J Street U Vassar would like to formally announce their opposition to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) resolution pending at Vassar and reiterate its opposition to the wider BDS movement. We want to highlight that J Street U Vassar’s primary purpose isn’t to fight BDS, but to play a role in the larger fight to end the occupation of the West Bank and develop a two-state solution. Fighting BDS does neither of these things, but as the sole pro-Israel organization on campus, we intend to be an active participant in the dialogue surrounding the resolution. At the same time, this won’t be our sole focus for the semester, and we will continue to engage in projects to meet our goals as a pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-two states organization.
We believe that BDS is pat-on-the-back activism. It does more to make individuals feel better about themselves than it does to tangibly support the rights of the Palestinian people. By not specifically targeting the movements and parties that directly perpetuate the occupation, BDS is passive and doesn’t take courageous action on behalf of Palestinians. BDS is also dismissive of Israelis who are pro-Palestine, anti-racism and pro-human rights. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely complex and the reductive nature of BDS doesn’t account for this complexity. Therefore it isn’t an appropriate or effective strategy to end the occupation and the oppression of Palestinian people. Additionally, BDS is not the end-all solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is certainly not the only way to stand in solidarity with Palestinians.
We do not subscribe to the false dichotomy that to be against BDS is to be against Palestine or the Palestinian people. As an organization that is explicitly pro-Palestinian, we know that that is simply untrue. Since our founding in 2013, J Street U Vassar has demonstrated a commitment to human rights and to amplifying Palestinian narratives and perspectives. From hosting representatives from the American Task Force on Palestine, to frequently condemning Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, to fundraising for Palestinian NGOs, J Street U Vassar has provided the campus community with opportunities to engage in dialogue across differences and actively fight against the continued occupation of Palestinian lives and lands. We believe in the Palestinian right to self-determination and intend to continue to work towards empowering the Palestinian people.
Just as we stand with the Palestinian national cause, so too do we believe that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state. For us, being pro-Israel means advocating for policies that promote the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security. While we don’t support every action or policy put forth by the Israeli government, we do support the country’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state alongside a Palestinian state.
This is the very reason we exist—to fulfill our obligation to fight for a two-state solution. As a national organization with over 100 chapters in campuses across the country, we are working within their own communities to dismantle the settlement enterprise. J Street knows that the American Jewish establishment holds power in dictating Israeli governmental policy, and has been working to direct that power towards ending occupation and oppression. Right now, many of these establishments financially support settlements, and J Street actively tries to change that. In order to succeed, we need your support in lifting up student voices that are pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian and pro-peace.
Finally, we want to clarify that J Street U Vassar does not exist in opposition to Students for Justice in Palestine and/or Jewish Voice for Peace. Throughout our time at Vassar, we have consistently tried to collaborate and engage with these organizations based on our shared anti-occupation values, but it has been to no avail. Not only is this disheartening, but it is also an impediment to ending the occupation of the West Bank. If our pro-Palestinian organizations worked together, we would be much closer to achieving Palestinian statehood. As Vassar students, we should be taking active, meaningful steps towards achieving peace. BDS inhibits activism rather than fostering positive discourse and effective action towards ending the occupation of the West Bank.