SJP ignores nuances of BDS resolution

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.

25 Comments

  1. The falsehoods of the Northeastern incident. An expose of half-truths by Mr. Horwitz
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    “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.”
    .
    If you read Mr Horwitz statement you’d think something catastrophic happenned. Well here’s a Boston Globe description of the “disruption”
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    https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/03/28/crossed-lines-protest-and-free-speech-northeastern/PrRFtt0WUHCiZoBEcDGtDI/story.html
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    “The “vandalizing” involved putting stickers on Northeastern property. The “event disruption” refers to a walk-out SJP staged last June during a presentation by Israeli soldiers. This is how my colleague, Yvonne Abraham, described it: “At the start of the event, 35 students stood, small signs taped to their shirts. One member called the soldiers war criminals. One or two chanted slogans. They were gone in a minute.””
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    . The Globe and others called out the administration for kowtowing to pro Israeli pressure
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    “Harvey Silverglate, a civil liberties attorney in Boston, co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and supporter of Israel, believes the students had a right to do what they did.

    “The ‘eviction notices’ were obviously not meant to be taken as real eviction notices; they were political statements,” said Silverglate. “Any college student who could not see this should go back to high school, because he or she is not ready for higher education.””
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    That’s right folks, read the Boston Globes description of the event and compare that with the boogie man scenario that Mr. Horwitz portrays and ask yourself, How truthful has Mr Horwitz been in his submissions ?

    • Leave it to “Raj”, the anonymous troll haunting the Misc comment boards, to justify a disruption of a Holocaust memorial by SJP “activists”. He is truly a despicable and cowardly person. Moreover, I wonder how “Raj” would feel if those eviction notices were targeted at Muslim students or students of color instead of Jews?

      • Oh Michael, the Boston Globe (to which i pasted a link) pointed out the smear tactics of pro Israeli shills like you. Sunlight is a good disinfectant.
        .
        ” I wonder how “Raj” would feel if those eviction notices were targeted at Muslim students or students of color instead of Jews?” —— They do that everyday in Palestine. And isn’t your role ,and that of the other “wealthy” alumni , to cover it up.
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        Also the activism of the current board shows how such colored voices were disenfranchised during your time. Take a deep breath Michael, the world has changed. Most college students, including Jewish kids, openly recognize Israeli apartheid. Deal with it.

    • SJP is an organization that has used brown shirt tactics on several campuses. It is important to keep in mind that SJP was co-founded by UC Berkeley professor Hatem Bazian. This is a man who came to the US from the West Bank to get his college education and publicly called for an intifada in the US. He also reportedly told a college audience to count the names of Jews on university buildings.

  2. Thank you Jesse for your courage in standing up to the mob mentality at Vassar in favor of BDS. Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism always go hand in hand and the incidents you describe at other campuses are the inevitable result of students being constantly exposed to ancient hatred directed against Jews, now thinly disguised as opposition to Israel. Given all the horrors occurring throughout the world, including Muslims slaughtering other Muslims on a daily basis, the only possible explanation for SJP’s obsession with the State of Israel is SJP’s desire to finish the job that Hutler started by destroying the Jewish homeland and all its Jewish inhabitants. SJP is like the states justifying voter ID laws on the grounds that they will prevent voter fraud. Everyone knows these laws are transparent attempts to suppress minority’ votes, just like everyone knows SJP’s true intentions.

    Megan Tallmer
    Class of 1973

  3. Bravo Jesse Horowitz. You are a great example of someone who stands up for what he believes in. Additionally, you are correct. Students like you make me proud to be a Vassar alumnus.

  4. You are an awesome voice of reason and honesty in the discourse about BDS and the SJP at Vassar. As a Vassar alum, I have been very concerned about the level of antisemitism that has been allowed to develop at the college. The ignorance and prejudice inherent in the BDS movement and throughout SJP needs to be stopped. Free speech is a wonderful thing. Hate speech is the abysmal reach of bullies. It has no place in the Vassar community where it will have disruptive and disturbing effects on the Jewish students at the college.
    So, thank you for your brilliantly, well thought out article, “SJP ignores nuances of BDS resolution.”

  5. Bravo on a most lucid, well-argued, and heartfelt op-ed. You deserve to be congratulated for cogently summarizing exactly what many others feel — current students, alums, parents, interested others.

  6. Thank you Jesse Horowitz for being a voice of truth and reason. Sad to say, it takes bravery these days to declare yourself a Zionist at Vassar and to challenge the demonization of Israel that so many misinformed or willfully ignorant faculty and students spout. Please keep speaking up!

  7. Jesse, thank you for your eloquent and accurate definition of Zionism and defense of Israel. Two recent news stories reported in the NY Times will easily point out the irony if not hypocrisy of the BDS and SJP movements and their actions on campus. Israel and all Zionists have been accused of being “Islamophoibc” and “pink washing”. Yet two days ago a decorated Hamas commander was executed for being gay. Today an article reported how an Iranian Muslim, who was persecuted for being gay, sought and received asylum in Israel. So can anyone at Vassar who is willing to condemn and boycott the entire state of Israel *where more than 50% want a two-state solution) tell me why they don’t turn their attention and condemn the the many other countries in middle east and specifically Hamas (an avowed terrorist organization that still has not recognized Israel’s right to exist) for countless Human rights violations.

  8. Thank you for writing this and engaging with why BDS doesn’t achieve its stated goals or help the people the movement claims to be supporting.

  9. Jesse, I am one of many alums, Jewish and Gentile, who support you and those like you on Vassar’s campus. Keep speaking out against hate!

    Matthew Moshen
    Great Neck, NY

  10. Jesse Horowitz has written an excellent article. However, he does not go far enough. BDS is about imagining the Jews of Israel to be the quintessence of what is evil in this world, so evil that they need to be overcome. In his monumental work, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, the great historian David Nirenberg shows that the Jews and Judaism of the imagination – conceptualized as a pure evil – have served, since ancient times, as a lens through which all too many people understand the world. Overcoming that terrible evil – the fuel that makes antisemitism burn – has traditionally been an obsession.

    Ask yourself why, with all the world’s truly terrible problems, Vassar students see the need to vote on taking a stand against the Jewish state. In fact, the pro-BDS campaign at Vassar is really no different from hundreds and hundreds of other anti-Jewish vilification campaigns that have plagued history, as documented by Professor Nirenberg. Surely, students at a renowned institution such as Vassar ought to know better. History, unfortunately, suggests something else. The temptation to act in order to overcome the evil Jews of the imagination is nearly always confused with taking an enlightened stand. Don’t be fooled. It is the opposite of an enlightened stand.

  11. Thank you, Jesse, for your courageous letter. At a time when the vitriol is at a fever pitch, your letter highlighting just how counterproductive BDS is to the cause it purports to support is especially welcome. As an alumnus – and Zionist – I’m gratified to see Vassar students pursuing social justice, including criticisms of Israel when warranted. But at least from a distance, it seems the almost exclusive focus on Israel undermines the credibility of Vassar’s activism. Your dose of sanity is greatly appreciated.

    Andy Fano ’87

  12. Thank you, Jesse. Thank you for standing up and showing the Vassar community that it is possible to be pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, and liberal, while also being critical of Israel’s policies.

    Unfortunately, it has been left to you to pave the way on campus, not only for your professors, but also for the Vassar administration, including President Catharine Bond Hill, and the Board of Trustees. With the exception of a few professors struggling to find their voices on a hostile campus, they haven’t stood up and admitted in public that Professor Jasbir Puar’s talk was anti-Semitic drivel and condemned it as unacceptable hate speech.

    I have been waiting two years for a group of anti-BDS faculty members to write an open letter to the Vassar community condemning the letter of March 1, 2014 signed by 39 Vassar faculty members (http://miscellanynews.org/2014/03/01/opinions/open-letter-in-defense-of-academic-freedom-in-palestineisrael-and-in-the-united-states/). The pro-BDS professors spoke of a “chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas and opinions” that would result from Hill’s decision to condemn the American Studies Association’s pro-BDS resolution. (Hill’s decision to speak out against the boycott came only after many other college presidents had already spoken out against it.) I have heard that some faculty members who signed the letter regret their decision to sign. How many signed under duress, fearful they’d be marginalized by their colleagues if they didn’t?

    It’s time for a large group of anti-BDS faculty at Vassar to organize, take back the campus, and stand up to a powerful group of pro-BDS, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Semitic faculty that has silenced and intimidated them. If Cappy cannot openly support such a group and stand with them, she should resign.
    Karen M. Rappaport ’78

  13. Mr. Horowitz doesn’t offer any alternative to BDS. He seems to be saying, “Don’t do anything to try to bring pressure on Israel to end the occupation. Just trust that Israel will do the right thing, as much as it can; and hope for the best.” That seems incredibly naive. Does he really believe that Israel will ever give up the West Bank, without international pressure? Or, if he recognizes that pressure, by opponents of the occupation, may be appropriate, then what form of pressure does he recommend? BDS is non-violent pressure. Yes, it’s bad PR for Israel, and for Zionism; but, that’s because, the occupation is itself bad PR for Israel and for Zionism; and, BDS shines a spotlight on it. So, if he has any alternative, non-violent means of pressure, to recommend; I’m sure we would all be interested to consider it. Otherwise, his righteous indignation has no significance.

  14. Jessie, thank you for your courage and your insightful critique of the hostile environment being created by the BDS movement and the futility of the BDS resolution as proposed to the VSA.

    Vassar should be an environment in which dialogue and respect are always welcome. Thank you for being a beacon of light for the hundreds of alumni following this situation. Please let us know how we can support you.

  15. Joshua Larkin: The BDS movement does not simply oppose the Occupation. The leaders and many of its followers see getting rid of the Occupation as the first step toward getting rid of Israel. They believe that Tel Aviv is located in Occupied Palestine, not within the Green Line in Israel. In addition, without elaborating on the history since 1948, Israelis feel that their many efforts to make peace over the years have failed. I find Netanyahu’s policies on the West Bank abhorrent, too. I put the blame for his re-election on many factors, including the BDS movement. Israelis reacted to the growing isolation of Israel at the voting booth. The leaders of the BDS movement must have been so happy when Netanyahu was able to form a government and become prime minister again. They need him badly, because they are not on the side of peace.

    Half the answer to your question about the alternative to BDS is to help Israelis feel secure about electing political parties and leaders interested in working for peace. That means not demonizing them. The solution is much more difficult to achieve on the other side. Many Palestinians apparently want to make peace but fear retaliation from extremists if they speak up.

    • The above is a perfect example of the “Boogie Man” letter. When all else fails (smears, lies, “anti-semitism”,”victimhood”) start spewing baloney about BDS.
      .
      Joshua Larkin poses a valid point.
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      “Mr. Horowitz doesn’t offer any alternative to BDS. He seems to be saying, “Don’t do anything to try to bring pressure on Israel to end the occupation. Just trust that Israel will do the right thing, as much as it can; and hope for the best.” ”
      .
      Just like Mr Horowitz, who i documented above for his total falsehood regarding his post, Ms Rappaport delves straight into the smears. Oh BDS this and BDS that !!!
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      That’s rich Ms Rappaport. The entitled “wealthy” alumni have never criticized Israeli settlements, which has nothing to do with Israel “feeling safe” but rather engaged in a total smear campaign. Which is why they are the laughing stock of current day Vassar students.
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      Israel today has some of the most vile and racist demonstration but you wouldn’t hear of it from Ms Rappaport.
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      Israel today has leaders and even a foreign minister (Mr Benett) who openly talks of segregation and apartheid. But you wouldn’t hear of it from Ms Rappaport.
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      Israel today keeps expanding settlements despite UN and world pleas to stop. But you wouldn’t hear of it from Ms Rappaport.
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      And yet Ms Rappaport wants us to take her claims about BDS seriously.

  16. “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. ”
    .
    Hello Kettle.
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    Mr Horowitz has been spending the last few weeks invoking one smear after another. My own Boston Globe link proves the utter falsehoods of his claims. And yet he, along with the other “wealthy victims” continue to go at it.
    .
    I the past year or more, they haven’t been able to prove a single incident of the culture of fear they claim. What does that tell you ? Their tactics have miserably failed.
    .
    Its time for the “wealthy victims” to realize that social media has given coloreds a voice that they did not have when these “wealthy victims” ran the show. And the coloreds have used that to expose the truth about Israeli apartheid.

  17. Excellent article. Thank you for your courageous voice for what is right! The BDS has no place at Vassar or any other academic institution. Vassar must take a stand and stop allowing the hateful rhetoric to continue. No more racist speakers. Now is the time. No more BDS.

  18. I am an adjunct teacher at UC Irvine, which was mentioned in this article. Since 2007, I have been following the anti-Israel events on campus and speakers who have been brought to campus by the Muslim Student Union and SJP. Many of the speakers have crossed the line from legitimate criticism of Israel to statements that attack Jews as a people.

    In 2001, an Imam from Washington DC named Mohamed al Asi said on our campus, “You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the Jew”. An Oakland imam named Amir Abdel Malik Ali has often spoken at UCI, as well as other UC campuses. He has made numerous anti-Semitic remarks. If you Google him, you will clearly see what kind of demogogue this is.

    I was present at UCI when the Israeli ambassador to the US spoke and was disrupted repeatedly.

    I am not Jewish, but I can tell you that this constant anti-Israel/BDS campaign on our campuses has at its heart anti-Semitism. We have a serious problem within the UC system, and it has led to an atmosphere of tension for Jewish students whenever these events occur. Our administration at each campus has refused to accept the truth. That is why the UC Regents are currently considering a statement of principles on intolerance that will specifically address anti-Semitism on our campuses. I am involved in this issue and will continue to be involved because I am old enough to know my history and where anti-Semitism always leads.

    Jesse, I applaud you for what you are doing at Vassar. We are watching Vassar and its disgraceful incidents. The worst -ism on college campuses across the nation is anti-Semitism, and universities refuse to acknowledge it.

    Gary Fouse
    adj teacher
    UCI- Extension

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