The best thing about this article in today’s New York Times on the nomination of pro-Israel activist Kenneth Marcus to be the assistant secretary for civil rights in the Education Department is the headline, which identifies him accurately: “An Advocate for Israel Draws Fire as He Nears Confirmation to Civil Rights Post.”
But a theme of the article is that the boycott movement against Israel, B.D.S., pits “Jews” against “students of color.”
“On campus after campus, the B.D.S. movement — Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel — has driven a wedge between Jewish students and students of color, challenging university administrations and straining the traditional bonds between Jews and other minorities.”
The article leads with an anecdote about a showdown at the University of Wisconsin, along those lines, over a resolution to divest from companies/countries doing human rights abuses.
A student representative who was Jewish said that the last-minute inclusion of Israel “crossed the line from legitimate conversation to a point where I consider it malicious.” The student government chairwoman, who is black, suggested the opposition to the resolution amounted to “white supremacy,” which she condemned with a four-letter expletive.
In the aftermath, Kenneth L. Marcus, the founder and president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, decided to enter the fray, writing to university administrators to denounce calls for divestment from Israel as anti-Semitic, and to assail the meeting as hostile toward Jewish students. He urged that the black student leader be disciplined.
Every Jew in this story is frightened by advocates for BDS.
Ariela Rivkin, the Jewish student representative on the [Wisconsin student] council. . . and other students felt targeted by [student government chairwoman Carmen] Gosey’s comments and believed that her decision to allow the divestment legislation to be introduced on the Jewish holiday of Passover was harassing and exclusionary.
Hold on. Lots of Jews support BDS. The burgeoning organization Jewish Voice for Peace, for instance. And the young Jews of IfNotNow are at least neutral on the matter, with many quietly supporting it. Peter Beinart and Americans for Peace Now and other liberal Zionists support BDS with respect to settlements beyond the Green Line — though Ken Marcus also sees those initiatives as anti-Semitic. In his view, “‘Israel’ means Israel or Israeli-controlled territories.” Where are all the Jews who disagree?
The article is not so bad later on. Maya Berry of the Arab American Institute says that Marcus is both more dangerous than and “infinitely more effective” than Betsy DeVos, Trump’s ideological education secretary.
And the Times reporter, Erica Green, links support for BDS not to anti-Semites, but to human rights groups.
Human rights groups also expressed concern that Mr. Marcus will use his office to further a more narrow agenda: combating the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement on college campuses, which he believes has devolved into violent, anti-Semitic harassment.
She also quotes Rahul Saksena of Palestine Legal.
“His primary mission is not to support students’ civil rights; it’s to protect Israel from criticism.”
But then it’s right back to all those Jewish students opposed to Palestinian ones.
Mr. Marcus has lobbied for institutions and the Education Department to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that Jewish activists embrace but that many Palestinian rights groups say would render criticism of Israel as hate speech.
So long as Zionism is conflated with Judaism, then criticism of Israel would be anti-Semitic. But they’re not the same, as more and more Jews are trying to make clear to the media.
H/t Donald Johnson