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America’s increasing diversity is nurturing the BDS movement

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Columbia student representatives from a wide array of organizations show their support for a divestment campaign (Photo courtesy of Columbia SJP)

The current and future battle over the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement will be decided by America’s changing demographic face. That much is clear from divestment campaigns on California campuses and the recent back-and-forth over Alicia Keys’ July 4 concert in Israel.

This was a point touched on in a smart piece in Haaretz by Simone Zimmerman, a recent graduate of the University of California (UC), Berkeley and the president of J Street U’s national board. “When I arrived as a freshman at UC Berkeley ready to defend Israel, I expected to do so in alliance with other minority communities on campus,” writes Zimmeran in a piece titled “Blind Israel advocacy will lose to BDS.” But there was a hitch to Zimmerman’s expectation of what minority communities would say about Israel:

I did not anticipate standing on one side of a room among Jewish students opposite a diverse pro-BDS coalition of progressive Christians, Muslims, Jews, Arabs, and other allies. Nonetheless, that reality defined much of my experience as a pro-Israel student on campus when I advocated multiple times against divestment resolutions that charged Israel as a ruthless occupier.

Indeed, on California campuses across the state, the pro-divestment campaigns worked in concert with a wide and diverse variety of activists–queer groups, black groups, Latino groups and more. As student activist Rahim Kurwa notes in his review of recent divestment campaigns, this coalition was crucial to the successful drive at UC San Diego that pushed the student government to recommend divestment:

They were supported by 16 student organizations, ranging from the Mexican and Chicano Students Association to Asian Pacific Student Alliance, the local chapter of the graduate union, the Black Student Union, and the Coalition of South Asian Peoples…

At Santa Barbara, the process of organizing around the bill produced a list of 30 endorsing groups and beautiful expressions of solidarity across struggles. Moving statements were read by students of color, whose experiences of colonialism, displacement, imperialism and racism were knit together in solidarity with the Palestinian call for divestment.

The Palestine solidarity groups on campus were continuing work that was first solidified when M.E.Ch.A. (Movi­miento Estudi­anti­l ChÃ[email protected] de Aztlán), a large Latino youth association, endorsed the BDS movement in 2012. This type of coalition-building has continued as Palestine solidarity and Latino groups make connections between militarization on the U.S.-Mexico border and the separation barrier in the West Bank. And if Palestine solidarity groups want to spread their message far and wide, the Latino community is ground zero for that effort.

The black community, too, has seen battles over BDS break out. Alice Walker’s letter to Alicia Keys urging her to boycott Israel–an effort that was unsuccessful, as Keys is set to perform there tomorrow–sparked media coverage of BDS in black publications like The Grio. Walker’s letter was followed up by a wide array of prominent black activists likewise urging Keys not to perform and saying that the conditions Palestinians live under are similar to Jim Crow in the American South.

It’s tough to tell how much support there is for BDS in these communities. The movement hasn’t yet reached a critical mass where it’s a hot topic of conversation for political and civic groups in those communities, though on campuses, it appears that non-white groups are firmly in the BDS camp.

But the battle over hearts and minds is raging now, and Israel lobby groups recognize that. As the Jewish Daily Forward’s Nathan Guttman reported in March 2012, AIPAC has aggressively organized an “outreach effort” to make the group a home to “many non-Jewish supporters of Israel,” like “Christian evangelicals, African Americans, [and] Latinos.” Other Israel advocacy groups will likely take their cues from AIPAC on this front. And as Robin Kelley, a black professor at UCLA, recently noted, the black group Vanguard Leadership Group has taken shots at Students for Justice in Palestine. 

The United States is expected to have a non-white majority by mid-century. So the future of many political questions, including BDS, will increasingly be decided among non-white communities. The battle over Palestine in these communities is just getting started. Both sides of the debate recognize that. 

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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22 Responses

  1. Cliff on July 4, 2013, 10:21 am

    What was that pro-Israel thinktank that advocated Zionists cozy up to artists and minorities and inculcate them with pro-Israel propaganda?

  2. annie on July 4, 2013, 11:56 am

    And as Robin Kelley, a black professor at UCLA, recently noted, the black group Vanguard Leadership Group has taken shots at Students for Justice in Palestine.

    of course! according to the Birmingham Jewish Federation VLG’s co founder Darius Jones works for aipac:

    the Vanguard Leadership Group from Atlanta, Darius Jones and Jarrod Jordan. They will speak at a breakfast program, Tues., Nov. 8th, at 7:30 am in the Levite Jewish Community Center board room…..Their topic will be “Leveraging a Resurgent Relationship: Impacting the Future Together,” as they discuss their pioneering work and how the African-American and Jewish communities can channel the natural synergies that exist between our two communities to work together as effective pro-Israel activists…..

    Darius currently works as AIPAC’S Southeast Regional Outreach Director. In this position, he is responsible for identifying, educating and empowering existing and emerging leaders from the African-American community to become advocates for a strong US/Israel relationship. As his bio states, Darius has a “passionate commitment to bringing the best and brightest individuals from the African-American and Jewish communities together in order to improve this nation and the world we all share.”

    additional 2011 link on aipac’s vanguard group here:

    The VLG is an organization whose cryptic website reveals little about who is involved, who it represents, what it does, and what it believes in, though the website is peppered with references to the VLG’s participation in AIPAC conferences and tours to the Israeli Knesset.

    and for some history of just how entrenched VLG is with aipac do not miss VLG’s founding members: Darius Jones & Jarrod Jordon speech @ AIPAC Policy Conference 2009

  3. American on July 4, 2013, 3:14 pm

    ”The United States is expected to have a non-white majority by mid-century. ”

    According to census demographic projections Hispanics will be the dominate non white group.. …in 2010 they were in a dead heat — 50 mil to 55 mil– with black americans in the population.
    Hispanics could have much the same effect on the US as the great Irish immigrant wave had …there are some group similarties there in their immigrant attitudes and expectations imo.
    I see some postives in this.

    • German Lefty on July 5, 2013, 6:25 pm

      Hispanics will be the dominate non white group
      Of course, any European would tell you that Hispanics are white people.

      • Citizen on July 6, 2013, 4:49 am

        @ GL
        Many Hispanics in USA are not descendants of people from Spain. This group of Hispanics originate from the natives population of S America conquered by the Spanish conquistadors. In the US the general political term “Hispanic” refers to anybody who’s native/first language is Spanish. Some analysts and critics distinguish between non-white hispanics and white hispanics. Many government forms require a self identity choice between the two for various reasons.

      • Citizen on July 6, 2013, 4:59 am

        Also, for government purposes, in the US the concepts of race and ethnicity are mutually independent, and respondents to the census and other Census Bureau surveys are asked to answer both questions.

    • annie on July 5, 2013, 11:19 pm

      in 2010 they were in a dead heat — 50 mil to 55 mil– with black americans in the population.

      not according to wiki’s 2010

      Black or African American 38,929,319 12.6 %
      Hispanic or Latino 50,477,594 16.4 %

      and it is probably a larger spread now because hispanic/latino is not only the largest and fastest growing minority group in the country but many self identify only as white vs white hispanic and i don’t think it’s a required designation on the US census.

      • Citizen on July 6, 2013, 4:56 am

        @ Annie Robbins
        In the United States, a White Hispanic or White Latino is a citizen or resident who is racially white and of Hispanic descent. White American, itself an official U.S. racial category, refers to people “having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa” who reside in the United States.
        Based on the definitions created by the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Census Bureau, the concepts of race and ethnicity are mutually independent, and respondents to the census and other Census Bureau surveys are asked to answer both questions. Hispanicity is independent of race, and constitutes an ethnicity category, as opposed to a racial category, the only one of which that is officially collated by the U.S. Census Bureau. For the Census Bureau, Ethnicity distinguishes between those who report ancestral origins in Spain or Hispanic America (Hispanic and Latino Americans), and those who do not (Non-Hispanic Americans). The U.S. Census Bureau asks each resident to report the “race or races with which they most closely identify.”
        White Americans are therefore divided between “White Hispanic” and “Non Hispanic White,” the former consisting of White Americans who report Hispanophone ancestry (Spain and Hispanic Latin America), and the latter consisting of White Americans who do not report Hispanophone ancestry.
        As of 2010, 50.5 million or 16.3% of Americans were ethnically Hispanic or Latino. Of those, 26.7 million, or 53%, were White.

      • American on July 6, 2013, 4:39 pm

        Here is the census form

        You have to use the link, the boxes contaning all the listings wont copy.


        April 2009) The 2010 Census questionnaire will be sent to every housing unit in the country. The person in who fills out the form (Person 1) will provide the household information, including whether the home is rented or owned, and will answer just seven questions about every household member, including himself or herself:

        Age/birth date.
        Hispanic ethnicity.

        Hispanics are not listed in the 15 racial categories used in the census.

        Hispanic Identity

        Since the 1970 Census, the questionnaire has asked U.S. residents whether they are of Hispanic origin, and if so, which broad Hispanic group they identify with. Hispanic origin is considered separately from race in the Census—and Hispanics may identify with any race. As the largest and fastest-growing ethnic minority in the United States, the information about Hispanic origin is of growing importance. It is used in numerous programs and for monitoring equal employment opportunities. ”


        The 2010 questionnaire lists 15 racial categories, as well as places to write in specific races not listed on the form. The 2010 Census continues the option first introduced in the 2000 Census for respondents to choose more than one race. Only about 2 percent of Americans identified with more than one race in the 2000 Census, but the percentage was much higher for children and young adults and will likely increase in 2010.”

        The races listed are white, black, native Indian, Asian- Vietnamese, Japanese, etc. ,other natives in original country like Somaon, Hawaiian, etc….or you can write in whatever race you chose or want to be considered as.

        I dont know why there is the habit of referring to hispanics as non white, we dont classify the Spanish as non white.

        There is also no race listing for semites or Arabs or ‘origin’ either so they are in the white role call unless they choose to select a different one.

  4. DICKERSON3870 on July 4, 2013, 3:47 pm

    RE: “And if Palestine solidarity groups want to spread their message far and wide, the Latino community is ground zero for that effort.” ~ Alex Kane

    MY COMMENT: That’s one of the reasons Haim Saban bought Univision. He is using it to disseminate Spanish-language hasbara.

    ONE EXAMPLE: “Latino stars explore Israel, stun Dominican fans”, By Leeror Bronis, Times Of Israel, 6/10/13

    [EXCERPT] A group of tourists visiting from the Dominican Republic got the shock of their lives Sunday when they bumped into two of Latin media’s most iconic faces while walking in the Ein Kerem village in Jerusalem. The tourists screamed in disbelief as famed Univision TV hosts, Don Francisco and Raul De Molina, posed for pictures with them.
    “Just imagine all these people posting pictures to Facebook saying they met these guys in Israel,” said Irwin Katsof, director of America’s Voices in Israel, the organization responsible for bringing the stars here. “That’s why this is so important.”
    AVI, a division of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is dedicated to bringing stars to visit Israel in an effort to help boost tourism. Previous participants included cast members from “Scandal,” “Once Upon A Time,” “House,” “Twilight,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
    This time, the sponsors, who are primarily AVI board members, paid an estimated $40,000 each to send five major names in Latin media to Israel. Among them was Don Francisco, the Chilean host of Univision’s “Sábado Gigante,” the longest-running entertainment program in history. Other members included famous TV host Raul “El Gordo” De Molina; Daniel Coronell, senior vice president of Univision; Gabriel Abaroa Jr., president and CEO of the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences; and Ramón J. Pineda, the general manager of Univision. . .
    . . . In Israel until Thursday, the TV stars and executives will visit all the major tourist spots in Israel while paying special attention to the Christian sites that are significant to Hispanic culture. They will also have briefings with several governmental figures in order to gain a fuller understanding of Israel from a political and diplomatic perspective.
    Katsof said he hopes De Molina will spread the word about his travels to his nearly 950,000 followers on Twitter, most of whom are Hispanic.
    “That’s an audience that would be very difficult to reach through traditional media,” he said. “Their ability to impact tens of thousands of people is just so incremental that it’s a tremendous use for us.” . . .


    • DICKERSON3870 on July 4, 2013, 4:03 pm

      P.S. ALSO SEE: “Univision goes neoconservative”, by Charles Davis, Electronic Intifada, 2/17/12

      [EXCERPTS] Washington, DC – It’s not often that Univision, the leading Spanish-language television network in the United States, releases its content in languages other than Spanish. It is, after all, a Spanish-language television network. But earlier this month the broadcaster did something out of the ordinary, screening an English version of a recent report on Iran that’s received a rapturous reception from neoconservatives in Washington. And it at least appears to have done so at the behest of its hawkish new fan club.
      Why would a network best known for sappy telenovelas shift to producing sloppy war propaganda – and English-language propaganda at that? Perhaps, as is usually the case with the corporate press, Univision’s bias and peculiar programming choices are best explained by simply noting who owns it: Israeli-American businessman Haim Saban, a self-described “one-issue guy” – that issue being Israel – who has been up front about purchasing media outlets to promote his own political views.
      While those views are well-known if you look for them – hint: his public statements on Iran have invoked the Holocaust – they’re also not hard to gather from the right-wing-infused investigative reports Univision has been airing since he took over.
      Originally broadcast in Spanish late last year, the ever-so-subtly titled report that’s driving the neoconservative community wild – “La Amenaza Iraní”, or “The Iranian Threat” – received an unusual February 8 screening, in English, at the neoconservative Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank that counts former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, convicted felon Lewis “Scooter” Libby, as one of its top scholars. Focussed on Iran’s relations with Latin America, the hour-long piece regurgitates all the pro-war right’s by now familiar talking points about nefarious Islamists acting in concert with leftist Bolivarians to bring Terror to the US’ doorstep, complete with all the ominous music and images of swarthy foreigners one would expect from a Hollywood movie or a corporate news report.
      “Iran is looking for all the support that it can get to fight back against its fiercest enemies, Israel and the United States,” declares reporter Vytenis Didziulis in the opening minute of the piece. “Latin America, because of its geographical and cultural proximity, may present the most direct way for Iran to challenge – or even attack – the US.”
      What follows is a string of allegations about Iran’s dealings with Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and other Latin American countries notable mostly for how little there is to them. A former Ecuadorian intelligence official, for instance, fired by President Rafael Correa for insubordination amid charges that he was a CIA asset, is given time to claim – without so much as an incriminating Word file – that his former boss is “sending intelligence agents to secret Iranian training facilities” in South America. Viewers are also presented with the information that the Venezuelan military, as part of efforts to prepare for a feared US invasion back in 2005, reportedly distributed a manual on asymmetric warfare written based on the tactics employed by the Lebanese group Hezbollah – tactics the US military has itself studied.
      The “exclusive!” meat of the report is video footage from 2007 purporting to show the Iranian ambassador to Mexico at the time, Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri, discussing a plot to launch cyber-attacks against the US government with a group of Mexican college students who were posing as hackers. Nowhere in the footage, though, is there any evidence to dispute Ghadiri’s claim he was merely entertaining a group of kids he suspected, not without cause, were actually CIA agents.
      During a panel discussion following the screening, Didziulis – seemingly unconcerned with what an appearance at a far-right think tank would say about the objectivity of his reporting – acknowledged that his network was the only one to run with the story; every other media outlet that received the footage declined to run it. Such are Univision’s standards. . .


      • DICKERSON3870 on July 4, 2013, 4:10 pm

        P.P.S. RE: “Perhaps, as is usually the case with the corporate press, Univision’s bias and peculiar programming choices are best explained by simply noting who owns it: Israeli-American businessman Haim Saban, a self-described ‘one-issue guy’– that issue being Israel – who has been up front about purchasing media outlets to promote his own political views.” ~ Charles Davis (from above)

        SEE: “Haim Saban”, by Matthew Yglesias, The Atlantic, June 10, 2007

        [EXCERPT] If you’re interested in the foreign policy views of major Hillary Clinton financial backer Haim Saban, there’s no need to follow the Atrios path of attempting guilt by association with Kenneth Pollack. He [Saban] discussed his views on the Middle East and Persian Gulf region in great detail in a reasonably recent interview with ‘Haaretz’:

        “When I see Ahmadinejad, I see Hitler. They speak the same language. His motivation is also clear: the return of the Mahdi is a supreme goal. And for a religious person of deep self-persuasion, that supreme goal is worth the liquidation of five and a half million Jews. We cannot allow ourselves that. Nuclear weapons in the hands of a religious leadership that is convinced that the annihilation of Israel will bring about the emergence of a new Muslim caliphate? Israel cannot allow that. This is no game. It’s truly an existential danger.” . . .

        SOURCE –

      • German Lefty on July 6, 2013, 3:26 pm

        And for a religious person of deep self-persuasion, that supreme goal is worth the liquidation of five and a half million Jews. Nuclear weapons in the hands of a religious leadership that is convinced that the annihilation of Israel will bring about the emergence of a new Muslim caliphate?

        Interesting how Zionists always equate the death of a state with the death of a people. My home country doesn’t exist anymore either, but I am alive and well. How can this possibly be?

    • American on July 4, 2013, 5:27 pm

      ”to disseminate hasbara”

      Dont think that will work on the majority…….several reasons…majority are dedicated Catholics…..Jews/zios are not who they are interacting with person to person, influenced by, ‘in their lives’ here (in jobs , society)….despite the anti immigrant crowd, local commerence/ business/jobs has been pretty open to hispanics on west and east coast…..their attachments/ interest are becoming ‘local’ to their local communities.
      AIPAC can always find a few of any group to buy, like the US Indian Tribes chief there was such an outcry against.
      Converting a whole group into a force for Israelism is unlikely , I dont think zio orgs have the conditons today to duplicate what they did back in the 40’s,50’s,60’s etc. with Americans, Christans etc., etc..
      These new immigrants have their own goals to attend to.

  5. just on July 4, 2013, 4:09 pm

    Alicia Keyes might want to see this:

    “The U.S.-funded Alhurra network said Thursday that one of its cameramen was interrogated and strip-searched by Israeli security men while covering a July 4 party at the U.S. ambassador’s residence near Tel Aviv.

    The Arab satellite channel had coordinated with the Israeli prime minister’s office to cover the event on behalf of the international media. But when cameraman Samer Jallad arrived, he said he was detained for questioning, ordered to remove his shoes and sit in the sun for more than half an hour, and then taken to a room where he was forced to remove his pants for a body inspection. He said he was held for more than 90 minutes before he was permitted to enter.

    It was the latest in a string of incidents in which Israeli security have used heavy-handed tactics against Arab journalists, a practice Israel has defended as necessary for security. Jallad, who said he has covered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on many occasions, is a Palestinian from east Jerusalem who holds full Israeli residency rights and has a government-issued press card.

    The Foreign Press Association, which represents international media in Israel, called on the U.S. Embassy to condemn the incident.

    “We find it especially shameful that a staffer of a U.S.-funded network would be the victim of racial profiling at an official U.S. event celebrating American Independence Day,” the FPA said. “Such treatment goes against the core values of freedom and equality that the U.S. seeks to uphold.”

    The embassy and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office had no immediate comment.”

    Something stinks to high, high heaven.

    • Woody Tanaka on July 5, 2013, 7:44 am

      “The embassy and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office had no immediate comment.”

      I guess the ambassador was too busy fellating the donkey at Netanyahoo’s request to comment.

  6. giladg on July 5, 2013, 3:51 am

    Soda Stream seems to be suffering from the bds campaign. It’s shares only rose by nearly 50% last year.
    Unlike the South African boycott, there are many good people out there who understand that the bds movement is evil and that Israel is being wronged, and they continue to support Israel and do the right thing.
    The naive supporters of bds continue to see the Palestinians as an isolated bubble in the sea of chaos and instability in the Middle East. They refuse to connect the Palestinians to their brothers in the region. There are times when it suits them to distance themselves. And there are times when we hear of the Arab and Muslim brothers. Hypocrites you all are.
    Can someone please explain to me what a “radical cunt” is (see main photo above)?

  7. Citizen on July 5, 2013, 6:51 am

    This is not directly related to the thread topic, but I think this also stinks to high heaven:

    Homeland Security to give $80% of Total Community Funds To Jewish groups (2% of US population)

    • German Lefty on July 6, 2013, 3:45 pm

      Homeland Security to give $15 million to Jewish groups for security

      It’s the same in Germany. Many German Jews are totally paranoid. By paying for their security measures, the German state just reinforces their paranoia. It’s a vicious cycle.
      The very few attacks on Jews that happened here were spontaneous outbursts by pedestrians in the streets. Expensive security measures in buildings are totally useless. I don’t know of any targeted attacks on “Jewish houses”.

    • on July 6, 2013, 4:54 pm

      That was in 2011. It was 98% in 2012

  8. German Lefty on July 6, 2013, 4:10 pm

    I’d like to share this article by Mayim Bialik:
    How to Talk to Your Kids About Israel
    For those looking for a way to talk with your children about the current situation in Israel [Operation Pillar of Defense], this piece has been circulating among a number of Jewish day schools and is super helpful. I’ve found it especially helpful in talking to my older son. It was edited by Debra Shaffer Seeman, who has a Masters in Education from Harvard, as well as Jonathan Magen, Rabbi Sharon Barr Skolnick, and Rabbi Karen Reiss Medwed. […]
    [The] document is geared for parents of children ages 6-13 to help enter into conversations about the current situation in Israel.
    -> Instructions for Zionist parents on how to indoctrinate their children and make them worship a foreign country.

  9. giladg on July 8, 2013, 9:46 am

    Hey Alex, I am still waiting for an answer on what that poster (front left) means. What exactly is a “radical cunt”? Can you find these things on both sides of the political spectrum or are they specific to one side? Are they a club? If so, what are the prerequisites for joining? College is fun. We can do and say anything that comes to mind. We don’t even have to think about what we say and do. Come on radical cunts, lets follow the crowd.

    >>>>>College Undergrads Not Tolerating Sexism

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