Volume of anti-Israel activity decreases, aggressiveness increases.
The Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), a national organization that supports pro-Israel and Zionist students on university campuses, has released a new report that summarizes the findings from nearly 1200 anti-Israel activities that took place on U.S. colleges during the 2016-2017 academic year.
The report highlights a “growing intensity” of anti-Israel campaigns on certain campuses, but also notes a 40% decrease in BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns—from 33 in 2015-2016 down to 20 over the last year—and a 20% decline in overall anti-Israel activity during the same period.
In fact, according to an ICC press release, its Year End Report for AY 2016-2017 underscores what we already know: Jewish students and other supporters of Israel returning to campus this Fall are facing an “increasingly antagonistic atmosphere” and an “even more hostile environment” than they have in the past.Below I briefly describe ICC’s mission and discuss the key findings of its latest report. A statement for LI from Megan Nathan, ICC spokeswoman and communications director, is also included.
The Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC)
Initially part of Hillel, the ICC was founded nearly 4 years ago. It seeks to monitor campus developments in in real-time and to unite the many pro-Israel organizations that operate on U.S. campuses by coordinating strategies and sharing its in-depth research. The goal is to work with other coalition partners in order to avoid a duplication of resources and to provide the most useful supports for the students.
Basically, the ICC aims to help students by equipping them with educational and timely professional resources to effectively combat campus BDS campaigns.
Here’s a short video of the ICC’s services for students (many more materials are also available on its website):
Key Findings from ICC’s 2016-2017 Year End Report
The ICC’s 12-page report summarizes “trends and changing needs” gleaned from the thousands of Israel-related events tracked over the last academic year.
It highlights a “deteriorating environment on campus” for Jewish and pro-Israel students, showing that in the last 12 months virulently anti-Israel campus activists have become even “more malicious” in their attempts to delegitimize and attack Israel. In addition, it emphasizes that Israel-related activity across the country last year underlines a new “professionalization and sophistication” of these anti-Israel campaigns.
The report emphasizes three central findings from the data:
1. Anti-Israel activism tends to be concentrated geographically.
The ICC report notes that location is a “deciding factor” when it comes to anti-Israel activism.
For example, the California schools are still a problem. According to ICC data, the state experienced an overall reduction in anti-Israel activity. But the number of anti-Israel events increased by 9% (239 events last year, up from 219 in 2015-2016).
The ICC also found that for the second consecutive year, anti-Israel events on Midwest campuses “outnumbered those in other regions”—a reflection of Chicago’s increasing role as a hub for Israel’s detractors:
The city is home to American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and other groups that provide financial and strategic support to anti-Israel students.”
That AFSC and AMP kept popping up in the ICC’s data is alarming.
— Israel on Campus Coalition (@IsraelCampus) September 18, 2017
As we discussed in a prior post, once hailed as a premier faith-based relief agency in the region, the AFSC has “betrayed its own founding principles” by aligning itself with violent movements, including those that use terrorism to advance their goals.
A comprehensive study for The Tower published several years ago found that the AFSC tacitly, and sometimes even overtly, supported violent Islamist movements, is hostile to Israel, and “treads dangerously close” to anti-Semitic supersessionism and a form of liberation theology—the idea that the Jews’ covenant is obsolete and that the Palestinians are the sacred, chosen people.
These days—as shown by the ICC’s data—it’s also apparently providing considerable assistance to college-based anti-Israel initiatives in the Chicago area, even going so far as to write Israel divestment resolutions for student government leaders.
AMP is even nastier.
In a post from last year, we noted that a number of key AMP leaders once helped to finance Hamas, working through now defunct organizations that were shut down by the U.S. government. These same individuals now fundraise for, and speak on behalf of AMP, Islamists behind American BDS movement exposed at congressional hearing.
AMP has long been known to be closely connected to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), providing its campus chapters with both funding and programming materials. Now ICC’s report highlights that its ramping up these efforts—especially on a select number of high-profile campuses in the Washington, DC area and those with large student populations in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
Bottom line: The anti-Israel movement is becoming savvier in terms of where they concentrate their efforts. The ICC’s findings that the overall number of anti-Israel speakers, Israeli apartheid weeks, and boycott initiatives declined last year just means that Israel’s detractors are focusing on campuses where they have the greatest likelihood of successfully marginalizing pro-Israel students and spreading their hateful propaganda.
2. Anti-Israel activists are using more malicious tactics on campus.
The ICC report notes that, compared to previous years, BDS organizers have over the last 12 months increasingly resorted to “shaming and intimidating” Israel’s supporters on campus, targeting individual pro-Israel students, faculty and even university trustees on social media.
It also highlights a number of instances where Israel-themed events and educational activities were disrupted and pro-Israel speakers were shouted down (many of the incidents mentioned in the report are those we also highlighted in a prior post, With campus shout downs, first they came for the Jews and Israel).
— Israel on Campus Coalition (@IsraelCampus) September 18, 2017
The report identifies a growing tendency to schedule BDS votes on or around Jewish holidays in an effort to suppress debate, minimize opposition, and “intentionally limit the participation of Jewish students,” an obnoxious trend which we’ve also highlighted:
- ALERT: Sneak Passover Anti-Israel Divestment attack at Cornell
- Another sneak Passover Divestment attack, this time at Tufts University
Another development that ICC data picked up: anti-Israel campus activists are increasingly distancing and disassociating themselves from the greater BDS movement, viewing the public exposure as damaging. At Tufts University, for instance, student government representatives held a secret BDS vote so that the identities of divestment supporters would be protected.
Anti-Israel activists are also downplaying their BDS advocacy by “shifting the messaging” for campus audiences. More and more anti-Israel initiatives are being reframed and rebranded as struggles for equality, social justice and human rights.
In many posts we’ve documented this continuing trend on campus to equate alleged Palestinian grievances with perceived oppression suffered by minority American groups.
As we’ve discussed, it’s a savvy approach precisely because it enables anti-Israel activists to “broaden the reach of their efforts” by forging alliances and establishing common cause with other left-wing campus activist organizations around the theme of group identity and suffering.
Basically, as the ICC report documents, Israel’s detractors on campus are constantly inserting themselves into the “grievance platforms of fellow campus agitators”, using every opportunity to hijack totally unrelated agendas and redirecting them against Israel (the report specifically flags instances this past year at Georgetown University and Ohio State University where anti-Israel activists succeeded in co-opting the effort to encourage divestment from the U.S. private prison industry by making sure that any resolution for prison reform would also include a BDS clause).
Bottom line: The ICC’s 2016-2017 Year End Report makes clear that anti-Israel activists on U.S. campuses are continuing to refine and evolve their tactics to further delegitimize Israel and silence pro-Israel students. BDS activists on campus are increasingly resorting to “deception and distortion” in order to promote these anti-Israel campaigns. These “underhanded tactics” also include using the language of intersectionality to claim the “mantle of equality and social justice” even while endorsing hatred against Jews and Israel.
3. Outside professional organizations are expanding support for campus anti-Israel efforts.
Not only are anti-Israel campaigns becoming more sophisticated and hostile, but the ICC report provides further evidence that off-campus professional groups are offering “robust organization” to anti-Israel student groups:
…anti-Israel organizations invested a host of resources in campus activism, bolstering student efforts with strategic guidance, financial backing, digital media assets…managing websites and social media channels intended for American students…With strategic and financial backing from these organizations, BDS supporters led fierce campaigns to attack Israel and intensify anti-Israel sentiment among students.”
In addition to the AFSC and AMP noted above, ICC also observed Palestine Legal, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR, formerly the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation), and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) seeking to influence U.S. campuses and “investing resources in key BDS battles nationwide.”
— Israel on Campus Coalition (@IsraelCampus) September 21, 2017
The report notes that Palestine Legal “regularly intervenes” to assist anti-Israel activists and that during 2016-2017 the professional group played a critical role in various student divestment efforts, drafting texts of resolutions and providing guidance for campaign roll-outs.
Palestine Legal is also increasingly issuing threats and warnings to university administrators and stepping in to advocate for and defend anti-Israel groups (for example, at San Francisco State University, Palestine Legal parachuted in to defend anti-Israel activists facing accusations of religious discrimination after they excluded Jewish students from a campus “Know Your Rights” fair).
During the 2016-2017 academic year, anti-Israel student groups also frequently enlisted the support of USCPR and JVP.
As a reminder, the USCPR’s central mission is really about supporting terrorists like the convicted PFLP militant, U.S. immigration fraudster, and consummate liar Rasmea Odeh:
— US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (@USCPR_) September 19, 2017
In addition, we noted in a prior post that the USCPR’s Policy Director Josh Ruebner has publicly made Israel-Nazi comparisons and has a nasty habit of hurling ugly slurs at Jewish Americans, using terminology that alleges supporters of Israel aren’t loyal to the U.S.:
As for JVP, we’ve documented in dozens of posts how it’s a visible, noisy presence at nearly every initiative to inject anti-Israelism into campus politics.
JVP provides cover against charges of antisemitism even as it actively stokes anti-Jewish hate through its campaigns like Deadly Exchange, which blames American Jewish organizations and Israel for police shootings of African Americans.
Now JVP is directly engaged in the newest pivot in the tactical assault against Israel: the equating of fascism with Zionism and the Jewish state.
Earlier this month on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the campus JVP chapter collaborated in the attempt to label Zionists as white supremacists while demanding their expulsion from campus—violently if need be, Anti-Israel Rally at U. Illinois: “No Zionists, no KKK, resisting fascists all the way”:
To be clear: the JVP chapter at UIUC gave non-Jewish college kids an excuse to accuse the vast majority of their fellow Jewish peers of being part of a sinister movement that “includes assorted cranks from the neo-Nazi fringe.” But there’s no way they came up with doing that on their own. The reality is that the shameful spectacle of JVP students validating the conflation of Israel, Zionism and white supremacy—the ideology of Nazism—is exactly the “absurd and morally perverse” campus programming that JVP’s national leadership is now wholeheartedly advocating and encouraging.
Bottom line: External anti-Israel advocacy groups like Palestine Legal, USCPR, and JVP often “intervene in campus dramas” in order to assist and defend anti-Israel activists. Significant financial, material, and programming support is being provided by these national organizations. All this vast amount of assistance from national partners suggests that SJP should no longer be considered merely a grassroots student group.
Statement from the Israel Campus Coalition to LI
I reached out to ICC in order to find out more about their 2016-2017 Year End Report.
Specifically, I was curious about how ICC hopes that the report will be used to combat BDS and anti-Israel propaganda on college campuses, and what needs to be done given the findings—what should administrators, faculty, and the community off-campus be doing more of, or doing better?
ICC spokeswoman and communications director Megan Nathan offered these remarks to our queries:
It’s telling that anti-Israel student groups are now bypassing and circumventing student governments, and are instead bringing their divestment demands directly to trustees and other campus administrators, like responsible investment committees. This is just one of the ways that BDS is adapting and innovating. The sophistication of the anti-Israel campus movement is increasing. BDS is not over.
SJP is now cannibalizing all of the progressive left on campus and pro-Israel students are being lumped in with Nazis. University administrators need to publicly condemn this.
The larger Jewish community and pro-Israel faculty and staff on campus—like Hillel—can also assist Jewish students in building stronger relationships with other campus communities, including for example Chinese and Indian students.
The fringe Jewish Voice for Peace has an outsized presence on some campuses, especially in the Chicago area, and is now speaking on behalf of Jews on campus, giving anti-Israel activists the excuse to hold BDS votes on Jewish holidays.
Pro-Israel students need to stand up and refuse to be excluded by the likes of JVP. They too often stay on the sidelines, thinking that they need to be experts on the Middle East or the 1967 war in order to make a positive impression. But that’s not the case. What their peers really need to hear from them are their personal stories—and why they care about Israel.”
In a recent post we highlighted how the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), a high-regarded philanthropic organization, has for years been generously funding JVP—a radical extremist group that enables, legitimizes and mainstreams antisemitism by providing a façade and veneer of Jewish legitimacy for the anti-Israel BDS movement.
But it turns out that RBF hasn’t only been bankrolling JVP and financing its latest shameful campaigns. It’s also been giving sizeable grants to the AFSC and USCPR.
As highlighted in a new ICC end-of-year report, all three of these virulently anti-Israel national organizations are now investing heavily to advance BDS campus efforts. Over the last year they’ve involved hostile disruptions of Israel-themed events; the introduction of anti-Israel resolutions to coincide with Jewish holidays; and the identification of pro-Zionist students as racist, white supremacists.
RBF is now a big part of the problem.
[Featured Image: Jewish Voice for Peace / Code Pink Activist Ariel Gold leading anti-Israel protest on Cornell campus, 2014, via YouTube]
Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 60 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamElmanDONATE
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