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PennBDS still being smeared two weeks after student conference

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Though it has been two weeks since the much-discussed PennBDS conference, it seems that some opponents of Palestine solidarity simply cannot let it go. While some Israel-backers have, begrudgingly, admitted that PennBDS won the battle against their propaganda and David Bernstein’s JTA Op-Ed  ‘Kick the reaction addiction on campus’  makes a public call for students to resist granting BDS more publicity, many continue to do just that.

The lag time isn’t the only strange thing about this staggered flow of response to the conference (see this 2-week-late answer by Noah Feit to a column by PennBDS organizers, and this retroactive condemnation of the event by Lee Bender). It appears that the Daily Pennsylvanian, a student publication, cannot get enough of the BDS-afforded limelight.

What else could explain the fact that, nearly two weeks after the conference, the Daily Pennsylvanian ran not one, but two inflammatory op-eds from Penn employees (one by Professor of Radiology Jerry Glickson, and another by senior software engineer Gamaliel Isaac at the University hospital)? These articles, brimming with questionable historical manipulation and personal attacks, are the latest example of what seems to be a new tradition at the DP: giving a public platform for senior Penn staff to channel their unfiltered anger towards undergraduate members of a University-recognized student group. Recall Ruben Gur’s appalling and Holocaust-degrading article:

Penn has allowed itself to be associated with this hateful genocidal organization….The purpose of BDS as presented seems similar to what was apparently stated in their version of “Mein Kampf” (I am referring to Omar Barghouti’s book titled “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions”)….The aim of the hateful and discriminatory BDS rhetoric is to delegitimize Israel in preparation for the ultimate goal of its destruction. A relevant precedent for such a movement is the groups organized by the Nazis in the 1930’s to boycott, divest and sanction Jews and their businesses. Sadly, now as then, there are Jews among the posse in the assault on their own people. The macabre sight of the likes of Stella Kübler…and the Capos in the extermination camps is about to be replayed here at Penn.

What is more unsettling than the potential damage such attacks can wreak on the young members of PennBDS is the authors’ sickening abuse of comparisons to the Holocaust and lynch mobs. Were the horrors of lynch mobs and Nazi rule really comparable to a 48-hour, student-run conference?

It is mind-boggling to think that Jerry Glickson, a Holocaust survivor himself, would feel justified in comparing undergraduate student organizers to Nazis.

Surely, if the BDS conference was promulgating the premise that the earth was flat or supporting the genetic principles of LaMarc and Lysenko over those of Darwin, there might be an outcry about the limits of academic free speech when it is used to promulgate false and disproved ideas….Had the Ku Kux Klan proposed to march through Penn, it is likely that the administration would find some basis for denying them a marching permit.

The BDS conference is akin to granting The National Socialist Party the right to march through Skokie, Illinois and display swastikas in front of a population that included many holocaust survivors.

Should Glickson or the others have bothered to look, they might have found comfort in this op-ed, written by  Penn political science professor Ian Lustick who attended the conference.

While these individuals, like many who have graced the DP’s pages in recent months, have utterly failed to provide any evidence for their vicious accusations against the conference and its organizers, their words betray their own lack of intellectual integrity. 

In the DP’s quest for controversy-fed publicity, it seems, hate speech guised as “opinion” has been deemed acceptable, while factuality, civility, and the well-being of students has become collateral damage.

Indeed, while a slew of faculty members have shown intense interest in vilifying the conference and its organizers, Penn’s President Amy Gutman remained aloof despite appeals that she step in to defend her students from such reckless abuse of authority. While she took the time to write a welcome letter to Alan Dershowitz, who spoke against the conference on February 3 , she has been unresponsive to the indignation of PennBDS organizers and conference speakers at being subjected to such alarming slander.

Penn President Amy Gutman:

We recognize the right of any student or student group to freely express their opinions. Unfortunately, some then assume that those words carry the University’s endorsement. With regard to the BDS conference this weekend, that could not be further from the truth.

It is important that you all know that we have been unambiguous in repudiating the positions that are espoused by those sponsoring that conference. They run counter to our principles, our ideals and importantly, our actions. I am very proud of the active collaborations that Penn has with Israel and hope that we will see those grow in the years ahead…..Let me say it in the clearest possible words: we do not support the goals of BDS.

Considering the DP refused to run the news of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s endorsement of PennBDS, released on Saturday February 4th, in the subsequent Monday’s paper, claiming it was “old news,” one has to wonder how much longer the editors will allow the anti-endorsement free-for-all to continue.

Sarah Aziza

Sarah Aziza is a Palestinian American writer and activist born in Chicago, IL. She has worked with refugee populations in Algeria, Jordan, South Africa, and the West Bank. She recently relocated from Amman where she spent a year as a Fulbright fellow at UNRWA. In addition to pursuing graduate studies at NYU, Sarah works in education and advocacy among immigrant and undocumented communities in New York City. Her twitter is @SarahAziza1

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18 Responses

  1. Bill in Maryland on February 22, 2012, 10:22 am

    Thanks Sarah. The big question is, when planning for the “BDS 2013” or “BDS 2014” conference begins and President Amy Gutman is asked to approve a student request for on-campus space, will she be scared off because of the memories of Ruben Gur and Prof. Glickson’s inflammatory smears.

    In that light, I guess the pro-justice and pro-equal rights side should still be submitting letters to the Daily Pennsylvanian, even retrospectively. Maybe JVP National should submit a retrospective letter of support for Penn’s hosting the event?

  2. pabelmont on February 22, 2012, 10:24 am

    Are there responses in DP to these pro-Zionism responses to BDS?

    In fact I understand the Holocaust survivor mentality: if you regard Israel and ALL its doings as proper responses to Jewish vulnerability, then any attack on ANY of its doings (e.g., BDS) is re-raising all the fears of a vulnerable victim of Nazis. (Could this, rather mysteriously, be NF’s problem with BDS?)

    But BDS people must be resolute: they cannot allow grave and unlawful mistreatment of Palestinians in OPTs go un-resisted merely to save the FEELINGS of Holocaust survivors, however unfortunate those people have been and however unfortunate their BDS-induced pain may be.

    Their pain is nothing compared to the pain of the Palestinians. Especially in law and ethics. When they say “Don’t say ill of Israel because it makes me feel bad,” they are saying that the law and H/R ethics should be ignored merely to spare their feelings.

    Better they should tell Israel to behave in a way they can be proud of, in a way that makes BDS unnecessary. That too would help to spare their feelings, for criticism of Israel would die away.

  3. annie on February 22, 2012, 10:30 am

    wow, it’s really interesting to me this issue is still hot news on penn’s campus weeks after the conference. also note these strong reactions are not authored by the students.

    from bernstein’s article:

    The big picture is that the anti-Israel groups have failed by and large to enact their anti-Israel agenda on campus. Not a single mainstream university has divested funds from Israel.

    this sounds awfully familiar. we have a poster here ‘boycott israel on campus’ that keeps reminding us of this over and over. it’s not for lack of trying is all i can say. i’m reminded of that aipac address to students saying they will get pro israel students elected and who doesn’t remember what came down @ berkeley? i was reading this morning about everygreen college. the movement is growing. the conference was fantastic and at full capacity.

    great report! please keep us informed if there are any more articles in the daily penn sarah.

  4. GalenSword on February 22, 2012, 10:52 am

    At some point the behavior of the anti-BDS Zionist lynch mob crosses the boundary into moral turpitude, and Gutman has an ethical obligation to start dismissal procedures.

  5. mikeo on February 22, 2012, 11:08 am

    “the movement is growing”

    Last night on BBC4 I watched the last episode of this documentary series about the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

    I’m not sure how you would get to watch it in the US but I can’t recommend it highly enough.

    Reading everyday about the awful reality in Palestine I sometimes feel extremely pessimistic. After watching this series I had a momentary burst of extreme optimism!

    There are many parallels to the contemporary struggle of the Palestinians in this series and I’m convinced they are not by accident. It feels like one of those cases where you use one example which is currently acceptable in the discourse to speak of another that is currently taboo.

    Check it out people, it’s inspiring.

  6. HarryLaw on February 22, 2012, 12:41 pm

    What I find disconcerting about these Professors is the sheer ignorance of their opinions. One would think a Professor might put forward arguments based on fact and logic, what kind of solution is possible when people like Dershowitz and these other imbeciles just appeal to the basest of human emotions, or maybe they are not so stupid after all, and they know they can still manipulate a gullible public bombarded excusively by the Zionist narrative, to which they know there is no opposing message.

  7. tombishop on February 22, 2012, 2:38 pm

    In a convoluted article in Haaretz, columnist Bradley Burston concludes by saying that BDS and Israeli Apartheid Week are a failure. Yet, if you read his column, it can be seen that BDS and Israeli Apartheid Week are changing the discussion in spite of Zionist attempts to discredit them. Even though he cannot acknowledge the change to save face by framing it as, “People have begun telling the truth about BDS.”, what comes out within the article is that people have begun telling the truth about Zionism.
    The article: “It’s Israeli Apartheid Week. Just tell the truth” is at:

  8. tombishop on February 22, 2012, 3:18 pm

    It’s not due to BDS, but apparently boycotts do work!

    “Israeli supermarkets rush to sell Strauss candy in wake of consumer unrest
    Protest starts when a consumer uploaded a photo to Facebook showing the company’s Pesek Zman candy bars cost more than twice as much in Israel as they do in New Jersey.”

    • lysias on February 22, 2012, 5:07 pm

      Wouldn’t shipping costs add a substantial percentage to the presumably low cost of making candy bars?

      • piotr on February 22, 2012, 8:36 pm

        Ruben Gur was quoted somewhat out of context: “The macabre sight of the likes of Stella Kübler…and the Capos in the extermination camps is about to be replayed here at Penn. 


        Actually, … were REALLY interesting because it was Stella Kuebler (infamous traitor who was finding fellow Jews hiding in Berlin to inform Gestapo) and Hannah Arendt, a humanitarian. Arendt opposed the concept of “Jewish values” preferring “human values” and for that she was classified together with a Gestapo agent.

        But on the bright side, there are worse insult than to be put in one bag with Hannah Arendt (accurately or not).

        On one hand, Gur is a mathematician so he knows logic. And if you know logic, you know when to use it, and when to avoid it. So if he appeals to “basest instinct”, he probably concluded that logic is not with him.

  9. lysias on February 22, 2012, 4:44 pm

    A bunch of the people making comments to this Yale Daily News article, Levin, Bloomberg spar over NYPD surveillance, think it was perfectly okay for the New York Police Department to conduct surveillance of the Muslim Student Associations at Yale and other universities. Too many people in those organizations have proved to be terrorists, they say.

    Glenn Greenwald has a piece on this surveillance today: NYPD spying program aimed at Muslims .

    How big an issue is it at the University of Pennsylvania that it was one of the universities surveilled by the NYPD in this program?

  10. Pixel on February 22, 2012, 7:30 pm

    Anti-BDS = hysteria

  11. yourstruly on February 23, 2012, 11:01 am

    BDS against apartheid Israel is no more anti-Jewish than BDS against apartheid South Africa was anti-white? In both cases BDS has been aimed at undoing a racist regime and liberating a people being subjugated on account of race or ethnicity. The anti-BDS crowd are going ballistic because they’re losing the debate. Their desperation shows in the viciousness of their ad hominum attacks on those who dare to criticize Israel. Take heart, supporters of Palestinian liberation, justice is going to prevail in Palestine, same as it has in South Africa.

  12. AnotherProudZionist on February 11, 2015, 3:26 pm

    The real victims of Islamic Jihad are the Jews and the Christians. Where is BDS when it comes to them? That’s how we know what BDS really is.

    • annie on February 11, 2015, 5:41 pm

      how do you come up with your designation of “real victims”. you don’t think muslims lives matter?

      Where is BDS when it comes to them?

      where’s their bds movement? bds wasn’t initiated by outsiders it was a movement started by palestinians. why should palestinians, after decades of suffering, human rights violations and war crimes against their people, not start a movement for their own liberation? bds is not a campaign against anyone but israel but that doesn’t mean some other people couldn’t initiate a movement on the behalf of another oppresses people and advocate for them. but it’s won’t be palestinians.

      why don’t you start a bds movement to save christians if you’re so concerned? because you’re not.

      you’ve got aipac trying to bds europe as it is, so we know where your hypocritical concern lies. and you could care less about israel effectively forcing the entire world to boycott gaza. like you care. tables turn so see what it feels like, because israel will feel it…eventually.

  13. AnotherProudZionist on February 27, 2015, 11:54 am

    Why doesn’t BDS protest the gruesome oppression of Palestinian Arabs by other Palestinian Arabs.

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