“They’re not aggressive enough in fighting back. They allow these groups to run rampant,” said Marc Greendorfer.
By Joseph Wolkin, World Israel News
Marc Greendorfer and Ron Machol created the Zachor Legal Institute in 2015 to battle anti-Israel and anti-Semitic groups in the United States, mainly focusing on the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Zachor recently urged President Donald Trump’s administration to publish a list of organizations with ties to BDS. Most of the organizations collaborate with terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Greendorfer says.
The group is working with Elan Carr, the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, to expose these groups for illegally working with and being funded by known terrorist organizations.
It also combats anti-Semitism and the BDS movement on college campuses. Thanks to President Trump’s executive order adding a section to Title VI called “Combating Discrimination Against Jewish Students,” Greendorfer says Jewish students have more power to defend themselves.
Greendorfer, president of the Zachor Legal Institute, spoke with World Israel News.
Q: How was the Zachor Legal Institute created?
“I had zero interest in doing nonprofit work and activism. I’m an attorney focused on corporate mergers and acquisitions, securities and typical big firm stuff. I was in the San Francisco Bay Area and Ron Machol called me.
“We’ve been longtime friends for 30 years. He made Aliyah to Israel around 1993, and we’ve always kept in touch. He said he saw something going on in the Bay Area, where he’s from. It was dock workers refusing to unload an Israeli ship. It was part of some organized boycott movement, and he asked how is that legal? I said I have no idea. I started looking into it and said something is going on here.
“This led me to researching the background of BDS and how existing federal laws apply to it. I knew there were federal anti-boycott laws that apply to anti-Israel boycotts. I saw this was not just a couple of guys saying they don’t like Israel. It was actually a very organized movement and a big threat. From there, we talked about expanding from this isolated incident to BDS in the world generally”
Q: What have you learned about the BDS movement in the last five or so years that shows its illegality?
“The first thing that jumped out at me — as a lawyer, language is very important — is the text of the existing anti-boycott law and the arguments legal groups supporting BDS were making. They said the law simply didn’t apply. I realized it’s a broad disinformation campaign. They start with lies about the existence of Israel, they claim there is no Jewish claim to the land of Israel and things like that.
“Once we started to dig into who is behind BDS and what they do to be so effective in spreading the message, we found there are ties between the organizing committee of the Palestinian group that formed it and designated terror groups like Hamas, PFLP and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It turned out to be a front for their campaign against Israel and to delegitimize it. Legal groups were simply lying, and terror groups were behind it.
Q: What is the biggest takeaway from the list of pro-BDS organizations?
“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in mid-November asked Elan Carr, who is the special envoy to combat anti-Semitism in the State Department, to assemble the list. BDS supporters have said this is not an issue of anti-Semitism or discrimination. They say it’s an issue about politics because they find Zionism to be an abhorrent political position.
“We know that’s not what is going on. If they really cared about Palestinian rights, they would be doing something other than boycotting Israel. They would actually be agitating in the territories for equal rights, infrastructure and things like that.
“We had already assembled a similar list of BDS organizations about two years ago. We sent it to the Department of Justice with the request they investigate the terror ties of these BDS organizations for potential federal racketeer charges. We assembled a list of U.S. affiliates of BDS organizations, including weird groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, which is not only a Jewish group, but is clearly just another front for the terror groups.
“We have no idea what happened with the investigation. We had the basics Secretary of State Pompeo was asking for. We decided that since there are career people at the State Department who probably want to bury this stuff, we would make sure Special Envoy Carr had this information available. We added more organizations and more details and sent it.
“What will hopefully happen is Special Envoy Carr will publish the list. It will be part of an effort to get the State Department to boycott the boycotters, and then they won’t have anything to do with organizations that support the delegitimization of the right of Jews to their homeland.”
Q: Why is right now the perfect time to publicize this list?
“Who knows what is going to happen in the next week or two with the administration and with Biden or if Trump stays in office. Either way, we assume there’s going to be a fairly significant change in the administration. Given the ties that exist between Biden and Barack Obama, we assume the Obama administration policies will go back into effect. We’re very concerned the things Obama did will be continued.”
Q: What did President Obama do that you are concerned about?
“For example, there was a story that came out this week that an Obama admin knowingly funded an al-Qaeda affiliate. We know Obama was funding these groups. We’re worried that groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, which has a nice name with an unsavory agenda, will be brought into the Biden administration.
“You also have Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar who will probably demand funding for these radical groups. We want people to know these anti-Semitic organizations are anti-Semites. We’re concerned these groups will be funded and be used for reports.”
Q: Could publishing the list backfire and make people support those organizations even more?
“I never thought about that, but that’s a good point. In general, those who support these types of things will support them anyway. Publicizing their identity, it may on the fringe, have a negative effect. But I think the overall positive effect will outweigh it.”
Q: What do you think will happen with a likely Biden administration on this issue?
“I think Obama also said BDS is not helpful, but he ultimately supported those who support BDS. He supported a lot of the elements of the BDS platform for delegitimizing Israel. He essentially told Benjamin Netanyahu that he wasn’t welcome at the White House at one point. As much as Biden says he doesn’t support BDS, he is probably going to undo the things President Trump has done to combat it.
“Title VI was extended through an executive order to cover anti-Zionism and it’s being enforced by the Department of Education. This is something that can be undone, and I suspect those who support Biden will push him to reverse that definition under Title VI.
“I suspect there will be movement to undo the move of the embassy to Jerusalem in some way, to bolster Iran and undermine the peace deals being made. I can’t imagine why he’d do such a thing, but it seems to be the agenda. Hopefully, he distances himself enough from Obama that it doesn’t happen. Everything that’s been said and done to this point makes me believe it’s going to be a third term of Obama.”
Q: Do you see any optimistic signs from Biden’s appointees?
“So far, I haven’t seen anything. Everyone who he’s been naming to cabinet positions indicates he’s buying in to the progressive agenda. I’m going to be very happy if I am wrong.”
Q: How do you think the fight against BDS is going right now, especially on university campuses?
“The universities are a big program. BDS started in a large part as a commercial boycott with the Arab League. If a company like Pepsi or Coke did business with Israel, they couldn’t do business with the rest of the Arab world. That never had much of an effect. Anyone can look at the economy of Israel and see that it’s booming. The impact of commercial boycotts has been slim to none.
“Unfortunately, the academic-type of boycott means pro-Israel speakers aren’t allowed and there’s glorification of terror like what happened at San Francisco State and the Leila Khaled incident. It’s becoming a dominant narrative on university campuses, which will then have a generational effect. They intimidate everyone on campus from supporting Israel and speaking out against anti-Semitism. It’s taking over.
“We’re currently working with the Department of Education on an investigation at UCLA about what happened a year and a half ago. They hosted a Students for Justice in Palestine conference, where a number of Jewish and pro-Israel students were harassed and intimidated.
“This was never investigated before by the Department of Education because they said it wasn’t covered by Title VI. Title VI didn’t cover religious discrimination and now, it’s being included. These groups are now being scrutinized. If this continues, we have hope about the future of combating anti-Semitism on campus.”
Q: What’s been the hardest part about the fight against BDS and anti-Semitism?
“For me, personally, it really is a personal thing. My mother is a Holocaust survivor. To see what they’re doing straight from the playbook of World War II Nazism by demonizing Jews and marginalizing us to be attacked is very troubling. When I see so many organizations, including some religious ones, backing BDS and thinking is about civil rights, it’s scary and infuriating. You put the mantle of social justice and civil rights onto a movement, and most people buy into it. How do you fight that?”
Q: What can Jewish students do to stand up for themselves going forward?
“That’s something we’re working on right now. We believe that there’s a lack of a backbone in many pro-Israel and Jewish organizations. They’re not aggressive enough in fighting back. They allow these groups to run rampant. The students are afraid. There needs to be something that gives students something to defend themselves.
“Title VI is a great tool, and I don’t think a lot of people know it exists. We need to work with these and expand this executive order to assist these students better. Once they know they can rely on the Department of Education to protect them from this kind of harassment and intimidation, it will then trickle down into the campus environment.”