Can Money Stop This?

“We`ll fight on the campuses, we`ll fight in the Apple stores, we`ll fight in the supermarkets; we shall never surrender!”

The never surrender clause has erupted when it comes to BDS in recent weeks. The comments of Orange CEO Stephane Richard which were later back tracked due to the fury of the Jewish world, illustrates this new reality. It also seems that our own Jewish Winston Churchill has emerged, as Sheldon Adelson, for his last week fundraising event to help fight BDS on university campuses.

Codenamed “Campus Maccabees”, they have already raised $50 million to fight the bubonic plague of Israeli hatred. With the vicious Doberman named Boteach on his side, Adelson can expect all the success he can get. However, being the pessimistic commenter that I am, I doubt this will have an impact on fighting BDS rhetoric on campus.

Campus Maccabees will involve funds being supplied to campus groups fighting BDS and “researchers who will supply information about the anti-Israel groups and recommend possible legal avenues to block their activities.” My first question is, will this only include campuses in the United States? Canadian campuses and student associations are a hotbed of enemy BDS territory: McMaster, University of Toronto Mississauga Students Union, Graduate Students Association at Carleton University, Trent University Central Students Association, not to mention my university campus, Scarborough Campus Students’ Union, just to name a few.

Mr. Adelson, are we struggling Canadian students also going to get the benefits of Campus Maccabees?

The fact is, Jewish leaders expect us Jewish students to fight for Israel’s reputation when resources are either few, or–as in the case of Campus Maccabees–only given to a part of the Jewish community.

For the past three years it has not been an easy trip fighting BDS when the Jews on my campus have had little to no support from the leaders to fight something most of us have never experienced before. The day that the BDS motion came to my UofT campus, I was shocked. Being a first year student I only thought BDS was a South African issue. I was wrong and within weeks we had a BDS motion passed here which resulted in weeks of bitter anger and resentment, both online and publicly on campus. It’s not easy fighting something that morphs from BDS advocacy among students, to professors making you write an essay on how Zionism is related to US “manifest destiny” policy.

I don’t think Adelson’s new initiative addresses this. I don’t think it covers the rising trend of anti-Semitism emerging on campuses. Incidents like the infamous video of the UCLA Judicial Board candidate being questioned on whether her being Jewish would influence her decisions. Or closer to home at Ryerson University, where a person spat on the Israeli flag during an event. Or at York University when Hillel staff and Jewish staff were stalked and forced to flee into the Hillel centre when so called pro-Palestinian supporters barricaded them into the centre and allegedly shouted Jewish slurs.

Can we really guarantee that $50 million will combat hatred of Israel when we see violence towards Jews that is not related to Israel rising? We cannot simply “throw money at the problem” but examine what we can really do to stop this trend.

But what can be done?

My left leaning friends argue that as Jews we must speak out against the occupation of Judea and Samaria because anything we do there adds more fuel to the fire. My right leaning friends argue that BDS is built on the systematic belief that Jews should not have a state and BDS wants to undermine that by any means. My own opinion is that the world sees Judea and Samaria as the future Palestinian state. BDS sees this as occupied territory and will not back down until Israel leaves it. If we want this to end this, we would have to allow an independent state to form there.

Nevertheless, this is only an assumption, especially since different BDS groups support the creation of a one state while others are advocating for two states. How can throwing money into researching, lecturing and revisiting BDS discourse on campuses end the trend of anti-Jewishness/anti-Israel that is simply becoming too popular?

If you find the answer, I`d be glad to hear it.

tylerTyler Samuels is a liberal traditionalist Sephardic Jew, Political Science/History student at the University of Toronto and religious director of the University of Toronto Scarborough Jew Student Life. Also a small time writer and poet, Tyler runs his blog Bipolar Reb (https://bipolarreb.wordpress.com/) that mixes Judaism, politics and mental illness.

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3 thoughts on “Can Money Stop This?”

  1. The problem is precisely that we can’t just “allow” a state to form. That’s what Israel tried in Gaza. It didn’t work, and it certainly didn’t make the pro-BDS crowd think any more kindly of us.

    Creating a Palestinian state that is no longer at war with Israel is not something Israel alone can do. Which is the main problem with BDS (IMHO) – it’s pressuring Israel, only, to do something that Israel by definition can’t do alone. An honest attempt to push a peace agreement would involve all parties, and would take a “carrot and stick” approach and not just seek to punish.

    I have no idea what, if anything, can be done to counter current trends on campus.

    I do think we have to think beyond just the response from the BDS camp. I don’t think arguing Israel’s case will sway many people in that camp, largely because many of them weren’t there for logical reasons to begin with. But what we can do, hopefully, is impact the silent majority that’s watching from the sides. Just making sure the public at large is aware that there’s another side to the story may help.

    Ultimately, it’s in Hashem’s hands, we can only do our best.

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    1. I just saw your comments! Thanks for the insight. I think the misconception is that BDS activists believe that the something that worked for South Africa can somehow work for Israel. Notwithstanding politically both cases are completely different(blame the Soviet Union for infusing the apartheid slogan on Israel.) Making the case is no longer working, it’s now, “what happens to university campuses after they pass BDS motions.” Essentially an increase of antisemitism and hostility in general.

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  2. Oh and kol hakavod for working to fight the BDS rhetoric on your campus! I know that wasn’t an easy battle back in my day, I can only imagine it’s much harder today.

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