Anti-Palestinian activist heaps praise on campus BDS campaigners

It was meant to be an alarmist hit piece, alerting readers (and undoubtedly, potential donors) to the growing “threat” posed by campus divestment campaigns to Israel’s unconditional supporters. It was meant to instill fear and loathing. It was meant to channel these intense emotions into support (especially of the financial variety) for reinforcing the infrastructure of the organized anti-Palestinian community.

It was meant to do a lot of things, but the Jewish Journal article “Attempted divestment at UCSB and the BDS machine” by Max Samarov, a University of California Santra Barbara alumnus and a staff member with anti-Palestinian advocacy group StandWithUs, may be most notable for sheer amount of unintended compliments it pays to the dedicated activists working on campuses across the United States (and indeed, the world) to shed light upon Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and to hold businesses accountable for knowingly profiting from those abuses.

Among the highlights:

Indeed, divestment is part of an increasingly organized and global movement. The language of the resolution introduced at UCSB was strikingly similar to those recently presented at UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and elsewhere. The Facebook pages set up in support of divestment at the different campuses were also very similar. These campaigns were carefully synchronized. They hit Stanford first, then UC Riverside, then UC San Diego,  then UC Santa Barbara, then UC Berkeley, and finally UC Davis. As the drama was ending at one university it would begin anew at the next one down the line.

Divestment did not happen overnight. It is the result of years of work by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and similar campus organizations. Their modus operandi is simple and extremely effective. They get involved in student politics, build relationships with student leaders, hone their talking points, and lobby. At some campuses, like UCSB, this issue has been elevated to the point where some candidates for student government run on a platform of divestment. The anti-Israel movement has evolved, drastically increasing its participation in the democratic process.

It is clear that there is a well-oiled machine organizing and orchestrating this campaign behind the scenes. The main visible forces behind it are SJP-West, SJP National, and above all, the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Leading BDS organizations such as the US Campaign to End the Occupation, American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the American Friends Service Committee are making significant contributions as well. BDS heavyweights like Desmond Tutu and Alice Walker are supplying personalized statements to student government leaders and even speaking at student senate hearings in person… The involvement of legendary anti-Apartheid and civil rights activists like Tutu and Walker has helped BDS gain credibility and influence in progressive circles.

Jewish Voice for Peace receives special attention:

And in the nastiest surprise of the evening, a small army of community activists from Jewish Voice for Peace attended and spoke in favor of divestment …

Samarov takes care to note that the growth of campus boycott, divestment and sanctions activism is not limited to California:

The new reality is that every student senate floor is a potential stage for the BDS movement’s anti-Israel theater.


The global movement to delegitimize Israel has become more organized, more cohesive, and more troublesome. It is time for the pro-Israel community to recognize the new facts on the ground, get better organized, and adapt.

Articles like Samarov’s are in keeping with a well-established pattern of US anti-Palestinian groups catering to fear and other negative emotions, framing themselves as the comparative underdogs struggling to counter the menacing “machine” of nonviolent human rights activism, only to flip the frame 180 degrees during end-of-the-year fundraising efforts, which instead exaggerate their own strengths and accomplishments.

It’s a lucrative strategy for groups like StandWithUs, which has grown to boast an annual budget of $6.4 million as of its 2011 filing of IRS form 990, more than the initial three-year allocation made by the Jewish Federations of North America to create the Israel Action Network in 2010.

Despite its intentions to the contrary, Max Samarov’s fear-mongering attack on campus BDS activism offers its tireless student organizers a much-deserved pat on the back.




Hi there,

I'm the author of the piece discussed here and I think you're a bit confused. Every comment I made about BDS was fully intentional. Fear mongering generally involves a lot of speculation and distortion of reality. I, on the other hand, described campus divestment campaigns as they truly are.

And speaking of distortions of reality, I find the way you cherry picked pieces of my article pretty hilarious. Afraid of a real debate are we?

Take care,

- Max


How can one be afraid to debate the anti-palestinian/right wing Zionist brigade; their barking points are all completely and utterly laughable. From the fairy tail Biblical entitlement to the repetitive obfuscations in order to preserve the land grab. It's like having a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Pinocchio.


Your assumption that all Zionists are anti-Palestinian is a simplistic one and doesn't correspond to reality.


@ Nick: Not every Zionist is anti-Palestinian? Are you sure about that? The philosophy itself is anti-Palestinian, it's definately not pro-Palestinian. Now, are there Zionist who view Palestinians humanely despite their philosophy being anti-Palestinian, sure there are. But you can't claim that a philosophy that entitles Zionists to Palestinian land as nothing more than anti-Palestinian. Despite this, Israel is a reality, and no matter how anti-Palestinian the philosophy is, Israel is here to stay. It is not me who has a simplistic view of Zionism, it is you who has a naive one. Also in my comment I specifically mentioned right wing Zionists.


Nick - I suggest you go back to around 1917-20 and read historical material about the origins of Zionism, particularly the role played by Chaim Weizmann and his intrigues to 'take' Palestine with the assistance of certain British members of Parliament and powerful Jewish figures. The main tactic was to move forward as if the Arabs didn't exist, or alternatively, that they needed a superior people to manage their affairs. They felt contempt for the Palestinians and Weizmann referred to them as "Arab trash" in a letter to his wife. He and his like-minded conspirators believed in the inequality of races, and they rationalized domination, exploitation, conquest and control.
That being the basis of Zionism (the much-touted biblical rational came in handy), anyone associated with it is basically anti-Palestinian to a lesser or greater degree. Colonialists can be very nice people and Zionists may appear respectable - the question is what are their basic assumptions about their position, maintaining privilege, and the rights of those dispossessed and colonized?

Abraham Greenhouse's picture

I’m delighted with your assessment that campus divestment campaigns “truly are” so well-organized and effective! As you point out, it’s a testament to many years of hard hard work!


Your article doesn't demonstrate how Samarov engaged in fear-mongering. It seems that you have confused 'show' and 'tell.'


And I'm quite intrigued as to why you didn't post my article here in full. :)


The "cherries picked" are all compliments for the BDS organisation, which is the essence of this article and it's title. And *you* wrote them, Max (who is the confused one?). The quotes here are some 1/3 of your text. Quite a load of cherries to pick!

With this, I appreciate that you admit: "I [...] described campus divestment campaigns as they truly are". Not only does this strengthen your compliments (thanks again), it also highlights that you need to *add* this if and when you are telling a truth.


So you want a debate? A debate? This is from your opening lines (all *stress* marks added): "what we are *fighting* at UCSB is the local face of ..."

And: "And in the *nastiest* surprise of the evening, a small army of community activists from Jewish Voice for Peace attended and spoke in favor of divestment"
Debate uh? Please first explain why you used the word "nastiest" here.
Your smears, illogic and distortions re Desmond Tutu and Alice Walker: that is a nice invitation to debate.
"BDS [...] promote[s] a fundamentally *immoral* and *illiberal* political agenda:
the elimination of Israel as the democratic state of the Jewish people. Some BDS leaders and organizations hide this or avoid stating it explicitly". You have projected and transformed your cripple logic into another person's wrong. How inviting.
Max, as someone recently wrote: "the slander and vile innuendo we heard", is that an invitation to debate? Why not debate on your own: no input needed nor accepted.

One moment of truth I had where you wrote: "the “illegal” occupation of Palestinian territory". Since you so-call only the word "illegal", you don't dispute the fact of occupation.

As for fear-mongering:
You end with: "we [sic] find ourselves in a familiar position: having no choice but to stand up and defend ourselves against *hate*." (Please elaborate: what is familiar for you?)


re always comes down to these kind of allegations: "BDS [...] promote[s] a fundamentally *immoral* and *illiberal* political agenda: the elimination of Israel as the democratic state of the Jewish people.....", which, as far as I know, are completely untrue, in fact, such views are explicitly discouraged by BDS groups.
Then: "Some BDS leaders and organizations hide this or avoid stating it explicitly"....a completely ridiculous allegation, as I could go about accusing groups or organizations of hiding their 'true' beliefs or intentions on the basis of my imagining they exist.


This sort of terminology is so sweeping and so stupid!
It is policies of a government that are deliberately unjust and racist towards the indigenous people of the lands that Israel rules which are targeted. Are you capable - or do you have the courage - of admitting that this is so , and that you actually approve of and support the discriminatory nature of policies and laws in pursuance of the expansionist (and other) zionist goals of the country?


"Afraid of a real debate are we?"

I'm genuinely curious as to how you imagine you're entitled to be taken seriously enough to be worthy of a debate when you've used such absolutist, obscurantist language in reference to BDS in your article.
When you use blanket statements such as "immoral" and "illiberal", you forsake the right to be considered worthy of engaging in dialogue with. You've made it abundantly clear that you're operating on a campaign of fear-mongering, rather than understanding.

So no, we're not afraid of a "real debate"- we just don't think you're capable of carrying one out.


Hey Max your piece is quite well written. Perhaps it is the Magnum Opus of your life thus far. Who knows, perhaps it will end up your most shining achievement ever. In the service of a racist, criminal, deceipt-mongering, murderous entity and ideology. Have a nice proud day.


It is indeed very satisfying to see the BDS campaign growing in strength day by day, and now that Stephen Hawkings has joined the debate I look forward to the day when Ed Miliband, leader of the UK Labour Party (who were totally committed to the boycott campaign against the apartheid policies of South Africa), will join with the rest of the civilised world in condemning the apartheid policies of Israel and show some real socialist concern for injustice by changing his position and supporting the boycott movement.

One does not expect the UK Conservative Party to change their position, they were never supportive of the boycott against South Africa, and 80% of Conservative politicians are members of the 'friends of Israel', but a Leader of a once great political party, born out of the UK trade union movement is now supporting right wing neo fascist policies of former terrorist organisation Likud is, quite frankly, obscene.

Abraham Greenhouse

Abraham Greenhouse's picture

Abraham Greenhouse is a longtime Palestine solidarity activist based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter as @grinhoyz.