Although Israel is 5,700 miles from Philadelphia, the Jewish state will be the focus of two dueling events on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania this week.

PennBDS, an official university student group, is hosting the 2012 National Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions event against the State of Israel Conference this weekend. In response, the Philadelphia Jewish Federation is sponsoring a gathering called “We Are One with Israel” on Thursday at Annenberg Center.

Academics, activists and students from across the country will converge on Penn’s campus for the BDS conference. Speakers include the co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah, the Jewish anti-Zionist editor of Mondoweiss, Phil Weiss, and Dr. Sarah Schulman from the Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Abbas Naqui, a Penn molecular biology Ph.D. candidate and a core organizer of the BDS event, protests Israel’s human rights record. “With Israel receiving $3 billion in foreign aid from the United States,”?he says, “they must be held accountable for their deplorable treatment of the Palestinians and their obvious violations of international law for building the settlements and the wall.”


Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz — who has represented a long list of celebrity clients including OJ Simpson, Bill Clinton, Mike Tyson and Claus Von Bulow — will be the main speaker at the “We Are One” pro-Israel event, expected to draw some 900 attendees. He condemns the BDS movement for “singling out Israel.”

“If they really care about human rights, why aren’t they boycotting Syria, Iran, China, Tibet and parts of Africa?” asked Dershowitz, who is currently defending Iranian dissidents at the Hague.


The chief executive officer of Philadelphia Jewish Federation, Ira Schwartz, was quick to counter any criticism of the University of Pennsylvania for allowing the BDS conference to be held on campus:

“The university has been very supportive of Israel. Penn president Amy Gutmann is unable to come to our event but chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, David L. Cohen, will read a letter from her at the event.”

Latest From ...