Opponents of Penn conference say: BDS bad, war good

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As noted here yesterday, The Philadelphia Inquirer published two opposing opinion pieces on the upcoming BDS conference being held at the University of Pennsylvania. One piece, supporting the conference, is written by Ali Abunimah. The other, opposed to the “BDS agenda,” is written by ex-CIA director James Woolsey and Jonathan Schanzer.

James Woolsey

Although Woolsey and Schanzer denounce the conference as “an exercise in disinformation and propaganda,” their article avoids countering any arguments for BDS and makes little mention of Israel. Instead, Woolsey and Schanzer criticize BDS for failing to address Syria:

The timing of this event makes it especially jarring: At this moment, just across Israel’s northern border, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is slaughtering Syrian dissidents…

Then they criticize BDS for failing to address Iran:

Also conspicuously absent from the BDS agenda is the regime that rules and oppresses Iranians…

In other words, Woolsey and Schanzer oppose BDS not because they think it’s wrong, but because it doesn’t go far enough.

Unforunately, Woolsey and Schanzer’s proposals for dealing with Iran and Syria—as they have described elsewhere—go way beyond the tactics of the nonviolent BDS movement.

Believing that diplomatic engagement with Iran is “worse than worthless,” Woolsey proposes a US military escalation:

Send at least four carrier battle groups and a substantial number of strategic bombers to locations from which they could carry out operations against Iran… Let Iran’s corrupt and cruel elite contemplate that you are carrying not just a big stick, but one that could be wielded decisively.

While Schanzer proposes threatening Syria with a US military invasion:

I think that is the one thing that could coerce the Syrian regime—and could certainly coerce Assad to step down—is the fear of getting involved militarily.

Is this really what the anti-BDS lobby wants to promote—that BDS is counterproductive to peace, but military threats are morally superior?

Woolsey capt Israel
Capt. Israel has run out of tricks

That the anti-BDS lobby would even enlist James Woolsey—a neocon hawk on the Iraq War and proponent of Eliot Cohen’s “World War IV” thesis—indicates a serious tactical and moral failure, as well as a complete loss of ideas on how to discredit BDS.

The Woolsey and Schanzer article criticizes the conference for lacking “serious scholarship”—a strange criticism since the conference hasn’t even started yet. By those standards, the conference can also be criticized for lacking speakers, attendees, and bagel spreads.

Even more amusing is that the word “scholarship” would emanate from James Woolsey, who has previously blamed Saddam Hussein for the 9/11 attacks, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and the Oklahoma City bombing.

In 2002, Woolsey used his government contacts to introduce the unreliable Iraqi defector Mohammad Harith to the US intelligence community, bypassing standard CIA vetting and thus helping to bolster the arguments for war on Iraq.

Furthermore, Woolsey’s claim of concern for “Muslim victims” in Iran and Syria is disingenuous, since he is a prominent figure in the Islamophobic “counter-jihad” movement. Woolsey served as a spokesman for ACT! for America to promote the fearmongering “anti-sharia” amendment in Oklahoma.

Woolsey billboard
Billboard by the United American Committee, which has since merged with ACT! for America

Woolsey contributed to the Center for Security Policy report, Shariah: The Threat to America, as a member of “Team B II” (a reference to the 1970s “Team B,” a CIA-commissioned intelligence group headed by Richard Pipes, which exaggerated the Soviet threat). I have already detailed the Islamophobic and racist projects of the Center for Security Policy, such as Latma, in a previous post.

Woolsey also participated in the Islamophobic film The Third Jihad, which everyone else is trying to distance themselves from.

It must be noted that Woolsey and Schanzer’s interventions in academia are not limited to picking on University of Pennsylvania students for organizing a conference.

Both Woolsey and Schanzer are involved with the neoconservative think tank the Foundation of Defense of Democracies (FDD), where Woolsey is the chairman and Schanzer is the vice president of research. The FDD offers an academic fellowship program in which US and Canadian university faculty are invited to an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel:

The program features an intensive, 10-day course on terrorism and the threat it poses to democratic societies… It also features visits to military bases, border zones and other security installations to learn the practical side of deterring terrorist attacks.

By “practical side,” I assume they mean that the faculty get to try out assault rifles in Israel, as shown on the fellowship web page:

FDD academic fellow

What they expect faculty to do with that information in their classrooms is beyond my comprehension.

Nevertheless, I look forward to attending the Penn BDS conference, where I will be co-facilitating a workshop that will undoubtedly push my hidden agenda of fomenting divisiveness, undermining hopes for peace, and making people cry.

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