Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Uniters and Dividers

A BDS resolution failed at Columbia this week. Commentary, of all places, went out of its way to note that J Street U was "an important ally" in the fight, and framed its column around the importance of uniting the Jewish left and right in the anti-BDS struggle.

Meanwhile, at an anti-BDS conference at the UN, South Carolina State Rep. Alan Clemmons (R) told J Street U students in attendance, and who were asking for advice on how to combat BDS, that they were "antisemitic". His remarks were reportedly met with rousing applause. Clemmons has since taken to the Wall Street Journal to argue that the bare usage of the word "occupation" is antisemitic as a form of "demonization" (referencing Natan Sharansky's "3D" test of antisemitism as pertains to Israel -- double-standards, delegitimization, or demonization).

No matter what one's views are on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the notion that simply calling Israel's domain over the West Bank "occupation" is a form of "demonization" is patently ridiculous. If J Street U is antisemitic for using the term "occupation", then so are the Israeli Supreme Court and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Frivolous arguments like this delegitimize Sharansky's quite useful framework for sussing out the links between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. They also do great harm to an organization that has been a critical ally in fighting BDS on campus.

Anti-BDS coalitions and pro-Israel networks alike need J Street U far more than we need misguided political hacks like Clemmons. The Israel Action Network at least had the grace to offer some backing to J Street U following this scurrilous attack. The other key players in the anti-BDS movement -- particularly those who were involved in the event Clemmons spoke at -- need to step up as well.

UPDATE: Both the AJC and Hillel have now denounced the attack on J Street U.

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