The Israel apologists are out in full force as the Penn BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) conference kicks off tonight. The usual suspects (plus a Philadelphia Daily News columnist) are employing the same tired smears to discredit the BDS movement.
Alan Dershowitz delivered a speech to “a full house” which garnered “applause throughout the talk,” the Daily Pennsylvanian reports. The university paper also reports:
The Chair of the Penn Board of Trustees, David Cohen, introduced the event with a message on behalf of President Amy Gutmann. “We are unwavering in our support of Israel” he read. “We do not support the message or the goals of BDS…”
Penn’s Political Science and Philosophy, Politics and Economics departments, Penn Democrats and College Republicans were among the other sponsors of the event.
For more on David Cohen and his role at NBC, see Phil Weiss’ post here.
Here’s some of what Dershowitz said last night in his Jewish Federations-sponsored speech (taken from notes that are imperfect, so these aren’t direct quotes):
–Israel needs to send more women and people of color to make its case.
–Professors at the University of Pennsylvania who support BDS are complicit with evil.
–Protecting Israel is one of the great human rights issues of the 21st century.
–(During the audience Q and A): Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein hate America. They hate liberalism. They hate Western values. Make it clear that people who love liberty love Israel.
–Attacking Iran would not be preemptive, it would be reactive. Iran is already engaging in war with Israel. It has armed Hezbollah, Hamas….Israel has a right to attack.
–2 state solution would require a military presence in Jordan Valley in case there’s an incursion from Iraq. Iraq is becoming Iran. They take their orders from Iran.
–(In response to an audience member asking how to respond to an Arab student who says, you support gay rights but you took my land):
The land which is now Israel was barren land…Israeli policy was to never throw indigenous Arabs off the land. Israel’s birth certificate is cleaner than almost any modern country’s birth certificate. It was established legally. You can complain about America or Canada or Australia or New Zealand. Israel was much more humane.
–Palestinians have been on the wrong side of every war. They wanted to establish a concentration camp in Nablus [in the context of World War Two].
(To get a sense of Dershowitz’s support for torture and violence, read Max Blumenthal’s Op-Ed in the Daily Pennsylvanian.)
But Dershowitz’s rhetoric is nothing compared to the hysterical editorial printed by the New York Daily News today, surely reflecting owner and right-wing Israel supporter Mort Zuckerman’s line on BDS:
The University of Pennsylvania, one of America’s most respected bastions of higher education, plays host on Friday to the start of an odious conference destined to pulse with anti-Semitism.
Penn ought to be ashamed.
Called the National BDS Conference, the event is dedicated to undermining the very existence of Israel on the libel that the country is an illegitimate “occupation” and guilty of subjecting Palestinians to “apartheid” akin to how South Africa so brutally oppressed blacks…
In America, dangerous and reprehensible speech is best met with the truth. Spoken loud and clear. Spoken directly to the forces of hate. So if you’re near Philly and can spare the time, trek down to the BDS conference and tell them just how wrong they are.
One week after Holocaust Remembrance Day, the carnival of hate known as the National Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Conference arrives at the University of Pennsylvania today, its clown car stocked with lies, half-lies, white lies and bald-faced lies, playing to the ignorant.
It gets no sympathy from Penn, which rejects its theme. Penn believes in free speech, as does Israel, the target of the hate fest. Free speech, and most human rights embedded in Western societies, are absent in Arab states.
That is the truth, which is poison to BDS, which immorally equates Israel with white-dominated South Africa, and even Nazi Germany. That’s what follows when you ally yourself with those who deny the Holocaust.
When Jeffrey Goldberg employed similar rhetoric, likening the BDS movement with Nazi Germany, this is what I wrote:
Goldberg, and others like him, are guilty of conflating Israel with Judaism, and Jews with Israelis. The BDS movement is not an economic boycott directed against Jews; it is a boycott movement directed against the State of Israel, which labels itself the Jewish State, because of its flagrant violations of international law and its continued occupation of Palestinian land. As Alisa Solomon, co-editor of Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, told me in 2009, “it’s a very dubious and dangerous collapse when ‘Jew’ and ‘Israel’ are conflated. Anti-Semites do it a lot, and unfortunately, powers of the Israeli state do it as well.”
Invoking Nazi Germany’s policy of boycotting Jewish-owned businesses as a way to smear the BDS movement is a cheap trick that has no merit. Nazi Germany instituted a blanket boycott, with no end in sight, that was directed at a persecuted minority just because of their religious faith. The BDS movement is targeting a state, asking Israel to comply with their obligations under international law, because of their unjust and oppressive policies towards the Palestinian people. There are many Jewish organizations that support the movement, including inside Israel.
This is nothing less than a full-scale campaign to tar the BDS movement as anti-Semitic and akin to Nazi Germany. I’ll leave you with Omar Barghouti’s eloquent response in the UPENN student paper, which Adam Horowitz highlighted earlier:
As to the venomous and patently false anti-Semitism smear thrown recklessly and maliciously at BDS activists in an explicit attempt to bully them into silence, it is increasingly seen today as a weapon of intellectual terror that is employed to stifle debate and free speech when the subject is Israel’s occupation and apartheid or the generous U.S. support for both. This time around, though, with the BDS movement’s solid human rights and international law credentials and track record, the anti-Semitism smear is hardly working.
BDS is categorically opposed to all forms of racism, including Islamophobia, anti-black racism and anti-Semitism. Anchored in international law and universal principles of human rights, BDS calls for equal rights for all humans, without discrimination. This universalist commitment has enabled BDS to spread in recent years at a spectacular rate within the mainstream of western societies, achieving one success after another, in the economic, academic and cultural boycott spheres. Israel is conceding that it is losing the battle for hearts and minds not just in Europe but also on U.S. campuses. Thus the panic, the vilification and the bullying attempts to crush the BDS conference at Penn.