The Conspiracy

JFNA, JCPA partner in national anti-BDS campaign

The Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs are teaming up to launch a national campaign against efforts advocating boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel, according to an article by the JTA:

The JFNA and the rest of the Jewish federation system have agreed to invest $6 million over the next three years in the new initiative, which is being called the Israel Action Network. The federations will be working in conjunction with JCPA, an umbrella organization bringing together local Jewish community relations councils across North America.

The network is expected to serve as a rapid-response team charged with countering the growing campaign to isolate Israel as a rogue state akin to apartheid-era South Africa – a campaign that the Israeli government and Jewish groups see as an existential threat to the Jewish state.

One of the foremost battlegrounds in the BDS debate has been the college campus, but that gets short shrift in the article, with only two quotes from Federation officials mentioning student activity, including this one:

Michael Papo, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis, said that Indiana has not yet witnessed a full-fledged anti-Israel boycott campaign.

“But it could happen,” he said. “It could happen quickly. It could happen on our college campuses, and it would be helpful to have that national network to call for help.”

This is potentially troubling. The JFNA and JCPA can do what they want, but if this money means more organizational meddling in Jewish student discourse and activism (and, therefore, less independent student activism), that’s a bad thing.

Read the full article here.


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6 Older Responses to “JFNA, JCPA partner in national anti-BDS campaign”

  1. Elle Weiss
    October 26, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    And other organizations don’t meddle in student discourse? International Solidarity Movement (ISM) has been spending quite a bit of time on college campuses, stirring up hate for Israel. Yesterday, you posted that Cambridge debated if Israel is a rogue state. Do you see Sudan, Libya, Saudia Arabia, Iran, China, North Korea or Syria ‘s existance debated as such? Student activism and discourse is quite active, and JFNA and JCPA just add to it.

  2. Ben Sales
    October 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm #


    All organizational meddling is wrong, no matter where it comes from. I am just as against ISM meddling as I am against AIPAC’s meddling and such. And it’s not authentic student discourse if these students are reciting talking points from larger organizations.

  3. Elle Weiss
    October 27, 2010 at 1:24 am #

    I agree with you, I wish all student groups were just that, student groups. But look at most clubs on campus and you’ll see they are Jr forms of bigger organizations.

  4. Harpo Jaeger
    October 27, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    Ben, I think you’re absolutely right that this kind of meddling is a problem for student activism. But I disagree with both you and Elle that having a campus subsidiary of a larger group is necessarily “meddling.” In some sense, joining a group of any kind is sort of a betrayal of your right to make independent judgments, since to a certain extent you work through the organization’s viewpoint. Realistically though, it’s the best way to get stuff done.
    I also take issue with the notion that the ISM’s intention is to “stir up hatred for Israel.” Clearly they have a different analysis of the situation, and I think it’s unfair for us to discard it as based purely on hate.

  5. Elle Weiss
    October 27, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    I argue, Harpo. Student activism is great, but partnering with adults gets things done.

    But as for ISM, their take on the issue is terrorism.

    “Hamas claims it has many men ready to be suicide bombers-we advocate that these men (use non-violent resistance)….This is no less of a jihad. This is no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation.” Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, 1/29/02

    “[W]e do not advocate adopting the methods of Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr….The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics – both nonviolent and violent.” Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, 1/29/02

    Yes, they do stir up hatred for Israel. I’m getting interviews on a larger article, but on many campuses, they cross the line to antisemitism. According to a friend, at one anti-Israel conference at the University of Michigan (October 2002,) the audience was chanting “Kill the Jews” – “Ittbach al yahood” in Arabic.

  6. Harpo Jaeger
    October 28, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    I’d just note that the first quote you cite actually supports the notion that ISM opposes violent resistance – it seems to be an attempt to justify nonviolent resistance as no less noble. As to the second, that’s legitimately disturbing, and I don’t want to give the impression I’m waffling on condemning violence by any side. But I do feel that this a consistently one-sided discussion – the ways in which right-wing supporters of Israel excuse settler terrorism (i.e. by not calling it terrorism) and promote hatred of Palestinians just don’t get the same amount of attention. And I believe they’re just as much of an obstacle to the peace process, if not more.

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