Consistency

19 Nov

About a week ago, I started jumping into discussion forums related to the ASA boycott.

Unlike discussion I tried to have with PCUSA members who supported this summer’s divestment vote, ASA boycott debates were taking place on news sites that (in contrast to allegedly dialog-starved Presbyterian bloggers) don’t tend to delete challenging posts.

Even so, my ASA interlocutors tended to get scarce once they faced questions to which they had no answers (especially regarding the absence of any support whatsoever from the field in terms of implementing a boycott they insist represents “landslide” opinion within their organization).

Absent genuine conversation, the most interesting phenomenon I observed during these exchanges involved the techniques the BDSers used to avoid debate, including a familiar set of arguments regarding whether things like the ASA boycott represent inconsistency, and thus hypocrisy.

Those defending ASA (and other BDS groups) against accusations of double standards tend to point out that they are under no obligation to fight all the battles in the world.  Which means that (for them, anyway) they are fully justified in implementing a boycott against Israeli universities for perceived injustice while not doing the same over other injustice (real or perceived) elsewhere.

On the surface, this argument actually holds up.  For aren’t all humans creatures of inconsistency, especially with regard to politics?  Don’t we select which charities we give to and which causes we support, even as we know full well that other charities and causes support people who are far needier?  My wife is off to a community farm meeting tonight, just as I will be out tomorrow to participate in my sons’ Boy Scout meeting.  But is the naches we gain from being involved in these charitable causes diminished by the fact that we could be spending our time feeding the poor and healing the sick, rather than supporting a couple of civic organizations that don’t fight famine, pestilence and plague?

Similarly, I choose to fight against the forces of BDS rather than join the struggle to free Tibet or liberate the North Korean people from the loonocracy that has impoverished and enslaved them.   And if I have made such a choice, who am I to criticize the BDSers for dedicating their time and effort towards attacking just one country (Israel) vs. other nations where mass murder and repression represent daily occurrences?

But that “on the surface” phrase telegraphs my real opinion that the “don’t tell me I can’t attack Israel before I condemn ISIS” defense is, at best, superficial.  For this attack on Israel is not being made in the name of personal political preference, but in the name of universal values (human rights, academic freedom, the fight against bigotry and imperialism).  It is only when questions get raised about how much the boycotters actually subscribe to these values (vs. using them as propaganda tools) that we revert to the far thinner “it’s a free country/I can choose who I politick against” argument.

The assumption that criticizing the double (or triple) standard directed at Israel consists merely of calling people inconsistent (or hypocritical) also misses a far more interesting point that we can draw from the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant (the same philosopher I mentioned during that recent discussion of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals).

In the Alinsky series, I talked about how it is never moral for anyone to use someone else as a “mere means” towards their ends.  But Kant’s philosophy also included the “Categorical Imperative” which asks people to consider whether the motivation for their actions, if translated into a universal rule, would lead to moral or immoral consequences.

To a certain extent, this is just a fancy philosophical version of the “what if everyone did it” argument used by parents since time immemorial.  But Kant’s reasoning carries a pragmatic usefulness if used to interrogate the principles upon which someone’s choices are based.  For when asked to articulate such principles, most people try to locate their choices in something loftier than personal preference.  And it is the window on the soul such an articulation generates that invites meaningful scrutiny.

For example, if you were to ask an ASA member for the principles upon which their boycott was based, they might say that the behavior of the Israeli government (and Israeli universities which they claim represent that government – even if only tangentially) makes boycotting Israeli universities appropriate.  But if taken to a universal level, that would make it legitimate for any group to boycott the academics of any nation whose government did things that group did not approve of.

In fact, if we universalize still further, the boycott would seem to indicate that anyone with a political grievance against either a nation or its academics (or just a group of academics) was free to choose and implement their own punishments, up to and including excluding them from a wider academic community (i.e., a boycott).  Which ultimately translates to prioritizing the desires of particular group over what was previously seen as a reigning universal value (i.e., academic freedom dedicated to keeping the free flow of ideas unimpeded, regardless of politics).

But unless ASA is the only organization that is allowed to follow this new rule, why can’t a consortium of colleges and universities declare ASA a bigoted organization and ban them from campuses?  Why can’t legislators punish those who give the organization funds?  Why can’t the University of Illinois rescind someone’s contract over controversial tweets?  After all, if academic freedom must now take a back seat to someone’s political likes and dislikes, who gets to decide which “someones” and what “likes/dislikes” can be included under that rule?

I don’t know if it is confusion or just the usual BDS preference for avoiding difficult questions that causes them to break into the “Don’t tell me I have to condemn Saudi Arabia before I start in on Israel!” argument (even if Saudi Arabia was never mentioned).  For it’s very possible that they don’t understand the implication of the Dialectical Imperative for the simple reason that most people don’t study Kant (or philosophy in general) any longer.

Which is a pity since it can provide quite a bit of guidance in this particular situation.  For the article that got me thinking about this issue talked about how European academics were shunning Ariel University due to its location on what some consider “occupied territory” even as those same Europeans gleefully build relationships with schools on Turkish-occupied Cyprus.

For the boycott proponent, this observation simply boils down to: “Now you’re telling me I have to protest Turkey and I just told you I get to choose where I direct my moral/political wrath!!!”  But for those who subscribe to a Dialectical Imperative, the choice is really between two universal principles: one which embraces what we generally think of as academic freedom which says that the free flow of research, inquiry and learning should never be interrupted (even between nations in a state of war) and a different universal principle which says that this unfettered exchange of ideas that defines academic freedom can be put aside if politics (anyone’s politics) dictates.

Given a choice between these two universals, I know where I would cast my lot.

Death Threats

17 Nov

The leadership of the American Studies Association (ASA) had a bit of a problem as their conference wound to a close last week.

Even before that event began, claims that January’s vote of 16% of the membership represented democratic support for the boycott seemed at odds with the fact that not one American Studies department in the country has shown solidarity with the organization by implementing that decision.  And given that the organization’s California and Northeast branches have joined 250 college Presidents and the largest academic organizations in the country in condemning ASA’s boycott motion just increased the number of topics the organization did not want discussed (despite claims that their boycott was started to “open up conversation”).

And then you have the spectacle of an organization insisting it be treated as the inheritors to the tradition of Martin Luther King coming under the scrutiny of California law enforcement for civil rights violations.  With that spotlight upon them (not to mention scrutiny of whatever press they could not freeze out of their event), we saw the final unraveling of the policy as ASA’s leadership (which clung to the notion that the boycott was in effect if Israelis who attended their conference did not do so as representatives of their institutions) had to swallow hard as the remaining shred of their boycott was mocked as it went unenforced.

Now there has been some reporting that the boycott has been enacted by individual scholars refusing to work with Israeli colleagues for undisclosed reasons.  And while I’m a bit leery of using a couple of anecdotes to demonstrate a trend, if US-based American Studies professors are quietly shunning Israeli students and professors, this would indicate the existence of what is called a furtive boycott, the most cowardly (and ineffective) format the loathsome BDS “movement” can take since it involves taking political action (boycotting fellow academics for political reasons) without letting anyone know your decision represents a political act (since that might get the BDSer into trouble).

With the ASA’s squalid little policy reduced to a mass of contradictions the organization was too incompetent to untangle, it was just a matter of time before the leaders of that organization took to the airwaves to try to regain the initiative.  And what better way to do so than to roll out the old “death threat” trope which claims that critics of the boycotters are so hysterical (and potentially dangerous) that they have been showering the organization with calls for blood.

A couple of years back, I actually gave the BDSers the benefit of the doubt when they claimed that some of the criticisms they received contained threatening talk – potentially extending to threats on people’s lives.  After all, one need only descend into any comment section of a news story covering the Middle East to see people reduced to shouting accusations of Nazism at one another.  So in the heated world of Internet anonymity, it’s certainly possible that some deranged boycott critic might have ratcheted their verbal violence to the level of a death threat.

But then I encountered the “death threat” phenomenon in Olympia Washington, a community where BDS derangement tends to get magnified large enough to where it can be studied like a mutant oversized biology specimen.

In that instance, people who forced a product boycott onto a food co-op in the area were not just saying they had received the odd threatening e-mail.  No, at Oly they were telling critics (and, no doubt, each other) that they had received hundreds of personal death threats which had caused many boycott activists to go underground in fear of their lives.

It was only when they were pressed to explain how opponents of the boycott even knew where to send these supposed hundreds (if not thousands) of threats or asked what steps the boycotters took with local law enforcement to deal with what was supposedly a life-threatening emergency that the those hurling “death threat” accusations actually went underground (avoiding any request for evidence of their claims).

It was at that point I realized that the death threat trope seems to be trotted out every time a BDS story broke, which mean that either (1) boycotters routinely receive genuine death threats when they try to enact their program, but never do anything about it (neither to protect themselves nor expose the threateners for shaming purposes); or (2) the entire “death threat” shtick is a fake, designed to put opponents on the defensive while also demonstrating the allegedly threateend boycotter’s stunning bravery.

Given that no security measures were taken during the ASA conference itself (as opposed to cops I had to hire when the new Israeli Consul visited my temple earlier this year to support his own security staff), I’m going to go with option (2) and say that Lisa Duggan’s claims to face threat to life and limb for her courageous stance is just one more clumsy attempt to throw her political opponents off balance and disguise the abject cowardice of everything and everyone involved with the ASA’s boycott.

If anyone has evidence to the contrary, please forward it and I’ll be happy to publically correct this interpretation.

The Left and Anti-Zionism (or my “dinner” with Mike)

12 Nov

A few weeks ago, Mike Lumish (of Israel Thrives and Times of Israel fame) and I began a dialog over that perennial issue that comes up here and at all sites (or any other locations) where debate over the Middle East takes place: the role of the global Left in supporting an anti-Zionist (and, sometimes, anti-Semitic) agenda on the world stage.

The question that kicked off this debate (whether the Left abandons its principles when it embraces anti-Zionism) turned out to be a simple one to answer.  For the double-standards, ignoring of context (historical and geopolitical), and abuse of the language of human rights that are the sin qua non  of the BDS agenda (and the wider anti-Israel ideology from which BDS springs) is an affront not just to what the Left would consider to be its cornerstone principles (fairness and justice), but antithetical to any moral view embraced by people located anywhere on the spectrum (political, that is).

My response to his question (which asked whether we should consider the Left not as friend or enemy but the battlefield upon which the Arab-Israel conflict is currently being fought) brought forth an important (and potentially fruitful) response from Mike, namely: if the soul of the Left is an important plain upon which this battle is continuing, are supporters of Israel in the process of losing that battle?

One obvious way to try to answer this question is through the use of statistical evidence.  In fact, Mike provides a link to such evidence in the form of a survey demonstrating that while US support for Israel is still high in general, it is much higher among Republicans (68-77%) vs. Democrats (39-46%).

While I respect the use of survey studies (which have successfully supported a century of social-science research, after all), those ranges illustrate a couple of problems I have with the use of statistical information to answer important questions regarding political belief.

The first is the nature of the sample.  Taking just the Democratic side of the spectrum, this number would include everyone from the late Robert Byrd to the nastiest Che-Guevara-t-shirt-wearing BDSer who also happens to be registered Democrat.

But then you also have the issue of what kind of question is being translated into “support for Israel.”  Were respondents asked their support for Israel over Hamas in the latest Gaza conflict (which seems be part of the Post story linked above)?  And is data from this poll being conflated with previous polls asking different questions?  If so, what was the subject of those polls?  Was “support for Israel” framed around favoring its continued existence (to which more people Left or Right would probably say “Yes”) vs. splitting levels of responsibility the peace-process stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians (which would probably give you different results)?

Our deep and abiding faith in numbers tends to prejudice statistical information (which supposedly reflects the view of the many) over anecdotal data.  But hang in with me for a minute while I make the case for a specific set of anecdotal information that I think provides a valuable context which might propel this debate forward.

Clearly raw anecdote is not that valuable (since for every left-leaning supporter if Israel one can name, a critic could provide as many counter-examples as they like).  But I’d like to assign importance to the fact that in every BDS battle I’ve been involved over the last decade, the majority of allies I’ve worked would characterize themselves as progressive or Left-leaning.

This fact should not be used to support an assertion that liberals are more likely than conservatives to participate on the right side of a BDS fight.  Rather, it demonstrates that because BDS only tends to try to insert itself into liberal communities (colleges and universities, liberal Mainline churches, municipalities with big Democratic majorities, food coops – including the ultimate example of Park Slope), those trying to stop them are likely to spring from those communities and thus be more liberal than the population as a whole.

Under these circumstances, what we’re talking about is one group of self-identified progressives (those who fight against BDS) resisting another group of self-identified progressives (those pushing BDS), with this latter group insisting that anyone who considers themselves liberal/progressive/left-leaning must fully support the boycotters’ agenda.

And here, this anecdotal information supports not a statistical or anthropological argument, but an historic one.  For where have we seen fights that involve ideological extremists insisting that everyone who believes in a certain wide-ranging set of political principles must submit themselves to the extremists or be considered traitors to their own beliefs?

We saw this in the last century where one branch of the Left (call it Marxist, Marxist-Leninist, “Hard-Left” of whatever you like), made it very clear that any support for progressive causes required you to embrace their revolutionary agenda (and leadership) or be condemned as wishy-washy and hypocritical at best, treacherous and reactionary at worst.  And, in a dynamic that will sound familiar, while these revolutionaries demanded that everyone else submit to judgment, they were impervious to any critique of their own hermetically sealed world view (up to and even after Europe threw off the yoke of Communism).

Today, it is this same attitude (practiced by many of the same organizations and even individuals) that propels debates over whether someone is a PEP (i.e., “Progressive in Everything but Palestine”) implying that a “true” progressive can only have one attitude towards the Arab-Israeli conflict – the Palestinian one.  And just as last-centuries Marxists were impervious to criticism of their own beliefs (while busily condemning everyone else’s), so today’s BDSers cannot be swayed by argument over things like the state of human rights outside the Jewish state since their fanaticism can only see such arguments as “distractions” from the only topic they want to discuss (Israel’s guilt).

But let’s not forget that last-century’s Marxists lost the Cold War (better termed World War III).  And, as much as I admire those conservatives who stood fast against Marxism for a century (which does not include opportunists like Joseph McCarthy who, among other crimes, provided Communists with ideological ammunition they have still not depleted), part of the front against Marxism included progressives, liberals, Leftists (whatever you want to call them) who stood fast against the bullying and blackmail that played such a large part in the revolutionists’ agenda of subversion.

So if this is the nature of the battle being fought, are we doing ourselves a disservice for condemning a Left that might include the inheritors of an anti-Communist tradition that is trying to find a way to apply lessons learned in the 20th century fight against Marxism to our current conflict (best thought of as World War IV)?

Back over to you, Michael…

Campus On Fire 2 – What to Do?

9 Nov

The two pieces of advice that I use as a mantra in the fight against BDS (don’t panic/don’t be complacent) are inexorably linked.

Last time (and over the years), I’ve pointed out things that should calm us when we hear stories of BDS and other anti-Israel activity “on the march,” such as the non-existent economic impact of a decade and a half of divestment campaigns, the triumph of buycotts over boycotts, and the rejection of BDS by some of the most progressive institutions in the country (such as food coops).

But the “don’t be complacent” recommendation requires us to appreciate the strengths the boycotters bring to the battle, notably:

  • The fact that they start from militant goals (the destruction of Israel or its weakening to the point where others can do the dirty work) justifies (to them anyway) the use of aggressive tactics that opponents (i.e., us – who are not interested in destroying anyone) cannot match or sustain.
  • Their indifference to the harm they cause others gives the BDSers the ability to select any target they wish (that school or municipality for divestment, this food coop or retailer for boycotting, etc.), which means they have the initiative when it comes to selecting the terrain upon which the next boycott or divestment battle will be fought.
  • The barrier to entry for BDS is virtually non-existent. For example, a couple of SJP-types on a campus can launch a divestment campaign (such as one that started recently in Princeton) by simply signing up for some free petitioning software, filling it with Barghoutian boilerplate, gathering a few hundred signatures, and claiming momentum (or even victory) regardless of what happens next.
  • The general media zeitgeist regarding stories about Israel combined with the BDSers’ demonstrated ability to use Web 2.0 communication tools to push their preferred spin means even trivial stories will get ink and are more likely to be shaped by an anti- (vs. pro-) Israel narrative.

These advantages are not trivial, but neither are they insurmountable, especially since the BDS project is predicated on coopting a neutral third party (such as a school, church or union) in order to make it seem as though the “Israel=Apartheid” propaganda message is coming out of the mouth of a respected institution.  And, to date, most civic organizations have proven resistant to being dragged into the boycotter’s orbit.

If you look at the influential constituencies that are now fully immunized from the BDS virus (college administrations, municipal leaders, food coop boards), it becomes clear that fights over irrelevant student council resolutions or hummus protests represent the pathetically low stakes battles the boycotters have been forced to pick after a decade and a half of failure.

But it is this very triviality that requires the BDSers to scream ever louder in order to mask the minimal limits of their support outside their own community.  And, at a time when thousands of Arabs (including many Palestinians) are being slaughtered daily in the non-Israeli part of the Middle East currently going up in flames, the need to ratchet up the volume to 11,000,000 becomes even more critical, lest anyone notice that the Palestinian suffering might have more to do with HamIsis than Netenyahu.

The combination of ruthlessness and infiltration that has led to the few BDS wins in recent years (such as some West Coast student government resolutions, or the ASA’s academic boycott) represents the tactics Lenin once summed up as: “Probe with bayonets.  If you encounter mush, advance.  If you encounter steel, retreat.”

Which pretty much means that those who want to beat back the BDS threat have to do so by ensuring those bayonets always encounter steel.

We have already seen this kind of resolve within broader Jewish community organizations (including Hillel) that have made it clear that the “Big Tent” they embrace will never include those pushing for boycott, divestment and sanctions targeting the Jewish state.  And the whining you hear from groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), or their latest front group Open Hillel, demonstrates what Israel’s foes are reduced to when they encounter firm resistance.

With regard to college campuses, the Jewish community has also made the de facto strategic decision to leave key decisions up to students on the ground (providing help and advice when requested).  This choice carries some risk since you never know how many students are ready to man the barricades during any given semester (or how skilled those students are politically and organizationally), which means we cannot always plan ahead for where steel (vs. mush) will emerge.

But as more kids step up to the plate (as they have over the last few years in increasing numbers), chances grow that you’ll see more situations like Cornell (where SJP has been reduced to pathetic blubbering over their own alleged victimization) than at places like Hampshire College where the boycotters feel dominant enough to direct their impotent rage at the few (largely Jewish) students who oppose their agenda.

Finally, don’t panic/don’t be complacent counsels patience.  Anti-Israel agitation, after all, has been with us as long as the war against the Jewish state.  And in that war it is Israel that stands stable and successful, a nation strong enough to defend its interests and continue the quest for peace, while those who have waged war against her for decades descend into the chaos as totalitarians battle to the death with religious fanatics with everyone screaming about the Jews as they bury knives into one another’s backs.

This same instability lurks within groups tasked to manage the propaganda component of the century-long war against the Jews.  Today, they travel under the banner of Students for Justice in Palestine – a name that will no-doubt change once it becomes apparent to all that what they stand for has nothing to do with the students or Palestinians (much less justice).

SJP Thuggery – Are the Campuses Burning?

6 Nov

If any DT readers are in the Boston area, I’ll be part of a panel discussion next week on the subject of Defamation of Israel on College Campuses sponsored by CAMERA.  Other speakers include Richard Cravatts, President of Scholars for Middle East Peace and Gilad Skolnick, CAMERA’s Director of Campus Programming.

Unsurprisingly, I’ll be taking the BDS angle vis-à-vis colleges and universities, and will be spending the next few days trying to figure out the right balance to strike before a concerned audience who may be reading about campuses in flames in the Jewish (and even mainstream) press.

The balance I tend to strike in this blog – Don’t Panic, but Don’t be Complacent – still seems appropriate, even in a year when groups like SJP have shown enough organizational muscle to pull off a national conference (where tactics and resources were shared) and enough aggression to make life miserable for pro-Israel voices (if not Jewish students in general) on many campuses.

On the “Don’t Panic” side, keep in mind that it has been years (over a decade really) since it became clear no college or university in the country (if not the world) was going to actually divest from the Jewish state.

Even back in the early 2000s when BDS was just “divestment” (and divestment efforts led by the now-defunct Palestinian Solidarity Movement – PSM – vs. the new SJP incarnation of anti-Israel activism), college administrators (i.e., the grown-ups who actually make investment decisions) made it clear that they were not going to listen to demands from a propaganda campaign masquerading as a human rights  movement.  And we should never forget the fact that SJP rose to prominence by pushing that BDS hoax at Hampshire College, one which (among other things) convinced college administrators of the peril of even answering the phone when the divestment cru calls.

Which is why BDS battles on campuses have basically been fought within student governments over whether they would pass toothless divestment resolutions that everyone knows will be ignored.  And, even here, after years and years of effort by the boycotters, less than ten such resolutions have passed.  And even then, such “wins” have been the result of BDSers infiltrating student government and midnight deals passed during Shabbat rather than the Israel haters convincing anybody of anything.

But such votes do give groups like SJP the platform to rant and rave about Israeli “crimes against humanity” for hour after hour before a captive audience.  And the very impotence of their activity with regard to generating genuine consequential action may explain why they have to scream about their few “successes” ever louder in order to convince people that their message is embraced by more than a marginal fringe.

That screaming has also been coupled with ever-more aggressive “direct action” on campuses, and I suspect that this is one of the reasons passions about schools in flames run so high.

Part of this aggressiveness has to do with the nature of radical politics, a dynamic in which those who propose the most outrageous plans tend to rise to leadership positions due to their “passion” and “intensity.”  And let’s not forget that the BDSers are aligned to a broader, global anti-Israel project that has always been a mix of propaganda, threat and violence (with the latter two taking precedent as the Middle East goes up in flames).

But we should also not forget that a sociopathic political movement like BDS is all about pushing limits of civilized norms.  While every other political and human rights issue on the planet plays out in a reasonable fashion whenever they come up on college campuses, only the Arab-Israeli conflict has devolved into shout-downs of speakers, pat-downs of students in front of mock “Apartheid Walls,” hostile pranks like last year’s eviction notice outrages, and demands that every student on campus take a side (SJP’s) or be condemned as faux-progressives or enemies of human rights.

And when such limit-pushing is not met by significant resistance by those charged to keep campus live civil (i.e., administrators who know a Lawyer’s Guild shill for SJP is in the wings if they ever clamp down on the group’s outrageous behavior), that simply incentivizes the thugs to push even harder next time and communicate via the globe-spanning, free new media what others are now likely to be able to get away with on their campuses.

So what we seem to be dealing with are not college campuses slipping into the anti-Israel orbit, but a newly energized group of anti-Israel propagandists (ginned up – as they always are – after a war) that is out of control.  And how best to deal with this particular dynamic is something I’ll turn to next time.

Holy Land Comings and Goings

30 Oct

A couple of interesting items originating from the Holy Land (or by way of the Holy Land) recently.

First off, the Reut Institute – an Israeli think tank that has done valuable and original work on of Israeli domestic and international issues over the last decade – has recently returned to the subject of de-legitimization.

When they turned their attention to this issue a few years ago, the result was this interesting and thoughtful study about the nature of the de-legitimization threat, its strategic significance, and what could be done to build a firewall to protect the Jewish state from this form of diplomatic propaganda.  And building on this “firewall” theme, they recently kicked off a new project – The Firewall Hackathon – designed to put theory into practice.

Similar Hackathons in the past focused on other issues (such as a Tikkun hack-fest that resulted in a number of innovations designed to do good works, such as helping handicapped and protecting the environment).  But next year’s Firewall Hackathon (scheduled for January 4-6, 2015 in Tel Aviv) will revolve around building technologies and that can support those of us battling de-legitimizers, such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions “movement.”

I’ve already submitted a couple of ideas (including one on the Web 2.0 communications gap I’ve long bemoaned).  If you have any suggestions, you can send them to Reut by filling out this simple form.

Second on the list, the University of Haifa has decided to test the American Studies Association’s increasingly wobbly boycott by sending a representative (i.e., someone who will be officially representing an Israeli university in defiance of the organization’s ban) to the ASA’s conference in November.

As noted last week, ASA leaders have spent much of October trying to break-dance their way out of the jam they placed themselves into when they forced a boycott vote on the organization.

Back when they were blaring to the world that their boycott was internationally newsworthy, they tried to make a distinction between boycotting individuals and institutions by insisting that any Israeli was welcome to participate in their events, so long as they did not come as representatives of a now-boycotted college or university.  But once that position placed them into hot water vis-à-vis California’s anti-discrimination law, they started to waffle on the “representative” part, with one ASA hack declaring that Prime Minister Netenyahu could attend if he liked (although they never explained what would happen if he registered as the Prime Minister of Israel).

Well with the CA legal system breathing down their neck, we will now see what happens when the University of Haifa sends someone who refuses to participate as anything other than a representative of his or her institution (in the same manner all scholars from any other country in the world will be representing themselves).  My only hope is that this Haifa representative uses his time at the event to organize as many partnerships as he or she can with ASA members, and perhaps even organizations within ASA (like their East and West Coast branches, both of which soundly rejected the boycott).  What a fun story that would be (which makes it an even greater pity that ASA has banned the media from their event).

Finally, a few weeks back I had an exchange with long-time reader and Times of Israel blogger Mike Lumish (who blogs at his own site) about how we could model some of the meaningful debate that is so lacking whenever the BDSniks show up to spout their accusations and then fly the coop whenever their prejudices are challenged with things like truth and logic.

One of the areas that tend to create controversy within the community of Israel’s supporters is the Left/Right divide with regard to attitudes towards the Jewish state as well as the broader Middle East conflict(s).  And rather than avoid or paper over that issue, Mike and I are going to hash it out over the next several weeks in periodic exchanges that will take place on each of our sites (both articles and comments).

Now there is always the issue of how the question anchoring such a debate should be framed.  Perhaps we can look at the meaning of the Left/Right debate generally, or zero in on the domestic front with a discussion of whether Jews are making an error by continuing to support the Democratic Party by large majorities, even during the current era when a Democratic administration has shown such hostility towards Israel (or at least its leadership).

If you read this series which includes pieces I’ve written over the years on this topic, you’ll have a sense of where I’m coming from with regard to Left-Right issues as they pertain to discussions of the Middle East.  And with that as backdrop, I’d like to suggest a debate topic of whether we should consider the political Left not as an ally or enemy, but as a battleground over which the Arab-Israeli conflict is being fought.

Stay tuned…