BDS Conference at Penn Met My Worst Expectations

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At the BDS conference at Penn, Tighe Barry of Washington, D.C. addresses a question to keynote speaker Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of Electric Intifada. photo/peter tobia

This article is reprinted from

Toward the end of last week, I flew from the Bay Area to Philadelphia for the national BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) conference at the University of Pennsylvania, curious to see whether it would be as extreme as many had warned. I also hoped to meet some cooler-headed attendees who were seeking ways to promote peaceful coexistence.

Instead, I heard lies and old anti-Semitic canards. Palestinian terrorism was swept away. Israel was demonized and accused of blood libels. The idea of compromise and peaceful coexistence was deplored.

Approximately 150 to 200 people attended each session over the three-day conference, with the number swelling to 400 for the keynote speech by Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electric Intifada.

The majority of attendees were beyond their college years, with a smaller number of students. Not one participant asked a question from Israel’s point of view; not one challenged the blood libels that I heard. It’s clear to me now that the purpose of this conference was to instill hostility against Israel, and then to call for its punishment.

The film shown at the pre-reception, “The Road to Apartheid,” set the tone for the weekend. The filmmaker used visual manipulation — splitting the screen with documentary footage of South African black-white struggles next to footage of Israel Defense Forces actions in the West Bank — in an effort to associate Israeli policies with apartheid. The scenes looked similar, as shots of violent conflicts between any groups would. But the filmmaker scrupulously erased context for Israel’s actions, such as the Palestinian terrorist war.

Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, spoke by videotape, exhorting the audience to “end your complicity” with Israel’s “apartheid regime” because doing so “is a profound, moral obligation.”

In the opening address, Susan Abulhawa, a U.S.-based author of Palestinian descent, distorted history, ignoring Palestinian and Arab wars against Israel, instead accusing Israel of committing “wholesale slaughter.” She urged extremism. Her passionate call for “justice without compromise or negotiations” had the dismantling of the Jewish state as a necessary outcome. The “no compromise” language exposed the BDS movement’s fundamental opposition to two states living side-by-side, and the hypocrisy of their claim that they are trying to uphold human rights and international law.

In Abunimah’s keynote speech, he absurdly charged that “Nakba denial is the equivalent of Holocaust denial.” The audience responded with enthusiastic applause. He indulged in classic anti-Semitic imagery. “Israelis as human beings don’t have a right to superiority.”

Abunimah claimed that an Israeli settler had killed a Palestinian teenager, Yousef al-Khalil, while he was innocently working alongside his father in their fields. I checked out that story further, and even the far left B’Tselem information agency reported that Khalil and a friend had been hurling rocks at an Israeli hiker who said he was forced to shoot in self-defense.

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  • The Infidel

    Isn't it about time someone just stood up and told them they are full of BS and they are out and out liers. something like "What a load of crap, you are full of bs and you are lieing diliberatly, keep this up and you shall be reported for such tripe". If not mistaken, it is still a crime to call for the distruction of an ethnic group based on race or religion.

    • stern

      Well, that's what you'd think. But look at what happens when Ahmadinedjad stands up in front of the UN in New York and calls for the genocide of the Jewish people. Does anyone rush to arrest him? Does the UN do anything to uphold its own charter?

      Unfortunately, it's only Joos.

  • Underzog

    This is why Israel should have followed Rabbi Meir Kahane, Zt"l and kicked out the Arabs. How would these Islamo Commie creeps talked about apartheid without their being any terrorists and terrorist sympathizers and wannabes?

    Israel's refusal to take such decisive action fuels the hostility against her. The antisemites, from Obama down, smell weakness in Israel and they are moving to exploit it.

  • alanweberman

    This dirty traitor Lynn Gottlieb is as much of a rabbi as me. She visits Iran a country bent on the destruction of her people. She looks like she had a nose job too!

  • Brujo Blanco

    The Jews have been the favored target of the left because Jews are a minority and they are identifiable. Violent anti Jew rhetoric is growing in this country and I expect it to result in violence. Perhaps Comrade Obama will use the NDAA to start locking Jews up as suspected terrorists. These things have happened before.

    • doubleblack4

      Irv Rubin, who fought for freedom
      and the security of Jews, died while
      in custody in Los Angeles. Homicide
      was never ruled out.

  • alanweberman

    very relevant quotation. thank you sir

  • Juliana_Pilon

    It is very important to alert Americans to such pseudo-academic conferences that seek to legitimize antisemitism. But it doesn't help to make statements such as this: "He indulged in classic anti-Semitic imagery. 'Israelis as human beings don’t have a right to superiority.'” This is not "imagery" but a statement which should strike no one as either antisemitic or indeed notable in any other way: no human being has a "right to superiority." Stick to the outrageous, please. The conference seems to have provided more than its share. But this quotation is patently not among them.

  • Kathleen3

    God works in strange ways certainly applies to the steady, albeit slow, change in attitude towards these radical bastions of education we commonly refer to as the "ivy leagues." I personally know of two outstanding students who turned down an acceptance of admission from Columbia, NYU, and U of P due to the reputation of the radical professors ensconced within all three universities.

    My nephew, a recent graduate of U of P tells me his roommates and he would look out their windows and laugh at the staff and students marching for or protesting on behalf of various causes that favored/opposed Progressive causes. There is hope. No all high achievers submit to the brainwashing of these Communist professors.

    • @Kathleen3

      Laughing at people of differing beliefs shows that your nephew is unable to appreciate diversity and is closed-minded. Blaming "radical professors" for progressive causes also demonstrates your inability to grasp the concept that students can be moved to action on their own, without educators or figures of authority telling them what is right.

      There's nothing to be proud of in what you wrote above.

      • Guest

        Oh I beg to differ. I am proud of it. And you are fill of *hit.

        Grasp this concept. The most ruthless intolerant group of begots anyone can come in contact with are on the left.

      • Kathleen3

        When there are legitimate points to be made there is an absence of marching, screaming, yelling, or denouncing any ethnic group. Perhaps you should take the time to attend a function that features David Horowitz. I doubt you would see one person who is pro-Israel conducting themselves in the manner of the rabid radicals at this U of P event.

        My nephew was at U of P to learn, not be indoctrinated by avowed Marxist professors or disturbed and irritated by groups of radicals. Most likely those you describe who can be "moved to action" will end up replacing Bill Ayers, Van Jones, or living off the public dole while they study community organizing under one of the Marxists that now occupy the White House.. My nephew, meanwhile, is employed by one of the largest companies in the world and in two years is steadily progressing up the corporate ladder.

  • Steve

    The idea of locking up the Israeli SPY NETWORK in the US would be a consideration

    • alan g

      Yeah those Israeli spy are planning to destroy the US when they invade us. Right.

  • dirt

    Beheaded Democrates Syndrom. They can't think with facts nor logic because they don't have heads nor brains.

  • Anamah

    It is incomprehensible how Pennsylvania University authorities allow this disgraceful event to take place under their name. This is so dishonest and openly anti Israel, to distort reality and to forge fake facts driven for hate and prejudices. Penn authorities are encouraging the remake of 30's German scenario and this is something free speech does not include. Penn U shows a degree of wickedness and irresponsibility that will result historically unforgivable.

  • Ghostwriter

    Sounds to me like every day at Nakba1948's and Flipside's houses. Jew hatred,the destruction of Israel. Sound like they would have had fun at THAT conference.

  • frizzer1

    Unfortunately fror them the destruction of the State of Israel and death or expulsion of all the jews in the middle east will not solve the problem of arab intransigence and violence.
    But of course they will still blame the existence of Israel for whatever goes wrong there or in the rest of the world

  • Shery

    It will not be long, now, and especially if Obama wins another term. Persecution of all faiths but Islam in the US, but to start with Judaism and Christianity, then spread to the others, just in case they might think to protest. I do not wonder why universities allow this, as this has been on the rise for 50 years now. Judaism and christianity has been routinely rejected and demonized by the professorial staff, and promoted to the students, hence most students leaving their home at 18 lose their faith before they graduate college. Some will recover it when they settle down and start to raise a family, but many will not. I think we are seeing the end days of our country.

  • Jim

    Where is the SPLC ?

  • redwine123

    The repugnant Abunimah is a close friend of Comrade Barry Hussein. (He is mentioned in one or both of Dear Leader's hagiographies.)

  • maturin20

    I would like to know if Guy Herschmann believes that Jewish privilege is a canard even though he states that he took a flight from California to Pennsylvania just to confirm for StandWithUs that BDS is bad, and then instantly have this opinion syndicated to several hasbaras? Also, is it always racist to say Israelis have a position of superiority? Even with the F-18s, the Nuclear Bombs, the white phosphorus, the THEL lasers, the Uzis, the Galils, the AvantGaurd Unmanned Vehicle, and the Separation Wall?

    • kasandra

      What color is the sky on your planet?

  • Guest

    He indulged in classic anti-Semitic imagery. 'Israelis as human beings don’t have a right to superiority.'

    Sorry, uh… what? Is that quote supposed to be providing evidence for the preceding sentence? If so, you'll have to hold my hand across that logical canyon because I can't seem to make the leap on my own.

    • Guest

      Same guest here.

      I'm trying to be generous, so I'm willing to accept that perhaps I just don't have enough context to appreciate the point you're trying to make there.