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Alumni donor threats and more Nazi analogies as the world awaits Penn BDS conference

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I went to the last BDS conference at Hampshire College in Massachusetts and nobody paid any attention to us. But this weekend! Holy moly! Isn’t this an utter fulfillment of the Gandhi law of activism: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win….

I’m reading the Daily Pennsylvanian. Props to these great college journos (Jeffrey Goldberg first inked his quill there, o ye ambitious young wretches) for their coverage. First the bad news then the bad news–

Donor threats reported by Sarah Smith in the Daily Pennsylvanian. This was inevitable. It happened with Walt and Mearsheimer at Harvard.

“I think there’s a lot of major donors that have threatened or plan to withhold significant financial support from Penn as a result of this,” said an alumni donor who wished to remain anonymous to maintain his relationship with the administration.

Alumni have been calling and emailing the administration expressing opposition to the conference, he said….

“I ultimately don’t particularly understand why Amy Gutmann and the trustees agreed to hold this conference and are essentially hiding behind a veil of protecting free speech and free expression,” he added.

1996 College graduate Aaron Ross has been working with fellow alumni to spread his discontent with the administration’s decision.

“Certainly in the short term this would affect [donation] decisions,” he said.

“That’s unfair because we haven’t done anything wrong,” said College sophomore Jacob Minter, a PennBDS member. “All we’re doing is standing up for human rights.”

You go, Minter! You’re building character through this ordeal.

Now here’s David Cohen, chairman of the Penn board of trustees, writing with Penn President Amy Gutmann to deplore BDS.

This conference is not a University sponsored or promoted event.

The stated purpose of BDS is to advocate for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel. We want to be absolutely clear on this point: the University has repeatedly, consistently and forcefully expressed our adamant opposition to this agenda. Simply stated, we fundamentally disagree with the position taken by Penn BDS.

Who is David Cohen?  He led off for Dershowitz last night at the anti-BDS conference conference (I told you they’re paying attention!), and he is the executive vice president of Comcast, which owns NBC and MSNBC. Cohen raised $1.2 million for Obama in one night last summer, and has been a fierce supporter of Israel. Hark, Chris Matthews– your boss is in the Israel lobby!

Here is some more incitement– to follow Professor Ruben Gur’s nutty piece that describes Jews who support BDS as “kapos.” Prameet Kumar of the Daily Pennsylvanian reports on a flyer being handed out outside the Dershowitz talk last night at Penn:

The flyer, apparently printed and distributed by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, compares some Penn professors’ support of the BDS movement to the actions of Nazi Germany.

23715 perhaps the upenn professorsf

Yet another Nazi scare, in a letter from Yali Elkin, ’97 graduate of Penn:

If ever there was a time for leaders of our academic institutions to unite and stare down bigotry, racism and intolerance, surely this is it. As a History major at Penn, one of the many things I learned was the tragic cascade of repercussions from silence and neutrality in the face of such malevolence. As Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel lamented, “we learn from History that we do not learn from History.” Indeed, if Martin Niemoller’s famous words don’t resonate here and now, when will they?

You didn’t see the Holocaust reference? I’m no dummy, I got Wikipedia: Martin Niemoller is the former Nazi who recanted and warned that the Nazis were coming for the Jews first, then you later…

OK, had enough? Here’s part of a beautiful letter to the Daily Pennsylvanian by Judith Beck, a ’64 alum who praises the boycott divestment movement for noble reasons.

the BDS movement, which is international in scope, is a nonviolent attempt to address the inequities that exist between Israelis and Palestinians. Inequities that continue to obstruct the process to peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine. When Palestinians have their water turned on only once every fourteen days, as they do in Hebron in the occupied Palestinian territories while the residents of the illegal Israeli settlement immediately above have water 24/7 and swimming pools, it is hard to see how that is equal coexistence.

As one who is old enough to have been a young woman involved in the civil rights movement in this country and then to have had the privilege of working for the anti-apartheid boycott and divestment movement for black South Africans, it is indeed troubling to see that my own alma mater faculty is resorting to the same hateful discourse that so obstructed the goals of both of those morally imperative actions.

Judith, you made my day. I can show this to my mom to explain why I’m in Philadelphia this weekend. So can Minter. We’re not going away.

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24 Responses

  1. HRK
    February 3, 2012, 12:56 pm

    This battle is quite dramatic. On the one side, you’ve got the artsy left, using their particular set of abilities, their hardcore activists raining down chants, slogans, and cooler-than-thou speakers on their opponents like a steady stream of elfin arrows (those activists!–they never stop–check out Occupy Wallstreet–they’re still out there!). On the other side, you’ve got the organized, dead-serious tribalist machine maxing out its own particular set of abilities–cohesion, establishment prestige, “the Dersh” (if somewhat grizzled with age still spry when it comes to a fight). This is really epic. What can I say?: It’s like The Lord of the Rings, in real life.

    It’s sad but also funny, in a weird way, that this is even happening. C’mon, Israel–pull your head out of the ground! Roll back the settlements and give the Palestinians a decent state!

    • pabelmont
      February 3, 2012, 2:16 pm

      You refer to the BDS’s “elfin arrows”, but why not be direct and also refer to the pro-settlement folks’ bulldozer-like arrows of monetary-contribution-refusal. Money from the wealthy settlement promoters is not insignificant, not elfin.

      I remember when Vanessa Redgrave was hired (for articstic reasons) and then fired (for political reasons) by the Boston Symphony after big donors made rude noises. BTW, Redgrave played a bit part in “Miral”, a beautiful Palestinian movie which everyone should see (and would see, were not the USA’s movie establishment also part of the pro-settlement establishment).

    • Pixel
      February 5, 2012, 3:18 am

      Great comment!

    • February 5, 2012, 10:00 am

      all glory and honor to Phil and others fighting the good fight.

      every party has a pooper and that’s my job —

      we know how vicious Israeli zionists can be.
      the more effective BDS becomes, the more desperate they become, the more brutally they WILL react. Suffering of Palestinians and threats against Iranians will increase in direct proportion to the success of BDS.

      We Americans have got to examine our consciences and figure out what moral obligations we have to put our own lives and comforts on the line to stop this madness.
      So far, we’ve “fought them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.”

      makes me wanna holler.

  2. American
    February 3, 2012, 1:05 pm

    ““we learn from History that we do not learn from History.”

    Some people sure don’t, but it’s not the BDS people.

  3. iamuglow
    February 3, 2012, 1:07 pm

    Ultimately the bit about the donors not giving to Penn is just a threat…so long as the person reporting it and the donors themselves are anonymous I wouldn’t give it any weight.

  4. kalithea
    February 3, 2012, 1:14 pm

    I’m so heartened by this conference. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic and will have my hopes shattered once again (because money still talks), but it almost feels like a turning point.

    The reaction of Zionists towards this conference reminds me of the final throes of evil spirits in an exorcism where obscenities and obstacles of all kinds are hurled at the exorcist in order to prevent him from freeing the host victim of these evil parasites.

    The fact that they protest so much in this vile way is sublimely encouraging. This is no longer a well-choreographed Zionist offensive; it’s looking erratic and pathetically defensive as in: all they have left to defend the indefensible is to rummage around in Hitler’s attic and avail themselves of whatever profane relics are left behind that could be used to preserve present-day oppression.

  5. Shmuel
    February 3, 2012, 1:44 pm

    Yes, the BDS stormtroopers are coming for the Jews, just like the Nazis did. Yali Elkin (a history major!) then predicts that they will come for other persecuted and unpopular groups on campus (Law majors? Football players?), eliminating all possible sources of dissent against their absolute power and plans to rule the continent’s campuses for a thousand years. Hegel (Elkin even remembered his full name – or looked it up on Wiki) said so! If Martin Niemoller’s famous words don’t resonate here and now, when will they? When indeed, Yali. When indeed.

  6. seafoid
    February 3, 2012, 1:49 pm

    Panic in the streets of Mass.
    I wonder to myself

  7. Pamela Olson
    Pamela Olson
    February 3, 2012, 1:52 pm

    I’m so proud to be a small part of something that pisses Alan Dershowitz off so much. And all the Dershbags like him. When they’re frothing at the mouth with this level of embarrassing incontinence, you know they are running scared. Onwards and upwards. The “white Southern gentlemen” didn’t go quietly, or quickly, but they can no longer legislate based on race, and this too shall pass.

    • seafoid
      February 3, 2012, 2:02 pm

      The white southern gentlemen still control the money. Freedom isn’t enough on its own . The Palestinians have to get their due from Israel.

      Zionists feel they deserve everything they’ve stolen.

      • Pamela Olson
        Pamela Olson
        February 3, 2012, 2:48 pm

        Most thieves manage to convince themselves they deserve it. Even sociopaths don’t enjoy cognitive dissonance.

    • kalithea
      February 3, 2012, 2:29 pm

      Lol! They’re positively rabid; but it’s all good.

      • February 5, 2012, 10:11 am

        I would caution extreme caution, kalithea. A cornered dog is dangerous. Time to get really really smart, and prepare to be called upon to put yourself — NOT somebody else’s life, hopes, future — in harm’s way.

  8. pabelmont
    February 3, 2012, 2:20 pm

    Let us hope that Israel does not prove its invincibility by “taking out” Iran and forcing the USA to do its bidding as it does so. For if Israel can demonstrate that degree of power, UPenn and everyone else may simply cave in — and BDS etc will be dead in the USA.

    • kalithea
      February 3, 2012, 2:41 pm

      The Iran isssue is the only ace that Israel has up its sleeve to force everyone to abandon the Palestinian issue and turn their attention to war and the consequences of war.

      You can bet that Israel will pull out this ace sometime soon. Their desperation knows no bounds.

      • February 5, 2012, 10:08 am

        “You can bet that Israel will pull out this ace sometime soon. ”

        Ash Jain, a WINEP flunkie, on C Span Washington Journal this morning: “Because we’ve had to be so concerned about Iran, we have been distracted from pressing forward with the peace process between Israel and Palestine.” (paraphrase).

  9. seafoid
    February 3, 2012, 4:45 pm

    I was a member of the Palestine Solidarity group in London in 2001 and I remember one meeting where the subject of a boycott of Israel came up. There was one very sympa Jewish lady who was vehement on the subject. No way- it would be no better than what the Nazis did. And I think Israel knew that they could always hide behind what happened in the 1930s.

    I had no idea in 2001 how bad Israel would get over the next 10 years. The idea that Israel would carpet bomb Gaza never entered my head. I honestly thought Israel would allow a Palestinian state within a few years. Now Israel has destroyed the peace process and exposed it as the hollow sham it always was . For the first time since 1967 Israel is losing control of the narrative. It richly deserves sanctions. It has betrayed the memory of those who died at the hands of European anti semites.

  10. Chaos4700
    February 4, 2012, 1:04 am

    Remind me how Jewish interests controlling the agenda of major institutions by manipulating financial arrangements is supposed to be an anti-Semitic myth. Because these extortionate donors seem to have missed that point.

  11. The Hasbara Buster
    The Hasbara Buster
    February 4, 2012, 5:08 pm

    I’m confused by alum, alumnus and alumni.

    • February 5, 2012, 10:13 am

      alum is colloquial; alumnus is singular masculine, alumni is plural masculine

      alumna is sing feminine, alumnae – plural fem

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