American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. (AP/John Locher) (AP/John Locher)
Sheldon Adelson

BDS anti-Israel protest

(Wikimedia Commons)

North American Jewish philanthropists and organizations, led by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, have declared war on BDS and are gathering to devise a strategy to combat the phenomenon.  

Jewish business tycoon Sheldon Adelson will host a convention discussing ways to stem the growth of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the Forward reports.

The event, which takes place this weekend in Las Vegas, was organized by several other leading Jewish philanthropists, including Hollywood entertainment mogul Haim Saban, Israeli-born real-estate developer Adam Milstein and Canadian businesswoman Heather Reisman.

Organizers have sought to keep the gathering secret and declined to respond to inquiries from the Forward.

This summit marks a shift on the approach to anti-Israel activity on college campuses, as the initiative is not being led by student bodies or pro-Israel organizations on the ground, but instead by Jewish philanthropists who have decided to take action, the Forward points out.

Saban has reportedly been discussing the idea for more than a year and has spoken to Israeli officials, including former Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren and top officials in the Israeli foreign ministry. Setting up a special task force to deal specifically with the increasing anti-Israel BDS activity on campuses is on the agenda, sources say.

boycott israel

According to several prospective participants, Jewish groups planning to attend the meeting include Hillel, StandWithUs, the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). The latter will also represent the Israel Action Network, a communal body created specifically to counter BDS and delegitimization of Israel.

J Street U, which is the student body of the left-wing J Street organization, was not invited.

An official representing one of the invited groups told the Forward that the purpose is to “find the best strategies” for countering campus anti-Israel campaigns and to “make sure there is funding” for those programs. However, groups were not asked to prepare a pitch to present to the panel of Jewish mega-donors.

American universities have been the site of battles between anti- and pro-Israel student bodies, with the focus on anti-Israel BDS resolutions. Pro-divestment resolutions were passed at a number of campuses, including StanfordLoyola and Berkeley. The past year has seen a record number of 15 universities adopt resolutions demanding divestiture of college funds from Israel.