Front-page attack in New York Times says BDS movement is driven by minorities’ ‘hostility toward Jews’

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The New York Times has published an important front-page attack on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on campus. The long article asserts that BDS is allied with anti-Semitism, beginning with its title, “Campus Debates on Israel Drive a Wedge Between Jews and Minorities.”

The heart of the article is the claim that BDS is exploiting resentment on the part of disenfranchised minorities toward privileged Jews to push its cause (Palestinian solidarity), but it is only stirring up anti-Semitic rancor and will achieve nothing.

Reporters Jennifer Medina and Tamar Lewin ignore all the Jews who support BDS, as the most powerful newspaper in the country seeks to frame BDS as a “hostile” force. The piece is important because it reflects the growing success of the BDS movement. To quote a favorite line among BDS supporters: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Well, the Times is fighting BDS.

Let me quote a few lines from the piece that convey the mood of fear and even persecution. The main claim is that the BDS movement is led by darkskinned people who are angry at Jews:

College activists favoring divestment have cast the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a powerful force’s oppression of a displaced group, and have formed alliances with black, Latino, Asian, Native American, feminist and gay rights organizations on campus. The coalitions — which explicitly link the Palestinian cause to issues like police brutality, immigration and gay rights — have caught many longtime Jewish leaders off guard, particularly because they belonged to such progressive coalitions less than a generation ago.

The writers give no time to BDS’s actual goals — equal rights for Jews and Palestinians — or to Palestinian conditions under occupation, but say BDS is trying to “punish” Israel:

The movement’s goal is to isolate and punish Israel for its policies toward Palestinians and its occupation of the West Bank.

Actually, many support BDS because it is at last holding Israel accountable for human rights atrocities, including those in Gaza.

Photo of UCLA students at Israeli independence day that accompanied piece in NYT on BDS. By Monica Almeida
Photo of UCLA students at Israeli independence day that accompanied piece in NYT on BDS. By Monica Almeida

The piece is topped by the photo above of huddled Jewish students with their backs turned, and draped in Zionist regalia, which suggests they are afraid. And well they should be; several statements in the article make the claim that anti-semitism is driving the movement:

college officials are grappling with where to draw the line between opposition to Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza — a position shared by many Jews — and hostility toward Jews.

Opponents of divestment sometimes allude to the Holocaust. “What bothers me is the shocking amnesia of people who look at the situation of American Jews right now and say, ‘You’re privileged, you don’t have a right to complain about discrimination”…

At several schools where divestment proposals have been considered, swastikas have been painted on the doors of Jewish fraternities.

“There’s more poison in the rhetoric than we’ve ever felt before,” said Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, the executive director of Hillel at the University of California, Los Angeles

Some of the talk was openly hostile [to Israel], with charges of racism and colonialism.

So BDS echoes the Nazis… Deep in the article Jannine Salman of Students for Justice in Palestine at Columbia gets to make an excellent point:

“Zionism is a political identity, Judaism is a religious identity, and it does a disservice to both to blur the line.”

But the article gets right back to business. These zealous minorities are persecuting Jews. A Jewish student states the point of view of the article:

Voting for divestiture, she said, is “pointing fingers, it’s aggressive, it’s misinformed, it’s unjust, and — most important for this campus — it’s totally one-sided.”

Abe Foxman is one of the saner voices in the piece, saying that Jews feel safe on campuses. But don’t believe that!

“Jewish students and their parents are intensely apprehensive and insecure about this movement,” said Mark Yudof, a former president of the University of California system. “I hear it all the time: Where can I send my kids that will be safe for them as Jews?”

The authors clearly think that anti-Zionists are crazy people. When they touch on the politics of the case– young people are turning against the idea of a Jewish state– they do so hysterically.

Supporters of Israel say the most dangerous possibility is that the current campus atmosphere is delegitimizing the country, making it acceptable to question whether Jews are entitled to a nation.

Is that dangerous? Actually, that’s a perfectly acceptable question. And anti-Zionists think that a democracy in Israel and Palestine would make the world less dangerous.

The commenters at the Times site include many who endorse the article’s thrust. But among the “Readers’ Picks” are several who point out the hysteria, and the article’s failure to say that many Jews support BDS.

Alan Sanders of New York.

Those against BDS don’t seem to have any argument that Israel is not oppressing Palestinians in a way that is not similar to the oppression of other minority groups in the U.S. or around the world. Their arguments boils down to, “it makes us really uncomfortable.” That’s not a very good argument —

Mark Thomason of Michigan:

This article gives an impression of Jewish students against others who are not Jewish.

A great many Jewish students too are deeply troubled by the right wing government and behavior of Israel. They too support efforts to end the current path to disaster.

It is not Jews against the rest. Supporters of the right wing in Israel try to hide behind that idea, and the article ought to have been more clear that it is not so.

James North of New York (and Mondo):

The article should point out that many of the students who favor Boycott Divestment Sanctions are also Jewish, and BDS is backed by nationwide organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace.

PCohen of France:

American Jews and American Christian zionists have, together, forged a US -Israel alliance that has emboldened Israel to become one of the worst oppressors imaginable. In the ME where oppression is the rule. Israel, not being an exception, asks for exceptional policies of impunity! And gets it. The irreparable destruction of Palestine is finally reaching the brains of young Jews in the USA. What has been done in their name starts to get understood. Is it still relevant?

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More whining about the New York Times. Thank you Phil. Just be glad that several thousand students have pushed divestment onto the front page of the Times. Stop whining abut the how the article is unfair to those brave students. Did you expect better? You’ll get better articles when divestment resolutions are stronger, louder, and non-stop, all semester, every semester. If you want a better article, try yelling for a total boycott against Israel, to… Read more »

Is this a good sign or a more ominous one? To me, it shows the Nation’s Paper of Record has now joined the campaign to redefine antisemitism into a more broad category which encompasses any and all criticism of Israel, including the tactic of BDS. That’s kind of scary in view of nations like France and Canada changing their hate speech laws to include criticism of Israel as a form of Jew Hatred. Maybe we… Read more »

So a quick summary of the article is that BDS isn’t about justice for all – it’s about the “darkees “having it in for the Jews! Uh huh.
A bit like ADL crying anti-semitism over the paralells between police brutality in the USA and Israel when the ADL were participating. never mind JINSA
who brag that they have sent 9500 US officers to Israel for training. And now it comes home to roost here.

Honestly, does anyone have any good theories of what the fuck happened to the NYT? What accounts for this far-right shift? It’s amazing.

Maybe it isn’t just I/P. I was shocked to find that Marine le Pen(!) got published in the paper after Charlie Hebdo. There seems to be something broader going on right now.

This is a grotesque mischaracterization of the article. The fact is that BDS is trying to link itself to other progressive civil rights movements; it has little momentum of its own and mostly rides on the backs of greater, more important campaigns. The article was too kind to BDS — the goal of BDS is not to punish Israel for the occupation of the West Bank but to end the state by flooding it with… Read more »