Boycotting the boycotters.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
Life comes at you fast.
In July, Dan Fishback, a member of the militantly anti-Israel JVP Artists Council, was writing up arguments for boycotting Israeli plays for the militantly anti-Israel site, The Forward.
Now the cold winds of fall blow through the glass towers of Manhattan and Dan Fishback in back in The Forward with a brand new message. “My Play Was Just Canceled Because I'm Not Pro-Israel.”
Boycotting plays is fun and games until it happens to you. And that’s just wrong.
The left packs the same moral compass as your average playground bully. It’s okay to punch other kids in the face. It’s not okay when they punch you back.
Front Page Magazine, Ronn Torossian and JCC Watch have exposed the JVP infiltration of the American Jewish Historical Society and the Center for Jewish History in a series of hard-hitting articles and posts.
And now the bullies have turned into crybullies.
The boycotters are complaining about a boycott and the censors are complaining about censorship.
Dan Fishback’s play wasn’t canceled because he isn’t pro-Israel enough. It was canceled because it was an anti-Israel work by a BDS activist whose stated goal is to “normalize Jewish anti-Zionism”. The Jewish community was upset to see the American Jewish Historical Society and the Center for Jewish History allying with JVP: a hate group that defends anti-Semitism and which sponsored talks by an anti-Semite who accused Jews of drinking blood.
There’s a world of difference between “I’m not pro-Israel” and “I’m a member of the arts council of a hate group.” A hate group whose speakers have traded in gutter anti-Semitism like, "Jews have reputation 4being sleazy thieves".
Dan Fishback plaintively whines about " feeling unwelcome in Jewish spaces" and "shunned from the places that are supposed to shelter and nurture you: families, synagogues, community centers."
I guess that’s just what happens when your own idea of sheltering and nurturing is a boycott.
What sort of mad entitlement leads the anti-Israel left to think that it can shun and not be shunned, that it can wage war on the Jewish State and still be welcome in Jewish spaces?
But that’s exactly the left’s entitled attitude. Its motto is, “No punch backs.”
Jennifer Schuessler at the New York Times wrote up a sympathetic puff piece on Fishback that doesn’t bother with journalistic trivialities like interviewing any of his critics (but does pad it out with multiple quotes from his defenders). Schuessler has done quite a bit of, generally positive, coverage of BDS, and tries to spin it as an issue of free speech and censorship. Fishback gets the last word. Of course.
The New York Times insists that Fishback’s anti-Israel agenda is entitled to airtime at the Center for Jewish History, but his critics aren’t entitled to be heard in the pages of the Times.
But it was Dan Fishback who insisted back in July, "it’s not that BDS is ‘censoring’ work — it’s that BDS is resisting a propaganda campaign that was intentionally crafted to influence international politics."
It’s not censorship when he tries to shut down an Israeli play. It’s “resisting a propaganda campaign”. But when Jews resist his propaganda campaign, that’s censorship.
It’s censorship when they do it. It’s resistance when we do it. And that’s typical BDS hypocrisy.
BDS activists argue against free speech and for censorship when they’re the ones doing the censoring. And then when their victims fight back, they passionately expound on the importance of open dialogue and hearing multiple viewpoints.
When Israel barred BDS activists from entering the country, BDSers wailed that the ban was a threat to democracy. The controversial anti-Israel boss of the Center for Jewish History, David N. Myers, along with Beth Wenger, chair of the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History, and fellow Council members Marion Kaplan, Hasia Diner and Jeffrey Veidlinger signed a letter denouncing the ban. Joining them was the American Jewish Historical Society Academic Council's chair, Lila Corwin-Berman, along with six of her Council colleagues.
The CJH and AJHS academic councilors claimed that banning BDS activists is “bad for the principles of free speech and thought on which our scholarship is based” and worried that it would “prevent us from continuing our rich scholarly interactions with Israeli colleagues in the field of Jewish studies.”
But the whole point of BDS is to prevent such “rich, scholarly interactions”.
BDS is a virus that demands exclusion, but uses open dialogue as its host. That is how totalitarian movements, especially leftist ones, operate in free societies. They demand the absolute right to be heard. And the absolute right to deny others the ability to be heard.
If you oppose them, you’re interfering with their right to silence you.
BDS activists attack by demanding the exclusion of authentically Jewish and Israeli voices. But when attacked, they go on the defensive by condemning the very idea of excluding people. They call for opening Jewish institutions to their anti-Israel agenda even as they strive to shut pro-Israel voices out of the institutions that they control. And they must be held accountable for their malicious hypocrisy.
You can’t advocate a boycott of Israeli plays and then cry about censorship and free speech when your play gets boycotted. You can’t advocate an academic boycott of Israel and then protest because BDS academics might be excluded in retaliation. You can’t launch the vilest attacks against Jews and then complain about hate speech when Jewish students on campuses fight back against BDS bigots.
But that’s exactly what BDS activists do. And that’s why it’s not just an anti-Semitic movement, but a totalitarian movement that corrupts the integrity of our society to serve its hateful ends.
It isn’t just Israelis and Jews that BDS activists are boycotting, but the very idea of free speech.
BDS’s censorship hypocrisy is typical of the anti-free speech left which rejects a universal right to speech. Advocates for social justice or members in good standing of “oppressed” groups have a right to speak so absolute that it even encompasses death threats, calls for genocide and physical violence as campus violence by leftist groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine, has made clear. But those who disagree have few if any rights to speak because their speech is “harmful” to the oppressed.
It’s why Dan Fishback could argue that boycotting Israeli plays wasn’t censorship, it was “resistance”. But boycotting his play is censorship. Implicit in that argument is the understanding that certain kinds of plays are legitimate and others aren’t. A play against Israel is legitimate. An Israeli play may not be.
Censorship isn’t silencing a work of art. It’s someone with the wrong politics silencing someone with the right politics. But when someone with the right politics silences someone with the wrong politics, that’s the way things should be. Zionists should be silenced, but anti-Zionists are entitled to be heard.
The debate between supporters and opponents of the Jewish State has a limited impact on most Americans. But Jews have often been the canaries in the totalitarian coal mine. Pro-Israel groups were among the earlier targets of leftist campus violence. And now attacking speakers whom the left opposes has become normalized on campuses even as the attackers demand their own safe spaces.
The corrupt logic of BDS is everywhere. And it must be opposed.