Yitzhak Santis

Anti-Israel summer camp gets underway: Burgers, Boating and BDS

By the end of the summer, another group of U.S. student radicals will have attended an anti-Israel summer boot camp organized by the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the Quakers’ American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).  The camp gets underway this Sunday.

Once back on campus, these students will push BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns against Israel, employing the wider anti-Israel political warfare that stems from the 2001 Durban NGO Forum.  This sustained global demonization strategy seeks to exploit the labels of “apartheid” and “racism” in political warfare targeting Israel, while promoting the Palestinian narrative.  The ultimate goal is dismantling Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

To these ends, JVP promotes divestment campaigns on U.S. campuses, in mainline churches, and in corporate stockholder meetings.  AFSC also supports BDS, hurls demonizing “apartheid” accusations, advocates for a “right of return” and extols “popular resistance in Palestine.”

The joint JVP-AFSC BDS Summer Institute is an implementation of the Durban strategy.  It is a five day “intensive program for campus BDS organizers – those with campaigns already running and those hoping to get one launched in the 2013-2014 school year.”  It is set to take place beginning July 28 at the bucolic Presbyterian Church’s Stony Point Center, in New York. JVP and AFSC also ran a BDS camp last summer.

During this past academic year, BDS activists in the U.S. and Canada introduced a spate of resolutions in student government frameworks. These resolutions (some passed) disrupted campuses around North America, causing tensions between students.  Other pro-BDS activities, such as Israel Apartheid Week, resulted in similar damage.

Speaking at Stanford in May 2013, JVP’s executive director said,

I think part of our job as the Jewish wing of the [Palestinian solidarity] movement, is to facilitate conversations inside the Jewish community… So, I think it’s very important to think sort of how we plan a wedge.  So, I think that the more and more we can sort of put that wedge in, saying the Jewish community’s not agreeing on these issues, the more we’ll make progress.”

In plain words, JVP seeks to divide American Jews on behalf of Israel’s enemies. To this end, JVP projects itself as a legitimate “mainstream” Jewish organization so as to gain a seat at the Jewish communal table.

There are often sharp differences at this communal table over how to arrive at a final peace settlement with the Palestinians. Nonetheless, the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state within secure and recognized borders in the framework of a two-state solution is the wall-to-wall consensus in this broad communal tent .

JVP, in contrast, is officially “agnostic” on Israel’s existence, and it supported the pseudo-academic “One State Conference” at Harvard in 2012 where JVP leaders presented.

This duplicity is relevant to the so-called “Open Hillel” campaign that seeks to force Hillel International to drop its guidelines that proscribe the hosting, partnering, or housing by Hillel of pro-BDS groups or speakers.  Open Hillel’s “Testimonials” page is dominated by video endorsements by JVP Rabbinical Council leaders and members.  Getting JVP’s pro-BDS message mainstreamed within Hillel fits in perfectly with JVP’s “wedge” strategy to divide the Jewish community on Israel.

Hence, JVP’s campus strategy of finding ways to enter Hillels and weaken their resolve on keeping anti-Israel BDS efforts outside the tent will likely be discussed at the BDS summer camp.

The BDS Summer Institute costs money.  While students are charged a $100 registration fee and must cover personal travelling expenses, the “cost of 4 nights/5 days room and board is subsidized by AFSC and JVP.”

Where is this money coming from?

AFSC’s funding sources are largely transparent.  Its website carries annual reports, audit reports, lists of foundational donors, and a breakdown of where and how its funds are spent.

In sharp contrast, JVP’s funding sources are non-transparent.  Its website carries no information on its donors.  There are no annual reports or other financial data. Limited financial information is available through public IRS documents and other databases.  NGO Monitor has found that JVP’s budget in 2011 (the last year such information was available) was nearly $900,000.  JVP has received funding from the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust (an Arab-American foundation that also supports the virulently anti-Israel Electronic Intifada), the Firedoll Foundation, and the Wallace Global Fund, which all contribute to numerous anti-Israel groups.

As we look forward to a new school year this September, divestment and boycott efforts will likely begin anew on U.S. campuses. And, it should be remembered that much of the campus BDS drive comes from the self-described “Jewish wing” of the Palestinian solidarity movement, the Jewish Voice for Peace.

Click here for NGO Monitor’s full report on Jewish Voice for Peace

About the Author
Yitzhak Santis resides in Ramat Yishai in northern Israel. He is studying for his MA in Holocaust Studies at the Weiss-Livnat International Program in Holocaust Studies at University of Haifa.