In May 2013, a group of students dressed in black gathered in the Arbor. Their mouths were duct taped, and at their sides they carried signs reading, “Stop silencing me, A.S.” The origin of their distress? A resolution to divest from companies involved with the Israeli military being voted down for the second week in a row. Did it matter that this group spent over 40 hours, spread over five weeks, preaching to the A.S. Senate? Did it matter that every senator extended invitations to the proponents of the resolution to continue the discussion during office hours? Not to this group. Unless the resolution was passed, they would always view themselves as being silenced.
This notion is exemplary of a larger mentality spreading throughout the UC system, and propagated on a global level by Boycott Divestment and Sanctions. BDS is an organization founded in 2005 for the purpose of economically crippling the state of Israel, to force political action and delegitimize the Israeli people. BDS was founded on a simple principle: If one can win over the sympathy of western academics, the odds begin to stack in the favor of one side of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The only question was, how does one win unilateral support for the Palestinian people without drawing attention to the fact that this is a two-sided conflict? The answer was simple: Dominate the conversation and reject dialogue.
The BDS founders quickly realized that by rejecting any attempts for cooperation they can keep the conversation flowing in only one direction. They realized that by only debating the situation in the Palestinian territories, there would be no room to step back and address the entire situation. On this campus, often times did the pro-Israel students of UCSB offer to work with the BDS proponents to create change that addressed the entire campus’s needs. And often times, they have been responded to with the same statement: “How can you suggest dialogue when Palestinians are dying?”
Let’s put aside the fact that Palestinian terror organizations launch an average of two missiles a day into Israeli civilian cities, as well as the fact that almost every governing body in the world has agreed this war is truly a two-sided conflict. Instead I must ask, since when has rejecting dialogue been a viable tool for creating change? Throughout the UC system, BDS proponents are so violently pushing their arguments, and so abrasively shutting down any attempt for cooperative dialogue, that on campuses such as Berkeley and Irvine, these methods are actually working.
We, however, are fortunate that our A.S. Senate took a step back and examined the argument objectively. Ultimately, they came to a shared decision that any progress on this issue should only come from a place that incorporates both sides of the conflict. Or in other words, dialogue. So leaders of the community went ahead and talked. We talked about what it means to engage in socially responsible investments, what it means to balance the conflicting needs of two communities and what it means to work together through our differences in the name of a higher moral calling.
What did we create? We created a new movement to push the UC system towards a more moral investment plan. We created an ad hoc tasked with creating viable systems for engaging only in socially responsible investments. We created a timeline for the UC Regents to follow through, and we created a task force to spread this plan throughout the UC system.
By working together and acknowledging that we may not be able to immediately solve a conflict that even the most seasoned of diplomats have been unable to crack, we instead created a system that frees us from these conflicts without taking a stance on them. Furthermore, this new system forces the UC Regents to truly begin investing our money in organizations we actually agree to engage with. All of this could have been achieved years ago, if dialogue had been an option for BDS.
Guy Singer is a second-year biopsychology major.