BEWARE OF BDS ‘GASLIGHTING’

On Nov. 13, the American Jewish Press Association (AJPA) kindly honoured me with the first-place designation of the Louis Rapoport Award for Excellence in Commentary. This accolade, part of the 36th annual Simon Rockower Awards, was for three CJN articles I wrote last year: “BDS: bullying, demonization and slander,” “Let’s honour Israel by calling out irrational hatred,” and “A useless nihilist seeks asylum.” Fortunately, the AJPA doesn’t have acceptance speeches – recipients would waste all their time just detailing these names and categories and articles. Nevertheless, because I will never win an Oscar, I would like to take this opportunity to share this honour with four co-honorees.

I start, of course, with my family. It’s not just that I work a lot and at odd hours, but by being related to a columnist, they sometimes find their private lives publicized. And although I only write about anything personal with permission, I thank them for their indulgence and, even more importantly, for being my inspirations, guides and partners in my life journey which often ends up shaping my writing.

I continue, predictably, with The CJN. It’s particularly thrilling to see a newspaper that had a near-death experience not only survive, but thrive, racking up many well-deserved awards. A community newspaper may seem anachronistic in the Internet age, but it’s surprising and gratifying to see how many readers feel connected to and through this extraordinary project in community-building, locally and nationally.

Re-reading the three articles, the next two co-honorees also became obvious. In the second article honoured, I wrote about a petition signed by 158 McGill University professors to denounce the anti-Israel boycott movement at McGill. “We fail when our students don’t feel genuinely safe in our university,” the letter proclaimed, “and the BDS movement has made McGill students feel unsafe, unsupported and unwelcome in their and our academic home.” I don’t know of other such faculty initiatives. Moreover, I still remain in shock that organizers pulled it off.

Finally, given that the first article also concerned the McGill BDS fight, I share this award with the student heroes who resist this assault on reason and reasonableness. BDS – which the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto years ago christened the Bullying, Demonization and Slander movement – continues to harass McGill students. As many know, the university’s student society recently refused to ratify three student leaders because they dared to be anti-BDS and pro-Israel. In an age that cannot even tolerate micro-aggressions against others, it’s appalling that macro-aggressions against Jews are not just allowed, but encouraged.

BDS exemplifies what psychologists and political consultants call “gaslighting.” From the classic 1944 movie (and 1938 play) Gaslight, it’s a form of manipulation. Wikipedia explains that “Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction and lying (gaslighting) attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.” This describes the BDS movement and its latest iteration on my campus. Note how it circumvented the democratic process, bullied Jewish and pro-Israeli students, then not only denied it was anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist, but fought using the Orwellian name Democratize McGill.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to ally myself with these students in this honourable fight for true enlightenment, not gaslighting.