Jewish Think-tank: Anti-Israel Activity on U.S. Campuses Is Over-hyped

The JPPI annual reports recommends Israel take the offensive in the fight against BDS, finds that relations between Israel and Jewish communities suffering.

AP

The extent of anti-Israel activity on American college campuses is exaggerated, according to a report published Sunday by a Jerusalem-based Jewish think tank.

The 2014-2015 annual assessment of the Jewish People Policy Institute found that although anti-Israel groups, most prominently Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), are present on more than 300 U.S. campuses and are responsible for many resolutions passed by the BDS [Boycott, Divest and Sanctions] movement, “severe anti-Israel activity is limited to around 20 campuses, mainly in California and in some elite eastern schools,” the report claims.

The JPPI report, presented at the government's weekly cabinet meeting, also outlined recommendations for combating efforts to delegitimize Israel on U.S. college campuses - among them “outing” anti-Israel professors.

“We recommend exposing ‘activist’ faculty members who use their academic lecterns to advance an anti-Israel agenda,” the report’s authors write in their list of proposals for fighting the BDS movement.

The report also recommends enlisting Jewish donors in efforts “to prevent the misuse of academic freedom in promoting a politicized anti-Israel platform.” In addition, it proposes utilizing donors “to promote additional departments for Israeli studies programs on campuses and increase cooperative endeavors with Israeli universities.”

Indeed, it was pressure from Jewish donors that is believed to be behind the controversial decision taken last year by the University of Illinois to retract an employment offer to Steven Salaita, a professor of American Indian Studies. Salaita stirred controversy over his anti-Israel tweets during last summer’s Gaza War, which many believed crossed the line into anti-Semitism.

At the request of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs, JPPI is near completion of a comprehensive study on the impact of the BDS movement.

“Delegitimization needs to be seen for what it is: No less an existential threat to the Jewish state than the Iranian nuclear program,” write JPPI’s co-chairmen, Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat, in their introduction to the report. “Israel needs to mobilize all its assets to deal with the strategic danger posed by the delegitimization movement. Making sure that there is a coherent response [] is necessary but is not a substitute for policies that permit Israel to go on the offensive and take it off the defensive.”

Ross served as a point man on the Middle East peace process for several U.S. administrations, and Eizenstat is a former U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a deputy secretary of the treasury.

The report recommends adopting an “offensive-minded campaign against the promulgators of Israel delegitimization in the West” that exposes what the report’s authors refer to as the “real face” of the movement “including its anti-Semitic aspects.”

Diaspora-Israel ties suffer

On a separate subject, the report notes that relations between Israel and Jewish communities abroad are “less positive” than they were a year ago.

“Israel’s negative international position and the increasing worldwide criticism of its policies, together with the election of a right-wing government whose position in regard to many important issues (Israel and the Palestinians, religion and state) substantially differ from those of the majority of world Jewry raised difficulties this year in regard to the ties between Israel and the Jewish communities in the Diaspora,” it states.

A growing number of anti-Semitics incidents around the world made relations even more complex this year, the report notes, “as on the one hand, it caused Israel’s role as a shelter for persecuted Jews to stand out, yet on the other hand, it sharpened questions concerning the connection between Israel’s policy and attacks against Jews all over the world and as to its role as the representative of Jews who are not its citizens.”