is worse? Ignorance or apathy?” To which he replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Ignorance and apathy are infecting the Jewish student body politic and allowing Israel to be defamed on campus.

Let’s begin with apathy.

Many Jewish students take it at face value that Israel is an occupying power in the West Bank, and that there may therefore be some merit to BDS.

What they don’t know is that there never was a Palestinian state on the West Bank to occupy. It was land that was part of the British mandate that was seized illegally by Jordan in 1948 and annexed illegally, with only three governments, Britain, Pakistan, and Iraq recognizing the annexation. When Israel conquered the land in a defensive war in 1967 (and no one disputes that King Hussein’s attack of Israel in the war was wholly unprovoked) its status continued as a disputed territory.

True, the oft-cited United Nations Resolution 242 called for the “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” But it did not say from which territories (Israel has already given land back nearly four times its size in Sinai and Gaza). It also said that such withdrawal had to be linked to a comprehensive peace settlement. Clearly, with Israel’s neighbors calling for its annihilation, and with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority financing and sending terrorists to murder Israelis, there has been no peace agreement.

In the wake of the Oslo Accords, there has been political autonomy for 97% of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, which begs its own questions about how Palestinians are faring under Mahmoud Abbas’ rule as compared to under Israel. Certainly, the lack of any Palestinian democracy – Abbas is in his tenth year of a four year term – and the harsh penalties for speaking out against Abbas, including imprisonment for criticism of his dictatorship, and the kleptocracy of hundred of millions of dollars going to him, his sons, and his cronies, is a serious violation of Palestinian rights. And certainly the Palestinians living under Hamas control are up a creek, what with its brutal assassinations of all political opponents, honor killings of women, and executions of gays, among countless other human rights abuses.

But even if we were to take the most extreme definition of occupation, the question would arise why there is no BDS movement against, say, China, who have been occupying Tibet since 1950, 17 years longer than Israel. Here we get repeated lies from the likes of Mahmoud Abbas who said at The Cooper Union to 1,000 mostly NYU students that “we are the only people living under occupation.” Avi Shlaim, the Israel-Oxford academic, lied outright in my debate with him at Oxford in November of last year when he said that the Israeli “occupation” is the longest in the world. I quickly shot up to correct him and he admitted the error.

But why would Jewish students allow BDS resolutions against Israel when it has one of the most exemplary human rights records of any country on earth, especially given the level of existential threat it faces daily? Where are the boycotts of Syria, which has killed more than 150,000 Arabs; Saudi Arabia, with its vile racism, misogyny, and exportation of radical Islamic teachings across the globe; Egypt, who in recent years have sentenced hundreds of people to death in the wake of its revolution, including 183 people in just one day; or any of Israel’s dictatorial neighbors that trample on human rights in the most extreme way.

How about Jordan, which has maintained a policy of rejecting and deporting Palestinian refugees from Syria, while simultaneously allowing a few hundred thousand Syrian nationals to take refuge there. And what of Lebanon who in 2001 stripped its few hundred thousand Palestinian residents of the right to own property or pass it on to their descendants and banned them from employment as lawyers and doctors along with more than 20 other professions. Or how about Kuwait who in 1991 uprooted some 250,000 Palestinians from their homes and expelled them from that country. The list goes on. Is there no BDS movement for them? Is it just for the Jews?

Which brings us to the question of Jewish apathy in regards to the slander and demonization of the State of Israel, and the attempts to destroy it by any means possible.

How do we get Jewish students to be invested in protecting Israel and understanding the magnitude of the threat it faces?

What is clear from the BDS resolutions currently riling American campuses is that the existing American Jewish student organizations are not equipped to fight BDS. Many Hillel directors have approached us and candidly shared their conundrum: they fear that openly and aggressively defending Israel will alienate students not favorably disposed to the Jewish State. It is our responsibility to show them that, to the contrary, proud defense of Israel is the best way to inspire Jewish identity and commitment in students.

The Jewish community must launch large-scale and well-coordinated programs that can turn the tide on campus and reclaim the narrative, Campus Maccabees, if you will, PR blackbelts trained in improving the public perception of Israel. It must begin with “An Israel Defense Bible,” a short manual that gives students concise, clear, and comprehensive information to fight back.

We at This World: The Values Network are committed to creating this handbook. Already, This World has carved a unique niche for itself in global pro-Israel advocacy by hosting world-class events, large-scale media campaigns, live debates, lectures, and conferences, garnering international attention and recognition.

The time has come for each one of us to stand up and defend Israel, the Jewish people, and the universal Jewish values that underpin the western world. The college campus is ground zero.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbis,” whom Newsweek and The Washington Post call “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is an award winning columnist and the international best-selling author of 30 books, including his most recent, “Kosher Lust.” He is founder of This World: The Values Network, the world’s leading organization defending Israel in the media. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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  • Liz Wagner

    Young Jews today were not prepared, as earlier generations of us were, to be fierce and proud of being Jewish. We grew up knowing that the world could be an inhospitable place for Jews, but we were also taught never to feel shame or doubt about being Jewish. With antisemitism being less of a problem than it was in earlier times (at least until recently), most Jewish youth haven’t gone through the negative experiences of prejudice that toughened up previous generations.

    When I was a girl, I had a religious school teacher who, as part of a lesson about the Holocaust, taught us that the whole world could be against the Jews at times, but that we Jews could still be in the right. Just think about how many NY Times stories about Israel you’ve read that say, “The whole world thinks this…but Israel thinks that.” Meanwhile, what “the whole world thinks” is based on some lie or distortion of the truth. According to the Times, the whole world thinks Israel “occupies Palestinian territory.” Yet, it isn’t true, no matter how many times the world says it!

    I think that any attempts to better educate and prepare young Jews to face down anti-Israel opponents must include these kinds of lessons in morale, and morality, in order to help young Jews win more of these fights.


    Thank you, Rabbi. I believe that the President of Harvard overturned a BDS resolution. It’s time for alumi to write their alma maters and tell them they will not donate a penny to any school that has a BDS policy.

  • A.Franklin

    All an escape from studying.

  • David Levy

    Far too many American Jews suffer from the diaspora disease of a deep desire not to offend the goyim, at any cost. Compare them to Israelis, who are proud of who they are and prepared to fight. The diaspora Jews look at Israel and feel shame and embarrassment. This transmutes quickly into anti-Israel feeling, a feeling that these Israelis are not real Jews, because they refuse to bow their heads. This then quickly turns into a feeling that, because they embarrass us, we need to get rid of them. The only antidote is to show pride and strength, something that needs to be demonstrated by the (failed) leadership of the American Jewish community. Sadly, the situation is much the same everywhere in the diaspora, with the Jewish leadership shying away from confronting the anti-semites with knowledge and strength.

  • My suggestion to absolutely everyone who is interested in Israel: read “The Israeli Solution, a One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East” by Caroline Glick. She is an outstanding Journalist and Editor of the Jerusalem Post; she proves without the shadow of a doubt that by International Law, Israel is sovereign over the entire area of the land West of the River Jordan. Since the Treaty of San Remo (1920). What Glcik suggests is that Israel ought to extend the borders of its jurisdiction over Judea and Samaria (what the Arab call the “Westbank”). She goes very thoroughly into the consequences for Israel, for the Palestinians and even Americans. Very thoughtful and provocative. An excellent read, and an education for those who still talk about “occupation.” Israel has sovereignty over these areas!!! Didn’t you get the memo?

    • BH in Iowa

      This is the problem we face. It takes a proactive effort to gather the truth, while the lies are relentlessly blown in everyone’s face like cigarette smoke.

      As a result, too many young Jews now have deeply colonized minds.

  • Pinchas Baram

    I blame the reform movement mainly for its weak, diluted, Quaker-like approach to morality and the rough political realities of life, esp. in the Middle East. its “educators” for decades have been super-progressives preaching Peace at any price, tikkun olam till its coming out of your ears,, the feminization of boys, intermarriage and gay rights, hatred the military and mockery of the Republican party.

    So Shmueli, you are up against it, at Stanford and elsewhere. I say, apply the method of triage– which means recognizing that a good percentage of these non-jewish jews are beyond help. So focus selectively on those who are open to reason and suasion, in short, redeemable.

    but don’t try to “save” every Jew because he has a presumed precious Jewish soul and deep down is a pintele yid. This is Chabad nonsense, and you may still be infected with it. in fact, you and others involved in like efforts (Campus Watch, Hillel, AEPi, etc.) should shun and show visible contempt for any jew seriously involved in the BDS movement against Israel!

  • Mike P

    Yes, Obama was the nail in the coffin for American Jewry and Israel.

    The beautiful people crowd cannot and will never comprehend this.

  • There are many groups already attempting to create these outcomes, but the issues are far more nuanced and challenging than one might might imagine, including the fact that most Jewish students are leery of being in Jewish only programs. We found much higher levels of success by pairing Jewish students with non Jews on low cost fact-finding trips to Israel for diverse students. When they return to campus,non Jewish students make far more persuasive speakers on campus than Jews, who will be seen to have a vested interest. One big problem? Which Jewish community funder wants to fund trips for non Jews? Not many and not in any kind of volume needed to make a dent.

  • steven L

    The Congress must defund any “school” that condones, supports or promotes racism.

  • Naftali

    I disagree with the strategy. We need to be smarter than allowing them to set the terms of the battle. Read the Art of War.

    By raising the stakes and engaging with them, we actually give them voice, prominence, and a sign that their actions are working. Let’s remember that these are the Student Unions that are enacting these resolutions, under a well-directed goal by external forces to hijack the student unions for this purpose. These are not the schools themselves that are divesting.

    We need to IGNORE there people COMPLETELY. They will then do even more outrageous stunts to make their point, thus showing one and all the true anti-Semitic nature of these groups. We have already seen this behaviour in certain situations, and in Durban Technical in South Africa they even went so far as to call for the expulsion of Jews in general.

    The general student population of these schools will soon realize that these people are using their money under false pretences to use their union for their own purposes and certainly not for the mandate of those Student Unions. They will also realize that the action of these people besmirch their school reputation and communicate messages on behalf of their school with which they may not agree.

    We need to reach these students to show them how the SJP and their followers are abusing the democratic process and misusing their office for their own agenda.

    If we fight these idiots on their turf, they win wether the resolution passes or not.

  • CG

    They’re too young to understand that they’re targets whether they approve of Israel or not. No one taught them the importance of Israel’s existence. I hope they don’t learn the hard way.

  • Sofia

    It’s a disgrace for Stanford University falling to BDS, and the apathy of the Jewish Students – It’s hard to grasp, Israel has the smallest country, but has performed miracles with their innovations, their medical discoveries, their inventions helping the whole world.

    What does it take to boycott Israel, we need Israel, it is the only Country that is producing great minds and even the machine that speaks for Stephen Hawkins was made in Israel.
    We need Israel, no wonder India is now a trading partner, soon Israel won’t need USA – and the ignorant University dimwits are the losers.

    Shame on them. Shame on them. I am not Jewish but I admire, and respect and defend the State of Israel.

  • Carla Isselmann

    Never, never ,never give up…keep telling the fantastic story o Israel.
    Give the book: The Source” by James Michener to schools, libraries and churches…

    And offer students summer-camps to spend in Israel and study and work in that wonderful country.
    Counterattack and no single show of apathy.
    never, never ,never give up the fight for truth against EVIL!

  • S. Martinez

    One day, they will realize they were on the wrong side of history.

    • Efram

      If they are still alive to realize it.

  • retired

    These universities & their officials & teachers are being bought with large bribes of Arab money!

    • z

      The money comes from the Vatican/CIA gov mafia. The same gov mafia which decade after decade spawns and sponsors anti-Israel propaganda lies via their propaganda outlets and “NGOs”.

  • judithg

    The Jewish students have not yet had to confront violent, dumb, low brained creatures who only move on instinct. this is because what they are learning is that it is easier to zie shtill and hide in the second row than to push forward and trample on the lies, the vicious canards. rather, to save trouble Jews can simply repeat the anti-Israel mantras and banner slogans of the despicable and the ignorant. or, merely remain silent.
    in fairness, someone should inform these young Jewish students that the Israel being maligned is the democratic,vibrant, diverse start up state of the Jewish people and the Jews they are looking forward to destroying by any means possible are not some other Jews, it’s them.

  • Leo Toystory

    The left-wing progressive Jews of today who, like the useful idiots they are, dump on Israel, are no different whatsoever from the Hellenized Jews of ancient Israel against whom rose the Maccabees. Too bad they cannot be removed from the tribe.

  • brenrod

    the apathetic Jewish students of today will be the first to suffer the resulting anti semitism tomorrow.

    • Martyman39

      Shades of pre-war Germany when the Jews were in denial. The common attitude then was “Schweig Shtil”, Hitler was just a passing phenomenon.

    • Michael Garfinkel

      An admirable article, but let’s face it, two thirds of American Jews, at least, are largely indifferent to the fate of Israel.

      They continue to support Obama, and will again work to defeat presidential candidates who are supportive of Israel.

      Honor and loyalty are not their calling cards.

  • z

    Palestinians? Never heard of these people. Just more Vatican/CIA scripted holographic propaganda lies to deprive us of our national rights.

    • retired

      There were Palestinians,they were all Jews who lived in Mandate Palestine before 1948.

      • z

        Nope. As I said, Vatican/CIA scripted holographic propaganda lies. Jews are Judeans/Israelis. That’s as simple as it gets.

        When you learn to stop acknowledging them and their propaganda, they and their propaganda will wither and die.

  • Rosewood11

    This reminds me of the Chick-Fil-A/Huckabee situation: Let the American public know who exactly is being boycotted, etc. by these people. Just as with Chick-Fil-A, there is a huge contingent of Christians in America who support Israel, and would be happy to deal a blow to the liberal agenda by purchasing Israeli products. We haven’t had the money to do so yet, but a family goal is to purchase a SodaStream now that we know the story of the company. I would also suggest setting up a website in English (I found one in Hebrew, but can’t read it) that features Israeli products–and possibly a print catalog to go along with it. I think you’d be surprised at the amount of support there would be for this among non-Jewish people who support Israel. I know I’d be proud to buy from such a site.

    • Liz Wagner

      If you google “buy Israeli products” you will find a bunch of sites that sell products from Israel. Enjoy.

  • Judaism is changing in America in much the same way it changed in Germany before the onset of Hitler and the Nazis. Regardless of where the Jews have lived, once they sensed real freedom, their shackles of restrictive Orthodox Judaism came off and was never placed back on. Judaism in the USA has become anti Israel for the most part as the Jews feel that support for the Zionist State would diminish their status in the USA.

    There has to be a reason why so many Jewish voters voted for the most anti semitic President in US history, and that includes FDR and Lincoln. On top of that, why have so many Jews donated so many millions of dollars to this occupant in the White House whose support of Islam is so great? What accounts for this madness? Why have so many Jewish Americans forget that the Holocaust ended just 70 years ago, and what happened in Europe in those years can just as easily happen in this country.

    German Jews will tell you that they could not believe a madman like Hitler could have achieved his goal of making Germany and the rest of Europe “Judenrein. After all the German Jews had more freedoms and had accomplished so much just living in Germany. In the end, it really didn’t matter. They still were either exiled, or were sent to Concentration Camps where many died.

    On a trip to Berlin several years ago to the Jewish Museum, there exists an exhibit dedicated to the Mendelssohn Family. Moses Mendelssohn was the foremost Rabbi in Europe and especially in Germany, yet out of 14 children once true emancipation was achieved, 12 converted to Lutheranism almost immediately in their quest to be really accepted as true Germans. Felix Mendelssohn’s father changed his last name from mendelssohn to Bartholdi just to sound even more Christian. This changeover is happening right now in the United States. In 25 or so years, traditional Judaism will be something that one sees on TV or the movies, and with the exception of Chabad, traditional Judaism will cease to exist.

  • nelson marans

    Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is absolutely right in insisting that we make the entire history of the Israeli-Arab conflict available to all college students. Unfortunately some of the problems stem from the professors at these universities who imbue their students with false propaganda against the Jewish state, witness such as the late Edward Said, Noam Chomsky and Rashid Khalidi. Jewish donors should withhold any contributions to universities that tolerate and many times encourage anti-Israel if not anti-Semitic propaganda.

  • Boruch

    Very needed suggestion.

    I had heard that the CAMERA organization is already working with the Hillel organizations on campus….. I am sure that many of the local Chabad houses on campus would also help.

  • tom tuey

    College students, hi-school students, must NOT be
    afraid of muslim bullying….You must stand up to
    them, speak your mindand remember what God said
    to Moses…fear not the face of any man…..mmuslums
    live off the fear of their victims….no fear…no threat..
    Stand firm…do not cave in….be VICTORIOUS….jihadists
    prey on the weak….and cannot…i say CANNOT
    stand up to a person of strength …COWARDS with their faces covered in masks….afraid of being identified..or
    showing the FEAR they feel in their heart….quaking
    and trembling……they know that they serve a false
    prophet….a false god……they know that their end is
    near and they fear that all the promises of their
    heavenly rewards were false…and only used to get
    them to be used in the caliphs quest for power and
    riches….and that is TRUE……all of the promises made
    to them are but lies and propaganda……none of it is
    REAL…..the men whom isil beheaded recently of
    the Coptic Christian faith will rise up in the judgmentand ppoint to their killers and a firey jjudgment awaits
    the killers…there will be No Muhammed….no allah
    to help them then…they will have to answer God for
    their actions and they can blame no one but themselves
    for what they did…..the muslims who are inspiring
    the gullible youth of this country should remember,
    nearly all of the youth who took part in the rebellions
    of the 1960’s did 360s soon after and became part if
    The Establishment, with some exceptions….any…I say
    any law made can be undone….even if u find an
    enclave of sympathy today…tomorrow things WILL
    change and islam/sharia will be HISTORY tomorrow
    when all those kids..get tired of the new “game”..
    How do you jihadist, ever expect to form any thing
    of permanance in the ME or anywhere for that matter?
    If one of you pisses in the wrong direction his brother
    cuts off his hand or head… people are in no
    uncertain terms INSANE! There is no caliphate except
    in the dreams of your lunatic leaders….you are truly
    CARTOON characters……..nothing if any benefit has
    come from the muslim world for hundreds of years..
    Yet you demean Israel for all that they have achieved..
    You speak if death to Israel…But….it will be YOU who
    will fall uponyour own sword when you come against
    Israel…that tiny Nation has cowered you so called
    mighty muslims…thousands of times morennumerous than the peopleo of Israel, they have destroyed every army from your people who has gone against them..
    AND….WILL do so again if you dare try to harm
    them….the PPalestinianshave been shown mmuch
    Mercy by Israel….in that if Israel were of a mind to
    do….Gaza would be but ashes and rubble…..go ahead
    with your lies about how Israel has killed your
    children…Pharo set the last plague in motion and
    all the first bbornof Egypt were killed by the angel
    of death….you have sspokenthe destruction of your
    own people by the lies you have told to the world..
    The end of all this is ddrawing nearer eevery day!
    Lest one of those who you have beheaded rises from
    death and his head rejoins his body to give his
    mouth the words to condemn you for your godless
    cruelties.. TURN away from the bloody paths that
    yyouhave chosen… forgiveness……YOU HAVE
    BEEN TOLD……now act.

  • Judith Mendelsohn Rood

    What also factors in is the activism of Anti-Zionist, Anti-Israel Jewish professors. Progressive and secular, their mission is to disabuse students of the educations they receive in Hebrew schools, camps, and youth organizations. This happens most notably in Israel itself, where Israeli faculty are often the most radical critics of Israel. This is ultimately a Jewish conflict, amplified by Palestinian activists who often deploy Jewish critiques in their activism– thus Jewish support for BDS! Jewish theology plays a part in the issue-tikkun plan itself easily morphs into Social justice progressivism that denies Jewish political sovereignty.

  • Paul Cerar

    Fight back – vote!

  • I am in total agreement with this brilliant Rabbi! We need to learn how to defend ourselves in more ways than guns. Though I do think that the Jews in Europe should be armed if their government can’t protect them.

    Each one us is precious. That we continue to exist with all this hatred is, itself, a miracle. I only wish there were more Jewish leaders following R.Boteach and his assistant, Daniel Abraham.

  • Arthur Roth

    This is only part of the story. President Hessessy’s statement after the student vote eloquently makes clear why the University will not be bound by it – basically because BDS has nothing to do with student welfare, is harmfully divisive, and is inimical to the University’s openness and spirit of free inquiry and quest for truth.

  • Here’s a way to get American Jewish students interested in Israel’s security. Send them to Sderot for a week of fun and luxury and see how they feel about Israel when they get back.

  • Joel

    I fear Rabbi Shmuly is preaching to the converted.

  • david wine

    too late Shmuely, your hollywood mates helped put the nail in the coffin when they supported Obama. You should have opened your mouth then