The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 11-22-14

Posted on November 25th, 2014 at 3:04 pm by

Local Jews Get the Heebie-Jeebies

Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends are not united in their perception of the effectiveness of the BDS campaign, waged since 2005, but one thing appears certain: the local Jewish community is very nervous about this non-violent campaign strategy. So nervous, in fact, that they called in the Doctor on this one: University of Illinois Professor Cary Nelson has made a reputation for himself as a one-man attack dog on the BDS movement, and came to Eastern Michigan University to attempt to smooth the ruffled feathers of local Jews.

This guy is one smooth operator, and judges himself highly by his observation that since he irritates both sides – the Right Zionists and the Left – he must be promoting justice. As a JWPF supporter stood throughout his talk with her “Boycott Israel” shirt, Mr. Nelson told the audience that he actually approves of such displays of free speech. Nice guy. Both sides. Right.

His talk was titled “Bait and Switch: The Purpose of the Movement to Boycott Israel”, and he spent much of his talk personally ridiculing BDS leaders Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, pointing out alleged technical flaws in the Call, and suggesting that there be not drama in this debate; Cary supports “cold reason”.

And he attempts – if anyone was really listening – to defeat the peace movement mentally right out of the starting gate. He assured his audience that the idea that Israel will cease to exist as a Jewish state “ain’t gonna happen”. And for those who didn’t hear his catchy phrase, he repeated it again by saying if folks think that Israeli Jews will just pack their bags and move to Germany or Poland, well, that just “ain’t gonna happen”. Some of us remember former Israeli tank commander Itzik Henig telling local Jews in 2006 that “Israel is an irreversible reality” at the beginning of each of his presentations. Although ”waves” of Israeli Jews are actually moving to Germany, this strategy of whistling past the graveyard has apparently not gone out of vogue.

Nelson called on this writer – clad in my “No Jewish State” t-shirt – to ask the first question. Prefacing the question with facts like Ashkenazi Jews did not reside in, nor were they historically expelled from Palestine, and that at the time world Zionists conveyed their first international conference Adolf Hitler was merely eight years old, I asked if Israel had a right to exist as a Jewish state and if so, by what right?

His answer was three-fold: the Balfour Declaration and its claimed support in the international community, the UN partition plan, and yes, Henry, the Holocaust did play a part in the guilty world community supporting Jewish “return” to Palestine. When I requested follow up questions on each of his three answers, angry cries of “no, you can’t”, and “you’ve spoken enough” rang from the audience. Magnanimous Nelson said we would return to my follow up questions, but of course ran out of time.

Icy Conditions at JWPF Vigils

A pre-winter icy rain left a sheet of ice and water covering many of Ann Arbor streets and sidewalks just prior to our November 22 vigil. In spite of these challenges six members of JWPF – including a surprise visit from professional photographer Skip Schiels – held down the fort.


Nov. 15 – six vigilers
Israel Out of Palestine
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

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