BDS vital step toward colonial resistance

We, the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) af­filiate at Vassar College, support vot­ing yes on both of the BDS referenda that will come before the student body on April 26 through 28. We consider it our responsibility as American Jews both to voice our opposition to crimes committed by the Israeli government in our name, and to take productive action to stop these crimes and end our economic support of them.

In 2005, well over 100 Palestinian organi­zations representing the broadest cross-sec­tion of Palestinian civil society called for non-violent resistance to colonialism in the form of boycotts of, divestment from and sanctions against the Israeli government and its supporters. We feel compelled to respond to and amplify this call.

The Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Resolution and Amendment call on Vassar College and student organizations to divest from and boycott several companies that fund and/or contribute to violence and oppression in Israel/Palestine. If this legis­lation passes, orgs will be prohibited from using VSA monies to purchase items from Ahava, for example, because the company produces cosmetics in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

These settlements, along with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and annexation of East Jerusalem, are all illegal under inter­national law (UN Resolution 478). No part of either the resolution or the amendment at­tempts to control who can or cannot come to campus to speak, nor do they concern VSA allocation of funds to Vassar student orga­nizations.

As a response to the Palestinian call for BDS, the proposed legislation would remain in place until the State of Israel meets the de­mands enumerated within the BDS call and respects Palestinians’ basic human rights. According to the call, economic pressures are to remain in place until Israel:

  1. Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the Apartheid Wall that separates Jews and non-Jews in the West Bank,
  2. Recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality and
  3. Respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The BDS Movement targets companies and institutions complicit in colonial vio­lence in Israel/Palestine. Contrary to pop­ular claims, it does not target solely Jew­ish-owned companies, nor does it target all Israeli companies.

We believe that attempts to construe the BDS movement as antisemitic exploit the ex­istence of historic antisemitism, in our com­munity and elsewhere, in order to support a political agenda. As Jewish activists working in solidarity with Palestinian civil society, we seek to ensure that antisemitism plays no role in our organizing and rhetoric, and to combat any instances of it where it may arise.

The BDS Movement combats anti-Arab racism inherent in Israel’s ongoing coloni­zation of Arab lands. At Vassar, we see how some administrators and faculty privilege particular conversations about antisemitism while simultaneously turning face from real, immediate instances of other forms of op­pression, particularly anti-Black racism and transphobia.

We hold an understanding of antisemi­tism that does not take an apocalyptic view of Jewish history and that does not occlude critical reflection on pressing, imminent is­sues in our community. Rather we acknowl­edge legacies of oppression and resistance in Jewish history and see them as sites from which our solidarities grow.

BDS is not only ethical, it is effective. With support from both Palestinian and Israeli politicians and activists, the BDS Movement provides a growing threat against Israel’s discriminatory policies and racist violence. This rising pressure from abroad has shifted conversation significantly with­in Israel and though Israel and the United States are beginning to attempt to stifle and outlaw the BDS movement, we believe that its continued growth will make possible real and substantive policy changes both interna­tionally and within Israel/Palestine. Vassar has a chance now to join the movement that will eventually lead to true peace and justice in the region.

Given that the BDS Movement seeks to challenge colonialism, that it is not antise­mitic and that it is a grassroots, non-violent movement which affirms the right of the colonized to direct their own liberation, we firmly support BDS at Vassar and beyond.

JVP meets on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. There is no hierarchy and all students, regardless of identity, are welcome. And join us on Wednesday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. to learn more and make matzo pizza!

2 Comments

  1. “We hold an understanding of antisemi­tism that does not take an apocalyptic view of Jewish history and that does not occlude critical reflection on pressing, imminent is­sues in our community. Rather we acknowl­edge legacies of oppression and resistance in Jewish history and see them as sites from which our solidarities grow.”

    You’re the good Jews, I take it.

    Paragraphs like these are what makes JVP offensive. The vast majority of Jews, including pro-Israel Jews, neither hold an “apocalyptic view of Jewish history” (even though Jews experienced the apocalypse between 1939 and 1945) and do not avoid critical reflection on the issues facing the Jewish community.

    Actually, I don’t think that you do acknowledge the legacies of oppression and resistance in Jewish history. They’re absent from the your materials that provide a history of the conflict, which contain a rather sizable gap between the years 1939 and 1945. If you did acknowledge those legacies, you might draw, in addition to a lesson about solidarity, a concurrent lesson about not relying on the good graces of hegemonic groups in society to ensure your security.

    It’s not solidarity when you subsume your identity and individuality, and collude to downplay legitimate concerns about both antisemitism in the BDS movement and the security of Jews worldwide in order to participate in some false fashionable intersectionality that requires you to advocate for everybody else before yourself. That’s not solidarity. That’s self-abnegation. There’s a difference, and it won’t be bridged by making matzah pizza.

    “BDS is not only ethical, it is effective. With support from both Palestinian and Israeli politicians and activists”

    It is neither. It’s not ethical because the idea of prioritizing this conflict over everything else in the world is not only curious, but recreates the same structural imbalances that leads to this conflict being prioritized over every issue on the world stage. It’s also not effective. It’s counterproductive. Israel doesn’t suffer economically because of BDS, and the notion of a boycott of Israel, which prays upon the fears of the world’s largest Jewish population and also the country with the largest population of Holocaust survivors, pushes the Israeli electorate further to the right. It also doesn’t help the Palestinians, who need incentives to negotiate, rather than an excuse not to talk to the Israelis, with which BDS, which is mostly a Western movement regardless of its pretensions to represent the Palestinians, furnishes them by telling them not only that they should pursue their case on an international stage that is unlikely to provide a better life for them but that should also refuse to talk to the Israelis and that the Palestinian Authority is wrong for doing so.

    “As a response to the Palestinian call for BDS, the proposed legislation would remain in place until the State of Israel meets the de­mands enumerated within the BDS call and respects Palestinians’ basic human rights. According to the call, economic pressures are to remain in place until Israel:

    Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the Apartheid Wall that separates Jews and non-Jews in the West Bank,
    Recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality and
    Respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

    These terms are extremely vague. What is “Arab land?” What steps can Israel take to comply with its Article 51 obligation under the UN Charter to defend its citizens? Arab-Palestinian citizens in Israel have more equality than virtually any minority group in the Middle East. Have you called for a boycott of India for its failure to accord full equality to Dalits? How about Pakistan, for its treatment of the Ahmaddiya minority? Iran, for its treatment of the Bahai? Saudi Arabia for its treatment of Shia Muslims? The United States for its treatment of African-Americans? Why is it only Israel that you wish to boycott? Why only the Jewish state, and never the Muslim or Christian ones?

    And what is this right of return? Will Sudeten Germany be returning to the Czech Republic? How about Iraqi Christians to Iraq? Can you not understand why Israeli see the invocation of UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY resolution 194, which is non-binding, and recognizes a right to return only for those willing to LIVE IN PEACE, is seen by Israelis as a way of replacing the Jewish state with another Muslim state?

    “Contrary to pop­ular claims, it does not target solely Jew­ish-owned companies”

    There are many companies that sell products in the West Bank. You chose to target a company with two Jewish founders. That was your choice. Can you list for me Arab-owned companies that the BDS movement has targeted?

    “We believe that attempts to construe the BDS movement as antisemitic exploit the ex­istence of historic antisemitism, in our com­munity and elsewhere, in order to support a political agenda. ”

    Whereas your attempt to belittle claims of antisemitism has nothing to do with any political agenda, right?

    “As Jewish activists working in solidarity with Palestinian civil society, we seek to ensure that antisemitism plays no role in our organizing and rhetoric, and to combat any instances of it where it may arise.”

    BS. Just total BS. This week, someone put a swastika on the door of a student. You didn’t issue a condemnation. And frankly, since JVP regularly contributes to Mondoweiss, a website that blames Jews for starting the Iraq War, claims that there are too many Jewish billionaires and that they use their money to the detriment of other Americans, blamed Jews for being dually loyal, and has even advocated outlawing circumcision, your claim to fight antisemitism in the BDS movement has zero credibility. Your movement is a magnet for every fringe antisemite there is, and it’s a magnet for anti-Jewish white supremacists, who take advantage of the use of Zionist as a euphemism for Jew to spread their poison. I’ve seen no condemnation of this by BDS proponents. I’m not sure they even recognize it.

    “Given that the BDS Movement seeks to challenge colonialism, that it is not antise­mitic and that it is a grassroots, non-violent movement which affirms the right of the colonized to direct their own liberation, we firmly support BDS at Vassar and beyond.”

    Believe it or not, sanctimoniousness doesn’t save you from bigotry. You can claim to challenge colonialism (you don’t seem to do it in the United States, where it’s a fait accompli) and still be an antisemite. You can be a grassroots, non-violent activist (and BDS is neither) and still be an antisemite.

    BDS is definitely not non-violent. Non-violence means that you advocate non-violence as the approach for Palestinians to take, as King advocated it for African-Americans, and Gandhi advocated it for Indians. It’s not a buzzword that you use while refusing to condemn Palestinian terrorism because it’s “not your place” and by selling paraphernalia that features gun-toting Palestinian terrorists. That’s not non-violence. That’s supporting a violent campaign from the comfort of the West.

  2. wake up. JVP is anoher Hamas backed initiative to spew hate and try to poison the waters in the usa for the benefit of islamic extremists. They have no legitimae purpose or inention to help anyone. All they care aoutbis hurting the Jews.

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