SPME BDS Monitor: Neo-Nazi and Islamic Antisemitism on the Rise
February was marked by antisemitic incidents both on and off campus, originating from both the far-Right and the far-Left. Neo-Nazi and Islamist antisemitism was evident, and BDS hijacking of other movements continued — but new British antisemitism guidelines had an immediate impact, prompting universities to shut down “Israeli Apartheid Week” events.
On the whole, February was an active month for the BDS movement, especially via the disruption of pro-peace and Israeli speakers on university campuses.
For example, a talk at Columbia University by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, was repeatedly disrupted by BDS protesters from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace. Even before the event, threats of disruption had prompted the administration to reduce the size of the audience, presumably to lessen the chance of violence.
At the University of Georgia, SJP members also disrupted a talk by former Israeli soldiers. In addition, BDS supporters attacked and vandalized pro-Israel displays at the University of Washington and at the SOAS in London.
At SOAS, the incident came during a pro-peace “Bridges not Boycotts” display. Pro-BDS students claimed to be “traumatized” by the presence of “Zionists” on campus, and were upset when a Palestinian student actually spoke to one of the pro-Israel students. The SOAS incident illustrates the extent to which “anti-normalization” has saturated the BDS movement, branding any dialogue with pro-peace advocates as evil and deviant.
The antisemitism inherent in SJPs’ BDS message has long been clear, but new evidence has shown the depth to which individual members hold antisemitic views. Research from the anonymous “Canary Mission” group and a British journalist have exposed antisemitism on the part of SJP and Muslim Student Association members at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) and the British Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).
At the Texas school, investigators found social media posts denying the Holocaust, praising Hitler and calling for people to “stuff Jews in the oven.” One recent UTA graduate who urged a friend to “kill some Jews” was fired from her job as a preschool teacher after her comment came to light. ‘Canary Mission’ has documented numerous other examples of antisemitism from BDS supporters.
BDS activists also hijacked anti-Trump protests at Northwestern University and the University of California, Irvine. At California State University at Fullerton, a professor allegedly punched a conservative student during an SJP protest against the Trump administration.
Other antisemitic incidents were also reported in February. At the Rhode Island School of Design, swastikas were found in a dorm bathroom. At the University of Michigan, mass emails with neo-Nazi content were sent from a hacked account to Jewish and back students, while at the University of Minnesota, an individual was charged with distributing neo-Nazi flyers.
A more convoluted incident unfolded at McGill University, where a member of the student government and a BDS leader tweeted that he wanted to “punch a Zionist.” When confronted, the student government initially rejected a call to remove him, but reversed itself after the university administration intervened. The student government then alleged that the administration was improperly interfering. The student eventually resigned his position.
At UC Riverside, the student government voted on a resolution calling for the university to ban Sabra brand hummus from its facilities. In response, a university spokesman stated that there were no plans to do so. Sabra is partially owned by the Israeli based Strauss Group, and has become associated with Israel and specifically the Israel Defense Forces.
Elsewhere, the student government at London City University overturned a BDS resolution, while another one was blocked at Ulster University. At the University of Exeter, however, a BDS supporter who compared Israel to Nazis was elected to the student government. Another investigation, at University College London, confirmed that BDS advocates had “intentionally disrupted” a talk by a former Israeli soldier, and recommended disciplinary action.
These incidents show the continuing growth of harassment and violence by BDS advocates and Neo-Nazis against Jewish, Israeli and pro-peace forces on campus.
More positively, new British antisemitism guidelines that include rejection of overt anti-Israel bias have begun to have direct impacts. Three universities — the University of Central Lancashire, the University of Exeter and University College London — have canceled ‘Israel apartheid week’ events as a result of the guidelines. At Lancashire, administrators cited the new guidelines directly, while at the London school, an event was canceled after the administration found BDS supporters had not “gone through proper process.” In cancelling their event, Exeter officials cited “safety and security issues” and also denied an appeal from the school’s Palestine Society. The cancellations came as British Education minister Jo Johnson repeated warnings to universities that “intimidation and violence” against Jewish students would not be tolerated.
The antisemitism guidelines have also had a political impact, as Communities Secretary Sajid Javid directed local councils not to boycott companies and countries, specifically Israel. This is a dramatic move against local councils that have been at the forefront of the BDS movement throughout Britain. If the guidelines withstand the inevitable legal challenges, the academic landscape in Britain will be fundamentally reshaped against BDS.
There were also two major BDS developments in the political sphere. First, convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmieh Odeh will be a featured speaker at the Jewish Voice for Peace national conference. Odeh, currently on trial for lying on her US visa application, is also on the organizing committee of the “International Women’s Strike,” a global left-wing protest group. The elevation of Odeh, long championed by Palestinian Americans and the BDS movement — as well as BDS supporter Linda Sarsour, a co-organizer of the Women’s March — to the status of left-wing icons, demonstrates the convergence of BDS and far left.
The other development was the appointment of Keith Ellison, former Nation of Islam member and BDS supporter, to become deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Former Labor Secretary and Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, who had the support of former President Barack Obama, narrowly defeated Ellison.
Ellison’s candidacy had been endorsed by Elizabeth Warren, Charles Schemer and Bernie Sanders supporters, and also by Neo-Nazi leader David Duke.
In contrast, other global political leaders and parties have intensified their condemnations of BDS. During Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first ever visit to Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated, “My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimize the Jewish state.” During visits to Belgium and Britain, Netanyahu also requested that leaders stop funding BDS organizations.
In Germany, politicians from the ruling Christian Democratic Union party submitted a resolution condemning the BDS movement, saying, “Who today under the flag of the BDS movement calls to boycott Israeli goods and services speaks the same language in which people were called to not buy from Jews. That is nothing other than coarse antisemitism.” The resolution is expected to be the first in a series of proposals designed to stop German states from adopting BDS policies.
Elsewhere, a local Spanish municipality canceled its Israel boycott resolution after similar laws were overturned by Spanish courts.
Closer to home, a Montana law prohibiting the state from doing business with companies boycotting Israel advanced in the legislature. A similar bill passed in the Minnesota and Texas state legislatures. The State of Illinois, which had adopted anti-BDS legislation, also issued a warning to the European Union about boycotts aimed at Israeli communities across the Green Line.