What is scaring them? Well, let Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada tell you:
The largest Palestinian civil society coalition has called for a boycott of the Muslim Leadership Initiative and other projects that bring international delegations to Palestine “in a manner that is complicit with Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.”We've discussed the Muslim Leadership Initiative recently. It sponsors a small number of professional American Muslims to go to Israel to take classes and trips under the auspices of the Shalom Hartman Institute.
The Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC) said in a statement today that the Muslim Leadership Initiative “is part of a broader spectrum of political tours” that are “designed to normalize and build acceptance to Israeli policies of oppression against Palestinians.”
Let's read how its Muslim organizer answers critics:
The main organizer of the trip, Abdullah Antepli, denied the charges in an interview with Ma'an on the final day of his trip, stressing that the "program is primarily about Muslim-Jewish relations in the United States" and that participants do not have any "delusions" about trying to "solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."The BDSers are hysterically claiming that the Shalom Hartman Institute is a far right wing Islamophobic organization, the Muslims who go on the trip are being brainwashed and being used as pawns for Israeli propaganda, that this is a Trojan horse and "faithwashing."
"I am having a hard time understanding why this small amount of Muslim participation could lead to all this hoohaa and shenanigans," he told Ma'an during a telephone interview.
"This is about learning," Antepli told Ma'an, adding: "My religion says even if knowledge is all the way in China, go and learn it."
Not understanding religious Zionism, in his opinion, hindered US Muslim leaders' attempts to reach out to Jewish counterparts.
Coming to Israel and learning about Zionism "doesn't mean I agree with their policies, nor does it jeopardize my loyalty to my Palestinian brothers and sisters," he told Ma'an.
Noting that the Shalom Hartman Institute runs similar institutes -- using almost the exact same syllabus -- for American rabbis and Christian clerics, Antepli said: "The whole idea that Shalom Hartman Institute is a deceptive Zionist organization inviting gullible Muslims and turning them into propaganda machines is ridiculous. It was my idea. I approached the leadership of the institute after being involved (with them) for three years and studying with them."
"These are people who believe there can be a different kind of relationship between American Muslims and the American Jewish community," he told Ma'an, "and receiving an education from a credible, recognized, reputable Jewish Israeli organization can be utilized in improving or allowing a different kind of conversations within the American Jewish community within America."
So what is really bothering the BDS Movement about MLI? Here is what they say:
The MLI comes at a time when a strong multi-faith alliance in the United States of broad-based organizations such as American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Friends of Sabeel North America, as well as several influential groups in the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, among others, are working in harmony, in diverse but interconnected struggles from Ferguson to Palestine. ...In short, the MLI is a BDS bashing project that seeks Palestinian fig leaves to hide its dishonest agenda. The BNC strongly condemns the MLI and calls all people of conscience to boycott it.
Reading slightly between the lines, and you can see the source of their panic.
BDS has spent years trying to convince the world that they are the only authentic voice of the Palestinian Arabs. They always say that they are backed by "Palestinian civil society," a phrase that upon examination is really a group of self-appointed leaders of often tiny organizations who represent no one.
But the entire legitimacy of BDS rests on the lie that is has a monopoly on the opinions of Muslims and Palestinians - a lie that sympathetic leftists are quite happy to believe as they sign on to their own boycott initiatives.
If well-spoken Western Muslims - Muslims who care about Palestinians, who want to see real peace - publicly disagree with the BDSers about their ban on talking to Israelis, it proves that BDS does not have the monopoly on how Muslims think.
So even a tiny number of Muslims who are willing to speak out for themselves are a major threat to BDS' underpinnings of claiming to speak for them.
I showed a video last time of an MLI member demolishing the obnoxious BDS interviewer on the Temple Mount. The BDSer is infantilizing Palestinians, claiming that they all think the exact same way, and the MLI participant calmly tells him that he is completely wrong.
Here is another small clip from Al Jazeera where the MLI participant comes across as sane while the BDSers are foaming at the mouth (video repeats twice for some reason):
Another participant in MLI is a former mayor of Teaneck, NJ, which has a large Jewish population. he clearly knows a thing or two about how interfaith dialogue is supposed to work. And he is denouncing the BDSers who are frantically trying to paint him as being brainwashed or Zionist or whatever.
The MLI participants are intelligent, independent, free-thinking and brave. These are all attributes that BDSers hate Muslims to have, because they want all Muslims to blindly follow their demands.
That's why BDS is panicked over MLI. And it shows how tenuous the BDS movement's foundations are when they lash out so fiercely at a program that has had only a few dozen participants.