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December 03, 2015


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It's worth mentioning that the University of Illinois lost their case, and settled for substantial damages - something if I recall certain people predicted would never happen.

As it happens, the Salaita case did tremendous damage to the anti-BDS cause, for a simple reason, it is hard to argue against academic boycotts when those who oppose them for Israel implicitly or even openly endorse them for its critics.

I am personally ambivalent on BDS (though my views are shifting) - but I think the movement serves a useful purpose, in that it establishes a reality, that Israeli actions need to consider the risk of the BDS movement gathering strength, being encouraged by them. To me, the possibility of consequences is important and one that it seems Israel more extreme leaders have been indifferent to.

Paul Horwitz

Can I ask two questions about that comment? When you say "did tremendous damage to the anti-BDS cause," do you mean tremendous argument to the logic of the anti-BDS argument, or do you mean actually, in some sense empirically, did tremendous damage to the current state of the anti-BDS movement? Depending on the answer to my other question, I could see the sense of the proposition as a matter of logic, but the words "did tremendous damage" seem more like an empirical claim.

Second, what do you have in mind by the statement that "those who oppose [academic boycotts] for Israel implicitly or even openly oppose them for its critics?" This is, to be clear, an earnest question. The arguments about the Salaita case were so varied and voluminous that I'm certainly not aware of them all, and I'm sure you have examples in mind. But I admit that none spring to my mind. I can think (or I think I can, but my memory may be wrong and I may just be projecting) of people who thought Salaita's tweets were dumb or offensive, or even questioned the wisdom of the departmental hiring decision, but thought nonetheless that disciplinary/departmental decisions should generally be deferred to and there were insufficient grounds for the university to fail to honor the decision in this case. And when I think of academic boycotts in the context of the Salaita case, the closest examples that spring to mind are the academics who refused to have any dealings with the university because they supported Salaita and opposed the withdrawal of employment. I don't know what those individuals' positions are on BDS but I would have thought mixed at best.



My answer is that the response to Salaita hurt the anti-BDS cause because it revealed an essential hypocrisy on the part of many (but not all) of those opposing BDS as supporters of Israel. It was and is pretty transparently obvious that there was a lot of lobbying of the UoI by various persons - and it (and the obvious spoliation issues) cost Phyllis Wise her job. Most lawyers observing the situation concluded that a major factor driving the settlement was concern over discovery, what it would reveal about the lobbying (indeed there is some speculation that there may have been side settlements too, between some of the "lobby" and Salaita.) There is a perception that Israeli partisans target those who criticise Israel (they I'm sure will deny it) and that the Salaita case was more open and visible than most, which rely more on sub-rosa lobbying and whispers.

The Salaita situation was remarkably crude and unsubtle - and very open, but it confirmed perceptions that Israel's partisans do behave badly. The problem is, well, how can someone practically argue against academic boycotts, when in effect some in their group are driving activities with similar effects. Moreover, there were far too many who were willing to take comments from Salaita (and other) which, I'd hardly deny were intemperate, and try to turn them into more than they were. Far too many who pretended that Saliva was not being primarily criticised for the wrong partisanship. It's a cliché, but "what's sauce for the goose...."

Frankly (and it is unpopular in other environs to say this) anti-semitism is the worm in the apple of the Palestinian cause - nothing does more to damage their case than the antisemitism of many of that group. But therein lies the problem from Israel's partisans, the conduct of their own members undermines their cause. Fundamentally, it made those who opposed BDS look bad, unprincipled and hypocritical, just as antisemitism undermines those who support the Palestinians.

I have Israeli friends, many if not most of whom are appalled by the direction that Israel is taking. Friends (and family), Israeli, European and US had direct dealings with Netanyahu - well before he was Prime Minister. To say that they had nothing good to say would be kind - but it is the reality that many do oppose Israeli policy that makes me ambivalent about BDS, on the one hand I think it will harm, on the other hand, the implicit threat is an important constraint on Israeli behaviour (not that Netanyahu seems constrained by anything.)

Paul Horwitz

Thanks for your answer. I suppose I remain somewhat skeptical about the "tremendous damage" part, at least. My interest here is not in defending critics of Salaita, or anyone who lobbied for the university not to follow through on the employment offer. (I'm speaking in general terms here in part because I don't want to go beyond what I know and remember about the case.) They might have specific arguments to make, but I'm not trying to carry water for either side. I just wonder whether that case has caused actual damage to the anti-BDS side, or actual growth on the pro-BDS side, when it seems to me that most people are so strongly motivated by their priors on this issue; I admit that I would be surprised if any significant changes in fortune in this debate were driven by that case. But, again, your response did help me to understand your comment, and I appreciate it.

Sy Ablelman

Why do you academic egg heads hate the Jews so much? So, we have terrorists attacking 14 Ultra Soft DD targets in California and all you think about is condemning Israel? I am so sorry I went to college and law school. I could have made more money selling cars or doing construction. My education was a colossal waste of money.


BDS is academically and morally bankrupt. Why is BDS exclusively focused on the jews? Why is there no BDS of...well dozens of nations which execute people for a variety of things like political dissent or practicing Christianity. What about state sponsored torture? How about nations that dont allow women to drive? So basically the jews defend themselves and the West says F the jews they are too successful at defending themselves so lets F them economically.
I challenge any BDS supporter to name ANY other nation that is the subject of BDS. It is ONLY Israel that is selected for this treatment. Syria's Assad butchers his own in a savage civil war but somehow BDS overlooks this. Hmmm Russia is subject to Western sanctions over Crimea and Ukraine but never a word about Russia. China? BDS could care less. Various brutal dictatorships - ? BDS could care less. So BDS doesnt really care about "rights" BDS only cares about Israel. And only israel. That in and of itself establishes the arbitrary and capriciousness nature of BDS - BDS IS prejudiced against jewish folks. I say F BDS.



South Africa, Cuba

Challenge met.


Then there would be Iran - remember, only a few weeks ago, he'll even this week - you I'm pretty sure calling for continued sanctions on Iran.

Burma/Myanmar, Iraq, Syria (the latter over a prolonged period pushed by AIPAC), in the 70s various countries in Eastern Europe to apply pressure to allow Jewish emigration.

Hypocrisy, hypocrisy....


challenge met?
LOL - cite proof that BDS targets others. I have not heard of any BDS against China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, North Korea or Iran. Sources, links, proof? Just the word of "mack"
Hearsay and conjecture is inadmissible. Id love to see proof BDS targets dictatorships, military juntas, failed regimes, despots, state sponsors of torture, etc. But nope, they target Israel.

response rebutted

mack your comments demonstrate perfectly the jew hating nature of BDS WTF does jew emigration or AIPAC have to do with my point that BDS focuses solely on Israel?

And what are you talking about me and sanctions on Iran - what are you smoking?

Dont bother responding as you clearly have your own agenda of hate and Im not interested in giving you a forum. I wont bother answering your bull$hit.

AGAIN for the non macks out there who are looking at the comments box, BDS only targets Israel - they do not target any other nation.


Why was my post in response not posted?

Steve L.

Note to commenters: Sometimes comments are caught in the spam filter. I check it every few hours during daytime, but not constantly.


Steve, thanks I did not realize. Enjoy the week-end.



I think you jaw-droopingly hypocritical and frankly stupid post should be read as an illustration of the point I made.

The US and numerous other countries have pursued sanctions and boycotts repeatedly because of policies in various countries that they disagreed with. South Africa was subject to quite comprehensive boycotts, including academic, entertainment (remember the treatment of those who played at Sun City (of you don't, what a surprise), sporting (controversies over Rugby, Cricket and Soccer), and economic. Ditto a long list of Eastern Europe, Iran, Cuba, Libya, Syria et al.

In several instances Israel and its partisans were major backers of the sanctions in question. Indeed, the Iran deal is about sanctions, their imposition over Iran's nuclear program and the circumstances under which they would be lifted.

Now lets focus on why your are hypocritical, stupid and dishonest.

Jew hating - hey first part of your argument was the reflexive accusation of antisemitism. In case you did not notice that was one of the things that did the most damage in the Salaita discussion. Great own goal there!

BDS targets only Israel - yes and the recent campaign on the Nuclear deal targeted only Iran, the South African boycott campaign targeted South Africa, etc. etc. A false non-equivalence dressed up as important.

It try, I do at least strongly dislike dishonesty and hypocrisy, so I'm probably not very keen on you. But then I suppose neither are quite a few people opposed to BDS - their objection being to the damage you do.

Finally - "Don"t bother responding." Wow, how arrogant, you expect to order people around ... is that trying to silence people you disagree with. Hmmmmmmm - trouble getting Steve Lubet's point huh!

Steve L.

We have been through this before, Mack, so I am surprised that I have to remind you that I will delete comments containing personal insults such as "hypocritical, stupid and dishonest."

I am not deleting your most recent comment, however, because it also includes significant substantive points. Yes, F BDS also included some nasty stuff, and I came close to deleting those comments as well.

Everyone: Let's keep it civil. This is an academic discussion forum, and we ought to be able to state our views without insults.


Lot of typos time to proof-read



Stripped of my response to F BDS - which to be blunt, he earned.

BDS is pushing a response to Israeli policies that is not unique, it has been a response that the US and EU engaged in with respect to many countries policies, ranging from Eastern Europe's refusal to allow emigration, in particular of Eastern European Jews, Russia's invasion of Afghanistan, apartheid in South Africa, nationalisation in Cuba (the original reason for the anti-Cuba sanctions), sponsorship of terrorism by Libya, Syria, Nuclear research and arms development by Iran, Russian support of separatists (and likely more in Ukraine), list goes on. Several of these boycotts have been promoted by Israel's supporters in the United States - indeed earlier this year the whole Iran nuclear deal was fundamentally about sanction - about the US, EU and other countries lifting sanction in return for various undertakings from Iran and the loud opposition of Israel's supporters and Benyamin Netanyahu to that policy decision.

No one who describes themselves as a supporter of Israel can reasonably say that BDS sanctions are inherently wrong for a simple reason - the US and Israel's supporters have, over decades, been vocal supporters of sanctions when they saw them as forwarding policy objectives they support. Moreover, since many Israelis and the majority of US jews (and jews in the EU) when surveyed express their dislike and non-support of Israeli policies on issues from settlements to the overall treatment of Palestinians, it is hard to argue that BDS supporters in invoking those policies (that many US and EU Jews and a considerable number of Israeli jews find objectionable) are being anti-semitic (unless you are F BDS, who does this reflexively>)

As you will recall, I have repeatedly stated - with evidence - that the accusation of anti-semitism is thrown around like "snuff at a wake" when people criticise Israeli policy. That accusation is a very dangerous one - what happened to Salaita illustrates it. That the accusation is frequently made dishonestly and speciously to silence critics of Israeli policy - well see F BDS.

It's a dirty nasty stunt to run around randomly calling people jew-haters and antisemitic - nasty, unethical and unprincipled, designed to frighten and silence people - you know that, and I know that. That so many opposed to BDS are ready to sink to that level says a lot about them and it damns other BDS opponents by association, just as much as those who object to Israeli policies are frequently tarred by the ill-concealed anti-semitism of some of those who criticise Israel.

The chicanery that surrounded the Salaita episode is undeniable - Phyllis Wise resignation speaks to it. The episode did seriously damage the anti-BDS cause - as you suggest in your post.

I am as stated, personally ambivalent about BDS ... I do not oppose BDS as a matter of principle, because I support the idea of sanctions as a policy response. I question whether the sanctions BDS propose would improve the situation and therefore their appropriateness as a policy response to Israel's actions. That by the way is something lawyers do, they look at their legal toolkit and decide which tool would work, not just what can they use. My view, which can be debated is that keeping the possibility of BDS succeeding as a potential response to Israeli actions and policies is important - it creates the potential for consequences, the sort of things that so many have insisted on for Iran.

So to oppose BDS in principle while at the same time seeking to promote what are equivalent consequences for persons like Salaita, or countries like Iran, well I think the word is "hypocrisy."

Name Withheld By Request

The sanctions listed by m a c k were not academic sanctions based on restricting academic free speech. Citing economic sanctions implemented by Congress aginast actual human rights abusers are in no way academic sanctions only imposed the worlds only Jewish majority state.

They are, however, representative of classic anti-Semitic acts. Academic boycotts only aimed at Jews.

Once again you are kindly requested to present passed boycott resolutions by academic associations.

By the way the proper method to respond is to ask the IRS to revoke the associations not-for-profit status. By imposing a religious test - only Jewish Israeli academic are sanctioned - they violate public policy. As President Obama would point out that is not who we Americans are supposed to be.


Name Witheld by Request:

you are conflating being Jewish with being Israeli. Have you considered the implications of that stance?

Peter Friedman

What disturbs me about the BDS movement is that--in contrast too, for example, the boycotts of South Africa in the days of Apartheid--it is not at all clear what the objectives of boycott are. For Israel to cease any control over the West Bank and Gaza? If so, on what terms? It is fantasy to believe that a nation would unilaterally step back from a conflict in which the other side is dedicated to its destruction. Of is the objective a "one state solution" and, in connection with that, a dismantling of the Zionist project.

In short, what is the proposed solution and why is that a solution? It is in knowing the objectives of individual supporters of the BDS movement that we might begin to attribute motives: is it in fact an effort to push for peace between Israel and its enemies, or is it an effort to dismantle Zionism? Or is it something else altogether? As an effort to push for peace, it seems remarkably one-sided. As an effort to dismantle Zionism? I'm afraid that, protests notwithstanding, there are an awful lot of Jews who would take that as an anti-semitic endeavor.


The objectives seem pretty clear to me; return to the pre-1967 borders, ensure equal rights for Palestinians, and allow them to return to their property. You might think they are unrealistic or that Israel would be giving up too much, but lack of clarity does not seem to be an issue here. And it certainly does not call for "unilaterally step[ping] back from a conflict in which the other side is dedicated to its destruction."

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