I have been fighting BDS since 2002 when I co-founded Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. I have witnessed the ebb and flow of BDS challenges on all continents including Europe and North America. I have seen effective verse ineffective strategies in combating it and a proliferation of groups claiming to be successfully dealing with the issue as the movement grows and grows and seems impervious to efforts to thwart it. My original work has spawned many academic groups addressing the BDS issue from various intellectual, political and personal perspectives from the left, right and center.
From our original board for SPME, I can count several offshoots of organizations as well as offshoots from invitees who didn’t want to join the board because it was “too….” in their minds. So now we have a plethora of anti-BDS groups on campus all claiming to be winning and gaining against this movement while the numbers belie that fact. The fact is that these groups are primarily made up of Jewish and Israel studies folks who exist in academic echo chambers where they primarily talk amongst themselves with little impact on college and university communities as a whole.
Joseph Goebbel’s, Adolph Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda once said, “If you tell a big lie often enough, it becomes the truth,” which is precisely what the enemies of the Jews and Israel have been doing in their efforts to eliminate both. My colleagues in the Jewish communal and Israel advocacy world have come to believe that if you are armed with the truth it will wipe out the evil of the big lie. That has proven to be a failed assumption with some exceptions.
Big lies becoming present truths are like viruses that need more than truth and good will to be erased. They need radical treatments. Treatments designed to reverse the mutational nature of the virus and permanently cure it or plunge it into remission. Yes, you have to extinguish the virus. In the case of the big lies being told about Jews and Israel, the virus needs to be detracted by strategic offenses by anti-viral forces demanding accountability and sanction for feeding the virus.
If I published what I am saying in an academic journal, very few people would read it and be effected by it, so I am taking a chance by writing to my academic colleagues from many disciplines through social media and my blog, with the hope that it will a visceral response and not just an intellectual response. This is a call for action and a new game plan to fight BDS on campus.
The time has come for bolder, more unified with broader and more diverse constituencies to fight the BDS movement through holding its proponents more accountable within their academic institutions. This must be done either in courts or within institutional judicial systems.
Calls for BDS involve questionable use of university facilities and resources for activities that may well be in violation of university codes of conduct and may well be issues of moral turpitude.
Students intimidating or harassing other students on the basis of religion, national origin or perceived political view violates code of conduct at most universities and there are sanctions.
Administrators who express words of outrage and disappointment when these incidents occur and yet still allow it to occur are incompetent and should be replaced.
There must be consequences for singling out Israel and Jews for opprobrium on college campuses and those of us who are still on campus need to summon the resources to put the institutions to the test and make it cost for this kind of unacceptable behavior to grow and spread. The law is clear. Discrimination, incitement and hate speech are not protected by freedom of speech. Our finest institutions have allowed academic terrorists to poison the atmosphere of the university with hate, incitement and antisemitism.
So here is my recommendation to my colleagues still on campus. Go in a different direction…get out of the echo chamber of your own discipline. Recruit from others to fight a sustained fight to win, colleague from other disciplines, religions, races and understandings. Invest in yourselves and develop the resources to fight in the courts and bring justice to your campuses. Tell your donors it’s time to ante up for legal battles to weed out the haters. File charges against colleagues, students and administrators who aren’t following codes.
Be bold…when I see that kind of an effort, perhaps I will consider releasing the funds meant for NYU to such an effort. It’s time for new directions, a dedicated purpose and return to civility, responsibility and accountability.
Whether you agree with this approach or not, please feel free to spread this piece as widely as possible. I welcome reaction and I suspect there will be a wide variety of reactions. Students, share it with your faculty and fellow students. Faculty, share it with your students and colleagues and everyone share it with parents, alumni and administrators. Feel free to contact me to consult. I have a forty year history as a faculty member and administrator and have served in leadership roles in anti-BDS groups since 2002. I am available for consultation either formally or informally. It’s time to make some noise and use the summer to prepare for the fall. Remember, they are….Thank you.