The Kvetch-Up: Why are people still surprised that anti-BDS campaigns don’t work?

Welcome back to our weekly news round-up, where we try our long-winded best to summarize the Jewish news of the week. If you read something here that you want to say something about, get in touch:

Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, told Haaretz that Israeli government officials need to stay out of BDS controversy on US college campuses.

The New Voices take: Um, duh?

Sanderson said in the interview that divestment votes on campus are essentially meaningless and the money poured into anti-BDS campaigns are actually just fueling the other side.

Again: Duh?

University administrations rarely actually adopt divestment measures, and most Jewish students, Sanderson says, don’t care that much about Israel as part of Jewish identity. Pro-Israel advocacy organizations are loud and obnoxious (he phrases it as “Frankly, we need to quiet the noise on our end”). The Israeli government is “non-nuanced.”

New Voices has been saying for years that the way to the heart of millennial Jews is not through Israel, it’s through their Jewish American identity. Israel and BDS do far more to push American Jews away from their Jewish identity than they do to reel us in.

We are assumed to care about Israel because we are Jewish, but Israel is not the entirety of Jewish identity. Identity comes from history, from a shared past, real or perceived. One of the things I’ve always found fascinating about Jewish history is that it’s so expansive. The Diaspora has its origins in violence, but it has led to so much diversity of history and thought and culture — and yet we remain linked in our Jewish identity, wherever we are.

The Jewish community is imagined. We are historically more than Israel, and we continue to be. I’m glad Jay Sanderson has realized this, but I have to ask, as New Voices editors always must: How didn’t you realize this sooner?

It’s also disappointing when Sanderson comments that the interview might “get me in trouble,” because what he’s saying shouldn’t be controversial. No, it’s not the norm for federation officials to openly criticize the Israeli government, but open critique is what leads to healthy discourse and democracy. Open critique, conveniently, also makes young Jews more comfortable speaking up about Israel, whatever their views. There’s truly nothing like fear to stifle a healthy, productive, nuanced conversation on a very nuanced issue.

Moving on:

StandWithUs issues a statement on the year’s weirdest intercommunal drama thus far.

At Purdue University, a swastika and anti-Semitic slur were written on a whiteboard outside the American Studies program’s office sometime between Mar. 4-7.

Anti-Semitic graffiti — “Fuck Jews,” written in a bathroom stall — was also found at York University’s Keele campus.

The president of Hasbara at York told the Excalibur that this isn’t the first time there’s been anti-Semitic graffiti on campus.

York has recently seen controversy over a mural in its student center depicting a person wearing a Palestinian flag. One donor to the university, Paul Bronfman, pulled his company’s financial support for York’s film program and said he won’t reinstate it until the mural is gone.

CUNY can’t win on its response to allegations of anti-Semitism on its campuses. After the Zionist Organization of America released a Feb. 24 letter detailing anti-Semitic incidents at four CUNY campuses, James B. Milliken, CUNY’s chancellor, hired two lawyers to review the allegations.

The Jewish Caucus of New York City Council is drafting new legislation in response to these allegations. The bill, which hasn’t yet been submitted to the council, would require public colleges to track anti-Semitism on campus and report incidents to the council. SJP isn’t thrilled, and neither is Jewish Voice for Peace: JVP said the bill “is intended to silence advocacy for Palestinian human rights,” according to Mondoweiss, and Nerdeen Kiswani, the chair of NYC SJP, said SJP is “being repressed” at every CUNY campus.

But then there’s ZOA: Milliken’s response to the allegations isn’t good enough for Morton Klein, ZOA’s national president, who wants to see SJP banned from CUNY campuses. “All Milliken has done is condemn anti-Semitism … When these sort of things have happened to other groups at other schools, those student groups have been shut down,” Klein told The Jewish Week.

At Oberlin College, the controversy over anti-Semitic posts shared by rhetoric and composition professor Dr. Joy Karega continues. A group of anti-Zionist Jewish students at Oberlin wrote an open letter published in Jewschool opposing Oberlin’s response to the posts and stating that “though there have been isolated instances of anti-Semitism, we do not feel that they indicate a systemic presence of anti-Semitism within the administration or the student body.”

The students also stated that they do not believe Karega should be fired or removed from tenure consideration — rather, they want to bring her in for a dialogue about “collective liberation” and believe they can have this “without vitriolic attack or Zionist apologetics.”


Drake and Kanye have been accused by producer Hudson Mohawke of not paying him for tracks he worked on — in Drake’s case, for a song on 2013 album “Nothing Was the Same.” Doesn’t Drake realize how much of modern Jewish history is tied to economic and workers’ rights?

See you next week.

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