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BDS Opponents Launch “Campus Maccabees” to Fight Divestment Efforts

Jewish billionaires have established a new campus organization to blunt the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel (center). (Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Aarondollinger)

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David Brog, the executive director of Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI), was recently named to head Campus Maccabees, an organization aiming to take on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement on campuses around the United States. The newly launched entity, funded by two billionaires – gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, and Haim Saban, an Israeli and American entertainment mogul – intends to blunt BDS gains. In all likelihood, the Brog-led group will try to use a highly divisive “for us or against us” approach and try to create a narrative that conflates any opposition to Israeli government policies with anti-Semitism.

It will be interesting to see if Brog, who has spent the past decade courting Christian support for Israel, actively encourages Christian students to participate in Campus Maccabees activities. Another of Brog’s tasks might be to keep the controversial and incendiary Pastor John Hagee as far away from Campus Maccabees as possible.

Earlier this July, the BDS movement marked its 10th anniversary. Critics tend to dismiss the movement and minimize its successes. BDS supporters see it as a nonviolent movement that has engaged activists from around the world.

Nevertheless, however one views BDS, it has obviously been successful enough to grab the attention of Adelson and Saban who, in Las Vegas in June, launched Campus Maccabees. The organization is “expected to be the best funded pro-Israel organization on campus, with initial funding reaching $50 million,” the Forward’s Nathan Guttman recently reported.

Bruce Wilson, a writer and researcher who focuses on exposing the anti-Jewish and anti-Judaic underpinnings of Christian Zionism, said Campus Maccabees’ ties to CUFI will likely affect its approach. “David Brog is a very accomplished public relations expert whose longtime association with John Hagee and CUFI leads me to wonder if the Campus Maccabees will truly represent the interests of all Israelis or mainly one particular Israeli political tendency closely allied with Hagee, Likud under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu,” Wilson told Truthout in an email.

Since CUFI’s founding in 2006, Brog, who is Jewish, has been its executive director. He is expected to leave his CUFI post. There are reports, however, that he will continue to serve on CUFI’s executive board.

Before going to CUFI, Brog was a congressional aide to the late Jewish Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter.

“Under [Brog’s] leadership, the San Antonio, Texas-based CUFI has grown to become a major player, describing itself as America’s largest pro-Israel organization,” the Forward reported.

While helping grow the organization, Brog became especially adept at explaining Christian apocalyptic end times prophesies to Jewish leaders, while at the same time maintaining that Christian Zionist support for Israel has nothing to do with proselytizing Jews.

He also took on the task of defusing Pastor Hagee-initiated controversies, a task similar to the one that Ralph Reed used to perform for Rev. Pat Robertson when he was executive director of the Christian Coalition.

Hagee, who heads up a multimillion-dollar, multimedia enterprise, and presides over the San Antonio, Texas-based Cornerstone Church, broke into the news cycle in a big way in 2008, when after a long courtship by Sen. John McCain’s campaign, he agreed to endorse the GOP’s standard-bearer. The honeymoon didn’t last long. Bruce Wilson surfaced a Hagee tape during which he claimed that God sent Hitler to hunt the Jews so they would go to Palestine. All heck broke loose, and McCain was forced to deep-six the pastor.

In response to the US Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision, Hagee, not one to mince words, said the court “has made America the new Sodom and Gomorrah.” He added, “God will have to judge America or is going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Hagee has also been an outspoken critic of President Obama, openly campaigning against his re-election in 2012; he called Hurricane Katrina punishment for New Orleans’ embrace of gay people, has openly lashed out against Catholicism and Islam, has continuously advocated against an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution, and has relentlessly lobbied for taking a much more muscular approach to dealing with Iran.

Brog’s objective, according to the Forward, “will be to shape the organization’s structure as a funding arm for existing and new pro-Israel campus initiatives.” At the founding conference, “[t]he ideas presented … were no more than a general outline which highlighted the need to coordinate campus activity and to provide massive funding infusions to groups deemed effective by the key donors: Adelson, Saban and Israeli-American businessman Adam Milstein.

“Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who played a key role in organizing the kickoff and who is credited with coming up with the organization’s name, will not hold an official position in the Campus Maccabees organization, according to a Jewish official involved with the group,” the Forward reported.

Jay Michaelson, a contributing editor to the Forward, recently wrote that it might turn out that Campus Maccabees will “be a boon for the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions movement.” That’s because Adelson, Saban and company “have so drunk their own Kool-Aid that they don’t see how alienating it is to any reasonable American college student in 2015.”

“We’re now due for $50 million worth of one-sided Israeli propaganda that pretends Israel does nothing wrong, ‘demonizes the demonizers’ (in [Adelson’s] words), and seeks to divide college students into two groups: For Us and Against Us,” Michaelson wrote.

Brog and Hagee have repeatedly branded critics of specific Israeli government policies as anti-Semitic, Wilson pointed out, adding that in this case it may be a tactic that is likely to backfire.

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