An unprecedented event occurred last week – a unique one no doubt – but one which is surely to become par for the course in the future. One of the more prominent BDS activists in the United States, Rania Khalek, who travels extensively lecturing in support of BDS, had her talk cancelled by the SJP [Students for Justine in Palestine] chapter at the University of North Carolina.
The event was cancelled, as per SJP’s official statement, due to Khalek’s “unclear” views related to the ongoing Syrian conflict and genocide. Khalek responded claiming the cancellation was the work of “Syria Trolls” .
For those who don’t follow, Rania Khalek is very well-known among pro-Palestinian circles and has cultivated a career around slandering Israel even in the face of human suffering. Many have written about her vile, hypocritical attitude towards Israel. I’d like to use this last event as an example of what I believe lies ahead for the global BDS movement as I did in a previous article.
Lately, Rania Khalek has been harshly criticized for her support of the Syrian regime led by Bashar Al-Assad. I have criticized Khalek, and will continue to do so, for dismissing horrific reports of human rights violations, not only in Syria. My criticism also revolves around her support of Islamic terrorists groups such as Hamas. Khalek claims she would strongly advocate against Hamas, but since they “don’t use human shields and behead people”, it’s not worth her while. Quick reminder. Hamas publicly acknowledged in 2008 and 2014 that they use human shields. More can be read here. So apparently, horrific acts such as public street executions, forced child labor, oppression of women, advocating vehicular ramming attacks, stabbing children in their sleep, and blowing up civilian buses are not causes for concern or advocating against.
This latest event involving the UNC SJP chapter surprised many and created quite an uproar on social media. Equally surprising is the relative silence from former employer Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, for whom Khalek worked as an editor until she stepped down. Rumors have it that Khalek was fired by Abunimah.
Much has been written about the U.S. based pro-Hamas publication known as “The Electronic Intifada”, which usually goes into damage control mode anytime the BDS movement runs into a roadblock. The “publication” is also widely considered to be the leading BDS propaganda tool on the internet today.
Criticism directed at Intifada and its propaganda “journalists” peaked after Khalek was invited to speak at an event sponsored by the British Syrian Society, a London based NGO founded by Bashar al Assad. The event focused on sanctions directed at Syria. Some of the criticism even originated from colleagues within Intifada. Even Laurie King, an Intifada co-founder, felt disgusted by Khalek’s attendance.
Now that we have laid out some background, I want to focus on the reason we are seeing tension among those who promote BDS and why internal conflict and strife within the movement will continue to deteriorate.
Firstly, the global BDS movement does not screen applicants prior to joining “the cause”. This means that the door is open to literally anyone who chooses to get involved [and hates Israel – and in many cases, Jews]. As I mentioned in my previous piece , BDS has proven to be a haven for anti-Semites who are looking for a platform from which to spew their hate. And what better platform than the one which allows to vent hatred towards Jews under the guise of “anti-Zionism”?
Further, the open door policy means that activists joining BDS originate from different backgrounds. Some are Sunni, others are Shia... some pro-Assad, others reject him… some Alawite, others Salafai or Wahhabi. For now, I’m purposefully disregarding non-Muslims [i.e. anti-imperialist whites, etc.] who are just looking to raise a flag and grab a beer later. BDS leaders believe non-Arab support is the key to BDS success since past attempts at boycotting Israel have failed. During those failed boycott attempts, non-Arabs were generally not involved, hence the need for “intersectionality”. Cracks on that front have begun as well. Fiascos like Linda Sarsour leading a "Womens March" is a testament to that.
Khalek herself is Druze and pro-Assad, so she’s viewed by many as pro-Alawite. Alawis, a sect Shia Islam, are a minority [led by a non-democratic dictatorial dynasty] controlling the Sunni majority in Syria. Sunnis make up roughly 74% of Syria while the ruling Alawites number roughly 12%. It’s also important to note that Khalek supports Hamas. They are Sunni – and heavily funded by Qatar, who adhere to the Salafi branch of Sunni Islam. Khalek abhors Qatar and criticizes its government almost daily for funding Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime. Apparently, it’s OK for Qatar to fund Hamas but funding Syrian rebels is a no-no. Perhaps if Hamas concentrated on fighting Assad, Khalek would be “advocating” against them. It also seems to be ok to staunchly support Linda Sarsourwho is partly funded by the Sharia-based Qatar.
What about Hezbollah? Well, they are Shia, and Khalek supports them as well. Hezbollah is also heavily supported by Iran - essentially a de facto client terrorist state. Let us not forget that Rania is a feminist, so naturally she would support Iran which is predominantly Shia as well. Iran also supports Hamas – but here again, not because they love each other, but because they share the same hate for Israel.
Before the Syrian Civil War began, Assad and his Alawite regime supported Sunni Hamas. Since then, Hamas has carefully expressed support for Sunni Syrian rebels, whom Khalek calls terrorists. According to Khalek, Hamas are not terrorists since they “don’t behead”.
In a 2012 Telegraph article, we read about Hamas’ support for Syrian rebels, which ultimately led to their exile from Damascus. Also in the article, Ismail Haniyeh [then-leader of Hamas in Gaza] visited a mosque in Cairo during Friday prayers. During the visit, he offered statements in support of “Syrian freedom fighters”. The crowd went on to chant, “No Hezbollah, No Iran – No Hezbollah, No Iran”.
Now, throw this into the mix: Khalek herself is secular! To be exact, she is a tank-top strutting [more power to her] Druze and a feminist atheist who happens to be vegan. If you thought your half-Yemenite half-Polish Jewish friend was confused, try living in Khaleks shoes for a day.
Khalek is but one example of many that are conflicted when it comes to who exactly they can or should support within the chaotic Middle East. Her support of Assad, and by association the mass genocide of Syrians, is precisely why her talk at UNC was cancelled.
Khalek is also due to speak later this month at the annual hate fest organized by BDS promoter Abbas Hamideh . Interestingly, just in the past few days we have seen tension within his Al-Awda organization. On March 4th, Al-Awda released a rare statement regarding the hate rally. The title of the statement was “Clarification on Upcoming Support Palestine, Protest AIPAC Rally in Washington, DC”. Essentially, “Al-Awda National” is claiming they have no involvement or affiliation with the upcoming rally. Apparently, the bad press [perhaps partly due to my article] exposing how rabid-Antisemitism is creeping into Al-Awda resonated with some members.
Since the statement, Hamideh has taken to Facebook and lashed out at other Al-Awda members and is claiming that the rally is now organized by “Al-Awda's Ohio chapter and the Midwest regional affiliates”. He even went as far as to post screenshots of private text messages between himself and other members who demanded he tone it down.
I always hear the Abunimahs, Khaleks, and Hamidehs of the world tell us, “BDS is rapidly growing”. Well, that is true, but growing into what? Based on what we’re witnessing lately, the more BDS grows, the less effective it’s becoming in achieving its main objective – which is to destroy Israel. The amount of daily news items reporting on BDS defeats along with radical elements within the movement are growing rapidly. The future of BDS will prove to be historically consistent with what happened regarding past boycotting initiatives.
Lessons from past boycotts should be learned. Starting from the very first boycott within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in 1922 against Jewish owned-businesses in Mandatory Palestine, to the boycott declared by the Syrian-Palestinian Congress in 1933, through the Yishuv boycott by the Arab League in 1945 and the boycott of Jewish goods and cargo by King Farouk of Egypt in 1950, and followed by the Arab boycotts during the 1970’s. The countries who initiated these boycotts have all since either signed peace treaties with Israel or kept diplomatic relations on a low burner. Current Middle East geopolitics are pushing more and more Arab countries to search for “normalization” channels with Israel.
In summary, if future BDS events continue to include Nazi salutes and chanting “Adolf Hitler”, “Slaughter Jews”, and “Allahu Akbar”, it’s only a matter of time before a radical Islamic BDS splinter group accepts responsibility for ______________________.
As for online BDS propaganda hate sites like The Electronic Intifada, which will ultimately vanish into the dustbin of history, I see a bright and profitable future as an online merchandise retailer of “Oriental Gifts”.