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Once again, ‘NYT’ fails to tell its readers that many Jews support BDS

Who says the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign isn’t having an effect? Page 7 of the New York Times today is the Boycott Israel page. Both stories on the page are about Israel’s battle over its sagging international reputation. You’d think they might put our site out of business. But no.

“France Says It Opposes Boycotting Israel” is the first story. France is reassuring Israel that it is against boycotting Israel, thereby trying to settle down the controversy over the fact that the head of the quasi-public French telecom company Orange said he wanted to pull the brand out of the Israeli market, which left Benjamin Netanyahu incensed. He said “boycott attempts will not be forgiven” and called on the French to repudiate the statement.

“Israel’s Allies in U.S. Challenge Boycott” is the second page A7 story. On the scale of what the Times has been saying about the US boycott campaign, it’s not so bad, in fact it’s an improvement.

Though once again, the issue is framed hysterically, as Jews versus the rest. Jews against the world, against people of color. Reporter Rick Gladstone writes:

[T]he campaign’s effort to isolate Israel economically — even if it has yet to show any practical impact — has struck a nerve among many American Jews. They see the effort as a form of anti-Semitism, an accusation that B.D.S. supporters call a false, cynical and divisive scare tactic.

The article later quotes the excellent Rahim Kurwa saying simply that equating BDS with anti-Semitism is “really sad and unfortunate.”

“There are three choices: a Palestinian state, Palestinian citizenship, or more occupation,” he said. “We’re either going to have the status quo, or something else. B.D.S. is really about picking.”

But Kurwa is buried, and where is the Times’s vaunted reporting? In the last two weeks two Jews who support BDS, Sam Molnar at the University of Michigan and Phil Weiss on this site, have independently stated that they estimate the number of Jews in the BDS movement at 20 percent.

One out of five. That’s a lot of Jews for a group that makes up 2 percent of the U.S. population.

Then consider that Jewish Voice for Peace– one of the main groups spearheading BDS– is skyrocketing in membership. (In the last year, the number of chapters has shot from 40 to 65; the online supporter email list has risen from 140,000 to 200,000; its Facebook likes have quadrupled, to 200,000; and its Twitter followers have tripled, to 40,000).

JVP’s numbers reflect a real movement inside Jewish life. Gladstone may well be right, that “many American Jews do see” BDS as anti-Semitic. But others see the anti-BDS campaign as using anti-semitism to protect Israel. And efforts to link BDS with classical anti-Semitism are absurd on their face. Reflect on this: When the Nazi Party rose in 1933, it didn’t have Jewish members. They didn’t want to join it, understandably.

Peter Beinart stated vigorously that BDS draws support from Jews in a piece for Haaretz saying that President Obama was wrong to link anti-semitism and anti-Zionism:

There’s also a long history of anti-Zionism among Jews…. [A] disproportionate percentage of the new anti-Zionists are Jews. A University of Chicago student recently told me that he looked around during a BDS strategy session on campus and realized that Jews constituted a majority in the room. Jewish Voices for Peace, which supports BDS and welcomes anti-Zionists without being officially anti-Zionist itself, has grown from 600 members in 2011 to 9,000 today….

What we are witnessing among some young American Jews is a kind of neo-Bundism, a Jewish identity built not around Zionism but around the values of the activist left. And on campus, these left-wing Jews are making common cause with anti-Zionist Palestinians and with growing numbers of African-American, Latino, LGBT and feminist activists, all of whom see Zionism as incompatible with the egalitarian, anti-discriminatory principles they hold dear.

The Times framing of this issue continues to draw on the blueprint statement made by a rightwing California rabbi back in February, in the Sacramento Bee:

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, executive director of Hillel at UCLA, said portraying Israel as an aggressor plays on the idealism of students….

“Campus politics have been hijacked by a group of students who are intent to conquer,” he said. “The coalition of Arab, Muslim, Latino, Asian and gay students. They’re all oppressed minorities.”

This is irresponsible, a politics of fear. The Times really ought to be exploring these issues more thoughtfully.


James North and Philip Weiss

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31 Responses

  1. John O on June 6, 2015, 11:39 am

    On vacation in Rome this week, I was able to read coverage of the Orange/Partner story in the Guardian, the Corriere della Sera and the International New York Times, as well as here on MW.

    The INYT put it centrally on the front page, continued on p. 4. It wasn’t until near the end of the article that one lonely sentence appeared, mentioning in passing that the reason Orange wanted out was because of Partner’s operating in the occupied territories. The Guardian and the Corriere both gave proper prominence to this fact.

    • Krauss on June 7, 2015, 4:58 am

      Well, the Times’ approach to ignoring BDS has failed, so it is now in an all-out attack.

      It’s kind of sad, but telling, that is goes to bat for Jewish apartheid. I continue to say that we’ll fight this much longer than white Apartheid because white Apartheid didn’t have these many friends in the “liberal” elite media.

      The major blight of the 20th century for the Times was how silent it was on the Shoah. When the paper’s 21th century history will be written, it’s hysterial defence of Jewish apartheid will be a prominent scar on its record. And people will understandly ask, why? The answer seems to me to be nothing else than sheer tribalism.

      • weiss on June 7, 2015, 10:41 pm

        “When the paper’s 21th century history will be written, it’s hysterial defence of Jewish apartheid will be a prominent scar on its record. And people will understandly ask, why?”

        This excellent question should be put to “The Wicked Witch of the East” Dual-US-Israeli Citizen and NYT Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudorin, who has been instrumental in this white-wash of Israeli Apartheid and Fascism, in her quest to keep her “comfortable” and profitable life in Jerusalem, while protecting her IDF son with her own special brand of yellow journalism.

        All at the expense of Palestinian human rights & dignity.

      • annie on June 7, 2015, 11:02 pm

        what idf son? i thought her kids were very young. and could you source your dual citizen claim. i had not heard that either. thanks.

  2. pabelmont on June 6, 2015, 11:48 am

    NYT and NPR and WNYC (a small, provincial radio station which serves the minor municipalities of New Jersey and metropolitan New York) are all of one practice on Israel/Palestine: hide any facts that do not support Israeli practice.

    The result is that these three “news” outlets fail to serve the American citizens (voters!) who require but mostly do not receive news upon which to base realistic (and if they like, moralistic) opinions about I/P. Doubtless they’d explain (but only internally and only if asked) that they are protecting the “sensibilities” of those delicate flowers, liberal Zionists who could not long continue to hold LZ values in face of sustained real news coverage.

    But if they are protecting LZ “sensibilities”, they are attacking the sensibilities of Palestinians, human-rights adviocates, and many Jews who do not espouse LZ views (as well as many Jews who are today LZs but who might change if suitably informed).

    BTW, a word needs to be said about the “delicate flower” status of LZs. Why should anyone seek to protect tender sensibilities of LZs who, themselves, have always supported the exile (often at gun-point) of 85% of the Palestinian population of israel-48 in the period 1947-50? And many of whom wholeheartedly support Israel’s vicious attacks on Gaza and elsewhere? Where does anyone “get off” claiming “delicate flower” status when they are champions of such outrageous behavior?

    • pabelmont on June 6, 2015, 11:56 am

      Sorry, sorry, I was carried away. Of course, NYT, NPR, and WNYC are not distorting I/P news out of concern for anyone’s “delicate flower” status — it’s all realpolitik.

      • Stephen Shenfield on June 6, 2015, 8:07 pm

        Realpolitik and concern for “delicate flower” status can be reconciled once you realize that “delicate flower” status is awarded not to those who really are the most vulnerable but to those with the political influence to insist on being granted such status.

      • Xpat on June 7, 2015, 8:46 pm

        Decent Jews who are LZ really do see themselves as victims. It’s bizarre but it happens all the time. One retired prof complained to me that BDS was polarizing the Jewish community. He’s a lovely guy, progressive on all the issues and open to talking about BDS. I asked him why put all the blame for polarization on BDS, I know many Jews were are upset to the point of tears because they are shunned by the Zionist mainstream on account of not being Zionists. Zionism is also polarizing.
        And the result of using that line with my professor friend was to end the conversation. He didn’t want to talk any more. This is the social shunning BDS supporters experience in the Jewish community. You say “BDS”, the other guy gets offended and there goes your relationship, or at least that conversation.
        At least we know who to blame: it’s all the fault of BDS.

  3. Parity on June 6, 2015, 12:47 pm

    I recommend to readers. This website is dedicated to detecting bias in the New York Times. See the current article on BDS coverage, which provides additional information about Orange and gives further indications of bias.

  4. Citizen on June 6, 2015, 2:32 pm

    RE: “…Orange said he wanted to pull the brand out of the Israeli market, which left Benjamin Netanyahu incensed.”

    Haim Saban was incensed too; he vowed to show his support even more for Israel, dissing the Orange CEO guy who said he’d pull his company out of support for Israel as soon as he could–he said it would be a difficult process, but he’d do it!

    • a blah chick on June 7, 2015, 10:48 am

      Has anyone pointed out that Saban has a controlling interest in Partner, the Israeli company that Orange is in business with?

  5. Bornajoo on June 6, 2015, 3:57 pm

    The Times will try and keep this fact out of their reporting for as long as they possibly can. They know full well that if they report the fact that as many as 20% of the BDS movement are Jews then that could lead to even more Jews getting behind the movement. It would also show that if that many Jews support bds then there must be something very WRONG with what’s happening in israel and would lead others to reevaluate their understanding of what’s really happening over there.

    They will continue to work very hard to conceal this fact.

  6. wondering jew on June 6, 2015, 5:32 pm

    Quote the post here:
    Reflect on this: When the Nazi Party rose in 1933, it didn’t have Jewish members. They didn’t want to join it, understandably.

    High standard you set, Mr. North and Mr. Weiss. BDS is not the Nazi party. Great.

    The percentage of Jews in BDS is one way to measure these things, but polling all American Jews would be another way to measure this. Does the Pew poll of 2013 give any relevant numbers? They certainly didn’t ask about BDS itself, but what percentage of American Jews according to Pew back the Palestinians rather than the Israelis. It is not an insignificant number. But then again how many voters backed Henry Wallace in 1948- 2.5% or so, I just read yesterday.

    Of course the NYT is not trying to balance its coverage, but the story of BDS is most significant in how much it freaks out supporters of Israel than it is a story of how some Jews back it. Although I suppose on a “man bites dog” level, your story is more worthy of coverage. But the BDS American Jewish contingent is somewhere between Henry Wallace and George Wallace (who got 13% in 68.) That’s my approximation. Not insignificant, but not the main story.

    • Mooser on June 7, 2015, 11:08 am

      Yonah, you really should make some attempt to propitiate the moderators here. They are not doing you any favors.

    • James North on June 7, 2015, 5:17 pm

      Yonah: Don’t be deliberately obtuse. Here, again, is the quote from the NYTimes article:

      [T]he campaign’s effort to isolate Israel economically — even if it has yet to show any practical impact — has struck a nerve among many American Jews. They see the effort as a form of anti-Semitism. . .

      Our point is not that “BDS is not the Nazi Party.” Our point is that by deliberately not mentioning the significant Jewish support for BDS, the Times is reinforcing the anti-Semitic lie. If BDS were truly “anti-Semitic,” it would have no Jewish support, just like the Nazis had no Jewish voters in 1933.

      • wondering jew on June 8, 2015, 6:05 pm

        James North- If you can’t see how obtuse you sound extolling the fact that the BDS movement is not like the Nazi party, then you’ve been preaching to the choir too long.

    • Xpat on June 7, 2015, 9:55 pm

      If the Pew poll is your text then it refutes the anti-BDS campaign. Per the poll, JVP and BDS are solidly within the Jewish camp. 89% of American Jews believe that it is compatible to be “strongly critical of Israel” and still be within the camp.
      Tell that to Sheldon Adelson.

      • wondering jew on June 8, 2015, 6:09 pm

        Elliot- the BDS movement is not merely strongly critical of Israel. (I don’t know exactly how to accurately quantify BDS’s goals, but my temptation is to say that BDS wishes to undo Israel.) I don’t believe that most Jews consider BDS to be kosher and certainly not 89%.

      • wondering jew on June 8, 2015, 6:34 pm

        Btw, Elliot, if I recall the way the Pew people worded it, it was in the vein of “if a Jew does x is he still a Jew” as in, If a jew has a Christmas tree is he still a Jew. My answer: yes. “If a Jew worships Jesus as the son of God is he still a Jew?” No, not really. Is a Jew still a Jew if he strongly criticizes Israel, yes, even BDS does not mean that one is no longer Jewish. The phenomenon of Satmar and Neturei Karta has existed long before BDS was born and I would never deny their Jewishness, I would count them in a minyan.

        Obviously I am not in Sheldon Adelson’s camp.

      • Mooser on June 8, 2015, 8:16 pm

        “Btw, Elliot, if I recall the way the Pew people worded it,”

        And if there’s anything we can count on never to be selective or self-serving, it’s Yonah’s memory.

  7. pabelmont on June 6, 2015, 7:10 pm

    I never saw thiws 20% of BDS are Jews “in the raw”. where did it originate? Surely JVP and BDS itself should stress this as a sign that [1] BDS is not antisemitic but pro-human-rights and [2] that it has a large and growing Jewish following. Nothing succeeds like success (or, as Israeli hasbara hopes, nothing succeeds like excess).

    • Mooser on June 7, 2015, 11:10 am

      No thank you, “pabelmont” I’m against Jew-counting. Besides, we have no way of knowing if the pro-BDS Jews are real Jews, or just saying they are to pump up BDS stats. Would you like to try and differentiate?

      This is how it should work: First, Yonah and Hophmi will tell us who the real Jews are, and only then can we poll them about BDS and get an accurate percentage. (BTW, supporting BDS is grounds for getting kicked out!)

      • Kris on June 7, 2015, 5:37 pm

        I don’t think it’s fair to restrict the gatekeeping to only yonah and hophmi. What about JeffB?

      • oldgeezer on June 7, 2015, 5:41 pm


        Jeffb is too verbose. We will be up to chapter 5 and still wondering if it is a yea or nay.

  8. Frankie P on June 7, 2015, 7:06 am

    “consider that Jewish Voice for Peace– one of the main groups spearheading BDS– is skyrocketing in membership. ”

    Unfortunately, it seems that this skyrocketing of membership is accompanied by a McCarthyist attack on Allison Weir of If Americans Knew. I think that Ms. Weir is involved with activism that is mandatory for a peaceful solution to the I/P situation, namely the education and opening of the eyes of the American people to how their nation has been and is instrumental in the oppression of the Palestinian people. The low-class, guilt-by-association nature of this attack is reminiscent of how right-wing Zionists try to stifle the voices of the very writers and contributors of this website, Mondoweiss. Recall how Max B. was taken to task because his writing was posted on Duke’s website. Now a quote from JVP in response to Ms. Weir’s letter to try to understand their actions: “One of your articles appeared in an anthology that was promoted by the infamous Holocaust-denial organization, the Institute for Historical Review.” Another quote: “You have been a repeat guest of white supremacist Clay Douglas on his hate radio show, the Free American.” Allison’s response: So has Jennifer Lowenstein and Ilan Pappe. It also seems that the JVP Executive sent out a secret letter to 40 JVP chapter heads across the USA, showing them the letter they sent to Ms. Weir and asking them not to work with her. Unfortunately for JVP, three of the chapter heads leaked the letter. What’s going on here? Ms. Weir is no anti-semite. Her website features her own essays detailing why anti-semitism is wrong, and it also sports the following statement of principles: “We believe all people are endowed with inalienable human rights regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, or nationality. We believe in justice, fairness, and compassion and in treating all human beings with respect, empathy, and in the manner in which we would wish to be treated.”

    Our friend Keith, a frequent poster, will be interested in one of the statements JVP made to Ms. Weir in response to her letter: “At Jewish Voice for Peace, we are particularly sensitive to the long history of anti-Jewish oppression”. Is there some discourse gatekeeping going on here, and if so, why?


    • SQ Debris on June 7, 2015, 2:58 pm

      Frankie, thanks for unpacking the JVP weirdness toward Allison and If Americans Knew. She’s doing good work, and has been an unflagging voice for justice and equality for years. Tarring her via guilt by association is not just bullshit. It’s divisive and it’s the very last thing this movement needs. Any idea on who exactly authored the JVP letter blackballing Allison?

      • Frankie P on June 7, 2015, 8:16 pm

        @SQ Debris: It’s curious; it’s unclear who authored the JVP letter, but in a membership organization we would think that the members would be involved, informed, invited to debate such action; instead it was done in classic night-flower AIPAC fashion. Methinks there has been some infiltration into JVP of voices that pay lip-service to peace while they carry out the usual ethnocentric defense campaigning. Ms. Weir mentions no names, but I’ll quote her:

        “I finally decided to write an article about this situation – “Please help us overcome the accusations against If Americans Knew,” but did not name JVP, in the hope of preventing damaging division and distraction in the movement for justice in Palestine.
        Before publishing this piece, I tried to clarify the situation with JVP, and emailed the national leaders asking about their statements about me. I hoped that by communicating with JVP directly the situation could be resolved. In reply I received a letter from a law firm on JVP’s behalf (a partner in the firm is the JVP board chair and was the signatory on the letter).
        I was surprised at the McCarthyist, guilt-through-association attacks this letter contained, and I was amazed at the great effort someone had made to monitor my every move over the past 14 years of hundreds of speeches, articles, and interviews.
        JVP sent their accusatory dossier on me to about 50 chapters around the country, and has been disseminating this and other accusations widely. I’ve just finished an extremely busy three-week speaking tour. In several locations I learned that JVP had tried to block my talks. Fortunately, they failed in almost all locations and my presentations were received extremely well; one audience even gave me a standing ovation.
        By the way, although JVP is a membership organization, there is no indication that the general JVP membership was informed or involved in these actions.”

        You can read Ms. Weir’s entire article and point by point rebuttal at the Unz Review.

        Frankie P

    • W.Jones on June 21, 2015, 6:20 pm

      Yes, this is a strange incident, and it’s odd that the two groups – JVP and Weir’s weren’t able to patch things up.

      Letter to Alison Weir
      May 5, 2015

      Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on Our Relationship with Alison Weir

      1. Please help us overcome the accusations against If Americans Knew
      2. My Reply to JVP Leaders’ McCarthy-like Attacks Against Me
      3. Setting the Record Straight on some additional accusations
      4. If Americans Knew Response to Latest Attack by JVP Leaders

      I don’t pretend that I am perfect and that all my responses will be flawless; all I can do is try my hardest. I apologize if there were cases where I should have done better. ~Weir

  9. OyVey00 on June 7, 2015, 11:33 am

    Just for historical accuracy, there actually were Jews in the Nazi party. Cryptojews of course, but still.

  10. Bilejones on June 7, 2015, 10:07 pm

    The vomiting of the state of Israel on the people of Palestine was the greatest political mistake since WWII.

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