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US education secretary: BDS campaign ‘pernicious threat’ on campuses

July 16, 2019 at 11:05 am

US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland, US on 22 February 2018 [Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia]

US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has described the boycott of Israel as a “pernicious threat” on college campuses, speaking at a Justice Department-convened event on anti-Semitism yesterday.

The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has been growing amongst students and academics on American campuses, to the consternation of pro-Israel groups.

According to the Associated Press (AP), “DeVos said…Israel has friends in the Education Department and that the BDS campaign is ‘one of the most pernicious threats’ of antisemitism.”

“These bullies claim they stand for human rights,” she said. “But we all know that BDS stands for antisemitism.”

DeVos “spent much of her speech defending Israel”, reported AP, “and she drew applause when she referenced Trump’s 2017 decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that drew condemnation from the United Nations.”

READ: Why is the rise of BDS worldwide worrying Israel?

“Peace in the Middle East begins with recognizing Israel’s right to exist,” DeVos told attendees. “Israel is a light to the region, but we all know it’s surrounded by jihadists who embrace evil.”

DeVos also said that her department is investigating a March conference organised by Duke University and the University of North Carolina, which “drew complaints of anti-Israel bias”.

“We’re looking at whether the conference violated grant terms and perpetrated antisemitism,” the education secretary said.

According to a separate report on the Department of Justice event, “speaker after speaker took aim at pro-Palestinian college activists”.

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Dylan Williams, vice president of government affairs at liberal pro-Israel group J Street, said the event deliberately missed the point about where threats to the Jewish community are coming from.

“The facts show that the white nationalist, xenophobic far-right is the clear source of rising antisemitic violence in this country,” he said.

“Instead of seriously combating that threat — which the president has stoked with his own hateful rhetoric — the Trump administration and its allies in the right-wing minority of the Jewish community prefer to focus overwhelming attention on nonviolent campus critics of Israel, and to wield false accusations of antisemitism as a partisan weapon against progressives.”