Two days ago, I was part of a J Street U delegation attending a major summit at the United Nations dedicated to confronting BDS. We went because we too oppose the Global BDS Movement and wanted to offer a serious, effective alternative to the failed right-wing pro-Israel advocacy that we see every day on college campuses and around the country.Really? Because J-Street is practically invisible in the fight against BDS on campus. A couple of years ago I asked for a single example of a picture of a J-Street booth or table at any campus in the US handing out anti-BDS literature. Maybe something has changed since then, but I have yet to see it. Someone, please find me some literature that J-Street U passed out during this year's "Israel Apartheid Week".
On the other hand, groups like Stand With Us and grassroots individual campus groups like Calgary United For Israel - which would be considered "right-wing pro-Israel advocacy" by J-Street - are hugely effective. Those are the groups that have been in the forefront of turning back BDS on campus, not J-Street U.
Instead, the event perfectly encapsulated why the Jewish community is losing the fight against BDS -- and turning many young people off of Israel entirely.She returns to this theme a number of times.
When we conveyed the message that effectively confronting BDS requires opposing the occupation, we were met with scorn and abuse.
Opposing BDS means also opposing the occupation....There’s no way to fight BDS without fighting the occupation. Most support for the Global BDS Movement stems from very real concerns about human rights violations in the West Bank and the threats the occupation poses to Israelis and Palestinians.... I couldn’t help but think that if the Jewish establishment spent as much time fighting for peace as they do fighting against BDS, it would soon be a thing of the distant past -- and Israelis and Palestinians might be much better off....We know that the most effective way of opposing BDS is supporting a two-state solution and opposing the occupation.How exactly does that work? A BDSer says "Boycott Israel because they occupy Palestinian territory" and J-Street U answers, what, exactly?
Do they say "We agree with you that the occupation is the source of all evil in the Middle East so please don't boycott Israel"?
Do they say "We would prefer that you boycott the settlements and leave Green Line Israel alone"?
Exactly what argument does a J-Street U that says they agree with the official stance the boycotters say they have for boycotting Israel? I can't think of any consistent J-Street argument that wouldn't strengthen the BDSers.
After some searching, I found J-Street U's arguments against BDS used at Vassar College last year:
- BDS is NOT the only way to be pro- Palestinian and anti- occupationNotice that J-Street U is not arguing against divesting from Israel, boycotting Israel or placing sanctions on Israel. They are arguing against the BDS movement, not against boycott/divestment/sanctions against Israel! Except for the implication that an academic boycott is wrong, they cannot come up with a reason why people shouldn't boycott Israeli goods or why campuses shouldn't divest from Israeli investments!
- BDS does NOT support a two state solution
- BDS supports academic boycotts
- BDS disempowers students and orgs from making their own decisions on this issue
- BDS silences the anti-occupation Israeli left
- Our academic environment should be committed to exploring all narratives in an issue, not siding with one
- BDS silences student voices and activism on campus
This list of reasons to oppose BDS given by J-Street U is a smokescreen for the fact that J-Street U, by accepting the "occupation is evil" argument, cannot defend Israel. They cannot brag about any Israeli accomplishments because they would be targeted for "X-washing the occupation." The same logic that claims that Jews have no rights whatsoever to Judea and Samaria can be easily used to say that Jews have no right to Tel Aviv and Netanya.
J-Street U can't even bring itself to support a Jewish state, instead saying that "Israelis" have the right to self-determination, not Jews.
Of course, J Street U's premise that two states would defang BDS is absurd. Asthe Vassar list shows, even J-Street U knows that BDSers don't care about "occupation;" they want to destroy Israel and they've made that clear over and over again. "Occupation" is an excuse. After all, Arabs boycotted Israel before "occupation" and they brought arguments that were meant to be just as attractive to Western progressives while, in Arabic, they were clear what the real goal was.
If Israel would sign a peace agreement with the PLO tomorrow, next week there would be a new push for "right of return" and UN resolutions stating that "Palestinians who are Israeli citizens are living under apartheid" and a half dozen other arguments that are only meant to justify, ex post facto, the desire to destroy Israel.
Rather than being an effective fighter against BDS, J-Street U's demonization of Israel gives oxygen and ammunition to the BDSers.
In the end, J-Street is an organization that is dedicated to demonizing Israel in the name of "peace." I have yet to see a substantive argument that J-Street has ever given to defending Israel, even at their own conferences.
J-Street cannot say anything nice about Israel.
Just like JVP.
And just like the BDS movement itself.