Ken Stein at IUPUI (on BDS and the CIE)

Ken SteinOn Wednesday I had the chance to attend a talk at IUPUI by Ken Stein of Emory University. Although the talk was billed as focusing on how to respond to the BDS (Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions) movement on campuses, Stein in fact spent most of his time making sure that the audience understood the ins and outs of the history of the region, from the time of the Ottoman Empire through to today. I very much appreciated Stein’s perspective, which included reference to the Brooklyn practice of playing “Stoopball,” and pointing out that there are no do-overs in war or in history. Israel exists as a nation, and any approach that fails to accept that is not going to be viable, any more than it made sense for people to talk about the British getting out of Ireland, or any more than it would make sense for someone to propose giving the stolen land on which the United States came to exist back to the descendants of those whose land it once was. We can’t go back, and so the question is how we go forward. I would have appreciated more on that topic than was offered. But what was said, I appreciated. Other memorable points included the fact that Israel is not doing badly at all for a 68-year-old nation. When the U.S. was that age, we had yet to fight our civil war, we still had slavery based on race, and women could not vote. His response to questions about BDS on campuses was largely to say that it depends on the context and on the individuals involved. There are people who adopt a particular course of action to address injustices in the occupied territories and people who adopt the same course of action because they think Israel should not exist at all. There are campuses where there is a strong focus on social justice, and campuses where there is a significant presence of antisemitism. One cannot and should not respond to all these different situations in the same way.

Stein drew attention to a new center and website that he has been involved in creating, the Center of Israel Education. It includes a lot of information for educators, as well as for the general public.

UPDATE: Of related interest, the Indianapolis Star had an article today about a vote to divest from organizations connected with the divestment movement.

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  • Arlene Adamo

    Why would American free speech not extend to BDS? The KKK shows up at Trump rallies spouting real hate and racism but people want to censor the legitimate criticisms of Israel? This is very dangerous territory for freedom of speech in America and elsewhere.

    Also it’s important to carefully research the realities in Israel such as the oppression, racism, military rule, land grabs, murders, war crimes, human rights abuses and internment camps for African refugees before assuming it’s the ‘magical’ advanced nation presented by its paid for promoters. There is plenty of information to be found between Google, Twitter, Facebook etc.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I’m not sure whom you were addressing this to – I presume not me, since I obviously don’t disagree with the right of people and organizations to engage in boycotts, although I personally find things like boycotts of academics to be counterproductive. And presumably if you think that my merely disagreeing with others is interfering with their free speech, then your disagreeing with me (if that was what you thought you were doing) would presumably then be interfering with my free speech. But I think that is absurd, and hope you do to. And so perhaps you can clarify whom you thought you were speaking to, as a good starting point?

      • Arlene Adamo

        I assumed you were aware of the organized effort to make BDS illegal. Legislation has been passed in some states and is being considered by others. BDS was outlawed in the UK and recently in Canada. It is being carried far beyond simple differences of opinion and towards criminalizing people, (many of whom are Jews), who use non-violent BDS as a means of speaking out against the injustices in Israel.

        As you stated, you would not support this type of curbing of freedom of speech so my comments around the right to free speech would definitely not apply to you personally but to the more general situation happening around BDS.

        These university talks are part of the organized effort to silence the BDS movement.

        http://mondoweiss.net/2015/12/university-defeated-soldiers/

    • Joe Wallack

      “Also it’s important to carefully research the realities in Israel such
      as the oppression, racism, military rule, land grabs, murders, war
      crimes, human rights abuses and internment camps for African refugees”

      All of this better describes the Palestinians than the Israelis. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are both convicted terrorist organizations. It would be a better show of morals for you to try and support a boycott of Palestinian exports but than again, who wants to buy terrorism, sowing/reaping and lying.