Institutions of higher learning need dialogue and discussion, honest intellectual discourse, and open-minded problem solving. What they don’t need is BDS.
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement currently attempting to work its way onto campuses throughout the country marks a regressive leap in the journey for peace in the Middle East. Veiling its ultimate goal for the destruction of the State of Israel, BDS hides behind the façade of an initiative in pursuit of Palestinian rights. The premises it presupposes make negotiation and peace impossible. The false classification of Israel as an apartheid state is discriminatory extremism, which has no place in any university’s learning environment.
The primary danger of BDS on campus is that the movement lacks honesty, removing the potential for educated conversation. It advocates campus extremism based on bedrock of lies. The origin of BDS stems from a fallacious attempt to equate Israel with apartheid South Africa. It calls for consumer, academic, and cultural Israeli boycotts rendering the following on-campus problems.
On a superficial level, boycotting Israeli products is impractical and unrealistic. Israeli contributions to society include cellphones, voicemail, AIM, SMS, Microsoft Windows OS, Microsoft Windows 7, Xbox 360, and Intel laptops to name just a few. Not only do these products fundamentally shape our lifestyle, they are indispensable to the way college students nationwide conduct our learning. Forget that consumer boycotts are ineffective and in no way further the peace process, realistically they just will never happen.
Columbia University President Lee Bollinger said it best. Academic boycotts are “utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment. In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars, [a boycott] threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas.”
Boycotts are divisive. Blaming a single party accomplishes no further goal. It promotes inflexibility, precludes peace, and fails to consider additional factors behind the ultimate problem. If those behind BDS truly shared university ideals of education and progress, they would proportionately target every nation convicted of injustice toward Palestinians. Not the only democracy in the Middle East, where Arabs vote, are represented in parliament, sit on the Supreme Court, serve in the Cabinet, and own a disproportionately high amount of property.
The outlandish apartheid analogy masks the movement’s ultimate goal: the delegitimization of Israel. Although the movement claims impartiality in the one vs. two state argument, even BDS supporter and staunch anti-Israel advocate Professor Norman Finkelstein refuses to deny the blatancy of that pretense.
“We have to be honest, and I loathe the disingenuousness. They [BDS Movement] don’t want Israel. They think they’re being very clever, they call it their three tier – we want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they’re very clever because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know, what’s the result? There’s no Israel… there’s no Israel, full stop…”
If stopping violations of international and human rights law is the BDS movement’s primary concern, then why aren’t they advocating against Ahmadinejad’s Iran, Bashir’s Sudan, Hamas’ Gaza, Lebanon, Turkey, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Cuba? If the activists care about Arab oppression then why don’t they target Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Yemen? Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Gaza, Syria and Lebanon each boast various levels of Palestinian oppression, from denying them basic human rights to openly expelling them. But here the BDS movement is deafeningly silent. Curiously absent is the protesting of any of these governments, making BDS’ ulterior motive all the more obvious. They want to delegitimize the state of Israel, and we need to delegitimize their blatant lies.
As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman explains, “Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest.”
When faced with the inflammatory rhetoric, misinformation, and outright discrimination of the BDS movement, I implore you to see past the distractions and instead seek solutions to Middle Eastern struggle. Strive to understand the intricacies embedded in this multifaceted plight, instead of accepting outright refusal to compromise and one-sided blame. Invest in democracy and coexistence. Reject the BDS movement in support of dialogue, progress and peace.
Photo Credit: dignidadrebelde