05 February 2013

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Judith Butler, Alice Walker and Pink Floyd.  Wow.  Sounds like a fun night.  One is impossible to understand; the other hasn't written a relevant novel in decades; the third is touring the same record for thirty years.  This is the intellectual bulwark that is driving the Jews crazy?

So why all the stink at Brooklyn College?

60,000 dead in Syria in the last year; destabilization in Central Africa; chaos and human rights and weapons falling into the wrong hands run amok in Egypt and Iran.  Oh, did I fail to mention the greatest gap between rich and poor in the United States in the last hundred years?

But of course, the scourge of the world is Israel.

This tiresome roadshow comes to Brooklyn College this week.  Lights and mics are lit up, waiting to capture arguments and disputations about the whether or not Jews have the right to live and defend land.  Cue the soundtrack:  "We don't need no education!"


This sorry old drama played itself out when I was a Hillel director in the 1990s; a student in the 1980s; when others were students in the 1970s; and even as far back as the 1960s, when Judith Butler actually got graded on her papers.  If only.

Guess what?  Crazy programs like "BDS or BUST" hosted by the Poli Sci Department at Brooklyn College are actually irrelevant to the reality of what goes on in Israel and Palestine.  The delusion of those who think, in their rabid anti-Zionism, that they will succeed, is laughable.  Even consistent critics of Israel have dismissed BDS as ineffective.

Part of me wants to actually delve into why Alice Walker and Roger Waters care so much about Israel and not, for instance, Mali or Syria.  But most of me just doesn't care.  And I loved the Color Purple; and I certainly remember hearing the Wall on the radio tons.  And as for Judith Butler, like I said, whatever she's talking about I'm sure means something, I'm just not sure what, so, in essence, I defer to the Democratic Ungapatchka Meandering Bovians of the American Society of Semioticians (DUMBASS).  I'm not trying to be a jerk here--really.  Just realistic.  And humble--because believe you me, I'm increasingly aware that as I age in a culture that rewards youth, I'm fast becoming irrelevant, too!

But seriously:  Israel is a big boy.  And so too, I like to think, are all those impressionable college students who know a load of bull when they hear it.  BDS is not about a serious boycott movement.  It's about denying the Jews the right to a state of their own.  As broken as this record is, read the literature.  It's not a two-state movement--it's a one-state movement and that one state is not Jewish.

While Israelis and Palestinians struggle mightily to come to an understanding and a just peace for both peoples, worse and more dangerous problems plague the city, the nation, and the world.  In a perfect world, most sane people would understand that.  But some don't.  So the dramas continue.  But in reality, most people are not really listening.  Because they know that life is much more complex than a spectacle on a college campus somewhere.  And there's rent to make this month.

Last year, when BDS reared its head at the Park Slope Food Coop and got defeated, we had 22 people from CBE visiting Israel.  This year we've doubled that number and added a few.  In ten days, we're taking 52 people to Israel.  We'll visit Palestine, too.  We'll spend money in both places, talk to people in both places, and try to understand.  Engage, learn, dig in.

One of the most difficult lessons we'll teach the older kids on the trip--painful as it is to admit--is that some people hate Jews so much they will deny Jews the right to their own self-determination.  I always try to be honest to kids when they are mature enough to hear this message.

At Masada the hatred was internalized to be made manifest in suicide.  At Yad Vashem they learn that while there was resistance there was mostly slaughter.  And at the borders near Gaza and Lebanon and Jerusalem they will learn that while there is an unremitting hatred on one side, there is also an army to defend, world powers at our back, and peace-loving advocates in each nation making sure that all chances for peace and human rights and dignity are bound up in the enterprise of nation-making.

Days before the recent elections, the greatest minds in political journalism thought the Right would prevail in Israel.  Turns out the Center wants to make decisions moving forward.  Life is full of surprises, especially when calm and the middle prevails.

This is a seminar in and of itself, far greater than the sideshow more befitting of Coney Island than Flatbush (though that's an insult to Coney Island.)

As for the BDS event at Brooklyn College this week--take heart:  Most people in the audience will be tweeting and texting so much they'll barely hear what's said.

What was that sound?  The Jewbird?

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