Earlier this week, fifty NYU student groups voted to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, refuse to co-sponsor any events with pro-Israel campus groups, and pressure the premier academic institution to divest any holdings from companies that do business with Israel. No such group or movement voiced any concerns about Syrian President Assad’s chemical gas attacks on civilians and children in his own country or state-sponsored terrorism by many of Israel’s neighboring countries or campaigns to obliterate Israel out of existence that are regularly mounted in Palestinian school textbooks, imam sermons, and government declarations within the West Bank and Gaza. In fact, this same week also marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we commemorated the savage annihilation of six million Jews and millions of Catholics, Gypsies and others, while most countries of the world sat silently and took no actions to intervene or help. So what should our reaction now be to these organized local BDS efforts to debilitate Israel’s legitimacy as the only democracy--albeit imperfect--in the Middle East region?
According to a 2013 report by the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a lead sponsor of the BDS campaign at NYU, “consistently co-sponsors rallies to oppose Israeli military policy that are marked by signs and slogans comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, demonizing Jews and voicing support for groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. JVP has never condemned or sought to distance itself from these messages. Indeed, JVP’s Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson recently gave an interview to American Free Press, a conspiracy-oriented anti-Semitic newspaper.”
For a Jewish student organization that preaches peace and coexistence, an appropriate outlook would be to recognize the merits and shortcomings of both the Israeli and Palestinian ideologies, rather than slandering against Israel unconditionally and furthering the partisan divide over the conflict.
Along with the rejectionist group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), JVP portrays an exclusively one-sided narrative to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The groups and primary sponsors of the student-group-endorsement of BDS solely present the ideologies of Palestinians while ignoring and propagating fallacies regarding Israelis and Israeli society. With the pressing issue of the ongoing protests in Gaza for a so-called right of return for Palestinians, JVP wrote falsely on their website that the protests were peaceful in nature and refused to acknowledge that the protests were largely orchestrated by known terrorists from radical Jihadist groups including al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and of course, Hamas, a days-old example representative of the practices used in anti-Israel advocacy by JVP.
JVP and SJP student affiliates at NYU seek to promote BDS with their anti-Israel contentions distorted and lopsided. No effort was made on the part of the activists to grasp or explain a pro-Israel perspective, a necessary task if any meaningful two-state and peaceful resolution is to be viable. In their pledge, they repeatedly condemn Israel, blatantly overlooking the immense and glaring flaws with the Palestinian nationalist movement. This is particularly disconcerting considering the intended audience of the pledge: the larger NYU student and faculty body. They hope to sway and mobilize the larger student populace in sympathy with the Palestinian cause, altogether disregarding the Israeli history and context. It’s a shameful tactic not aimed to promote discourse or foster constructive engagement, but promote a hostile political agenda in an aggressive and targeted manner.
And to dispel any lingering doubt about the implications of the pledge, I remind you that BDS is by no means a peaceful movement. Founder of BDS Omar Barghouti has repeatedly condemned the two-state solution for a viable Israel and Palestine in coexistence, and countless other prominent leaders have endorsed the eradication of the Jewish state in favor of the displacement of the millions of Jewish people residing in Israel. The movement from inception has excused violence through economic boycotts, with the intention of crippling Israel and undermining the concept of a Jewish homeland.
While BDS leaders and NYU activists and even NYU professors draw absurd comparisons between Israel and the former South African apartheid regime, pandering to the passionate emotional and rightful moral opposition of students to the suffering endured by black and minority South Africans at the time, such logic is entirely inapplicable to the State of Israel. Israel is the sole democratic state in the Middle East and contrary to the opinions of student leaders on campus, is in fact not a genocidal regime mass-murdering Muslims and raiding West Bank villages. 1.7 million of Israel’s 8.5 million citizens are Arabs, notwithstanding the Druze, Bedouins, the sizable Christian population, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Israel enjoying full and irrevocable integration in Israeli society. There are Arab Members of Knesset (Israeli Parliament), voting and shaping the nation’s democracy, in addition to Arab members of the Israeli Supreme Court.
And having BDS implemented in the ways outlined—promoting an academic and economic boycott and total dissociation and refusal to interact with pro-Israel groups on campus—will only further the marginalization of pro-Israel students at NYU and the abhorrent blurring and legitimization of anti-Semitic sentiments. All in all, a deplorable effort.