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May 12, 2015 7:31 am

Why Won’t Jewish Leaders Fight BDS?

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. Photo: Justin Hoch.

Abraham Foxman. Photo: Justin Hoch.

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.

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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.

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  • SARA RIFKA

    WHY WHY WHY …… A BROKEN LETTER……SECULARISM, IS KILLING THE WAY JEWS THINK IN AMERICA , EUROPE AND EVEN IN ISRAEL…..WHY PRAY THEY SAY WHEN A I PHONE, ANDROID OR A THRILLING RIDE OF A BRIGE ON A RUBBER STRING……IT IS THE HUMAN PROBLEM OF STRETCHING BEYOND BELIEF OUR DESIRE TO CHEW UP EVERY THRILL RIDE IN THE WORLD…..THE PRESIDENT OF HILLEL , ALTHOUGH , NOT MY FAVOURITE HAS DONE MANY CORRECT CHANGES IN THE RECENT PAST……PERHAPS MORE TIME IS NEEDED FOR THE RIPPLE OF GOOD THOUGHT AND RIGHT ACTION TO TAKE PLACE….AND , IT WILL…..COUNT ON IT..
    OBAMA, AMERICA AND SO MANY MORE UNDERMINE THE GOOD….AND WHY NOT…..’BIG BUCKS’…..BEFORE YOU CHANT HATRED TO HILLEL……KEEP YOU HOME CLEAN OF DIRTY TALK…..IMPROPER ACTIONS AND THEN SEND YOUR KIDS OUT INTO THE WORLD….THE BUCK BEGINS AT HOME…..YOUR ACTIONS AFFECT ALL AND THE LACT OF ACTION IS WORSE.
    PERHAPS IF YOUR READ THE ARTICLE OF COLLEGES HAVING A HUGE NUMBER OF ALIEN STUDENTS FROM COUNTRIES OF HATE AND CHALLENGE THEN MAYBE THE WORLD WOULD LOOK DIFFERENT.
    WE ARE IN CHARGE OF OUR WALK…….

  • Edward Beck

    Having fought BDS on campus since 2003, I can say with first hand knowledge that the Jewish establishment in general has operated woefully inadequately in terms of changing hearts and minds of people against Israel because they have misunderstood campus culture realities and dynamics. People with no gravitas or standing on campus have acted as if storming the bastille and making demands of students, professors and administrators would stop the rising chorus of BDS drums. I have been at this long enough to know that most Jewish leaders, professionals and major donors don’t have a clue how to strategically and successfully address the issue other than to make statements and ask for more money. When the Jewish community really wants to get serious about fighting BDS on campus, they know where to find me. As long as non-academics are running the anti-BDS show, the longer it will go and persist.

  • Candace Crum

    My suggestion that instead of fighting the BDS protestors that members of Hillel take a look at the far Right Government in Israel that is currently planning more settlements in The West Bank, that has been quoted as calling Palestinians “beasts, not humans” and has appointed a Justice Minister who has called for the genocide of Palestinians.

    I am not anti-Semetic…I am anti-settlement.

    • Robert Weintraub

      When have you protested Chinese settlements in Tibet or Russian settlements in Estonia?

      • Candace Crum

        As long as the US supports Israel to the tune of 3 billion a year I will comment all I want.

    • SARA RIFKA

      NO YOUR ANTI SEMETIC…….IF YOU READ THE BALFOR AGREEMENT AND THE ORIGINAL PLANS…..ISRAEL LOST THE BATTLE OF THEIR GIFT BECAUSE OF WHINING ARABS……READ IT AGAIN…..

      BRITIAN IS AN UGLY COUNTRY AND NEVER CARED ABOUT ISRAEL….AND,,,,,,YOU SEEM NOT TO CARE EITHER…

      HAVE A GOOD DAY……

  • Why won’t Jewish leaders fight BDS?

    Why won’t Jewish leaders fight Christian missionary organizations that specialize in targeting Jews for conversion to Christianity?

    • esther noodelman

      FIRST OF ALL,MISS CRUMB,THE WHOLE LITTLE LAND IS OURS-CHECK YOUR HISTORY.SECONDLY,SINCE THERE IS RAMPANT TERRORISM BY OUR ONCE SUPPOSED PIECE PARTNERS..BY USING CLEAVERS,AXES,CAR TERRORISM INOUR ONLY DEMOCRACY IN THE MIDDLE EAST, OUR LEADERS ARE BEGINNING TO “GET IT” ,THAT THEY WANT OUR GOD GIVEN LAND TO BE DEVELOPED AS IT SHOULD BE BY ITS RIGHTFUL OWNERS,THE JEWS. SPEW YOUR POISON ELSEWHERE.ANTI-SEMITISM IS TOXIC!

      • Candace Crum

        That is an outlandish opinion. If you think the rest of the world will agree with you you will be disapointed.

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