The folks at the Daily Bruin (UCLA’s student newspaper) recently published the map you see above that is supposed to track the success (in green) and failure (in red) of BDS initiatives within student governments.
Now I could pick a few nits with their diagram. For instance, the student government at Arizona State University rejected a divestment bill this spring (although the green box seems to be referring to something that did pass in 2012 – which brings up the question of why such a “victory” needed to be voted on again).
And speaking of repeat votes, the way data is presented in the diagram masks the fact that divestment votes have been brought up every year since 2010 at most of the UC campuses – which makes one wonder why we should take any “Yes” votes more seriously than the BDSers took the multiple “No” votes they were handed previously (and continue to be handed throughout most of the UC system).
If I were making recommendations to the infographic designer who put this particular map together, I might also suggest a new color (bright scarlet perhaps) for a box pointing to Hampshire College that would reflect the faces of the local Students for Justice in Palestine group when their divestment “victory” in 2009 was exposed as a hoax.
And then there’s that Wayne State green box that dates all the way back to 2003, which makes you wonder why other ancient divestment stories – like anti-divestment students at Harvard and MIT out-petitioning their pro-divestment opponents by 10:1 didn’t warrant a box of its own.
Let’s focus on that 2003 Wayne State box for a moment since this is a vote that gets brought up frequently by BDSers when they list the victories that are supposed to illustrate their staggering momentum. But given that this vote was taken more than a decade ago, it’s worth asking why no one but the boycotters even remember an event which seems to have had no lasting impact (given that – even according to the chart we’re discussing – it took close to a decade before student governments even took up the matter on any other campus).
In fact, this whole issue of “momentum” begs the question of how much of that valuable commodity a political movement can claim when after close to a decade and a half of non-stop effort, all they can show for themselves is fewer than ten divestment votes by student governments that absolutely no one takes the least bit seriously: not college administrators, not the media, not even the students in whose name the student legislators voting for these measures claim to speak.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: student government votes such as these (whether for or against) mean absolutely nothing unless (1) they will lead to action by the people who actually make investment decisions on behalf of a college or university (i.e., the grownups who run those joints); or (2) it can be plausibly claimed that such votes reflect the consensus opinion of a campus’ student body.
But as we have seen in each and every instance when the BDSers have managed to ram their votes through a student government body, college administrators have no problem immediately saying that they have no intention of ever acting on the boycotters’ impotent demands. And one of the reasons it’s so easy for them to dismiss the voice of these student governing bodies is that these administrators – like everyone else – knows that such votes are not happening because they represent campus opinion. Rather, they are happening because a small group of fanatics insist that they take place in order to give them the opportunity to spew venom for hour after hour before a captive audience trapped in Nuremberg-style all-nighters.
Now some have made the very reasonable argument that belching this much toxin into the bloodstream of a university carries the risk that a certain percentage of uninformed students might succumb to its effects. But such jackbooted behavior also carries the risk of creating an antidote in the form of better informed and better organized pro-Israel students ready to fight back and a broader student body disgusted by the hijacking of student governments that are supposed to be working on their behalf.
I recall this phenomenon back in 2012 when a BDS conference at the University of Pennsylvania that was supposed to have left pro-Israel activists quaking in their boots instead united the campus – Jew and non-Jew – behind a rejection of the boycotter’s filth and lies. And I recall it from 2004 when BDexcess in my former home of Somerville helped turn that city into a Zionist stronghold, and turn me into their permanent enemy.
Absent the BDSers ability to ignore or pretend that defeat is just victory in disguise, coupled with their willingness to bellow at the top of their lungs that we must all treat their trivial wins as a sign of imminent triumph, a map that shows nine wins and ten losses within a country containing thousands of colleges and universities would be treated for what it was: a joke which would be a lot funnier if it was not at so many innocent people’s expense.