Daily Briefing: The Squad Highlights BDS

McGill BDS launch (Source: Flickr)


Table of Contents:


From Bill Maher to Gloria Steinem: Celebrities Jump Into the Tlaib-Omar Fray:  Fern Sidman, Algemeiner, Aug. 25, 2019

Forget the Squad, Politicians Like Chellie Pingree Represent the Real Threat to Israel:  K. C. Johnson, Tablet, July 31, 2019

At Oberlin and Elsewhere, Anti-Semitism Was Canary in the Coal Mine:  Karen Bekker, RealClearPolitics, Aug. 2, 2019

The Department of Anti-Israel Studies:  Abu Yehuda blog, June 20, 2019


From Bill Maher to Gloria Steinem: Celebrities Jump Into the Tlaib-Omar Fray 
Fern Sidman
Algemeiner, Aug. 25, 2019

On his HBO program last Friday night, irreverent comedian and pundit Bill Maher pointed out the blatant hypocrisy of the BDS apologists and proffered some cogent arguments in defense of his position. He chastised the BDS proponents for their willingness to ignore their own biases and tendentious posture towards Israel while theorizing that their natural inclination is to take the side of the Palestinians in the protracted Middle East conflict because of their skin color, religion, and ethnicity.

Of the BDS movement, Maher said on his program: “It’s predicated on this notion, I think — it’s very shallow thinking — that the Jews in Israel, mostly white, and the Palestinians are browner, so they must be innocent and correct, and the Jews must be wrong. As if the occupation came right out of the blue, that these completely peaceful people found themselves occupied.”

Maher also called out the mainstream media for not offering even a modicum of coverage to the flip side of the BDS movement and for cavalierly dismissing Israel’s position on the Tlaib-Omar imbroglio. Immediately subsequent to Maher’s biting commentary, Tlaib responded to Maher by calling for a boycott of his program because he publicly disagreed with her strident animus towards Israel and that of her colleague, Omar.

Taking to Twitter on Saturday night, Tlaib referenced Maher’s statement by saying, “I am tired of folks discrediting a form of speech that is centered on equality and freedom. This is exactly how they tried to discredit & stop the boycott to stand up against the apartheid in S. Africa. It didn’t work then and it won’t now.”

On Sunday, Ronald S. Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, issued a press release saying that his organization finds Tlaib’s suggestion of a boycott of Maher’s program “deeply disturbing.” Focusing on Tlaib’s vocal support for the BDS movement, Lauder said: “Serious questions need to be asked about Tlaib’s motivation in supporting the extremist BDS movement, which is allied with terrorists and is not shy about its ultimate aim of destroying Israel.”

If that were not enough, other cultural icons piped up to add their opinions on the growing controversy. Last Sunday, it was reported that Ms. magazine founder Gloria Steinem had also chimed in on the mushrooming Tlaib-Omar issue by claiming that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a “bully,” and that she refuses to visit Israel while he is still in office.

In a tweet posted on Saturday, Steinem addressed her scathing criticism directly to Netanyahu, and said that his decision to bar a visit from Tlaib and Omar was “a welcome sign that I never have to enter any country or place under your authority.”
Steinem also said that during the 1980s when Netanyahu served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, she once joined him at his New York dinner table. She opined that he was a “conversational bully to his guests then, just as you are a bully to these two elected women leaders now.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Forget the Squad, Politicians Like Chellie Pingree Represent the Real Threat to Israel
K. C. Johnson
Tablet, July 31, 2019

Last week, in a rare moment of bipartisan comity, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly endorsed a nonbinding resolution criticizing the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. The resolution’s text avoided anything potentially controversial and simply reaffirmed the conventional U.S. support for a two-state, diplomatic solution between Israelis and Palestinians. It excluded portions of a Senate-sponsored measure that concerned the ACLU. It steered clear of equating support for BDS with anti-Semitism. And it proceeded only after the House condemned President Trump’s nativist tweet about Ilhan Omar and her three “squad” colleagues.

The careful wording of the resolution made it almost impossible to oppose. Almost, but not quite, as 17 House members, 16 Democrats and one Republican, still voted against it. Most coverage of the vote focused on Rashida Tlaib, who used the debate to analogize BDS to unsuccessful pre-World War II boycott efforts against Nazi Germany, and her fellow freshman Democrat, Ilhan Omar. But where the squad members attracted the headlines, a more notable opponent of the bill was far lower profile—Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, the only New England legislator to oppose the resolution and a sign, perhaps, of things to come. It’s likely Pingree, rather than figures such as Omar and Tlaib, who represent the greatest looming threat to Israel in the coming years.

Pingree represents Maine’s 1st District, which includes five coastal counties ranging from the New Hampshire border to Rockport, on the midcoast, along with the state’s capitol, Augusta. The district has a very small Jewish population, and even fewer Muslims. One of the most closely contested districts in the country between the early 1960s and the late 1990s, it shifted to the left during the Bush administration and now is a safe Democratic seat.

Demographic changes produced a better-educated and wealthier electorate, especially in the suburbs of Portland, the district’s largest city, which became more Democratic as it grew wealthier and more diverse. The district’s evolution previewed that of many suburban House districts that veered toward the Democrats in 2016 and especially in 2018.

After a successful career in state politics, Pingree challenged Sen. Susan Collins in a 2002 campaign where she focused almost entirely on domestic issues. When the 1st District opened in 2008, Pingree won a multicandidate primary with 44% of the vote—she hasn’t been seriously challenged since. In the House, she has rarely commented on international affairs, concentrating on district matters and the domestic issues (such as health care) in which she has long shown an interest. As Democrats from more marginal seats lost in 2010 or 2014, Pingree’s seniority increased; she now is a prominent member of the House Progressive Caucus.

When Pingree first ran for the House, she presented herself as a conventional, pro-Israel liberal. She pledged to support a “secure and democratic Israel” as part of a two-state solution. Since “terrorism by anyone for any reason must always be condemned,” she also committed to “strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself against all attacks.” In 2014, Pingree voted in favor of emergency funding for the Iron Dome during the Gaza war.

Her approach toward Israel, however, started to change the following year. Pingree joined a minority of House Democrats in refusing to attend a joint session of Congress in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the Iran nuclear deal. She couched her decision primarily in procedural terms, explaining that the speech didn’t happen “at the right time or under the right conditions . . . so close to Israeli elections [and] without the President’s consent.” Pingree claimed that she continued “to support a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship,” even as she expressed her strong support for the Iran nuclear deal. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


At Oberlin and Elsewhere, Anti-Semitism Was Canary in the Coal Mine
Karen Bekker 
RealClearPolitics, Aug. 2, 2019

Last month, the Department of Justice held a conference on the growing problem of anti-Semitism. One panel focused on anti-Semitism on college campuses, including the crusade to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS). U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was quoted at the conference as saying, “These campus bullies claim they stand for human rights but we all know BDS stands for anti-Semitism.” Cornell law school professor William Jacobson, of the Legal Insurrection blog, noted at the conference that groups promoting BDS and “intersectionality” doctrine have as their goal “the isolation of Jewish students on campus.”
As BDS and other forms of anti-Semitism gain footing on college campuses, they open the door for other problems as well. In recent years, three institutions of higher learning have self-destructed in highly public, spectacular ways: the University of Missouri, Evergreen State College and, most recently, Oberlin College. Prior to their self-immolation, all three had embraced anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic activism, and with it, unacademic thinking that is sloppy at best and conspiratorial at worst. Often, when an institution adopts or merely tolerates anti-Semitic movements such as BDS, this can be the earliest outward sign of moral and intellectual decay at the institution.

The University of Missouri gained national notoriety in the fall of 2015 when student protests raged out of control. The students appeared to have legitimate complaints about racist slurs and vandalism on campus. However, the demand that the university president resign, the surrounding of his car, and finally, assistant communications professor Melissa Click’s request to get “some muscle over here” to remove a journalist covering the protest from public property, severely damaged the school’s reputation.

Two years later, freshman enrollment at the school had fallen by over 35%. “The university administration acknowledges that the main reason is a backlash from the events of 2015, as the campus has been shunned by students and families put off by, depending on their viewpoint, a culture of racism or one where protesters run amok,” the New York Times reported.

But this train wreck was a long time in the making. “Anti-Zionism on Campus,” a book edited by Andrew Pessin and Doron S. Ben-Atar, relates how in 2014 and 2015, academic departments sponsored talks by propagandists David Sheen and Saree Makdisi, but refused to sponsor pro-Israel speakers such as Dumisani Washington and Kasim Hafeez.

In the spring of 2015, the university announced an honors course planned for the fall, to be called “Perspectives on Zionism.” It was to be taught by a biology professor, George Smith, with a demonstrated anti-Israel bias and no credentials to teach in this area. After outside pressure, the course was cancelled, ostensibly on the grounds of lack of enrollment. The relevant point is that the university was prepared to permit it. 

That year, the university also allowed Smith to promote a series of maps that completely falsify the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They purport to show “Palestinian land loss,” falsely presenting all land that was not privately owned by Jews prior to 1948 as “Palestinian.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

The Department of Anti-Israel Studies
Abu Yehuda blog
June 20, 2019

I met Prof. Cary Nelson on Monday. Nelson, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Illinois, is former president of the American Association of University Professors, and the author of many books and articles on diverse subjects.

Nelson showed us his new book, Israel Denial: Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism, & the Faculty Campaign Against the Jewish State. I only looked at it for a few minutes, but Elder of Ziyon has a complete review here. I want to write a little about the academic world that makes such a book necessary.

It’s an attempt to push back against the remarkably ubiquitous participation of Western humanities and social-sciences university faculty in the process of demonization of Israel. It’s axiomatic that today’s college students are tomorrow’s political and business leaders, and the fact that most Western universities are monolithic anti-Israel environments today is not encouraging for the future.

The most important part of the book is a detailed refutation of claims made by Judith Butler, Steven Salaita, Saree Makdisi, and Jasbir Puar, against Israel. With the exception of Salaita, whose work is so substandard and his public invective so vulgar that he has been unable to find and keep an academic position, they hold highly prestigious jobs and have no difficulty publishing whatever they write in the best venues. Butler and Puar, in fact, are professorial rock stars, with numerous awards and accolades to their credit.

Nelson, who is old enough to have grown up in an era in which standards of scholarship were adhered to – facts were checked before being cited, articles were carefully vetted before being published, candidates for academic positions were evaluated on scholarly rather than political criteria, and there was an implied commitment to seek objective truth – found himself shocked by the total collapse of academic standards in the humanities and social sciences. This was particularly evident in connection with the Israeli-Muslim conflict.*

Jasbir Puar, for example, has recently published a book called The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability (2017), in which she accuses Israel of deliberately and sadistically starving, maiming, and stunting the Palestinian population in order to achieve its “biopolitical goal” of breaking the bodies and spirit of the Palestinians to end their “resistance.” One reviewer called the book a modern “blood libel,” similar to the medieval accusations that Jews murdered Christian children in order to use their blood to make matzot.

Puar gave a lecture at Vassar College in 2016 in which she claimed that Israel poisons Palestinians with lead, uranium and phosphorus, and that the IDF shoots Palestinians in order to harvest their organs – (something which, Nelson pointed out, is medically impossible). She threatened to sue anyone who released an audio recording of that speech.

Nelson explained that Puar’s factual assertions about stunting and starvation can be debunked quickly enough by a high school student armed only with access to Google. It’s possible to show that the nutrition of the Palestinian Arabs is among the best in the Arab world, and has greatly improved since 1967 (only to decrease somewhat in areas under Hamas control since 2007). Her claim that the IDF aims at the legs of rioters or terrorists is true – but only insofar as these are cases in which the alternative would be to shoot to kill. For most of her accusations, there is simply no evidence of any kind. Puar simply makes up the facts she needs, and then “explains” them with a vicious fantasy of Jews as Nazis.

Puar is published by the respected Duke University Press. Nelson wondered why their editors were unable to check any of her factual assertions. He wondered why her similarly defective papers passed the peer review required by scholarly journals, and why she has been granted honors, academic tenure, grants, fellowships, and other prestigious and remunerative perquisites despite her penchant for inventing facts and using them to support a superstructure of demonization of a nation and its people. I do not wonder. … [To read the full article click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:

Cornell University President Shares ‘Strong Opposition to BDS’ for ‘Unfairly’ Singling Out Israel, Questioning Jewish State’s Right to Exist:  Shiri Moshe, Algemeiner, Mar. 1, 2019 –– The head of Cornell University in New York has responded to demands by anti-Zionist student activists that she embrace the Palestinian-led boycott of Israel, saying the campaign was antithetical to academic freedom and unduly targeted Israel for sanction while ignoring other countries.

READ: Israel BDS Bill Chellie Pingree Sided with Rep. Tlaib, Omar, AOC Over Maine Delegation: Maine Examiner, Aug. 19, 2019 – When Rep. Chellie Pingree (D – Maine) voted against a House resolution that voiced opposition to a movement to delegitimize and potentially destabilize the State of Israel, the United States’ most steadfast ally in the Middle East, she broke with Maine’s tripartisan delegation, Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Angus King and Rep. Jared Golden, in their support of Israel to do so.


Did J Street Get Played?:  Jacob Siegel, Tablet, Aug. 16, 2018 — An interesting note appears in a number of recent stories about Rashida Tlaib’s victory last week in the Democratic primary for Michigan’s 13th district.

Apartheid:  Beryl Ratzer, A Historical Tour of the Holy Land, Feb. 26, 2019 — “Apartheid”, has become an epithet to attack Israel / Zionism / Jews. “Apartheid – segregation; (lit. ‘Separateness’) was a system of institutionalized racial segregation in South Africa between 1948 and the early 1990s”.