Pro-Israel handbook explains how to attack professors and ‘co-opt’ students of color

Last week, the David Project released its “white paper” on Israel advocacy in US colleges and universities, titled A Burning Campus? Rethinking Israel Advocacy at America’s Universities and Colleges.

David Project

The David Project is perhaps best known for its smear campaign against Columbia professor Joseph Massad in 2004–05, and more recently, for creating the most boring and uninspiring “Shit People Say” video.

Unlike previous hasbara handbooks, A Burning Campus? dispenses with the usual talking points and approaches Israel advocacy on college campuses more strategically.

As I demonstrate below, the report is surprisingly frank about how the anti-Semitism charge is used as a weapon, what is the best way to attack college professors, and which minority groups are best to, in their words, “co-opt.”

The anti-Semitism charge as a tactic

The report is candid about how the anti-Semitism charge is used as a tactic. What it determines however, is that the tactic is ultimately ineffective and that other tactics should be employed.

Throughout the report, the authors assert that anti-Semitism is not a pervasive problem on college campuses:

Most American campuses are not hostile environments for most Jewish students….The chief concern therefore is not the welfare of Jewish students but that a pervasively negative atmosphere will affect the long-term thinking of current college students, negatively affecting strong bipartisan support for Israel.

[...]

Racial antisemitism of the kind most associated with the Nazis is not likely a serious problem on any American college campus. Swastikas appearing on a dorm room door or other similar manifestations are often dealt with quickly and seriously.

[...]

Campus is largely not a hostile environment for Jewish students. There has probably never been a richer array of ways for students to engage in meaningful Jewish activities today than there has ever been, including at schools where anti-Israelism is widespread.

Because anti-Semitism is not pervasive, such accusations are ineffective:

Pro-Israel organizations have often cast the challenge on campus as an assault on Jewish students rather than as a spreading pervasive negativity toward Israel. Casting the issue in these terms does not jive with the lived experience of many Jewish students, who know they can identify as Jews and largely not suffer repercussions…

[D]epicting campus as hostile to Jews has not to date proven to be an effective strategy for decreasing anti-Israelism on campus…

Therefore other tactics must be utilized.

How to attack professors

Instead of accusing your professors of anti-Semitism, accuse them of abusing their positions. This will produce higher returns:

[A]ccusing faculty members who propagandize against Israel of “academic malpractice” is likely to be a much more effective strategy than challenging specific allegations or invoking anti-Jewish bigotry. Rightly or wrongly, the current campus atmosphere is much more sympathetic to charges that teachers are not satisfactorily teaching their subject than to complaints of anti-Jewish bias and Israel supporters will likely have a greater practical impact by framing their concerns in this manner.

Apparently the David Project has come a long way since the days when founder Charles Jacobs labeled Jewish Columbia professors who disagreed with him as “the Marranos of Morningside Heights”—essentially Jew traitors.

Targeting specific racial groups

The report calls for pro-Israel students to build alliances with other groups on campus, notably with students of color:

Campus Israel advocates often overlook the importance of emerging groups with great potential to shape the campus conversation.

Many of these groups also have the potential to be co-opted into the anti-Israel coalition on campus. Preventing them from allying themselves with the anti-Israel effort or even co-opting them into pro-Israel efforts is an opportunity for a significant “win” by Israel advocates on many campuses.

Translation: If left unchecked, students of color might be “co-opted” into believing that Palestinians are subjected to racist oppression. We need to co-opt them first.

Notable among these are Indian groups, which have a potential for natural affinity. Indian Americans are overrepresented at many target schools…

Both [India and Israel] are primary targets and victims of Islamist terrorism, suffer from protracted border disputes with majority Muslim populations, have enjoyed tremendous success in high-tech industries and benefit from an impressive and growing national culture of entrepreneurship, and see themselves as the modern political manifestations of ancient civilizations.

Translation: Indians are never Muslim. They hate Muslims, so we have something in common. They’re also entrepreneurs and are ancient like us.

Israel has a long standing, close alliance with the United States. Indian leaders increasingly see a close alliance with the United States as a pillar of their country’s geopolitical strategy for many years to come. Indian political leaders therefore may view Israel’s successful relationship with the United States in similar terms to the way that some Indian American leaders view American Jewish success.

Translation: There is no difference between US students of Indian descent and the government of India.

Other Asian groups are also increasingly significant factors on American campuses and could serve as fruitful partners:

South Korea has a large and growing evangelical population and there is evidence of increasing affinity for Israel and Jews in that country.

Translation: South Korean students love Jews and God.

China will obviously be a significant factor in world affairs for many years to come, and there is also some evidence of Chinese affinity for Jewish culture and Israel.

Translation: Chinese-American students control the world economy (through their dual loyalty to China) and groove to Matisyahu.

Many Latino student groups are susceptible to partnership in an anti-Israel coalition. Convincing them not to publicly affiliate with or otherwise support anti-Israelism would itself be a significant victory for Israel supporters on many campuses.

Although the report does not explain why Latino students are particularly susceptible to “anti-Israelism,” a recent press briefing by The Israel Project might shed some light:

Americans of Hispanic origin, the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, are relatively hostile towards Israel because they are ignorant about Middle East affairs and are influenced by traditional anti-Israeli Catholic views, according to the Israel advocacy group, The Israel Project (TIP).

Translation: Latino students don’t like Israel because they are ignorant and Catholic. Don’t expect to win them over. The best you can do is prevent them from actively supporting the other side.

Conspicuously absent in the report is any discussion of African-American students, an issue that I will address in the near future.

Evangelical students

Evangelical students are an increasing proportion of and increasingly active on many target campuses. These students have a natural affinity for Israel and are becoming more active as campus advocates for Israel.

Evangelical positions on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage are unpopular on most college campuses. Students who identify strongly in this way may have limited ability to influence non-evangelical students in a pro-Israel direction.

Translation: Evangelicals have a “natural affinity” for Israel, homophobia, and restricting women’s rights. The first one is an asset, the latter two are liabilities, and evangelical anti-Semitism is a non-issue.

Israel supporters should therefore seek to work with this important demographic without entering into a permanent coalition that may hurt its ability to work with other groups and/or individuals on campus or that associates Israel’s “brand” too closely with unpopular “social” issues.

At the same time, campus Israel supporters would be remiss not to seek to utilize and partner with evangelicals in creative ways.

Translation: Make sure Israel’s reputation as a racist apartheid regime is not sullied by “unpopular” associations with homophobia and sexism.

And speaking of homophobia…

[M]any students have brought gay Israelis to campus to discuss gay rights in the country, an idea with obvious provenance that nevertheless does not usually interest a wider spectrum of campus due to its narrow focus on Israel. Instead, a pro-Israel group could plan a more general event on gay rights in the Middle East that would likely appeal to a much broader spectrum of students.”

Translation: Notwithstanding the fact that you have just aligned yourself with homophobic evangelicals, when all else fails, exploit Middle Eastern queers.

About Phan Nguyen

Phan Nguyen is a Palestine solidarity activist based in New York. Follow him on Twitter: @Phan_N
Posted in American Jewish Community, Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, US Politics

{ 19 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Pixel says:

    It won’t work.

    Nonetheless, “A Burning Campus? Rethinking Israel Advocacy at America’s Universities and Colleges” should be widely posted and distributed to all students and student groups.

    It speaks for itself.

    People don’t like to be used and manipulated.

    Thanks, Phan!

  2. Citizen says:

    Phan Nguyen, you are a keen translator! Right on the mark every time.

  3. marc b. says:

    i see phan’s excellent work as the foundation for an anti-David Project ‘black paper’, so to speak. phan’s translation is a good start, but a written position paper deconstructing the David Project’s cynical attempt at manipulation is a necessary response. (the reductionist, racist mindset of so-called opponents of anti-semitism never ceases to amaze me. they can’t help but reduce everything to race mythology.)

    • “Notable among these are Indian groups, which have a potential for natural affinity. Indian Americans are overrepresented at many target schools…”

      It’s understandable if Jews whose forebears hail from Russia or Lithuania aren’t aware of the affinities in the region of Holy Zion—

      India was originally part of the Persian empire. India was the ‘other’ branch of Zoroastrianism (which is, by the way, the prototype of Judaism & Christianity and the belief system of Cyrus and Persians when Cyrus assisted Jews in returning to Jerusalem in 537 BC). There remains a very strong bond between Iranians and Indians; the largest ‘Parsi’ — ie. Zoroastrian — communities reside in India, where they are quite prosperous.

      • piotr says:

        This seems to be oversimplification. The first Persian empire conquered the region of Indus river, and Zoroastrianism shares some elements of mythology with the oldest versions of Vedic religion, but these religions were profoundly different.

        Persia and Mughal Empire were neighbors with strong trade links and cultural ties. Persian was the court language in Dehli, and Urdu absorbed many Persian words. Cousine has many similarities.

        Most importantly, Indians do not share American perspective about “values”. More precisely, there is an assumption that these values come with huge dollop of hypocrisy, after all, India was on the receiving end. Some Indians hate Muslims, but even that is complicated: the opponents resists India in Kashmir and spread terror in other places with the help of Pakistan, an American ally, which also support Taliban, opposed by Iran and India. Indian nationalists are proud of their nuclear weapons, so they do not agree with the perspective that a non-Western nation cannot be trusted with nukes, and they definitely do not see Pakistan as a more sane country than Iran.

        Right now Israel offers some technologies like drones, and Iran offers oil with very good conditions: discounts and payment in Indian currency, essentially, Indian goods. I guess Iran offers a better deal. Except for having a better relationship with USA. To an Indian nationalist, this consideration is somewhat humiliating.

        To summarize, Israeli project themselves as (a) very nice democratic country — Western blather, as if we in Asia do not know better (b) provider of unique technologies — they have this or that, but so does Belgium, and we Indians have excellent science and technology as well (c) vehicle to improve relationship with USA — OK, but USA also has to be careful to have good relationship with India, we are a huge country with resources and dignity.

        Concerning Latinos, Latin America was, and is, on the receiving end of specifically American hypocrisy, and neo-cons had their hand in supporting military coups, atrocities in several countries etc. When someone like Elliot Abrams or Otto Reich talks about democracy, a Latino may burst in laughter. Israel systematically courts the most reactionary regimes in Latin America.

        • thank you for the response, piotr. I’m just learning about Zoroaster and do not have a strong enough grasp of the details to debate your points (without reference books, which are not nearby right now).

          I nevertheless maintain that Zoroaster and the beliefs he taught, and that were practiced in the Persian empire at least from the time of Cyrus, are extremely important topics to discuss in the context of Israel, Jewry, and zionism. It seems to me zionists have been attempting to erase Zoroaster’s and Iranian cultural influence from the ‘western’ imagination for over 100 years. Time for a Renaissance of Persian and Zoroastrian culture — Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.
          Zionism certainly has not made the world a more peaceful or culturally rich place during its 15 minutes of fame (h/t Andy Warhol).

        • piotr says:

          Certain ideas of Zoroastrianism were adopted by Judaism and Christianity. Wiki: Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail over the evil Angra Mainyu or Ahriman, at which point the universe will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end. In the final renovation, all of creation—even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to “darkness”—will be reunited in Ahura Mazda, returning to life in the undead form. At the end of time, a savior-figure (a Saoshyant) will bring about a final renovation of the world (frasho.kereti), in which the dead will be revived.

          I am not a theologian, but the strict dualism of order/light/good/God and chaos/darkness/evil/Satan is attributed to Zoroastrianism, and perhaps the concept of Messiah as well.

  4. Chu says:

    Puke. a college protocols handbook at the ready to coerce and infect potential lifelong collegiate friendships. The David Project aims to
    use others to achieve their selfish ends. It’s really no wonder why
    people are tired of Israel and it’s blatant propaganda. This sly game of deception must give so many zionists such a hard-on, but its effect is slime to the core; using others to clean their laundry.

    • Real Jew says:

      Chu is right on the money. Despicable!

      This handbook will only serve to expose how morally bankrupt the David Project and other Israel advocacy groups are. The simple truth is many pro Israel advocates are undoubtedly aware they are serving a criminal country and unjust cause. You would assume that possessing this awareness would encourage a re-evaluation of one’s allegiance and perhaps taking a stand against severe injustice, instead they create ever new tactics of deception and manipulation. Utterly repulsive!

  5. pabelmont says:

    Phan tells us that the Hasbara actually admits:

    “The chief concern therefore is not the welfare of Jewish students but that a pervasively negative atmosphere will affect the long-term thinking of current college students, negatively affecting strong bipartisan support for Israel.”

    PLEASE QUOTE THIS WIDELY! It proves that the folks (the hasbaristas) most likely to point to actual anti-Jewish-Student activity DENY there is any to speak of. SO THERE IS CLEARLY NO EXCUSE FOR SHUTTING DOWN PRO-PALESTINE STUFF.

    THEY SAY, RATHER, it is anti-Israel they are worried about — and this is a free-speech item, politics, foreign-policy, NOT ANTI-SEMITISM

  6. kapok says:

    Translation: We are conniving little shits but that doesn’t bother us.

    It’s like they go to see Othello and root for Iago!

    • marc b. says:

      We are conniving little shits but that doesn’t bother us.

      i’m certain that they would consider that description as a complement. dimwitted, unimaginative little racists is more accurate in my book.

  7. Fredblogs says:

    The Marranos weren’t traitors. They were Jews in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition who pretended to convert to Christianity while secretly practicing Judaism.

  8. Charon says:

    How many other advocacy groups out there have handbooks like this full of manipulative and deceptive guidelines intended to coerce an opinion? I know the media gets material like this in support of a war or political agenda. And I know from my time spent in the business world that similar material is handed out for trade events and used by commission sales execs.

    But does China have advocacy groups visiting campuses with similar agendas? I once attended an event about Islam at the local university. It’s not a traveling event, just something they have from time to time spreading awareness about the smears used against Islam and Koran verses taken out of context. I did not sense them using rhetoric or resorting to manipulative tricks. They went over the dogma and never once used an example of dogma from other religions (they acknowledged it, but never quoted any dogmatic biblical verses for comparison reasons).

    I mean, I know that Gideons hands out abridged new testaments and people hold unofficial events on or near a campus to promote racist and bigoted ideology, but is there anything comparable to this Israeli advocacy?

    I see that BP is visiting campuses to save face. I guess that is comparable. I don’t see the point in visiting campuses unless your brand is in trouble. If the brand is doing great, there would be little need.

  9. radii says:

    it’s always about manipulation and control for zionists, never, it seems, about earning respect and earning loyalists based upon the merits of positions

    • Citizen says:

      Yeah, radii, I gather the same approach whenever I view a White House Press person making an announcement and taking questions from the press–most especially when it concerns anything involving Israel in any way.

  10. RE: “[M]any students have brought gay Israelis to campus to discuss gay rights in the country…” ~ David Project “white paper”

    FROM WIKIPEDIA:

    (excerpts) The 2009 Tel Aviv gay centre shooting resulted in the deaths of two people and injuries to at least fifteen others at the Tel Aviv branch of the Israeli GLBT Association, at the “Bar-Noar” (Hebrew: בר-נוער‎, “Youth Bar”), on Nahmani Street in Tel Aviv, Israel, on 1 August 2009. A 26-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl were killed.[1][2] . . .
    . . . As of January 2012, the crime remains unsolved
    … Two people were killed, and fifteen were wounded. The police had launched a search campaign to find the shooter, and in addition immediately closed most of the entertainment places for the gay community that operated during the same time of the shooting event, for fear of additional shooting.
    The gunman entered the building where a weekly event was being held (in the basement), shot in several directions and then fled on foot.[2][5][6] The building was frequented by gay teenagers who engage in social activities and listen to music.[6][11] The centre was small with one terrace; thus preventing anyone from escaping.[6] They instead hid under a bed and tables as shots were fired.[6][11] Israeli television said the crime scene was a “bloodbath”.[7]…
    . . . The shooter was masked, dressed in black and used a pistol to carry out his attack.[2][5][8][11][12] It is not believed his motive was related to nationalist terror but the exact motive is currently unclear.[2] The city’s gay community stated the killer had a homophobic motive while police have cautioned people that the attack may not have been a hate crime and that the motive remains unknown. . .

    SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org

  11. what baffles me, that so many jewish people active on israel, who call themselves “pro-israel” do not digest-

    principled criticism of israeli crimes, and opposition to israeli colonization and expansion are good for israel (and palestinians).

    “anti-israel” accounts for a fringe minority, and if they have the interests of israeli welfare in mind, they should simply join the “anti-israel” groups, and make sure the few fringe “anti-israel” types are further marginalized (not like they are any threat).

    the “pro-israel” apologist actions are not correctly termed “anti-israel”, but they sure as hell are the BIGGEST threat to israel, and jews alike. everything is upside-down for these propagandists, buying their own propaganda. a vicious cycle of lies the majority do not even comprehend. oye vey.