I wrote a column this week questioning the strategy of those who objected to the Boycott Israel event held at Brooklyn College:
But even were the BDS movement unequivocally anti-Semitic, it’s still worth debating the best way to confront it. If ignoring them suggests condoning their message, and loudly protesting risks giving them more publicity than they deserve, perhaps there’s a third way. The best defense, in this case, may be a good offense. Instead of telling universities who should and shouldn’t be allowed on campus, pro-Israel organizations should be offering the kinds of speakers and programs that promote the kind of Israel they believe in.
Apparently I’m not he only person raising this idea: The Jewish Week reports that campus pro-Israel professionals say the confrontational approach only gives the BDS crowd more attention than they deserve, and that instead of transforming these fights into a free speech issue, the better strategy might be to offer pro-Israel counter-programming:
The Jewish professionals at campus Hillel organizations, the Israel Action Network and the Israel on Campus Coalition say the evidence is unequivocal: When Israel’s supporters learn about an upcoming event organized by those who would delegitimize the Jewish state, focusing on the country’s detractors hands that very crowd a victory.
“But when we focus our time on our own mission,” highlighting the positives about Israel, “we win,” said Stephen Kuperberg, ICC’s executive director.
“These things play themselves out over and over again,” said Geri Palast, IAN’s managing director. Her argument, like Kuperberg’s, is that making Israel’s detractors the issue only gives them the publicity they’re seeking, extending the life of their movement.
The piece quotes Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s advice that ”by speaking out so loudly, [critics] were giving the forum and its organizers more publicity than they would have received otherwise”:
The ICC’s Kuperberg and other communal professionals told The Jewish Week that they agree with the mayor. The Washington-based ICC, an independent organization that provides information, resources and training to supporters of Israel, has researched more than 5,000 anti-Israel events during the past two-and-a-half years, learning that it pays to ignore groups agitating against Israel, Kuperberg said. [Emphasis added.]