US boycotters go for Euro-rebrand

By Robin Shepherd, February 16, 2012

Aside from the conspiracy theorists, those who question why Israel is treated so much more fairly in the US than in Europe usually have no problem getting to the first bit of the answer: in the US, Israel has many passionate supporters outside the Jewish community itself.

Whether they be evangelicals, neo-cons, neo-liberals, liberal-interventionists or mainstream Democrats, in most cases Israel is pushing at an open door. Remember Netanyahu's speech to Congress last year and the 29 standing ovations from practically every member? Here, outright support for Israel among non-Jews is rare to the point that it's noteworthy when it happens.

But the flip side of the same coin is rarely talked about. For just as Europe has the kind of racists, fascists, Islamists and Leftist totalitarians that have helped push anti-Israeli hysteria into the mainstream, they've got them in America too. (Far-Leftists like Chomsky are followed by millions.) Here, their agenda has, in important respects, captured mainstream media - the BBC and the Guardian in particular - significant sections of the NGO community, the unions, important parts of the Labour Party, some influential Tories and much of the state bureaucracy, especially the Foreign Office.

The difference is that in America they've got practically nowhere. Which is why they've launched a new strategy.

The defining moment came earlier this month with America's first-ever national Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) conference at the University of Pennsylvania. The aims were summed up by Sarah Schulman, a professor of English at the City University of New York: "We have to brand BDS as something alive, progressive… with a human face, something Americans can relate to," she told the Forward.

That's going to be a tough call since it would mean asking America's political classes to switch sides in favour of the world's despots and terror movements. Nonetheless, they've seen the way things have been going in Europe and they're targeting the Left as the weak link in America's pro-Israel chain.

In response to the conference, Jewish groups opted to ignore it to avoid raising its profile. Whether that is wise will depend on bigger issues: mainly whether the Democrats return to being the party of Joe Lieberman et al or whether Obama can make further inroads.

Robin Shepherd is the owner/publisher of

Last updated: 5:37pm, February 16 2012