The University of Pennsylvania will be breaking all precedents about legitimizing and mainstreaming anti-Israel activism on prominent college campuses this week -- and crossing a new red line -- by hosting a conference, called PennBDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), which openly states that its intention is to train people and organize communities to try to dismantle Israel economically -- and, if conference participant Omar Barghouti's book, "BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions," is any indication, otherwise, as well. The conference is scheduled to take place Feb. 3-5.

A Google search of "PennBDS Conference" yields over 1000 entries, including a apologistic article from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency [JTA] saying that Penn is trying to "distance" itself from the conference, and that Penn's President, Amy Gutmann says she, "does not support the conference...or support its aims."

Then why are they enabling it?

According to another piece, "PennBDS: About the Conference," which appears to be the official notice for the conference, it is taking place "for a momentum-building opportunity for those already engaged with the fight for Palestinian freedom and equality."

The notice goes on to state: "Sunday's sessions will foreground movement-building and provide participants with the practical tools they need to launch or enhance BDS campaigns in their communities."

Speakers include Omar Barghouti, Cornel West, Nelson Mandela, and of course Jews....

Panels will discuss:

  • "Israeli Colonialism"
  • "BDS Successes, Challenges and Options for 2012" led by "US Campaign to End the Occupation Steering Committee Member"
  • "BDS 101"
  • "Connecting with Grassroots Palestine"

A recent posting, "Clarifications about the 2012 National BDS Conference," states that "every topic that will be raised at the conference will be open to respectful debate with time allotted for questions and responses from the audience." Oh. Presumably this means that if protestors are allowed to ask questions and participants are "provided with practical tools.... to launch... BDS campaigns in their communities," Penn regards this as a level playing field.

The conference goes beyond the bounds of free speech in that it is not a debate about whether or not there should be BDS against Israel, but is outspokenly a workshop that intends not only how to wage an economic war-by-other-means against Israel, but also to hand out weapons to with which to wage it.

Penn President Gutmann is probably counting on its many successful Jewish trustees to continue throwing money at Penn anyway, out of sentimentality and for the "prestige".

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