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Shliach: Universities Must Oppose the Immoral and Dangerous BDS Movement

Stanford Shliach Rabbi Dov Greenberg authored an essay published in the National Review decrying “immoral and dangerous BDS movement” following an incident in which pro-Israel students were threatened with violence.

by Rabbi Dov Greenberg

In mid July, Hamzeh Daoud, a student at Stanford University, publicly posted on Facebook: “I’m gonna physically fight Zionists on campus next year.” If his meaning wasn’t clear enough, Hamzeh continued, “And after I abolish your ass I’ll go ahead and work every day for the rest of my life to abolish your petty ass ethno-supremacist, settler-colonial state.” While not reflective of Stanford’s values, the sentiment of this hateful post reveals the state of contemporary life on campuses. Daoud’s post is particularly telling, and its damage outlasts his reactive retraction.

A thought experiment: Replace the word “Zionist” with “LGBT” or “supporters of #BlackLivesMatter” in Daoud’s post. Almost certainly, the outcry would be universal and deafening. Yet, for some reason, when it comes to threatening physical violence against fellow students who support Israel, the response is indifference or, worse still, support. Somehow, the target of hate becomes the villain and the aggressor becomes the victim. How has this come to pass?

Let me answer by way of illustration. Among the most striking and powerful museums in the world is the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. But at first glance, it contains a structural oddity.

The exhibit fills three floors. The top floor covers the rescue of the survivors and the aftermath. The middle floor portrays the Holocaust itself. But the entire first floor — which can take hours to go through — consists of the Holocaust’s prelude: the propaganda of the 1930s and the relentless Nazi campaign to dehumanize the Jewish people.

One might wonder: Why is the prelude to the Holocaust given as much space as the events of the Holocaust itself? The answer is simple: Crimes against the Jews have not emerged out of thin air. Rather, they have been preceded by lies, dehumanization, vilification, and slander. Before Jews have been attacked, they have been made pariahs. In order to be attacked, they have to be put beyond the pale.

It would be wrong to overstate the comparison: This is not the 1930s. Nevertheless, it is necessary, now, to remind ourselves how the seeds of violence are sown, and the tacit indifference that allows them to grow. The threat of violence at Stanford is a symptom of a larger assault, spearheaded by groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, of which Daoud was an active member. This broader movement’s Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel betrays a prejudicial and sinister logic. It is tempting to dismiss BDS and its allied efforts as mere hot air, far-left radicals frolicking in their playpen of demagoguery. But that misses the point.

The overriding objective of BDS is to brand one country and one people as uniquely evil. The whole point of the BDS campaign is to delegitimize the planet’s single Jewish state — and thus turn a new generation of future American leaders against Israel. It aims to put Israel outside of the global community of shared humanity and solidarity.

Of course, it is absurd that Israel, the country that brought democracy, free press, independent judiciary, academic freedom, and women’s rights to the Middle East, is the one that stands vilified and accused. But just because the accusation is Orwellian does not diminish its danger.

It is worth remembering that Daoud does not retract portraying Israel as a colonial state. And not just colonial, but ethno-supremacist. Everyone agrees ethno-supremacism and colonialism are evil and their eradication is a positive good. To place Israel in that category is to make the destruction of Israel and harm to its supporters an act of righteous justice. Violence is not only threatened. It is legitimized.

Daoud’s post is a demonstration of how insidious the BDS campaign and its rhetorical tropes against Israel have been. This is not hot air. This is a vicious movement to demonize Israel and to establish the psychological basis for hatred and violence against Jewish students.

It’s time for universities across the country and all those committed to common decency to join together in opposing the immoral and dangerous BDS movement. Punches in the face may start with the Jews, but they never end with them. If we do not act now, it is our most cherished values and ideals that will come under assault. The news from Stanford is that they already have.


  • 2. Moishe pipek wrote:

    BDS is small potatos compared to the vast left that is out there who are neged Hashem Vmishiho.That student would not have dared to express his behaimishe feeling were he not in the Libertard University This left includes many jews in USA and Israel.Knowing the sickness is half the cure.

  • 3. Stonewall wrote:

    why should we as lubavitchers really care one way about BDS?

    I do not think that it is the job of a shaliach to make comments about politics or policy.

    • 4. Rabbi G from BMK wrote:

      This isn’t just “politics”; it affects the economy, safety and security of the six million or so Jews (kein yirbu) who live in Israel. Yes, it is very much in the purview of a shliach to be talking about this.

  • 5. Indifferent to the Physical World wrote:

    How many Lubavitch care about the physical world enough to get out and vote for elected who would put forth legislation to stop this ?
    Why vote when the Jewish leadership in CH is a dictatorship with regular elections.
    Why aren’t there public meetings that deal with Jewish issues in the community by the CHJCC ?
    Why isn’t there a voting drive to demand public security cameras on every corner like Borrough Park ?

    CH Leadershp = Corrupt Theocracy in Bed with Real Estate Interests who run the place

  • 7. dd3 wrote:

    what a zechus Rabbi Greenberg has, to do this.
    kol hakavod and yosher koiach

  • 8. Israel Apartheid Week in US Colleges wrote:

    The above link shows the anti-Semitism that Jews face at colleges.

    Certified election results from the BOE, show that the democratic primary can be determined by the Jewish swing vote. The most recent democratic primary by US Rep Yvette Clark was won by about 1000 votes. If Crown Heights and Flatbush got together, it would be a game-changer. Republican Jews who are registered as democrats to influence the democratic primary can still vote Republican in the general.
    It is my hope that some of the young in the community or the women organize and take the lead and post fliers on every Jewish business on Kingston Ave informing the community of strategy.

    Y.Y. The Double Y


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