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April 12, 2016 11:08 am

Major International Anti-BDS Conference Concludes in Los Angeles

avatar by Andrew Pessin

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Photo: StandWithUs.

Photo: StandWithUs.

An international coalition representing more than 50 Jewish and pro-Israel advocacy groups came together in Los Angeles this weekend to strategize about the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Hosted by pro-Israel educational organization StandWithUs, the conference — called “Combating The Boycott Movement Against Israel” and attended by several hundred students, professors, professionals and others — featured two days of lectures, panels and strategy sessions, with a keynote address by famed Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz. The various sessions focused on BDS and its ramifications in different areas, including on campus, in the legal arena, churches, community, business and culture.

Regarding one session, devoted to the “money trail,” the president of Israel-based watchdog organization NGO Monitor Gerald Steinberg, told The Algemeiner: “In some areas we challenge BDS on the one-to-one level, or the retail level, by debating BDS advocates directly, or by countering them on campus. But what we are doing is looking at them wholesale, trying to discover just who is funding the various groups behind the BDS movement.”

Another session, on the campus situation, featured several professors from Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, which describes itself as a “community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues,” talking about the corrosive and divisive impact of the BDS movement on campus norms, climate, and civility.

A third session discussed progress in passing anti-BDS laws over the past year. “We’ve gone from zero states with such legislation,” said Jacob Millner of the Israel Project, “to seven states having passed bills, another seven with bills pending, and several more actively considering legislation.”

Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, outlined how this has complemented campus strategies. “Showing campus BDS activists that they can’t win on the higher level, that no universities will endorse BDS lest they end up losing state funds or otherwise break the law, demoralizes them,” he said. “Plus, some student government leaders aspire to higher public office when they graduate. They might think twice about endorsing BDS on campus when it might come back to haunt them when they later run for public office.”

One theme repeatedly stressed throughout the conference, held at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, was the necessity for the pro-Israel community to forge alliances with other groups. Success on that front was described by David Walker, of Christians United For Israel, who had recently led a group of 35 African-American leaders on a fact-finding trip to Israel. “Students for Justice in Palestine tries to connect the suffering of African Americans with that of Palestinians, forging what is ultimately a dubious emotional connection to mobilize people against Israel,” he said. “To the contrary we remind our constituents of the great pro-Israel legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as the shared history of Jews and African-Americans working together to advance civil rights.”

StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein, who pointed to a pro-BDS strategizing conference being held simultaneously in Ramallah, in the Palestinian Authority, said, “We believe that the best way to beat BDS, this latest threat to Israel, is to unite, educate ourselves, develop effective and coordinated strategies and form a network of committed professionals and volunteer activists.”

In closing remarks, Dershowitz noted how much he had learned from the various sessions, including from the many students present. “I feel rejuvenated and optimistic that we will win this battle against BDS, when I see the passion, intelligence and love of Israel here,” he said.

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  • I really enjoyed the article. Was every informative and helpful. I am relatively new to what BDS has been doing through-out the world. I have read some very good articles about BDS in the Friends of Zion magazine. I will keep looking at for more information and updates.

  • harri

    the funders of BDS need to be exposed

  • Will there be a publication of articles at the conference?

    Does anyone have a document that would be useful for parents of pre-college and college students that prepares them for the BDS problems they may face on a college campus?

    • Aliza

      Everything is available. Contact Stand With Us.
      The contact information is at standwithus dot com

  • Jack Minker, Professor Emeritus

    Are the talks going to be published?

    Does anyone know of a document that provides information in one place, oriented for pre-college and college students to prepare them for BDS problems they may have on college campus?

  • stevenl

    The “war” has to be brought to the US and EU academia nest of the Libero-Socialists!!!
    BDS unmasks at last the antisemites, some of which as we must expect are Jewish!!!

  • Aliza

    I attended the Conference.

    The participants portrayed the highest levels of intelligence, knowledge and passion.

    When I saw the long list of presenters I thought it was going to get boring. But it never did.

    I went to network. To promote my ideas to fight BDS. It was the easiest crowd I have ever encountered when it came to telling them about my project. Everyone was open, friendly and seriously committed to similar goals.

    A number of key people at the Conference are children of Holocaust survivors. They understand danger. They see BDS as a threat to the existence of Jewish life in Eretz Yisroel. And beyond.

    Alan Dershowitz said some great things, but he also gets some points wrong. Like settlements are bargaining chips for a peace treaty. But there were others who were just as powerful, and more, than Dershowitz – for instance, his distant cousin Craig Dershowitz who is executive director of ‘Artists 4 Israel’.

    Author Edwin Black is a man to watch out for. I mean in a good way. Like replacing the UN with an association of democracies. Aside from the fact that the man is a walking data base of relevant financial and legal material which he uses to defend his many points of view.

    Mitch Danzig is one of many lawyers who does Pro Bono work for the students and others who are discriminated against and/or denied freedom of speech.

    Clergy from churches face an uphill battle with their verbal swords drawn in favor of Jews in Eretz Yisroel. The BDS staff working Social Media gave great presentations. And much more…

    Kol HaKavod to Stand With Us. To Roz and her husband and Esther and their Board of Directors. To all the staff and volunteers. I think it was in his final message when Alan Dershowitz pointed out that unlike most things – when you give them away you have less for yourself – if you share the power you feel from this conference, your own power will increase.

    (In case anyone is wondering… the organization was great, the food was healthy as well as well presented and delicious, at Sunday night dinner we enjoyed comedian Avi Liberman. The whole conference package was tastefully done.)

  • I lend my voice to those who will stand with Israel. Wonderful article. I write about these very same issues at Gatestone Institute, a wonderful forum for those who stand against the BDS Movement. Link

    The current BDS action will occur at the United Methodis Church General Conference in May where at least four divestment proposals will be considered. The organization that is engineering the BDS movement in the United Methodist Church is called Kairos Response. You can link to their nasty BDS web site to see their divestment proposals and other preposterous and untrue accusations against Israel.
    There is still time to gather forces against this divestment movement by contacting the Methodist Delegates to the General Conference.
    The delegate list is publicly available at Susan Warner

    • Aliza

      Stand With Us is committed to working with other organizations. I suggest you contact SWU.
      They have people and material for addressing churches.

      FYI. SWU draws 13,000 or more to their annual dinners. This conference had a scant few hundred. People who are ready to do the actual work are not in great numbers.

  • Rick K

    It would be nice to publish the list of attendees to this anti BDS conference, but what is more important is to see a list of organizations that claim to be for Israel which did not attend this important conference.

    This list will tell you who is for Israel but will speak volumes about the so called pro Israel institutions that did not attend. Actions are always more powerful than words, maybe we can start to use these actions to prevent donations to the Israel haters that claim otherwise.

    • Aliza

      The conference did address Jewish organizations that are harmful (to say it politely.)

      Edwin Black, in particuelar spoke about that.

      Here is what is written about his book ‘Financing the Flames.’

      “Edwin Black’s latest book, Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel, pulls the cover off the robust use of US tax-exempt, tax-subsidized, and public monies to foment agitation, systematically destabilize the Israel Defense Forces, and finance terrorists in Israel. In a far-flung investigation in the United States, Israel and the West Bank, human-rights investigative reporter Edwin Black documents that it is actually the highly politicized human rights organizations and NGOs themselves—all American taxpayer supported—which are financing the flames that make peace in Israel difficult if not impossible.

      Black spotlights key charitable organizations such as the Ford Foundation, George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, the New Israel Fund, and many others, as well as American taxpayers as a group. Instead of promoting peace and reconciliation between Arabs and Israelis, a variety of taxpayer-subsidized organizations have funded a culture where peace does not pay, but warfare and confrontation do. Ironically, several Jewish organizations, scooping up millions in tax-subsidized donations, stand at the forefront of the problem. At the same time, the author details at great length the laudable and helpful activities of such groups as the New Israel Fund; he chronicles a heartbreaking conflict between stated intent and true impact on the ground. In addition to documenting questionable 501(c)(3) activity, Black documents the direct relationship between taxpayer assistance to the Palestinian Authority and individuals engaged in terrorism against civilians.

      Chief Findings:

      Black conclusively documents how millions of American taxpayer dollars are fungibly funding the salaries of specific terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons, salaries that are among the best in the Palestinian Authority. Under Palestinian law, these salaries are calculated to increase with the level of mass murder and destruction inflicted.

      Some protestors are actually compensated by charitable organizations when they riot—and such riots can and do occur on a scheduled basis in a highly orchestrated fashion. In this enterprise, sponsored American and European activists frequently provoke, incite, and harass soldiers as they video tape the choreographed riots.

      A broad spectrum of the Israeli military and numerous Knesset members went on record to say US taxpayer-subsidized NGOs in Israel –which they name–are systematically “destabilizing the Israel Defense Forces.” This has resulted in daily harassment and taunting of IDF soldiers in the field, where young men and women in uniform are systematically pushed to react. If they do, the incidents are commonly videotaped, edited and then used as “evidence” to be distributed for boycott efforts and war crime prosecutions. In addition, according to numerous members of the IDF, these named groups are engaged in a robust international effort to create a new “military front” in various international war crime venues — once again at American taxpayer expense.

      The New Israel Fund and its grantee, B’Tselem, fund programs that tolerate and facilitate the systematic exploitation of children on the West Bank. These incidents regularly include the use of children in the front line for the purpose of provoking Israeli security responses, turning children into human shields, and systematic child endangerment to achieve a political goal. These incidents are then videotaped, edited, and distributed.

      Massive daily lobbying in Israel to achieve, modify, and block Israeli legislation is undertaken—again by virtue of taxpayer assistance. Key Knesset leaders charge that the intent of this pervasive lobbying is to create an “Israel devoid of Jewish identity,” and achieve other political goals. Knesset members state that the intense political activity includes rigorous involvement in candidate selection and election—all enabled by American tax policy.

      While claiming to advance democracy in Israel, the New Israel Fund has regularly undermined the democratic process in that nation by convincing Israeli Knesset members not to show up for voting on key issues.

      Taxpayer money is being used to further entrench a human-rights double standard where abuses and mistreatment of Jews by Palestinians are tolerated, ignored, and even promoted. In this system, Jews are singled out for discrimination in their own country in a fashion that taxpayers would never tolerate in America.

      Ironically, some of the same NGO grantees in Israel accused of being engaged in destabilization of the IDF and receiving funding from the New Israel Fund, and other foundations, also receive charitable monies from foundations controlled by Iran and Saudi Arabia.”