Commentary Magazine


Topic: University of Michigan

Divestment Kosher for Passover at Cornell

Late in March, after a lengthy and dramatic debate, the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government voted against a resolution urging the University to divest from companies allegedly connected to Israeli activities in the West Bank. Much as one hates to give the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement credit, they have clearly learned a lesson from the defeat: don’t get involved in a debate with your opponents.

They are now applying that lesson at Cornell University, where, as William Jacobson has reported, a similar divestment resolution comes up for initial discussion by the Student Assembly on Thursday. The discussion is so last minute an addition that it was not included in an agenda for the meeting circulated on Tuesday and appeared only on a revised agenda issued at 8:42 P.M. that evening. So the resolution’s opponents have less than 48 hours to prepare.

Proponents of divestment understand that in the course of a prolonged debate, it is hard to keep one’s mask on. Some of their supporters may forget that the movement isn’t supposed to be anti-Semitic and, as they reportedly did at the University of Michigan, refer to their opponents as “kikes” and “dirty Jews.” That makes it much harder to pass a resolution.

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Late in March, after a lengthy and dramatic debate, the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government voted against a resolution urging the University to divest from companies allegedly connected to Israeli activities in the West Bank. Much as one hates to give the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement credit, they have clearly learned a lesson from the defeat: don’t get involved in a debate with your opponents.

They are now applying that lesson at Cornell University, where, as William Jacobson has reported, a similar divestment resolution comes up for initial discussion by the Student Assembly on Thursday. The discussion is so last minute an addition that it was not included in an agenda for the meeting circulated on Tuesday and appeared only on a revised agenda issued at 8:42 P.M. that evening. So the resolution’s opponents have less than 48 hours to prepare.

Proponents of divestment understand that in the course of a prolonged debate, it is hard to keep one’s mask on. Some of their supporters may forget that the movement isn’t supposed to be anti-Semitic and, as they reportedly did at the University of Michigan, refer to their opponents as “kikes” and “dirty Jews.” That makes it much harder to pass a resolution.

Proponents of divestment also understand that the more that people learn about their movement; the less likely they are to support it. It is a standard and good argument against them that they focus solely on Israel and ignore the abysmal human right records of other nations, like China, with which their colleges and universities have extensive dealings. But the argument acquires a little more force when one goes over to the blog of Students for Justice in Palestine-Cornell, which is evidently behind the resolution. The most recent entry, on Syria, literally does not mention the crimes perpetrated by the Assad regime, preferring to place responsibility for the violence in Syria squarely on the shoulders of “the U.S. and its client states.” If “a humanitarian intervention is needed,” the authors argue, “it should be through the revocation of the corporate charters of the criminal U.S. arms conglomerates.” In short, SJP-Cornell is not so much ignoring human rights violations as proposing that they would not take place if we would only join the fight against the U.S. and Israel, its partner in imperial crime.

If that kind of thing gets out, one might lose even the kind of liberal who supports a targeted boycott of West Bank settlement products. Even those who think Israel is deeply at fault, after all, are unlikely to think that they benefit from association with the view that Obama is a bigger villain than Assad. Such a liberal may fear that even a resolution narrowly drafted to oppose “the occupation,” rather than the very existence of Israel, will, if passed, be viewed as an endorsement of the odious world view of its leading proponents.

Perhaps most of all, proponents of divestment worry about what happens when the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict has a chance to be heard, as it did during the Michigan debate, courtesy of historian Victor Lieberman. At that debate, the BDS line, according to which Israel has always been the aggressor, was exposed as propaganda, and student representatives, who may already have been thinking that student governments ought not to make Mideast policy, voted 25-9 against the resolution.

So I commend the proponents of divestment for realizing that if they want their resolution to pass, they had better ram it through as quickly as possible. But their cleverness does not end there. As Jacobson explains, the period during which the resolution will be discussed on campus coincides with the period during which many Jewish students will be out of town celebrating Passover.

This resolution will be much easier to pass without the Jews around.

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Hate Speech Illustrates True Face of BDS

The movement to boycott Israel cloaks itself in the language of human rights. But when push comes to shove, the violent and discriminatory nature of their efforts is hard to disguise. That’s the upshot of a series of events taking place at the University of Michigan this month where advocates of BDS—boycott, divestment, and sanctions—against the Jewish state tried and failed to get the student government at the Ann Arbor institution to approve a divestment measure. But what was most remarkable about the process was the manner with which BDS groups protested their failure by seeking to intimidate those who opposed their efforts. As the Washington Free Beacon reports, a series of sit-ins at student government offices and other campus facilities by BDS supporters were marked by anti-Semitic threats directed at Jewish students. This followed previous attempts at intimidation at the school when pro-Palestinian activists placed fake eviction orders on the dorm rooms of pro-Israel students and Jews.

This is not the first time anti-Israel campaigners have behaved in such a manner at a major American university. Yet what is most distressing about these incidents is the lack of outrage expressed by university officials about these events as well as the refusal of the administration to publicly oppose BDS motions. The result is what may well be another instance of the creation of a hostile and discriminatory environment for Jews at the school in blatant violation of federal civil-rights laws and U.S. Department of Education regulations. By acting in this manner, the BDS movement is merely illustrating that it is a thinly disguised hate group rather than a protest on behalf of the oppressed.

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The movement to boycott Israel cloaks itself in the language of human rights. But when push comes to shove, the violent and discriminatory nature of their efforts is hard to disguise. That’s the upshot of a series of events taking place at the University of Michigan this month where advocates of BDS—boycott, divestment, and sanctions—against the Jewish state tried and failed to get the student government at the Ann Arbor institution to approve a divestment measure. But what was most remarkable about the process was the manner with which BDS groups protested their failure by seeking to intimidate those who opposed their efforts. As the Washington Free Beacon reports, a series of sit-ins at student government offices and other campus facilities by BDS supporters were marked by anti-Semitic threats directed at Jewish students. This followed previous attempts at intimidation at the school when pro-Palestinian activists placed fake eviction orders on the dorm rooms of pro-Israel students and Jews.

This is not the first time anti-Israel campaigners have behaved in such a manner at a major American university. Yet what is most distressing about these incidents is the lack of outrage expressed by university officials about these events as well as the refusal of the administration to publicly oppose BDS motions. The result is what may well be another instance of the creation of a hostile and discriminatory environment for Jews at the school in blatant violation of federal civil-rights laws and U.S. Department of Education regulations. By acting in this manner, the BDS movement is merely illustrating that it is a thinly disguised hate group rather than a protest on behalf of the oppressed.

As Adam Kredo of the Free Beacon writes, a university spokesman refused to condemn the threats or to express an opinion about the attempts by the BDS activists to intimidate other students. One can only imagine the university’s reaction had a similar controversy taken place involving insults or slurs directed at African Americans or other minorities. Yet, the hurling of words like “kike” and “dirty Jew” at Jewish students as well as other stunts intended to silence opposition to BDS appears not to be regarded as a serious threat to the peace of the school.

The connection between anti-Semitic rhetoric and BDS is not an accident. At its core the movement is an expression of Jew hatred since it seeks to single out for special discrimination the one Jewish state in the world while disregarding every other possible human-rights issue elsewhere. Its purpose is not to redress the complaints of Arab citizens of Israel or the administrated territories under its control but rather to seek the extinction of the Jewish state via the waging of economic warfare. BDS doesn’t seek to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians but rather to aid the efforts of the latter to wipe out their opponents. Its efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state are an inherent expression of bias against Jews. As such, BDS is not so much a debatable proposition but the same sort of hate speech that university officials would have no compunction about banning or punishing if it came from the Ku Klux Klan or other racist groups.

Neither free speech nor academic freedom is at stake in this debate. Opinions about Israel or its policies are fair game. But the University of Michigan—and other schools where such acts are committed—must act against those who have used violent rhetoric and intimidation tactics. It is time for administrators to stop going along with the pretense that BDS is a benign ancestor of the civil-rights movement or even anti-Vietnam War protesters but a vicious source of antagonism toward Jews and their state that cloaks itself in human-rights rhetoric. By condoning the hateful activities of the BDS movement, institutions risk creating a hostile environment for Jews as well as creating safe havens for a discriminatory movement rooted in traditional Jew hatred.

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Obama Instructs His Lessers

Taegan Goddard calls our attention to this portion of Obama’s commencement address at University of Michigan:

Still, if you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of the New York Times, try glancing at the page of the Wall Street Journal once in a while. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship.

A nice sentiment — but one that reflects Obama’s assumptions and condescension toward his audience — and Americans more generally. As we know, a high percentage of Internet readers do precisely what Obama is advising. Pete, drawing on David Brooks’s column, noted, “It’s fashionable these days for many in the political class to complain about the Internet for, among other reasons, allowing people to ideologically self-segregate. But like much of conventional wisdom, this widespread view appears to be wrong.” But Obama feels compelled to instruct us to be more open-minded.

Frankly, this gets back to a lack of self-awareness. This is a president who derides political opponents, fails to engage them on the merits, and has perfected the straw-man and ad hominem attacks. It was his White House that declared war on Fox News. So it is the height of hypocrisy for him to now tell the rest of us to up the tolerance and intellectual diversity quotient in our lives. It’s sort of like Tom Friedman telling us to consume less and reduce our carbon footprint.

Taegan Goddard calls our attention to this portion of Obama’s commencement address at University of Michigan:

Still, if you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of the New York Times, try glancing at the page of the Wall Street Journal once in a while. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship.

A nice sentiment — but one that reflects Obama’s assumptions and condescension toward his audience — and Americans more generally. As we know, a high percentage of Internet readers do precisely what Obama is advising. Pete, drawing on David Brooks’s column, noted, “It’s fashionable these days for many in the political class to complain about the Internet for, among other reasons, allowing people to ideologically self-segregate. But like much of conventional wisdom, this widespread view appears to be wrong.” But Obama feels compelled to instruct us to be more open-minded.

Frankly, this gets back to a lack of self-awareness. This is a president who derides political opponents, fails to engage them on the merits, and has perfected the straw-man and ad hominem attacks. It was his White House that declared war on Fox News. So it is the height of hypocrisy for him to now tell the rest of us to up the tolerance and intellectual diversity quotient in our lives. It’s sort of like Tom Friedman telling us to consume less and reduce our carbon footprint.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

CATO points out: “When you run down this list of elements in the Obama plan and the Romney plan, they are all identical… Both the Romney plan and the Obama plan are essentially a government takeover of the health care sector of the economy.”

A new poll points to Harry Reid’s vulnerability: “U.S. Sen. Harry Reid must pick up far more support from crossover Republicans and independents to win re-election, according to a new poll that shows him losing to the GOP front-runner in a full-ballot election with eight contenders and a ‘none of these candidates’ option. The survey of Nevada voters commissioned by the Review-Journal shows Reid getting 37 percent of the vote compared with 47 percent for Republican Sue Lowden, who would win if the election were today, while the slate of third-party and nonpartisan candidates would get slim to no backing.”

Another poll points to an electoral thumping in November for the Democrats: “Republicans have slightly increased their advantage over Democrats in the generic Congressional ballot, from 46-43 last month to 47-42 now.”

Chris Christie points out: “We are, I think, the failed experiment in America—the best example of a failed experiment in America—on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times.” He seems serious about waging a war on spending, bloated pensions, public unions and regulatory excess.

Rep. Pete King points to Obama’s Israel animus: “No American ally is more trusted or reliable than Israel. Throughout the darkest days of the Cold War, and now in the war against Islamic terrorism, Israel has stood with the United States every step of the way. Israel shares our democratic principles and always has the courage to do what has to be done. The value of this unique alliance has been shared by all our Presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike. This is why I strongly believe it has been so wrong for President Obama to continually escalate and publicize his differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is no way to treat such a long-time ally.”

A Senate Republican points out an Obama nominee’s non-judicial temperament: “A top Senate Republican hammered liberal law professor Goodwin Liu’s writings as ‘vicious, emotionally and racially charged’ at his confirmation hearing Friday – igniting the first real test of whether Republicans will be able to block the most controversial of President Barack Obama’s lower court judicial nominees. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) slammed Liu’s testimony against Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.” This same nominee “forgot” to submit over a hundred documents.

A new survey points to an uneven economy recovery: “U.S. consumer sentiment took a surprise negative turn in early April due to a persistently grim outlook on income and jobs, a private survey released on Friday showed. A slip in economic expectations to its lowest in a year likely stemmed from consumers hearing negative information on government programs and a perception that the recovery is too slow, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers. … The surveys’ overall index on consumer sentiments slipped to 69.5 in early April — the lowest in five months. This was below the 73.6 reading seen at the end of March and the 75.0 median forecast of analysts polled by Reuters.”

Ben Smith points to inconvenient facts for New York Democrats: “A few weeks before playing a central role in fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, hedge fund titan John Paulson invited colleagues to a fundraiser for Senator Chuck Schumer — ‘one of the few members of Congress that has consistently supported the hedge fund industry’ — according to a copy of the invitation… Schumer is credited by some with helping to kill a Democratic push to tax carried interest, which would have put a dent in the massive earnings of a small number of ultra-wealthy money managers. With Goldman, and perhaps Paulson, in the SEC’s sights, some of the taint may rub off on their allies — and both of New York’s senators are among them. Schumer’s junior colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand, is the single top recipient of contributions from Goldman Sachs employees.”

The Wall Street Journal editors point out there’s no meeting of the minds on the START deal: “Signed with some pomp last week in Prague, the pact with Russia makes modest reductions to the number of strategic warheads and delivery systems. Though those cuts are worth a close look, we’re much more concerned with the impact that new START will have on America’s ability to develop and deploy the best missile defenses available. Starting with the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative, the Kremlin has sought to tie America’s hands on missile defense. The Kremlin says that this is precisely what it has negotiated with START. The Administration says it didn’t. They can’t both be right.”

CATO points out: “When you run down this list of elements in the Obama plan and the Romney plan, they are all identical… Both the Romney plan and the Obama plan are essentially a government takeover of the health care sector of the economy.”

A new poll points to Harry Reid’s vulnerability: “U.S. Sen. Harry Reid must pick up far more support from crossover Republicans and independents to win re-election, according to a new poll that shows him losing to the GOP front-runner in a full-ballot election with eight contenders and a ‘none of these candidates’ option. The survey of Nevada voters commissioned by the Review-Journal shows Reid getting 37 percent of the vote compared with 47 percent for Republican Sue Lowden, who would win if the election were today, while the slate of third-party and nonpartisan candidates would get slim to no backing.”

Another poll points to an electoral thumping in November for the Democrats: “Republicans have slightly increased their advantage over Democrats in the generic Congressional ballot, from 46-43 last month to 47-42 now.”

Chris Christie points out: “We are, I think, the failed experiment in America—the best example of a failed experiment in America—on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times.” He seems serious about waging a war on spending, bloated pensions, public unions and regulatory excess.

Rep. Pete King points to Obama’s Israel animus: “No American ally is more trusted or reliable than Israel. Throughout the darkest days of the Cold War, and now in the war against Islamic terrorism, Israel has stood with the United States every step of the way. Israel shares our democratic principles and always has the courage to do what has to be done. The value of this unique alliance has been shared by all our Presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike. This is why I strongly believe it has been so wrong for President Obama to continually escalate and publicize his differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is no way to treat such a long-time ally.”

A Senate Republican points out an Obama nominee’s non-judicial temperament: “A top Senate Republican hammered liberal law professor Goodwin Liu’s writings as ‘vicious, emotionally and racially charged’ at his confirmation hearing Friday – igniting the first real test of whether Republicans will be able to block the most controversial of President Barack Obama’s lower court judicial nominees. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) slammed Liu’s testimony against Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.” This same nominee “forgot” to submit over a hundred documents.

A new survey points to an uneven economy recovery: “U.S. consumer sentiment took a surprise negative turn in early April due to a persistently grim outlook on income and jobs, a private survey released on Friday showed. A slip in economic expectations to its lowest in a year likely stemmed from consumers hearing negative information on government programs and a perception that the recovery is too slow, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers. … The surveys’ overall index on consumer sentiments slipped to 69.5 in early April — the lowest in five months. This was below the 73.6 reading seen at the end of March and the 75.0 median forecast of analysts polled by Reuters.”

Ben Smith points to inconvenient facts for New York Democrats: “A few weeks before playing a central role in fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, hedge fund titan John Paulson invited colleagues to a fundraiser for Senator Chuck Schumer — ‘one of the few members of Congress that has consistently supported the hedge fund industry’ — according to a copy of the invitation… Schumer is credited by some with helping to kill a Democratic push to tax carried interest, which would have put a dent in the massive earnings of a small number of ultra-wealthy money managers. With Goldman, and perhaps Paulson, in the SEC’s sights, some of the taint may rub off on their allies — and both of New York’s senators are among them. Schumer’s junior colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand, is the single top recipient of contributions from Goldman Sachs employees.”

The Wall Street Journal editors point out there’s no meeting of the minds on the START deal: “Signed with some pomp last week in Prague, the pact with Russia makes modest reductions to the number of strategic warheads and delivery systems. Though those cuts are worth a close look, we’re much more concerned with the impact that new START will have on America’s ability to develop and deploy the best missile defenses available. Starting with the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative, the Kremlin has sought to tie America’s hands on missile defense. The Kremlin says that this is precisely what it has negotiated with START. The Administration says it didn’t. They can’t both be right.”

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