Apologies to my reader for not getting out the latest news from California yesterday. With the wife out of town, I’m managing the schedule of two elementary-school kids which, in America today, involves the same level of logistic effort once required to move a Roman legion from The Rhine to Macedonia. (I also have to admit to reticence regarding moving my autographed valentine to Bill Goldberg down one story on the blog.)
But news marches on! And with regard to California where two BDS votes were taken at two University of California campuses on Wednesday night… What’s the phrase I’m looking for? It was right at the tip of my tongue… Oh yes! Now I remember: BDS LOSES AGAIN!
This time it was a double header. Yet again, the boycott brigade dragged the Student Senate (or ASUC) at UC Berkeley through another marathon session (attended by 200 people and mercifully running until just 4 AM this time) to make one last attempt to get the veto of the Berkeley divestment resolution overturned. And despite all efforts and pressures and letters and e-mails and appeals by the BDS demi-Gods of Tutu, Chomsky and Klein (Klein?), student leaders refused to reject the veto. And so divestment remains the official position of no one at the University of California at Berkeley.
Meanwhile, at UC San Diego, a divestment resolution similar to the one at Berkeley was proposed. And by “similar,” I mean “copied from,” or to be more exact, copied and then modified in hopes that it could slip through the UCSD student government by avoiding some of the pitfalls of the Berkeley document (by making the new resolution slightly less hysterical in its accusations against Israel and slightly less hypocritical regarding claims to being neutral in the Arab-Israeli dispute).
That said, the basic framework piloted at Berkeley were there in the San Diego resolution, including language that claimed the document was simply a human rights resolution that just so happened to use Israel as an example of everything it was condemning. But, unlike Berkeley where students had some time to respond to the BDSers, at San Diego the entire issue came up so quickly that pro-Israel students had just three days to get their act together.
But get their act together they did. And having learned about the Berkeley situation through this newfangled Internet thingy, they understood what was really going on and let their student leaders know that spewing venom at the Jewish state, regardless of how such venom has been temporarily sugarcoated by Students for Justice in Palestine types (who were given the driver’s seat in drafting the legislation), was not on.
Once again, at another UC, student leaders were treated to a display of just how poisonous it is to drag the Arab-Israeli dispute onto campus. And at San Diego, those leaders decided to avoid getting onto the merry-go-round Berkeley was in the process of getting off, refusing to pass the divestment resolution and, instead, throwing it into a committee for further review.
It remains to be seen if what comes out of that committee is as ugly as what went in, or if there emerges a consensus human rights resolution that does not single out any one country (guess who). It’s possible that nothing will emerge from this entire exercise (the divestment bill in my old hometown of Somerville, for example, has remained “on file” since 2004 and has never been discussed since).
But bottom line is that it looks like BDS is entering its second decade with a perfect record unsullied by a single victory.
To add one more layer of perspective, remember that the resolutions at Berkeley or San Diego would not lead to any actual divestment. The college and university administrators responsible for those decisions have made it clear for close to ten years that divestment from Israel was not on their agenda. And after the BDS fiasco at Hampshire earlier this year, those administrators now understand that even giving divestment advocates the time of day is fraught with peril.
These were not even votes like the ones that took place at the Mainline Protestant churches five years ago that overturned real plans for actual divestment. They were simply attempts to get student governments to strike poses regarding totally toothless divestment resolutions that would lead to no real action. And still they lost. Twice. In the same night.
Needless to say, the ether was filled with the usual bombast that “This was just the beginning!” “By losing, we really won!” and “Divestment can’t be stopped now!” blah, blah, blah. But I think the defining moment for this chapter of the BDS saga would have to have been the closing minutes of the Berkeley meeting where – as predictable as the cycles of the moon – the BDSers threw a tantrum when they didn’t get their way.
I still savor the moment in 2004 when the Somerville BDS crew watched in shock as their divestment bill was defeated unanimously and then proceeded to storm the Alderman’s podium, break into a rousing off-key chorus of the African National Congress fight song before being ejected from chambers.
At Berkeley, after having made their presentations endlessly for weeks on end, after dozens of news stories, hundreds of blog entries, thousands of e-mails and millions of Tweets, they decided to demonstrate that the ASUC vote against their pet project was an example of – wait for it – them being “silenced” (illustrated by the BDSers covering their own mouths with tape and marching out of the room).
For the sake of sanity and harmony at Berkeley, let’s hope that tape remains on at least through the end of the semester.