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A BDS win at Brown University

It didn't take much Israel-bashing for SJP to convince a transgender best-selling author to cancel her talk

There is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to Janet Mock’s decision to cancel her “Redefining Realness” talk at Brown University this week. Ms. Mock, a transgender best-selling author, canceled her talk following pressure from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to reject the invitation due to Brown Hillel’s involvement.

SJP cannot have it both ways — advocating to muzzle a speaker because the event is being held at the Hillel building and then expressing disappointment when she cancels. Succumbing to the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is nothing to be proud of either.

An online petition signed by 160 signatures hardly qualifies as justification for canceling a speech on a campus with 9,000 students. The abrupt cancellation undermined the remarkable coalition led by Brown University student group, “Moral Voices,” which aims to raise awareness about social justice issues of global importance. This coalition included the Brown Center for Students of Color, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, LGBTQ Center, Sexual Assault Peer Educators, Swearer Center for Public Service, Office of the Chaplains, the Rhode Island School of Design’s Office of Intercultural Student Engagement, and Brown/RISD Hillel. SJP’s tactics intimidated Ms. Mock to stay off campus and subverted a positive community gathering for the purpose of their own misguided aims.

Is it a coincidence that after the talk was cancelled, anti-Semitic and homophobic graffiti were scrawled in the hallway of Marcy House, a dorm that houses two  fraternities — one that is predominately Jewish and another with many LGBTQ members?

Both Ms. Mock and some students were swayed by “pink washing,” a political and marketing strategy that Israel haters use by inverting a positive aspect of Israeli society, and flipping it on its head in an effort to delegitimize the Jewish state. It takes Israel’s proud record on LGBTQ issues and the openness that Israeli society demonstrates towards the community and argues, absurdly, that Israel uses this issue to deflect attention away from its treatment of Palestinians. It is nothing more than false advertising.

Israel is the only Middle East country that provides legal protections and equality for the LGBTQ community, irrespective of gender or religion. Are the “activists” who single out Israel protesting Saudi Arabia, Iran, or any of the Gulf States, where being openly gay is punishable by death?

The effect, if not intent, of all BDS campaigns is the demonization of Israel. The campaign at Brown is no exception. It places the entire onus of the conflict on one side: the Israelis. The BDS movement does not support a two-state solution and opposes the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Denying only the Jewish people a universal right — that of self-determination — is fundamentally anti-Semitic.

About the Author
Robert Trestan is the Executive Director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Boston office where he oversees the League’s fundraising, program initiatives and leadership development. He is an experienced civil right advocate dedicated to developing community partnerships and initiatives that provide justice, equality and fair treatment.
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