A recent article in The Bottom Line (May 2, 2017) titled “Why UCSB Should Support Divestment” began by falsely stating: “Recently universities across the nation have begun to divest from Israel.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. No university in America has divested from Israel. In reality, academic and economic cooperation between U.S. universities and Israel is closer than ever.
For this reason and many more, UCSB’s student government should not support divestment. We must first reject the false assertion that other universities have divested. They haven’t. The vast majority of divestment resolutions brought up at universities have failed. Even those resolutions that have passed, usually after wearing the Jewish community down after repeated assaults, last for only that senate’s year.
The sentiment in a senate changes from year to year and does not bind future student governments. For example, had BDS been brought up at UCLA again this year or next, it would have likely been defeated. Just because it passed once years ago doesn’t mean that UCLA supports BDS. The UC Regents have already stated that boycotting Israel is discriminatory and they will not divest — period.
Next, the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement is anti-Semitic. The Anti-Defamation League — the authoritative voice on anti-Semitic activity and one that the article cited — stated that BDS is designed to undermine Israel’s existence. Saying that the Jewish state does not have a right to exist is anti-Semitic, and the Jewish community, both here at UCSB and worldwide, has overwhelmingly agreed with that assertion. It should be up to the Jewish community, and the Jewish community only, to define what anti-Semitism is on the UCSB campus.
We can judge the BDS movement’s intentions through quotes by the founder of the movement, Omar Barghouti. He believes that Israel “will be renamed Palestine,” ending the existence of the nation-state of the Jewish people. Advocating for the eradication of the Jewish state is anti-Semitic, against the two-state solution and supported by the BDS movement.
On the more nuanced scale of criticizing the isolation of Israel, which the article dismisses as “shifting focus,” this is an old anti-Semitic trope. BDS isolates the Jewish state, a unitary emblem of the Jewish people, and uses that isolation to economically strangle it. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-Semitic conspiracy document, did the same thing. It isolated the Jews and made them the face of global corruption.
The BDS movement does the same, pretending Israel is the global face of oppression, co-opting causes and arguing that taking down the Israeli regime is tantamount to fighting for global justice. It grants no other country such vitriolic treatment.
Just this week, Senator Bernie Sanders, who had incredibly harsh words for Israel in an interview with AJ+, signed a letter along with all 100 U.S. Senators, to the United Nations, demanding a cessation of isolating and condemning only Israel. He also went on to declare that he does not support the BDS movement.
You’ll often hear pro-BDS activists say that it is OK to criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic. This is absolutely true. Israelis are incredibly critical of Israel, and recent polls show that a stark majority are in favor of a two-state solution. However, the BDS movement goes far beyond that.
It is a campaign of de-legitimization, demonization and an abhorrent double standard employed against the only Jewish state. This makes it anti-Semitic. If I, as a Jewish student, have to stand at a wall and defend not just the country that my grandparents sought refuge in when they were exiled from Morocco for being Jewish but also my core identity as a Jew, then this movement is anti-Semitic.
If I have to look at the words “anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism” and feel attacked, silenced and marginalized, then this movement is anti-Semitic. Zionism is the right to self-determination for the Jewish people. That is all it is. If this movement is against the right to self-determination for only the Jewish people, then it is the opposite of progressive.
I can speak for a large majority of the Jewish community on campus and say that we stand for a two-state solution. We stand for fair and equitable treatment for the Palestinians. We stand for peace. BDS does not stand for peace. We do not stand for BDS.