Why Won’t Jewish Leaders Fight BDS?
Press reports about the dinner in Washington last week honoring Abe Foxman’s 50 years as head of the ADL had the White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough thanking Abe for attacking me over our full-page ad in The New York Times about Susan Rice and the Rwandan genocide, and the Obama Administration’s overtures to a nuclear Iran. I’ve already apologized to Susan about the ad, and if Abe feels the need to be a defender of this White House on Iran, that’s his prerogative.
I respect Abe, find him to be a gentleman and a great servant of the Jewish people, amid our honest disagreements. I wish him well in his retirement and I’m sure he will continue to fight for the interests of our people.
But his comments to The New York Times on Sunday about BDS definitely requires a response.
The Times did a lead story about the savaging of Israel on campus with the metastasizing BDS movement. Amazingly, Abe said that “an overwhelming majority of Jewish students felt safe on campus.” He then added this: “I think the Jewish community has responded to what it sees as a crisis.” BDS, he added, was “concerning but not existential.”
Abe, it’s time you got out of your D.C. bunker.
Jewish students are feeling increasingly intimidated on campus. Many are afraid to sport yarmulkes. Even the female Jewish Stanford student highlighted in The New York Times story, Molly Horwitz, “felt compelled to remove pro-Israel references from her Facebook page before she ran for the student senate.”
When Jewish students fear any public association with Israel in order to run for student government you know we’re in trouble.
Abe is absolutely wrong on BDS. The Jewish community has absolutely not responded to the challenge of BDS. UCLA has 5000 Jewish students. But they could not stop a BDS resolution from passing. As The New York Times reported, Hillel on campus advised its students not to attend the BDS vote so as not to legitimize it. Too late boys. BDS is mainstream. The only choice today is to fight it.
My son Mendy attends NYU where there are 8000 Jewish undergraduates. Yet Hillel has essentially lost the battle for hearts and minds about Israel on campus. After Mahmoud Abbas got repeated standing ovations for accusing Israel of mass slaughter at the beginning of the academic year, Israeli Arab MK and rabid Israel hater Haneen Zoabi closed out the year with a mass lecture two weeks ago to hundreds of students, followed a few days later by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Yet of the few high profile pro-Israel speakers of international caliber to respond were Elie Wiesel and Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor which our own World Values Network brought to speak.
Zoabi spoke on a Friday night. My son Mendy gave up Shabbos at home with his family to lead a protest against the terror apologist who called the murderers of the three Israeli teens last summer, “freedom fighters.” Mendy and the friends who joined him had security called on them by the Students for Justice in Palestine organizers numerous times as they tried to evict them. It went to the top of NYU security who affirmed the policy that Mendy was allowed to be there to conduct a silent protest.
Mendy and his friends stood with Israeli flags throughout Zombie’s presentation and, frustrated at their chutzpa, she attacked them verbally, in front of her entire audience, as “Stupid.” Mendy was told at one point that if he did not leave he should fear someone following him home who might kill him.
While a few of the students left in the face of these threats and intimidation, the rest remained and proudly stood with Israel while she assailed the Jewish State.
The mystery remains: where was Hillel to organize a protest in response? How was Zoabi allowed to attack the Jewish State at a University with 8,000 Jewish students without a muscular show of Jewish pride and resolve?
Many Jewish activists fear calling out Hillel for their inaction on campuses even as they continue to raise millions of dollars in the name of Israel defense for fear of being publicly attacked. After I published a public call for Hillel to finally engage the Israel haters at NYU, two nominally pro-Israel students began to condemn me in Jewish publications armed with emails between me and Hillel that had been provided by the organization.
In addition, secret emails were sent out by Hillel to its major supporters disparaging me.
Sorry guys. I’m not the enemy.
Students for Justice in Palestine, whose purpose it is to economically destroy the State of Israel, is the enemy. Mahmoud Abbas who falsely accuses Israel of genocide is the enemy, as are all who fraudulently charge the Jews with blood libels. Haneen Zoabi who uses her perch in the Knesset to destroy Israel’s free, democratic institutions is the enemy. And Iran, which publicly proclaims its intent at Israel’s annihilation, is the enemy.
Save your fire for them and stop directing it at defenders of the Jewish State.
At the Republican Jewish Coalition Conference in Las Vegas a few weeks back, one of the students who attacked me was on a BDS panel. But immediately following the panel a courageous Israeli academic currently at Berkeley named Natan Nestel aired shocking footage of Hillel’s attempts to both promote JStreet on campus, as well as silence critics who call them out for not doing enough to fight for Israel on campus.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of courageous, dogged, and determined Hillel directors throughout the United States who disagree with Abe Foxman and understand that fighting BDS is the great American Jewish calling of our time. They know their students are being harangued and intimidated and they fight back. They inspire Jewish students to stand up publicly for Israel and they are not ashamed to stand with the Jewish state amid the controversy that ensues.
Still, if we are to defeat BDS – and we must – it will require a determined Jewish resolve to fight back on campus and devote our resources to fighting the Israel-haters rather than those who are devoting their lives to Israel’s defense.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom Newsweek and The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.