Why was the Clinton campaign obsessed with fighting BDS?

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During the presidential campaign, we ran a lot of posts based on Wikileaks releases from the Clinton campaign that touched on Israel; but Wikileaks saved one of the best for last, the day after the election: an email from Stu Eizenstat, an ambassador to the Jewish community, to Clinton’s foreign policy wunderkind Jake Sullivan scrutinizing activism in favor of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) at Princeton– or as Eizenstat put it, “a case study of BDS at Princeton.”

It is highly discouraging to read this email, because it shows the Clinton campaign looking into BDS activism as some type of sinister force when it could have been spending its energy on better things. And not to do too much fingerpointing, but Palestinian solidarity should have been included in Democratic Party activities. But at every turn the Clintonites shut it down, and all to get the backing of big pro-Israel donors.

This battle is bound to continue inside the Democratic Party in the shambles of the election– especially as Jewish activists organize to try to block Rep. Keith Ellison’s bid to lead the party. Scott Roth puts his finger on the issue for the party:

This last email out of Wikileaks is creepy. It was written at a time when the Clinton campaign was strategizing on a Clinton letter against BDS addressed to megadonor Haim Saban, as a means of balancing her support for the Iran deal in the eyes of big donors; that letter would go public two weeks later, with the urging of Stu Eizenstat. In the meantime, Eizenstat relates a conversation that he had with the liberal Zionist Dan Kurtzer, a former ambassador to Israel and now S. Daniel Abraham Professor at Princeton (Abraham is a pro-Israel Clinton donor) in which Kurtzer described recent divestment activities, some of which he approved, and then anatomized the BDS movement: or, how a “normally sleepy campus has gotten engaged through the BDS controversy.”

Stuart Eizenstat, on German television in 2013
Stuart Eizenstat, on German television in 2013

Kurtzer told Eizenstat, per Eizenstat:

The BDS movement is an umbrella group that consists of different strands, with different motives.

(1) Some people who are simply anti-Semetic. This is a small percentage.

(2) Some are viscerally anti-Israel.

(3) Palestinians who use BDS as a cover for their unwillingness to accept Israel.

(4) A “lot” of students who are not anti-Israel, but oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank

Kurtzer also commented darkly on PCP, the Princeton Committee on Palestine: “Dan did not know if they are funded from abroad.” PCP is a typical pro-Palestinian campus org. Why is the Clinton campaign getting its knickers in a twist over a group that advertises itself: “PCP members come from a wide variety of backgrounds, nations, and religions, but are united by a desire to see justice in Palestine.”

Kurtzer goes on to say that the outside effort to oppose BDS, including by Hillary Clinton’s good friend Haim Saban working with her arch-enemy Sheldon Adelson, won’t work on campus.

The Adelson-Saban effort will not be effective and will be resented as “outside” money by students.

Eizenstat then passed on Kurtzer’s observations of the conflict, including a “Plan B” of managed conflict that we are hearing a lot of these days from the likes of Dennis Ross, another American Zionist:

There is a “Plan B” if the peace process continues to flounder. It consists of the following: (1) A long-term ceasefire in Gaza…. (4) More freedom of movement and fewer checkpoints. (5) Build new homes only in tightly defined current settlement blocs.

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“an ambassador to the Jewish community,”