Signs at a pro-BDS protest in New York following the US decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri.
Israel advocates need to “go to the moral dimension of the issue, not to run away from it,” said UCLA professor Judea Pearl, father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, in a fiery plea to students at a recent conference focused on combating the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
“This is where we are strong. This is our cause, and this is where we can win hands down,” Pearl said. “Talk about your emotions. I have emotions too, and not just as a grieving father, but as a man born in Israel. My friends came back in coffins from many wars — wars we did not start.”
More than 500 people, representing a multitude of Jewish and pro-Israel groups, gathered in Los Angeles from January 19-22 to take part in the fourth annual “Israel in Focus” conference, hosted by StandWithUs. The conference nearly doubled in size from last year, and included some 350 high school and college students from all across the US, Canada, Mexico and the UK.
StandWithUs, an Israel education and advocacy organization that was founded in 2001, hosts the conference each year to give the pro-Israel community a platform to share best practices on countering BDS.
JNS.org – As the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, a recently unveiled exhibit at a Holocaust museum in…
“It’s very interesting to see how what we do on campuses is now materializing in further action,” Adah Forer, a 20-year-old senior at the University of California, Berkeley, told JNS. “And it’s not just on campus, but in state government and beyond. It’s very heartening.”
Forer, whose campus is a hotbed for BDS activity, also spoke on a panel dubbed “Anti-Zionism: the New Face of Anti-Semitism,” in which she detailed her efforts to work with university administrators to address antisemitic incidents. She said that many high school students sought her out after the panel.
“It’s cool to talk to high school students who are interested in continuing their passion and joining pro-Israel groups when they come to campus. It’s what we need,” Forer said.
Knesset member Sharren Haskel (Likud) was the conference’s keynote speaker, and former MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) was in attendance.
Chairman of the Spirit Music Group David Renzer spoke to a packed ballroom about BDS proponents’ war on culture. He cited Lorde’s recent cancellation of a Tel Aviv concert, following BDS pressure.
Renzer, who co-founded Creative Community for Peace — an initiative involving power players in the arts — has been instrumental in bringing artists like Elton John, Boy George, Cyndi Lauper and Alicia Keyes to Israel for shows as well, as meetings with Israeli politicians. Those celebrities also learn about causes like LGBT rights in the Holy Land.
“Clearly this movement (BDS) is not going away, and it absolutely targets artists and culture,” Rezner said. “It’s doing so with great strategy, a laser focus and apparently some serious funding. Our goal is to continue what we’re doing and expand on what we’re doing [to oppose it].”
Renzer announced his group’s plans to add a New York office to deal with BDS issues in the theatre world, like a recent boycott campaign to shut down the production of a Lincoln Center Festival play funded by the Israeli Culture and Sport Ministry.
Many conference sessions focused on forming coalitions outside of the Jewish community. One participant was Chelsea Andrews, director of campus relations for Passages, a Christian pro-Israel advocacy group — which nicknames itself the “Christian Birthright” — that leads trips to Israel for Christian college students. She brought nearly 30 of her students to the conference, in order to encourage more dialogue with Jewish students.
“If we’re not coming together and hearing other perspectives, then we’re not seeing a more inclusive area and I don’t think Israel should be just the root of Christianity, or just a Jewish thing. It needs to be more pluralistic or we can get into a dangerous space,” she said.
Evon Sworesho, a Middle East affairs analyst, drew parallels between BDS and historical persecution in the region against Jews and Christians. Several pastors also spoke on a panel about the presence of BDS and anti-Israel views in churches.
State lawmakers from both sides of the political spectrum, including Republican Texas Representative Phil King and Democratic Rhode Island Representative Mia Ackerman, discussed how their states have passed anti-boycott laws. King, whose state relies on Israel as its fourth-largest trade partner, and as a vital contributor of agricultural technology, said that anti-boycott legislation was a no-brainer for Texas.
“BDS, at its core, is economic warfare,” he said. “Most Texans recognize that regardless of it being a national issue, one that affects our homeland security — as Israel is our only friend in the Middle East — there are a lot of state hooks, like our long trade history.”
Both state lawmakers agreed that the economic impact of BDS in the West Bank inflicts the most harm on Palestinians who work for Israeli companies, referencing the 500 Palestinians who lost their jobs at SodaStream in 2016, due to BDS pressure.
Ahava Helfenbaum, a 16-year-old high school student from Toronto and a StandWithUs intern, told JNS that she was returning home from the conference with renewed purpose.
“All these success stories on fighting BDS I’ve been hearing all weekend are so inspirational and are giving me the confidence to keep going. It’s really a propeller forward for me,” she said.
Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs, said that her organization added some new features to the conference schedule this year in order to encourage more student interaction and engagement.
“We did a bit of an experiment and combined the high school and campus students in one community … to see if everyone was able to take from the conference what we wanted to give them — namely information, inspiration and the resources to build a network,” she said. “It was very effective this year. I’m receiving unsolicited compliments everywhere I go, even in the elevator.”
Trump hails ‘big week’ for historic move; ‘Congratulations to all,’ he tweets ahead of May 14 opening
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman gives a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 11, 2018, ahead of its opening on May 14 (Screenshot)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Friday gave a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, showing off workers erecting the official seal on the building and preparing for the opening ceremony.
“We are so excited,” Friedman said in a video posted on the embassy’s Facebook page. “We have the official seal of the United States embassy. We have the dedication plaque. They are covered right now, but on Monday they are going to be unveiled.”
‘Next time in Jerusalem,’ jubilant Barzilai yells after victory; ‘Toy’ marks Israel’s 4th win; hundreds jump in Rabin Square fountain to celebrate; PM calls her ‘best ambassador’
Netta Barzilai after winning the final of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 12, 2018. (AFP/ Francisco LEONG)
Israel won the Eurovision song contest for the first time in two decades Saturday as singer Netta Barzilai clucked and bucked her way to the top of the international song contest with women’s empowerment anthem “Toy.”
Backed up by three dancers, her trademark side buns featuring stripes of pink dyed hair to match her pink-and-black outfit, Barzilai busted her way through “Toy” on stage in Lisbon, Portugal, punctuating her singing with her trademark eye rolls and chicken dance moves
Quoted by US president one day, hosted by Russia’s president the next, PM is on a high, including in the polls. But will this encourage his more divisive tendencies?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the Victory Parade marking the 73th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
JTA — On Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu began his week by meeting his Cypriot and Greek counterparts to finalize the commercial export to Europe of Israeli gas that he has pushed to exploit for about a decade.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from nuclear deal with Iran was widely seen as a coup for Israel’s prime minister, a fierce opponent of the deal.
The same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel seized Iran’s archive of its military nuclear program in Tehran and spirited it to Israel, a video was posted of IDF soldiers singing Soltane Ghalbha, a traditional Persian love song – in Persian.
Taken together, the two events demonstrate the purpose of Netanyahu’s presentation.
Netanyahu’s detractors in the US and Israel called his presentation as a dog and pony show. “He didn’t tell us anything we haven’t known for years,” they sniffed.
Moreover, they insisted, Netanyahu’s presentation was actually counterproductive because he couldn’t show evidence that Iran is in breach of the nuclear deal it concluded in 2015 and so did nothing to persuade the Europeans to abandon the deal.
While US policy-makers are trying desperately to stabilize Afghanistan, a shift is being orchestrated by China.
The Chinese evidently see their role in Afghanistan as the “good cop” versus the U.S. role as “bad cop.” Like Pakistan, China seems to view the Taliban as the political opposition, not as a terrorist organization, and has offered itself as an intermediary to negotiate the departure of the U.S. and, thereby, be in a position to reap the economic and geopolitical benefits of Afghanistan as a client state of the China-Pakistan alliance.
Reuters/Ipsos set a new standard this week when it condemned its own polling as unreliably favorable to the president.
“This week’s Reuters/Ipsos Core Political release presents something of an outlier of our trend,” stated a paragraph that appeared before the press release on its latest polling even began.
“Every series of polls has the occasional outlier, and in our opinion, this is one. So, while we are reporting the findings in the interest of transparency, we will not be announcing the start of a new trend until we have more data to validate this pattern.”
For the sixth Friday in a row, protestors from Gaza came to Israel’s border with intentions to penetrate it. They come with scissors to cut through the fence, with burning tires, Molotov cocktails, slingshots with rocks, and kites with firebombs attached to them to destroy Israeli farmlands and villages.
This is not some peaceful demonstration akin to Selma in the 1960s when blacks were simply trying to sit together with whites at a lunch counter. The usage of the word “demonstrators” is a misnomer; these are “rioters.”
What would happen if the world took Pope Francis’ advice (via a tweet)? “Do we really want peace? Then let’s ban all weapons so we don’t have to live in fear of war,” said the pontiff.
While on the surface, the disappearance of all weapons might suggest the inability to do violence, in reality, it would mean the certain annihilation of the West as a civilization.
When a Philadelphia Starbucks manager called the police after two black men refused to leave, the chain of events ended with the burnt taste of the overpriced coffee chain colluding with anti-Semitism.
Starbucks reacted to the brief arrest by blaming the police, but Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who is African-American, initially said that his officers, “did absolutely nothing wrong”. But then he was forced to offer a bewildering apology to the arrested men, the officers and the entire city.
“It is me who in large part made most of the situation worse than it was,” he announced.
“Your threshing season will last until your grape harvest, and your grape harvest will last until the time you plant. You will have your fill of food, and you will dwell securely in your land” (Vayikra 26:5).
This blessing is promised to the People of Israel on condition that, as a unified nation, they observe the laws of the Torah and live by its spirit. Its promise is quite surprising. Not only will the Israelites have plenty to eat but, as the verse clearly indicates, the Jews will experience an overflow of food. The first season, when produce is brought to the threshing floor, will last until the days of the grape harvest, which in turn will continue into the planting season.