As many of you know, I tend to take a pragmatic approach to dealing with BDS related issues as they come up. Which is why it’s worth revisiting the two big divestment stories that reared their head before the latest blow-up in Gaza.
First, you had the story of the University of California Student Assembly (UCSA) surprising virtually every student they claim to represent by passing a resolution that seemed to be a goodie bag of BDS talking points packaged as a protest against a recent piece of non-binding California legislation.
Given the bait-and-switch nature of the resolution, it was no surprise to learn that the only campus group allowed into discussions of the matter was Students for Justice in Palestine or SJP (with the meeting to decide the issue somehow falling on the Jewish holidays, ensuring no one would interfere with one of the most underhanded processes I’ve seen in almost a decade of dealing with BDS underhandedness).
And on the heels of that student vote, another surprise arose within the University of California system when the Student Senate at UC Irvine passed a divestment vote similar to the one shot down at Berkeley two years earlier. And, once again, SJP was there, video cameras in hand to record the “historic event,” which apparently was not so historic that anyone else on campus needed to be informed that it was being discussed, much less voted on, until the story had become a fait accomplis.
Starting with Irvine, while the usual BDS talking heads declared this was an “important step on the way to full divestment,” (one going so far as to declare the vote requires the campus to divest) campus administrators made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with the BDS propaganda program, even if SJP types had managed to corrupt student government to get their way this year. And so this vote, like the long forgotten student divestment vote at Wayne State in 2003 and the just-about-forgotten 2011 student vote at U Mass Boston, stand as testament to how impotent student government makes itself when it decides to ignore those they are supposed to represent in order to strike a pose demanded of them by a war movement like SJP.
In fact, given the unsurprising blow-back over yet another student council voting in one-sided pronouncements on international affairs, pronouncements they have absolutely no mandate to make (something the boycotters themselves understand, which is why they did everything in their power to ensure such a vote took place in secret), it is now the student government at UC Irvine which faces a tarnishing of reputation, not Israel or its supporters. For how seriously does the administration of a university (or anyone else) have to take such a group when student leaders voluntarily detach themselves from their only genuine source of authority: the claim to represent student opinion?
So might the Irvine vote end up just another impotent pose struck by a student group that will be forced to backtrack once they realize the consequences of their irresponsible action? And, if so, what might that backtracking look like?
Well it might resemble what’s been going on at UCSA over the last few weeks once they realized that the first time most people had ever heard of their group was in the context of discovering how UCSA foolishly allowed themselves to be manipulated into passing a resolution loaded with language that hundreds of thousands of UC students demonstrated time and time again that they loath.
For starters, they tell us (in a statement that was forwarded to me) that “We want to clarify that UCSA has not endorsed BDS,” repeating this sentiment by declaring that “We regret that the language implies that UCSA endorses the BDS campaign, however, we assure you that this is not the case.”
It’s also good to know that “Similar to our constituency, UCLA’s UCSA Board Members also represent diverse, conflicting opinions on this issue. We recognize that it is not our responsibility to endorse divisive campaigns without consulting the students that we are charged with representing” (although it might have been better for them to take that sentiment to heart before taking a vote that seemingly provides such endorsement). Similarly, their statements that unwittingly including SJP in their discussions and excluding Jewish voices “undermines the democratic process,” is welcome, even if it begs the next question of what they are going to do next to rectify the damage their thoughtlessness has caused.
While I don’t expect the boycotters currently blanketing US campuses declaring “The UCs agree with us that Israel is an Apartheid state which means you should divest too!” to change their song in light of any changes UCSA or Irvine make to their policies in the coming months (given that they are still trying to pass off their original Hampshire divestment hoax as genuine), both stories provide yet another example of what student governments can expect if they let the smiling manipulators of SJP in through the door.
Getting back to pragmatism, the reason both UC stories went off the front burner was, of course, Israel’s decision that it would no longer live with hundreds of rockets fired indiscriminately at its towns and people. And, like night follows day, groups like SJP (which remained somnambulant when those missiles all but guaranteed the recent war) suddenly found their voice and “Marched for Peace,” once bullets were firing in more than one direction.
As is generally the case, BDS battles (like all anti-Israel activism) is 100,000% more correlated with events on the ground in the Middle East, vs. success and failure at this college campus or that church or food co-op. So if we see an uptick in student council votes and other forms of protests for the rest of the academic year, that’s because it provides people waving photos of bloody Palestinian babies something to do (other than explain why so many of those images are actually victims of Hamas or Syrian terror which SJP naturally ignores at all cost).
Fortunately, SJP et al have also provided we supporters of Israel with new ammunition to prevent them from dragging the Middle East conflict into yet another civic organization: their own behavior. This behavior includes remaining mum while Hamas missiles flew, but not up shutting once they were being countered (demonstrating BDSer to be nothing more war partisans masquerading as a peace activists). And the lame attempts at manipulation used during this year’s Gaza crisis demonstrate the boycotters to be not just cynical, but to hold in contempt everyone they are trying to recruit as allies who they perceive as suckers and fools.
Let’s hope their assessment of the public continues to be proven wrong.