As the new academic year gets on its way we are witnessing an increase in BDS related activity as well as more debates regarding anti-Semitism on campus. Positively, the University of California’s regents voted to turn down the proposed speech code following a campaign orchestrated by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin of the AMCHA Initiative which SPME was a part of, where we underscored that the code did not address anti-Semitism in all its forms including anti-Zionism.
The series of anti Semitic incidents on the UC campuses included, swastikas and other Nazi graffiti painted on Jewish fraternity homes. These were some of the examples included in the appeal to the UC Board of Regents in March pushing to adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, which includes demonizing Israel and denying its right to exist.
The UC system has indeed participated in conversations surrounding, political correctness and microaggressions, but overall these conversations regarding identity-based hate have barred discussions on anti-Semitism in relation to anti-Israel activity within the UC campuses something which is clearly illustrated with the exclusion of anti-Semitism in the proposed statement.
Some of the notable trends we are seeing amongst the anti-Israel groups are creative coalition building with progressive campus organizations such as LGBT, fossil fuel divestment, private prison reform, racial discrimination, and immigration reform. The falsehoods involved in these coalitions are based on the erroneous belief that BDS will bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians when in-fact they are doing the opposite. As Israeli journalist Ben-Dror Yemini recently wrote, “there is a difference between a legitimate argument, relevant criticism of Israeli policy, and a monumental campaign of false claims of apartheid, genocide, crimes against humanity, and proclamations that Israel was born in sin because it is a colonialist entity and as such is involved in the serious crime of ethnic cleansing.”
The above has led to some activists linking the Black Lives Matter campaign to join forces with anti-Israel movements under the banner of “From Ferguson to Palestine, occupation is a crime.”
Finally, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) has put together a task-force to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where they lay out their principles of conduct including adopting BDS. The task-force in its report state that if the AAA were to adopt BDS it would be by far the largest academic association to do so (the association counts about 11,000 members).
As always, we welcome your feedback and article submissions.
Asaf Romirowsky, PhD
Dr. Asaf Romirowsky is the Executive Director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. Trained as a Middle East historian he holds a PhD in Middle East and Mediterranean Studies from King's College London, UK and has published widely on various aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict and American foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as on Israeli and Zionist history.
Romirowsky is co-author of Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief and a contributor to the
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SPME on a Faculty Petition at Columbia University Calling for Divestment from Firms Doing Business With Israel
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The Hypocrisy of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)
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