Over the past month I have advocated, both in my capacity as a staff writer for The Miscellany News and as a member of the Vassar community, against the proposed BDS resolution and related amendment currently before the VSA council. In doing so I have put friendships, my reputation and any future serving in student government at risk. The divisiveness of this issue has already had a significant negative impact on the community at large because of its uncanny ability to lower the state of discourse. This will be my final call to reject BDS.
Firstly, I would like to call upon everyone involved to refrain from the kind of ad hominem attacks that have plagued the debate thus far. Those in support of BDS especially need to realize that dismissing an argument as “racist” or “Zionist” does not close discussion. These terms have lost all meaning at this point. They’ve become buzzwords that are used because they appeal to certain groups of people to whom the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) want to appeal. I am a liberal Zionist who stands opposed to BDS. If you think that makes me a racist, then it speaks volumes more about you than it does about me. Dismissing those who disagree with you as racist makes you no different than Republicans in the 1950s who labeled all liberals communists.
Secondly, I want to educate people on the meaning of Zionism. There are many on this campus who desperately need to be informed on what exactly a Zionist is. At its most basic form, a Zionist is someone who believes that, a) a Jewish state should exist and, b) it should exist in Israel. It does not preclude the possible existence of a Palestinian state in addition to an Israeli state. Although not every Zionist is a Jew and not every Jew is a Zionist, Zionism is tied to Judaism.
When people condemn all of Zionism, they believe that they can separate it from the Jewish faith, but the fact is that for the majority of people, Zionism is tied to Judaism. I have previously cited this as a cause of the antisemitic incidents that occurred at Vassar.
Thirdly, as I said in a previous article, the BDS movement will hurt Palestinians. On Monday, The Times of Israel reported that SodaStream has officially laid off all their Palestinian workers as a result of pressure from the BDS movement. SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) have yet to provide an adequate response to my last article that detailed the lack of Palestinian involvement in BDS or the economic impacts on Palestine.
Moreover, BDS will hurt the Jewish community. The movement has gone hand-in-hand with antisemitism throughout the country, especially at the UC schools. At the University of California at Santa Barbara, following anti-Israel protests, fliers blaming Jews for Sept. 11 were distributed on campus. At the University of California at Santa Cruz, a member of SJP shouted at a Jewish student wearing a yarmulke that “Hitler was right.” At the University of California at Davis, in retaliation for its support for Israel, a swastika was drawn on the wall of a Jewish fraternity. At that same school, Jewish students who voted against divestment received hate mail and threats. At the University of California at Irvine, SJP members made signs that said, “Death to Zionists.” At the University of California at Berkeley, graffiti has been found saying that “Zionists should be sent to the gas chambers.”
Outside the UC schools, at Northwestern, an institution that passed BDS, there were antisemitic incidents, such as swastikas drawn on buildings on the campus. Similar incidents occurred at Northeastern, a school that also considered the BDS resolution (it ultimately did not pass there).
And the most ironic part of all of this is that the very reason Israel exists is provide a place for Jews to feel safe from the antisemitism that has become prominent at the colleges and universities that pass BDS.
BDS does not make sense as policy. It will positively affect absolutely no one on campus while negatively affecting the entire Jewish community.
BDS does not make sense as a movement. It will positively affect no one in Palestine while hurting the Palestinian economy.
So why should the Vassar Student Association be voting in favor or something doesn’t improve the lives of any of their constituents, won’t help the cause for peace and, if anything, will hurt the very people it’s trying to help?
SJP is known nationwide as a deeply antisemitic organization; their actions from the UC schools to Northeastern, where they were banned for, among other things, disrupting a Holocaust Remembrance Day event. And yet when the Northeastern chapter was banned, the Vassar chapter not only declined to condemn their actions but jumped to their defense, eventually getting them reinstated.
And SJP is the main advocate of BDS. So, based on their actions, why shouldn’t the Jewish community be afraid? Why shouldn’t I believe that if BDS passes, what happened at the UC schools and at Northeastern won’t happen here? How have any of the pro-Palestine groups on campus gone out of their way to condemn antisemitism from other pro-Palestinian activists? What action has SJP taken that should alleviate my concerns regarding the effect of BDS on the Jewish community? Why should I for even one second believe that at Vassar things will be different when so far they haven’t been?
The reason that Jewish parents are afraid to send their students to Vassar isn’t because they’re conservative, it’s because they’ve seen what effect movements like this have at similar college campuses throughout the country, and they’re afraid that something like that can happen at Vassar. Frankly, so am I.
If you believe that Palestine has been wronged and that it deserves a state, that’s perfectly fine. In fact, I’m inclined to agree with you. But BDS isn’t going to help Palestine, it’s not going to help the Vassar community and it’s going to have a lasting negative impact on Jews at this school. So when it goes to referendum, which I suspect it inevitably will, I urge everyone reading to please vote against it. And this Sunday, I urge every member of the VSA council to vote no.