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August 24, 2016 4:51 pm

Dershowitz: Are Jews Who Refuse to Renounce Israel Being Excluded From ‘Progressive’ Groups?

avatar by Alan Dershowitz

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A BDS protester.  Photo: Mohamed Ouda via Wikimedia Commons.

A BDS protester. Photo: Mohamed Ouda via Wikimedia Commons.

Last year, Rabbi Susan Talve, a longtime activist on race issues in the St. Louis area was told that her advocacy for Israel was incompatible with the objectives of Black Lives Matter: “Solidarity from Ferguson to Palestine has become a central tenet of the movement,” she was informed, because “Israeli and U.S. state oppression are deeply interconnected.” Similarly, a student who attended a Black Lives Matter rally at Northwestern University last year was told, “you support Israel, so you cannot also support us.”

Recently, that seems to be the response of many of the hard Left activists who dominate so-called “progressive” social justice movements.

Over the past several years, progressive Jews and supporters of Israel have had to come to terms with the reality that those who do not reject Israel and accept the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement’s unique brand of bigotry are no longer welcome in some progressive circles. And while both the Democratic and Republican parties have embraced the importance of the U.S. alliance with Israel, that dynamic is under threat more so than at any point in my lifetime.

The self-described “progressive wing” of the Democratic Party — represented by radical and often repressive organizations such as MoveOn, CodePink, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter (BLM) — has become openly opposed to the nation state of the Jewish people. Increasingly, these organizations demand that their members and “allies” renounce support for Israel and for Zionism in order to belong. Using the pretext of intersectionality — a pseudo-academic theory which insists that all social justice movements, except those supportive of Jews or Israel, are inexorably linked — anti-Israel activists have successfully made opposition to Israel and support for BDS a litmus test, especially for Jews, to belong to “progressive” movements focused on a wide range of issues.

Earlier this year, supporters of the LGBTQ community in Israel learned this lesson the hard way. BDS activists together with a local Black Lives Matter chapter broke up a gay pride event, because it featured a presentation by an Israeli group. The protestors claimed that the event organizers had engaged in “pinkwashing” the Israeli occupation by showing solidarity with the Israeli LGBTQ community.

Members of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) who also support Israel have been similarly excluded. Last year, that organization voted to endorse BDS, and as one pro-BDS activist explained: What is significant about this particular resolution is the rationale; the fact that the resolution makes it explicit that BDS is a feminist issue… that one cannot call themselves a feminist… without taking a stand on what is happening in Palestine.” (Apparently, one can call oneself a feminist without taking a stand on Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other nations that grossly violate human rights).

This type of repressive ideological packaging has left progressive Jews, and liberal supporters of Israel in an increasingly uncomfortable position. On the one hand, they care deeply about causes such as women’s rights, criminal justice reform, income inequality, environmental protection, and LGBTQ rights. On the other, they find themselves excluded from the groups that advance those very causes, because — while they are often critical of specific Israeli policies regarding settlements and the occupation — they refuse to renounce Israel as a national liberation movement of the Jewish People.

For hard Left activists, this sort of nuanced position is impossible to accept. Their hostility towards Israel does not stem from any particular Israeli actions or policies. Even if Israel were to withdraw from the West Bank, destroy the security barrier, and recognize Hamas as a legitimate political organization, it would still not be enough. For these radicals, it is not what Israel does; it is about what Israel is: the nation state of the Jewish people. Or, to use hard Left terminology: Israel is an imperialistic, apartheid, genocidal, and colonialist enterprise. The recently released Black Lives Matter policy platform offers a perfect example of such extreme rhetoric. It states that U.S. military and economic support for Israel makes American citizens complicit in “the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”

The fact that the Black Lives Matter platform reads like it was lifted from a BDS screed is hardly coincidence. The two groups enjoy a longstanding relationship, and a prominent BDS activist apparently helped draft elements of the BLM declaration. But Black Lives Matter is far from the only hard Left organization that has been infected by BDS vitriol. In fact, BDS has pressured a wide range of progressive organizations into assuming an anti-Israel posture. The American Green Party, for example — which has become a haven for disaffected progressive activists this election cycle — recently came out in support of BDS and called for the U.S. to end its support for “the Israeli apartheid regime”.

This trend has been particularly pronounced on college campuses, where a host of academic groups — perhaps most absurdly, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) and the American Studies Association — have passed resolutions in favor of BDS. Many of these organizations have also endorsed the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott (PACBI), which encourages participants to engage in McCarthyite blacklisting of Israeli academic institutions, as well as groups and individuals who promote “Brand Israel.” This category apparently includes artists like Matisyahu, and academics like me, as I found out last year when a prominent BDS advocate refused to debate me at the Oxford Student Union.

The PACBI also explicitly denounces “normalization projects”— programs or events aimed at Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation that do not sufficiently emphasize the colonialist nature of the state of Israel. These are exactly the types of initiatives widely supported and promoted by progressives who are critical of settlements, but remain supportive of Israel and of a two state solution. It is no coincidence that BDS has singled them out for special treatment. BDS campaigners want to force any supporters of Israel — no matter their stances on other political issues — outside of the progressive tent.

This effort has proved alarmingly successful thus far, but despite the pressure from the hard Left, liberals and progressives who support Israel must continue to carve out a political space for themselves. In doing so, they can follow the example of the Jewish Community Relations Council, which dissociated itself “from the Black Lives Matter platform and those BLM organizations that embrace[d] it” but committed itself “unequivocally to the pursuit of justice for all Americans, and to working together with our friends and neighbors in the African-American community, whose experience of the criminal justice system is, far too often, determined by race.” Such efforts are critical to ensure that it is not supporters of Israel, but rather those repressive bigots who falsely claim the mantle of progressivism and who subscribe to the identity politics practiced by BDS that are delegitimated by mainstream progressives and liberals.

Alan M. Dershowitz is professor emeritus of law at Harvard University and author of Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law and, most recently, Electyle Dysfunction.

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  • Yale

    It’s time to publicly label BLM and the other self-styled “progressive” groups for what they are: racists seeking power for their leaders by pushing the identity politics that invariably undermines free societies. These groups aren’t interested in policies per se, rather they seek to collect as many gullible idiots as necessary to seize power, and to get there, they are perfectly willing to endorse whatever mindless ideas other similar power-oriented, or should I say fascistic, movements exist.

  • joe quellman

    dershowitz can’t have it both ways. he must demand that hillary repudiate these anti semitic far left groups- moveon/OWS/codepink/BLM- as trump has similarly done to the extremists on the right.

  • Howard Jaeckel

    So who cares? No thinking person should want to have anything to do with these far left groups, which closely resemble the extreme right in their bigotry, authoritarianism, and intolerance of any deviation from the party line. This is actually a good wake-up call to any supporter of Israel who might unknowingly find himself in this noxious company.

  • Howard Jaeckel

    So who cares? No thinking person should want to have anything to do with these far left groups, which closely resemble the extreme right in their bigotry, authoritarianism, and intolerance of any deviation from the party line. This is actually a good wake-up call to any supporter of Israel who might find unknowingly himself in this noxious company.

  • tsurinotsoros

    As WikiLeaks recently revealed George Soros has funded Black Livers Matter to the tune of 650 million dollars as well as a large number of the virulent anti-Israel organizations. He constitutes a greater threat to Israel and the Jews than any other single entity except Iran.
    He ought to be charged with crimes against the Jewish people and either tried in person or in absentia in Israel. 65 years later and Soros still thinks that if he kills enough Jews the Nazis will stop persecuting him. He’s a sick man, perhaps as twisted as Hillary Clinton. Neither of them should have any hold on the reigns of power. A Federal penitentiary is the only place for either of them.

  • stevenl

    Jews have no business in fascism!

  • The first question to ask of a group or country that supports BDS or names Israel as an apartheid country is: “What other countries are on your boycott list?’

    If the answer shows no other countries, then no second question need be asked. They are simply anti-semites.

  • ed snider

    Jewish anti-semites are no better than the other kind, merely naïve.They are learning a valuable lesson at the hands of the “progressives.” Their twisted political beliefs will buy them no sympathy from the enlightened quarter they took to be their friends. They are nothing but Jews who are indistinguishable from all other Jews in the eyes of people who hate Jews.

  • Regarding the “Black Lives Matter” hatred of Israel and their participation in the BDS movement, please research and write an article about how many black African’s are now and in the past, “slaves” of the Arabs/Muslims in the Middle East and other areas of the world. Maybe then they will realize that they should be anti-BDS, unless they believe that slavery of blacks is acceptable.

    • Shindlers

      Are you serious? Maybe you should have done some research before writing this, cause to be more recent, 75% of american jews had slaves in the US and this is at least up to 150 years ago.

      • Yale

        The reason BDS and other similar “progressive” causes can attract followers is because they feel free to make up their data to suit their needs, much as you have here. More than 75% of Jews in the pre-Civil War era lived in free states in the north, where no-one owned slaves. It is mathematically impossible for 75% of Jews to have owned slaves if they lived in states that had already outlawed slavery.

      • Karen

        No, why wouldn’t that be a serious question? Arabs were in big on the slave trade. This is a valid point, no matter what Jews did 150 years ago

  • Harold Block

    Jews who support Black Lives Matter are unfortunately naive. Just like the Jews who were attracted many years ago to communism. Any Jew living anywhere in the world today should realize that the country of Israel is now their country of last resort. No matter what the politics of Israel is all Jews should realize that without Israel we have no refuge if we need it. Just because someone lives in the United States they should not believe that they are protected from anti-semitism. Read the history of anti-semitism in the U.S.

  • nat cheiman

    BLM & BDS are racist ideologies perpetrated by racists.
    I have no doubt white Americans are getting sick and tired of their garbage

  • Fraide

    These wonderful “progressive” groups you named are and have always been anti-Semitic. Remember Occupy Wall Street – “the answer to a far right republicans political group whose name I can’t recall right now and you don’t hear much about lately,- didn’t last too long because they marched with their picket signs blaming the Jews for the cause of all the financial troubles. Even Obama, who doesn’t check out a situation before he throws his hat in, had to quit because of the anti-Semitic verbiage being tossed around. We Jews don’t need these so-called progressive groups, we can start our own and be honest about our causes.


    Good. Maybe this will wake some of those party-line leftists up, if that’s possible. How about this: Start an organization called “Jewish Lives Matter”!

  • Deirdre Cripps
  • Black Lives Matter is second only to Islam in its hatred, bigotry and should be declared a terrorist organisation. You are bad, if not worse than Jihadists who you clearly try to emulate. BUT take careful note that Jihadists only see ‘infidels’ as their enemies and that includes BLM, wheres BLM see all whites as their enemies. MLM you are as bad as Islam and obviously antisemitic.

  • please, a bit of history. jewish progressive undergrads at UCSC during the FIRST and SECOND Iraq war were being tossed out of ‘progressive’ anti war groups even if they wished to renounce israel (which then as now is the chicken bone is all academic protestor throats, cries, claims, and utopias). that’s when i knew the window prohibiting public jewhating from about 1945 thru 1967 was shutting fast. those kids had grown up believing jewhating/aka antisemitism/ aka anti israel/ aka zionism-racism/ aka ziobashing/ aka UN human rights/ had died and been buried. well, the vampires and non-dead un-dead are roaming USA campuses in the form of the freedom fighting palestinian terrorists aka protesters. then they were UC professors, and left wing jews, now theyre ….what? amusing how jewish left wingers are being treated just as they wanted to treat jewish right wingers, while the ‘center did not hold’. now all they gotta do is go j-street and renounce being jews, or placard themselves as ‘a jew who is pro BDS’. those jews burned in nazi furnaces just as nicely. liberally, just without benefit of placard.

  • Inimicus inimici amicus meus.

  • Allen,Those who use economic resources to boycott Israel are in violation of Federal anti-boycotting laws, IRS non-discrimination rules required to be a non-profit and since Hamas a terrorist organization would be the main beneficiary of a successful boycott, all those using economic resources to support an illegal boycott of Israel would also be in violation of the “patriot act” Giving support to a terrorist organization.
    The Justice dept needs to start putting these people in jail. As I comment on this,Assad of Syria has killed 2 million of his own citizens, displaced 11 million with chlorine gas, barrel bombs and now hyperbaric bombs from Russia and Saudi Arabia and Iran have turned Yemen into a killing field 2-3 million killed and displaced. In addition,the largest extermination of Christians is taking place since the Crusades in the same region. The fact that these true genocidal horrors are going on and do not even get an eye turn from the boycott Israel groups makes it clear it is not about peace or Justice, it is about destroying Israel. Let’s not forget, MEMRI has evidence Hamas has joined the Caliphate and commonly uses the Al Aqsa mosque to declare ans Islamic Jihad war on the world!! See below



    5269 – Al-Aqsa Mosque Address: The Upcoming Islamic State Should Conquer Rome, Washington, Paris through Jihad
    The Internet – January 16, 2016 – 02:38
    5138 – Palestinian Cleric Khaled Al-Maghrabi in Al-Aqsa Mosque Address Discusses Annihilation of the Jews and Virgins of Paradise
    The Internet – October 27, 2015 – 01:54
    #5129 – Palestinian Preacher at Al-Aqsa Mosque Rally Calls to Restore the Caliphate, Annihilate the Jews
    The Internet – October 24, 2015 – 02:17
    #5022 – Sheik Ahmad Al-Dweik in Al-Aqsa Mosque Address: The Caliphate Will Eliminate the West in Its Entirety
    The Internet – July 24, 2015 – 01:29
    5003 – Sheik Abu Abdallah in Al-Aqsa Mosque Address: Islam Will Rule the Entire Earth
    The Internet – July 6, 2015 – 00:45
    4830 – Al-Aqsa Mosque Sheik Rebukes Pakistan for Not Launching Nuclear Strike to Help Establish Caliphate
    The Internet – March 6 and 13, 2015 – 03:54
    #4811 – Al-Aqsa Mosque Address: May the Muslims Wage War on America, and Raid It on Its Own Land
    The Internet – February 18, 2015 – 01:10
    4734 – Cleric Supports Paris Attacks in Al-Aqsa Mosque Address, Threatens Even Harsher Measures
    The Internet – January 16, 2014 – 01:16
    4657 – Preacher at Al-Aqsa Mosque Omar Abu Sara to the Jews: “We Shall Slaughter You Without Mercy”
    The Internet – November 28, 2014 – 04:14
    #5076 – Al-Aqsa Mosque Address: Europe Wants the Muslim Refugees as Labor; We Shall Conquer Their Countries
    The Internet – September 11, 2015 – 02:39
    #4252 – Al-Aqsa Mosque Imam in Italy: We Await the Arab Legions to Liberate Haifa, Acre, and Jaffa
    Al-Jazeera TV (Qatar) – April 27, 2014 – 01:56

  • Ephraim

    Not GENUINE progressive groups, but by the Nazis who label themselves, and are labeled by the antisemitic press, as progressive. In reality they are as progressive as was Adolph Hitler. It is long past time for those who GENUINELY believe in liberal and progressive values, which often happen to coincide with Jewish values, to reject the bigots regardless of what they call themselves. Let us start genuine progressive groups, and act in a positive way to reject and ignore those antisemities in progressive clothing. Any genuine progressives, regardless of religion, color, sexual orientation, etc., would be more than welcome.

    It would help, in the US anyway, if we can somehow overcome the Hillary express.

  • Dr. Dershowitz is a hero, clarifying a phenomenon we have been seeing for some time.

  • The hard Left’s hostility towards Israel stems from Jew-hatred. Neo-progressives are “regressive” activists and Jew-haters. Jewish progressives must breakoff from any groups that delegitimize Israel, and undermine the American Jewish community.

  • Mr. Dershowitz why are you surprised, you have a long track record of support anti-Israel progressives such as Barack Obama. I suppose you intend to support Hillary Clinton, another anti-Israel progressive. Allow me to suggest that since you are part of the problem, you have no right to complain about it.

  • Max Genghis Cohen utronvj13@gmail.co

    When are the “Progressive” pseudo intelligentsia going to learn the first principle of the Left? They might learn it here if Algemeiner will deign to allow me a few precious words, and if Alan Dershowitz will permit these words entrance to his vocabulary to be repeated in the hallowed halls of Harvard. The first principle of the Left is this: We, the core of the Left, are in command of the bureau which shapes and enforces the content of all leftist thought. You will think as we command and you will like it. Save yourselves now by voting for Donald Trump!! It is your last chance. There is nothing further to say.