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Despite controversy, Brooklyn College BDS panel is a non-event

NEW YORK — After more than a week of controversy, including an editorial in the New York Times and a statement from Mayor Bloomberg, Brooklyn College hosted a discussion of BDS with Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti and nothing happened. That fact alone seems worthy of a story these days.

In a post for +972, Mairav Zonszein wrote eloquently about the outrageous attempts to intimidate the college into canceling the event. Alan Dershowitz started the whole controversy, but New York City public officials were quick to follow, with several threatening to cut the college’s funding. The New York Times published an editorial of quiet dismay, noting that “critics have used heated language to denigrate the speakers,” adding, “The sad truth is that there is more honest discussion about American-Israeli policy in Israel than in this country. Too often in the United States, supporting Israel has come to mean meeting narrow ideological litmus tests.”

Mayor Bloomberg expressed himself a bit more bluntly. “If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion,” he said, “I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.”

And after all that, the event turned out to be a non-event. An audience of about 300 people sat quietly and listened to Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti speak, which they did — without interruption. People lined up quietly to ask questions at the microphone during the Q&A. As always, there were a few eccentrics who made statements, usually of the UFO variety, instead of asking questions. There was some post-panel schmoozing in another room, with books for sale laid out on a table and Omar Barghouti sitting behind another table to sign his tome on BDS.

And then everyone went home.

There were no heated arguments and no disturbances. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. No-one shouted “death to Israel”or anything remotely similar — except a contingent of Neturei Karta, who always show up at this type of Palestine-related event.

Neturei Karta at Brooklyn College

I’m always a bit disturbed to see BDS advocates, who talk about Palestinian rights in the same breath as LGBT rights and feminism, rush to photograph and be photographed with these men, whose beliefs and lifestyle tolerate neither homosexuality nor women’s rights. Anyway, they were the only ones shouting that Israel must end, it had no right to exist, etc.

Outside the student building there was also a small group of young Orthodox men, accompanied by New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who was particularly involved in trying to intimidate Brooklyn College into canceling the event. One man, who wore the black fedora of an Orthodox Jew, handed me a photocopied page titled WHY BDS IS THE SAME AS AL QAEDA. On Facebook, someone posted a photograph of a page distributed at the college by a group calling itself Mobilization for Israel. EMERGENCY RALLY AGAINST HAMAS SPEECH, it announces.

Flier handed out at Brooklyn College

But despite all the semi-coherent drama of the flier, only a handful of protestors showed up. They did not try to stop anyone from entering the student building where the event was held, nor did they try to enter themselves. Up on the sixth floor I could hear them outside on the street, faintly. They sang “David, Melekh Yisrael,” (David, King of Israel) and shouted a few semi-audible slogans for the first part of Judith Butler’s talk. But soon they dispersed and there was no sign of them when we came out.

But the college and the city clearly anticipated trouble. There was a heavy police presence, both uniformed and plainclothes officers, outside the student building and inside. They were supplemented by uniformed college security and volunteer marshalls who kept the sidewalk clear, checked IDs and made sure all the people queued up for the event were on the list. Everyone had to submit to a bag search and go through a metal detector. The metal buckles on my boots beeped, earning me a pat down. It would have felt just like being back at home in Israel, except it was freezing cold outside and everyone was remarkably courteous — friendly, even.

According to an email I received yesterday, the event was filled to capacity — but there were at least 20 empty seats, possibly because the speakers started exactly on time, while the people who had been waitlisted were still going through security. No-one was admitted during the talks, to avoid causing a disturbance.

The audience was a mixed bag of the usual suspects. There were political activists, many of them Jewish “red diaper baby” types. There was also a very heavy Arab Muslim presence, noticeable because many of the women wore the hijab. And journalists, of course.

I was impressed by Judith Butler’s remarks, in which she touched on issues of free speech, BDS as a nonviolent civil society movement, the definition of anti-Semitism,  and Jewish identity — all in her inimitably dense, intellectual and erudite style. You can read the text of her talk on The Nation’s website. Below is an excerpt:

One could be for the BDS movement as the only credible non-violent mode of resisting the injustices committed by the state of Israel without falling into the football lingo of being “pro” Palestine and “anti” Israel. This language is reductive, if not embarrassing. One might reasonably and passionately be concerned for all the inhabitants of that land, and simply maintain that the future for any peaceful, democratic solution for that region will become thinkable through the dismantling of the occupation, through enacting the equal rights of Palestinian minorities and finding just and plausible ways for the rights of refugees to be honored. If one holds out for these three aims in political life, then one is not simply living within the logic of the “pro” and the “anti”, but trying to fathom the conditions for a “we”, a plural existence grounded in equality.

Barghouti’s speech was less intellectual and more populist. I did not like it, not because I disagreed with anything he said, but because I dislike populism and am suspicious of speakers who rely on their charm to ingratiate themselves with audiences. He read out a long laundry list of Israel’s evil deeds (none of which I dispute), followed by a lengthy explanation of why he was not anti-Semitic, with liberal quotes from Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Shulamit Aloni and Avraham Burg, amongst others. He also gave a shout-out to Israeli Jewish partners of BDS, specifically the Boycott from Within movement.  The audience responded positively.

This event at Brooklyn College should have been a minor one. If the subject of discussion had been anything but Palestine-Israel, there would have been a very small audience indeed. Not many people are willing to take a subway to the last stop on the 2 line on a cold February night in order to sit for more than two hours on uncomfortable folding plastic chairs in a bare room lit by fluorescent strip lighting. But thanks to people like Alan Dershowitz and Dov Hikind, they came out in pretty impressive numbers. The minor event became a big deal.

Besides the deeply shameful attempts of Dershowitz, Hikind, et al to limit freedom of expression in a liberal democracy, I am pondering a few other things as I write this post. Despite all the publicity, only a very small group of hardcore Orthodox Jewish men — yeshiva boy types — showed up to protest this event. And they did not last long. Also, it is very interesting to see how the hardcore “My Israel right or wrong” types in the Jewish community have split off from the liberal, Obama-supporting majority of the Jewish community. The latter are uncomfortable with strong criticism of Israel, with many seeing BDS as an ideologically suspect movement, but there is no way they will come out to demonstrate against academic freedom and free speech.

So we had a Jewish mayor making a strong statement in support of academic freedom and free expression; we had a Jewish philosopher, Judith Butler, speaking in support of BDS and freedom of expression; we had a certain Jewish Harvard professor who equates any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism; we had some marginalized hasidic Jews who hate Israel  and want it to cease existing; and we had a handful of yeshiva boys who actually believe BDS is the same as Hamas, which is a reincarnation of Nazism, and who equate unquestioning support of Israel with love of God and Torah. Which is so beyond absurd that I can’t even think of an adjective. Sorry.

Often, I feel as though the whole Palestine issue is more about the divisions within the Jewish community than about actual Palestinians.

 

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  • COMMENTS

    1. XYZ

      It is not surprising that so-called “progressives” like Butler will associate themselves with the likes of Neturei Karta. After all, she says HIZBULLAH and HAMAS are “progressive” organizationns as well, on the basis solely of them willling to use violence to in their attempts to eradicate Israel. For her and here ilk, hatred of Israel is the ONLY things that matters, and they will make an alliance with anyone who hates Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • metta2uall

        Firstly, calling some organisation “progressive” doesn’t mean supporting them. Secondly, the BDS activists don’t necessarily “hate” Israel, which is a very strong term. They just want to persuade the government to change its policies which many of them see as harming Israel in the long term. I though think the BDS strategy isn’t a good one since it appears to penalise civilian Israelis and doesn’t have enough support in the Jewish community. Something focusing on petitions against settlements would be better imho.

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        • Naftali Greenwood

          Defining BDS’ goals as revising Israeli policies is akin to defining Hamas and Hizbollah as progressive movements. Goals 2 and 3 of BDS are inimical to the survival of a Jewish national entity in any form.

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      • aristeides

        What a load of bull!

        Butler isn’t associating herself with Neturei Karta, they’re hanging on outside her event, associating themselves with anything antizionist that comes along.

        People like XYZ and some of the other Zionists we see trolling this site are proof that Lisa Goldman is right (which I rarely say) – the “Palestinian issue” has become all about the divisions among the Jews. Because it isn’t the Palestinian issue, it’s the Israel issue. Which only reminds me again of the saying “Israel isn’t good for the Jews.” Without Israel, this great source of divisiveness among the Jews would not exist. US Jews would remain overwhelmingly the people who support free speech and liberty, not the people trapped by the necessity to support a regime that opposes both, just because it calls itself the “Jewish state.”

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      • Judith Butler has never said anything of the kind. In a Q&A session, she said that Hamas and Hezbollah could be understood as part of the global left – a statement that I strongly disagree with, but that obviously does not constitute an endorsement (especially as in the same breath she explicitly stated the importance of ‘non-violent politics’, to use her exact phrase). It’s only an endorsement if you interpret ‘left-wing’ to mean ‘always angelic and cuddly’. I don’t understand the rationale for the designation she made, but she didn’t elaborate and so I don’t get how you are able to confidently declare that it’s because they ‘want to destroy Israel’.

        Have you read any of her books? I think you might actually find some of them pretty interesting.

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        • Adam

          nsttnocontentcomment

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        • Adam

          You find Judith Butler’s books interesting? Maybe you can tell me what this sentence means:

          ” The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.”

          Reply to Comment
          • I found ‘Frames of War’, ‘Precarious Life’, and ‘Parting Ways’ to be fascinating, especially ‘Precarious Life’. Her work on gender, not so much – it’s too convoluted for me to follow, but it seems to have an illogical unfair dismissal of radical feminist thought at its core, once you untangle all the long words.

            And no, I don’t have a clue what she’s trying to say in that (now infamous) paragraph. The books I mention above are much better written.

            Reply to Comment
          • Aaron Gross

            I only read one of her books, Giving an Account of Oneself, and I didn’t think it was all that great. But I’m not educated, so a lot of it went over my head. A lot of it was too speculative (Freudian) for me; but to her credit, she calls it speculation.

            I’d been thinking about reading her partner’s book on walls and borders. Have you read it? If so, any good? Seems like the kind of book you’d be interested in.

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          • No, I haven’t read it, but it would probably come in useful for something I’m writing now. Thanks for the note. I’ll get hold of it.

            I’ve never read ‘Giving Account of Oneself’ either, but I’d trust your judgment on it. While certain writing inevitably needs prior knowledge of the subject, I think the hallmark of any good ‘academic’ book is how accessible the writer can make it to a non-specialist reader.

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          • Aaron Gross

            Vicky, I want to emphasize that my reaction to Giving an Account of Oneself says more about me than about the book, because I just didn’t have the necessary background (Lacan, etc.) to read it.

            The other book I mentioned was Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. If you do end up reading it, I’d love to see your response here in an off-topic comment or something.

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          • Aaron Gross

            Often, I feel as though the whole Palestine issue is more about the divisions within the Jewish community than about actual Palestinians.

            If Jews don’t have anyone else to argue with, they argue with each other.

            Reply to Comment
          • Fred

            C’mon, anything that unintelligable has got to be brilliant! For another example of pure BS (deliberately) posing as intellectualism google “allan sokal”

            Reply to Comment
      • Jane Jackman

        Judith Butler does not associate herself with the group mentioned – they attach themselves to events like this one – and it is false to say she is a hater of Israel. She is, however, a practicing Jew and a lover of justice.

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    2. Lee Diamond

      I don’t think anyone associated with Neturei Karta. Neturei Karta simply showed up. The previous comment betrays the standard intellectual dishonesty of desperate reflexivity.

      Reply to Comment
      • XYZ

        Butler supports HIZBULLAH and HAMAS, so why should she object to Neturei Karta? What if a bunch of neo-Nazis with swastika banners just “showed up”? Would the “progressives” in attendance merely shrug it off?

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        • Carl

          I was almost convinced by your free thought association but then I noticed Neturei Karta wasn’t capitalised.

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          • XYZ

            There is no signficance to the difference. I believe that HIZBULLAH and HAMAS are acronyms or contractions, that is why I capitalize them. I also capitalize MERETZ, or FBI, or CIA or SHABAK for the same reasons.

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          • Carl

            Well I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but ONLY this time.

            HAMAS is technically an acronym; Hizb’allah isn’t though.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Rampant ignorance. Hizbollah is no acronym, it means “party of God.”

            While “Hamas” is an acronym, it is also a noun meaning “zeal” in Arabic and is not properly capitalized.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Susan

      So the BDS movement supports academic freedom of speech by denying freedom of speech to Israeli academics.

      It is counter-productive to boycott Israeli academics. It also will lead eventually to a boycott of Jewish academics.

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      • Leen

        Actually, that’s not true. They boycott them if they were sponsored by the Israeli government or coming to these institutions as representatives of the Israeli government. However if they are at their own accord at these institutions, they will not be boycotted, there is no reason to since they are not representatives or sponsored by the government.

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        • Susan

          At least in the UK, Israeli academics that are not sponsored by the Israeli government have been boycotted just for being Israeli.

          Reply to Comment
          • Who and where?

            Reply to Comment
          • Adam

            Mona Baker in 2002. She removed two Israeli Jews from the editorial board of her journal for the sin of being Israeli Jews.

            Reply to Comment
          • Baker wrote at the time that she is committed to a boycott of institutions, but not individuals. She issued a personal position statement: “[T]he purpose of the boycott is to undermine the institutions of a pariah state rather than to penalise individuals for failing to speak out against their government…[T]his has to be reflected in the form of boycott we practice…This means that Israelis who work for non-Israeli institutions are not subject to the boycott…[T]he boycott does not distinguish between Jews, Christians or Muslims working for Israeli academic institutions. This means that EVERYONE who works for an Israeli institution, irrespective of their nationality, religion or ethnic origin, and that also includes the few Palestinians working for Israeli institutions, are all subject to the boycott.”

            Her decision was not based on their Jewishness or their nationality, but the fact that they were employed by TAU. Personally I think her reasoning was deeply flawed and her decision was wrong. I support the institutional boycott (example: when offered funding from a British group to attend a course at Hebrew U, I didn’t go, not wanting to funnel any money in the direction of a university that has a military base on its campus) but I do recognise that it’s perfectly possible to work with an Israeli academic without collaborating with the institution itself. Most BDS activists respect that nuance, which is why Israeli academics from Israeli institutions can even be found speaking on BDS panels. One solitary action (taken by an individual, against individuals) can hardly be used as representative of the BDS movement’s position in the UK.

            Reply to Comment
          • As I said, I’ve read that book. I don’t quite agree with Butler there. I think Baker’s grasp of Palestinian issues is poor and crude, and that she is a polemical armchair activist of the type I particularly don’t like, but so far I haven’t seen enough evidence of a particular antipathy towards Jews (which is not to say that she isn’t an anti-Semite, just that I don’t feel comfortable using a term that is so often used to smear people without having solid evidence for doing so). Baker commented about ‘the Jewish press’, but later claimed that she was referring to an article printed about her in a paper that is actually called ‘The Jewish Press’ – and Butler does note that there really was such an article in such a publication. Baker may well just be trying to cover her tracks (it wouldn’t surprise me), but there is no evidence for me to tell one way or the other, and so far the worst I can say of her is that she is not exactly a subtle thinker or someone I would ever want to work with (or even a person whose views are worth this much of my time). And the point I made before still stands: she is one individual, and can’t be taken as representative of the BDS movement in a country that has become home to several quite prominent Israeli academics.

            I’m not sure what you’re trying to accomplish here. I recommended some of Butler’s books, and you responded by quoting an infamously obtuse and stupid paragraph – the implication apparently being because if Butler wrote a paragraph like that, she can’t be worth reading on anything else. I quote from Mona Baker’s personal position statement on BDS, and you respond to me with Judith Butler’s opinion on Mona Baker – the implication being that as I’ve recommended Butler, I must surely bow to Butler’s verdict. You only found Butler’s assessment of Baker through keying ‘Mona Baker anti-Semite’ into Google Books (the link shows your search term), which suggests that your own views on this haven’t been formed through any thorough reading, but rather through what you can cherry-pick from the Internet. (Did you even read Butler’s full chapter on this?) As far as I’m concerned that puts your reasoning on about the same level as Mona Baker’s, and I don’t see what you’re trying to demonstrate.

            Reply to Comment
          • Adam

            The turgid Judith Butler sentence I quoted is not an exception; she churns them out by the thousands. Such sentence expose her as a moral poseur; her BDS activism, like her writing style, is a political fashion statement.

            Mona Baker is not an isolated case; rather, she is typical of the convergence between anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism which is especially rampant in Britain. Indeed, let me recommend a book to you: Anthony Julius’ magisterial study of English anti-Semitism: The Trials of the Diaspora.

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            BDS was launched in 2005. All other boycott efforts are unrelated to BDS. BDS makes it clear that individuals who are Israelis are not penalised. There have been many Israeli academics NOT sponsored by the Israeli government or representatives in the Uk that were not targetted. I know because I’ve attended lectures by Israeli academics in the UK and I’m part of the Palestine Solidarity Group.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Andrew Emenike

      Very well done Lisa,I always look forward to your Blogs.Keep up the good work

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Maybe. Or maybe not.

        Someone, it’s clear, is lying.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Two things that I really love about this article and the views/ideology of Lisa Goldman:

      1. I too am frequently disturbed when I see BDS advocates rushing to not only photograph and be photographed with Neturei Karta but also supporting them blindly. It is exactly because they hold quite deplorable beliefs that are so intolerant to homosexuality & women’s rights that I find supporting them to be reprehensible.

      2. In regards to the popularist attitude of Omar Barghouti I also fully agree and would add that those who are so obsessed with their own self image that they feel the need to provide lengthy explanations of why they aren’t anti-semitic have some serious ego problems.

      But that I suppose can’t be helped given many in the international community continually place particular individuals on pedestals and indoctrinate themselves purely with a single track line of thinking.

      Reply to Comment
      • It could just be that Barghouti has been accused of anti-Semitism so much and so often that he feels the need to defend himself preemptively. This is not an unusual thing for people to do if they find themselves routinely slandered, although I think it’s unproductive, and we should move past it. Anyone who flings that accusation about like confetti it unlikely to be persuaded out of it by anything we could say, but I understand why it gets to some people.

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    6. Roberto H

      Sounds like the event was yet another preaching to the choir moment. Was there any discussion on the effectiveness or lack thereof of BDS in achieving its goal?

      Reply to Comment
    7. “Often, I feel as though the whole Palestine issue is more about the divisions within the Jewish community than about actual Palestinians.” : It is, indeed, much like segreating through various beliefs in God, with co-believers aiding one another as they can (invitations to talk, publish, whatnot). I am amazed that the Palestinian nonviolent movement exists. I know they are not there so they will be talked about in the US. They are there for themselves. I don’t know what I could say to them, really.

      By the way, did you hear how Alan D. really got Jimmy Carter at that speaking event….

      Reply to Comment
    8. Meanwhile, earlier in the week, Barghouti brought his dog and pony show to UC Irvine, attended by about 30 people with security provided by 2 campus cops standing around outside the room.

      Maybe you gave these people too much attention.

      Reply to Comment
    9. The NYT editorial you cite notes – “The sad truth is that there is more honest discussion about American-Israeli policy in Israel than in this country. Too often in the United States, supporting Israel has come to mean meeting narrow ideological litmus tests.” It’s a criticism that can be extended to N. American media coverage of Israel in other ways also, including NYT coverage.
      Hard hitting reporting that makes it onto the pages of Haaretz – for example some of the stories covered by Gideon Levy that deal with IDF excesses in the occupied territories rarely translate over. Suppression of Israel criticism and efforts in some influential quarters to equate Israel criticism with anti-semitism is a counterproductive way to promote a cause… particularly given that these very same people go on about the importance of transparency and accountability in every other area of life

      Reply to Comment
    10. Simon Holloway

      It’s a minor point, and totally unrelated to the rest of your excellent review, but Neturei Karta is not a hasidic group. Though they do dress in a manner reminiscent of some Polish hasidim, they follow the traditions of the Vilna Gaon, and consider themselves descended (in large part) from those of his disciples who moved to Palestine in the 19th century.

      Reply to Comment
    11. There was nothing shameful about Dershowitz’s actions but plenty of shame in this poorly written article.

      Am Yisrael Chai

      Reply to Comment
    12. carl

      Carissa, Dershowitz is a real extremist as well a very ignorant person (I could write you 100 historical mistakes that he made in his poorly-written “books”). Israel does not need such kind of defender.

      Reply to Comment
      • Carl

        Carl, did you write that or me?

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    13. “…these men, whose beliefs and lifestyle tolerate neither homosexuality nor women’s rights. ”

      Not so fast!

      “Natorei Karta leader Aryeh Friedman … declared that in having his sons enrolled in a girl’s only school, he was striking a blow for gender equality in the hassidic world, reported the haredi news website Vos Iz Neias (What’s News).

      He subsequently went to court to compel a Belz-affiliated all-male yeshiva to accept his three daughters, the Yeshiva World News reported.”

      see: http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?id=302727

      Reply to Comment
    14. Avrumele Abramovich

      The charge that critics of BDS “equate any criticism of Israel with anti-semitism” is false. BDS believes in dismantling the State of Israel. It is very, very different than people who criticize particular Israeli policies or who call for ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. For most BDS supporters, the term “occupation” refers to all of Israel, not just the territories occupied in ’67. So to all who support the continued existence of Israel but oppose the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza: reject BDS and support organizations, like J Street or Peace Now, who actually reflect your views! Of course, this has nothing to do with the right of BDS people to speak in public which is a core American value. I would hope that BDS people respect their opponents’ free speech rights as well – which has not always been the case!

      Reply to Comment
      • Carl

        Avrumele you’re confusing tactics with beliefs. I didn’t stop buying Sout African products all those years ago because I wanted to see the SA destroyed or all whites expelled, but because I wanted to do hasten the end of apartheid.

        I think BDS is a useful and valid means of opposing the current policies of the Israeli government, but I don’t want to see the destruction of Israel, just equal rights for all residents.

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        • Avrumele Abramovich

          No, I am not. The name of the movement, it is true, refers to tactics. But the goals of the movement, as one can easily discern by listening to its representatives, is the dismantling of the State of Israel. If the BDS movement was aimed at two secure states, an Israeli state and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace, I would support it. That is not the goal of the movement. For people in the movement, the “occupation” refers as much to Tel Aviv as to Hebron. Just read what they say. Supporters of the two-state solution should not be misled into thinking they share any values with the BDS movement. I reject the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and would not buy any products produced in Israeli settlements. That is not what the BDS movement stands for. They do not object to “Israeli policy”; they object to Israel itself. This is not a secret and most of the movement members openly proclaim this.

          Reply to Comment
          • Carl

            Well I’m not a member of BDS, but they state that their aims are the end of the ’67 occupation, a recognition of the ROR, and equal rights for all citizens.

            I appreciate there’s a fair amount of room for manoeuvre in there, but it doesn’t seem hugely divergent from your own views.

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      • Leen

        I think you need to clarify what you think of as ‘destroying Israel’. Many people have different views on this. Some people think ‘destroying Israel’ means throwing the Jews in the sea, some people see ‘destroying Israel’ as destroying it in its current racist form.
        Regimes and states change. It happens. They get ‘destroyed’ in their current form but that does not mean the people are wiped out as well. East Germany was ‘destroyed’ but it’s still there, no? just the communism part of it and soviet influence was removed. USSR was ‘destroyed’. Kingdom of Italy was ‘destroyed’. Yugoslavia doesn’t even exist anymore. Abyssinia was ‘destroyed’. West Germany was ‘destroyed’. Imperial japan was ‘destroyed’. Empire of China was ‘destroyed’. BUT the point of the matter is they are STILL there. The regime and state changes. There is nothing wrong with wanting a state to change. If it ends of being the federal state of Israel and Palestine (similar to Bosnia and Herzegovina), or Palisrael, or Isratine, or whatever.

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        • Avrumele Abramovich

          To Carl and Leen: first of all, the aims of the BDS movement are not limited to ending the ’67 occupation. Just listen to what they say and write. There is no reasonable interpretation of the writings and speeches of their leading representatives, including Butler, that would limit their objectives in this way. Butler is fundamentally opposed to the whole Zionist enterprise and the existence of a Jewish state in any form. She is entitled to that view. I oppose it. Second, I wrote that they favor “dismantling” (not “destroying”) the State of Israel. Again: this is not a secret or a tendentious interpretation of their statements. Butler and co. are opposed to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state in any form. Now, you might agree with her – and Leen seems to agree with her wholeheartedly. I respect your First Amendment right to hold and express that view. But I, and most liberal and even moderately leftist American Jews, oppose this goal. We think, for example, that Bosnia is hardly an ideal to wish for (as you seem to do), given the bloodbaths that have periodically beset that region since the middle of the 19th century. All I’m saying is that those of us who support the two-state solution need to oppose the BDS movement because it does not share our views. BDS’ers are certainly entitled to their views. I, and most American Jews, oppose those views. Supporters of the BDS movement should not attempt to mislead people into thinking that support for their movement is support for a two-state solution. It is not. Ask Butler. Ask the fans of the late Edward Said. These people did not and do not support a two-state solution. They support dismantling Israel. You might favor that. I do not. I oppose the BDS movement because it opposes my goals. I, therefore, urge all two-state solution supporters to reject the BDS movement.

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          • aristeides

            Avrum – your position is reasonable, but it is based on acceptance of the original injustice of the Arab expulsion. If Israel’s existence “as a Jewish state” with a permanent Jewish majority would not have been possible without the permanent expulsion of a quarter-million people, can you honestly say that Israel as a Jewish state deserves to exist?

            Israel was born in sin. Zionism is the embrace of that sin. It doesn’t stop being a sin, even today.

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            Again, you seem to be missing the point I was making. I was making the point that regimes and states are not ‘static’, they are dynamic. They adapt and change. That does not mean that the people are wiped out, nor do they lose any of their cultural or historical heritage. For example, Germany. Germany was imperial, then it became Nazi, then it split into two (one communist, one not), then it united into a federal republic. This was in the span of 100 years. The point is Germany is still there. Same argument for Russia. There isn’t a country today that hasn’t gone through some form of state change in the last 100 years, yes, including the US.

            But you are straw-manning the argument. You are trying to paint a movement that aims to change the regime as some sort of ‘bad’ movement bending over on some type of destruction. While in fact, from everything I seem to read, they are more interested in a regime and state change. Again, that does not necessarily a bad thing as a regime and a state that is built on universal human rights and democracy is rarely a ‘bad’ state.

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            And yes I am opposed to a Jewish state just as I am opposed to a Christian and an Islamic state. I am a secularist so I am wary of states that are built along religious identity/lines. I even wince a bit when any state claims to be secular yet claims to say the country’s religion is ‘insert religion here’

            As for bringing up Bosnia, I was bring an example of two ethnic identities in one. I did not say it was ideal.

            Reply to Comment
          • Avrumele Abromovich

            To Aristeid and Leen: I completely understand your positions. I reject them. And so do the vast majority of American Jews. With each post, you have made my point even stronger — viz., that anyone who believes in a two-state solution should reject the BDS movement because it and its supporters oppose a two-state solution. My point in posting here, as I’ve said all along, is to make it clear to all readers of this page that if they support the two-state solution, they should distance themselves from the BDS movement and its supporters. You reject Zionism and a Jewish State. I respect your right to hold and express those views. I reject them and will do everything to convince others that they should reject them. But I have not been trying to put forward substantive arguments in this space to support my endorsement of a two-state solution. Rather, I am calling on all who do support the two-state solution to realize that they do not share any common ground with you. I think that some supporters of the two-state solution have been mistakenly thinking that the BDS movement is their ally. It is not. It is fundamentally at odds with the two-state solution – as your posts have firmly and unequivocally announced. To supporters of the two-state solution: join J Street, support Peace Now, lobby your congressional representatives to call on Israel to withdraw to the ’67 borders. But reject the BDS movement, which firmly and clearly opposes your values.

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          • Leen

            I don’t think you understand my position at all. I did not explicitly state what my position on two state or one state (for the record, yes one state for me is ideal, but I will live with a two state granted that it leaves an open border situation where Palestinians are allowed to travel and live in Israel and Israelis are allowed to live in West Bank granted they become Palestinian citizens. Only fair, plus I explicity said I do not support separation on ethnic and religious lines). I do not advocate for separation as I think it is inherently racist (Separate but equal has already proven to be false).

            But I always stress this decision must be made by Palestinians and Israelis, based on international law and human rights. Not Non-Palestinian Arabs, Non-Israeli Jews, Americans, or whatever.

            I also never explicitly said whether I support BDS or not, or whether I am part of the movement or not.

            Therefore you are strawmanning the argument. You have made assumptions about my views while in fact I simply pointed out the interpertations of BDS.

            Again, the reason why I flip flop about the issue of two state vs one state because I think they are used a slogan rather than concerete, substantial discussion of ‘attainability’ and ‘what the heck is even a one state or a two state?’ Too many peopel interpert it as too many things. With two states i’ve heard interpertations as outrageous as a halakic state in West Bank and secular one in Israel.

            I also believe that states are dynamic, they are not static. So maybe a two-state would be achieved and everyone is dandy and happy. Next thing you know there’s a civil war in Israel between the religious right and secular left. And maybe that state dissembles in multiple little states. Who knows. The point is the process is dynamic and adapts to demographic, ideological, cultural and global change.

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          • Leen

            I also do think BDS’s goals interpertation can be interperted as two states.

            Firstly, if you advocate for an open border policy that allows Israelis and Palestinians to comfortable live in either Palestine or Israel. Then you have solved the ‘colonization of all Arab lands since 1948′. It can also solve the issue of Palestinians right of return and end occupation.

            It would also make it a much higher risk for a war/conflict to restart between both Israelis and Palestinians, yet it allows each state to exist in its own standing and hold on to its identity and cultural character (the reason why I stop short from full on supporting one-state by the way because it does not fufill the self-determinatio of Palestinians in terms of foreign policy).

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          • Avrumele Abramovich

            It is not a question of “interpretation.” The chief spokespeople of the BDS movement make no secret of their rejection of Zionism in all its forms and their rejection of a Jewish state in any form. All I have tried to do here is to appeal to those who support a two-state solution to reject the BDS movement and to join groups like J Street and Peace Now who do support a two-state solution. I have not tried here to argue why I believe in a two-state solution, because I don’t think these kinds of venues are suited for in-depth argument. But I do think they’re good for alerting people to the fact, as amply demonstrated by many of the comments here, that BDSers reject the two-state solution because of their fundamental opposition to Zionism and the very notion of a Jewish state. If anyone is still reading this thread, and you believe in a two-state solution, either for reasons of principle or pragmatism, please distance yourself from alliance with the BDS movement. It opposes your goals. You can verify this simply by reading the writings of its leading representatives like Judith Butler. The BDS movement is the opponent of people who believe in a two-state solution, not an ally.

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          • Leen

            If you reject Zionism and a Jewish state, that does not necessarily mean you reject Israel. I always found it a very strange concept that Israel claims to be a secular state and then claims to be a Jewish state. My understanding of secularism is that religious life is relegated to private life. Which means, public transporation doesn’t stop running on Shabat, shops don’t get fined on Shabat and the like. To me that isn’t secular.
            Israel can shed its zionism and religious connotation and still remain a state. You don’t get your car stoned on Yom Kippur. It’s not hard, many countries have done similar things.
            For the record, I don’t believe all forms of Zionism are bad, I for one don’t mind Cultural Zionism. Israel can retain some form of cultural zionism that is not opposed to liberty, plurality, and international law. I have heard BDSer actually on more than one occasion express aparthy to Cultural Zionism as it does not have terrible consequences for the inhabitant population.

            Once more, I never have said at any point that I am part, support or not support, the BDS movement. I am merely discussing it and why alternate interpertations.

            Reply to Comment
    15. Masoud Jazayeri

      The commenter using the name of a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is banned from commenting on this site. S/he is also banned when using any other of his/her pseudonyms.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Frank

      You lost all credibility Lisa when you wrote ” we had a certain Jewish Harvard professor who equates any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism”

      Reply to Comment
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