Back in high school, I recall a Model United Nations in which the only committee whose members weren’t stoned for the entire week roused up enough energy and creativity to cast a unanimous vote in favor of the UN starting its own Space Fleet.
That memory (which I may have tossed into a previous piece on the subject of BDS) came to mind as I learned that the University of California Student Assembly (UCSA) just passed a series of resolutions calling for the university system to divest from every place on the planet they don’t like, starting with Israel, moving through Russia, Egypt, Brazil, Mexico and Sri Lanka, finally ending with the United States.
So how did we get to the point where a student organization that almost no one has ever heard of (much less voted for), an organization with no mandate to vote on international affairs, whose members have little more than undergraduate-level expertise about any of the countries they’ve just condemned, feels it’s perfectly appropriate to declare nations (including their own) so loathsome that the school system they attend should break all financial ties to them?
When we BDS-watchers last encountered UCSA, they had just passed a pro-BDS resolution masquerading as a pro-free-speech resolution on the Sabbath before Rosh Hashanah, a move that earned them praise and warm kissed from Students for Justice in Palestine (which had pretty much dictated to them the wording of their measure) and scorn and ridicule from everyone else, including the students this group claims to represent.
In theory, this experience (as well as the many bruising BDS fights that have roiled student governments within the University of California system for over half a decade) should have taught student representatives to respect the opinions of those who voted them into office. Unfortunately, the only lesson put into practice over these last 5-6 years was learned by SJP, that lesson being if you want to get your political opinion to come out of someone else’s mouth, make sure that you and your allies are the ones casting most of the (stacked) committee votes.
So after seeing their divestment resolutions voted down again and again in school after school, the Israel-dislikers put time and energy into getting their own people elected to office, making sure to not let voters know that their primary agenda item once elected would be to vote “Yes” for resolutions that were voted down time and time again by previous student Senators. And given the low voter turnout and limited campus interest in what student government does or says, Students for Justice in Palestine is now claiming that the dominos are falling their way.
But what do these votes really mean? After all, the presumption behind the BDS obsession with higher education is that since colleges were hotbeds of anti-Apartheid activism in the 1980s, if the boycotters can turn them into hotbeds of anti-Israel activism in the 2010s then their formula of “Israel = Apartheid” will be proven true. (This is the same logic behind the argument “All dogs are animals. All cats are animals. Therefore, all dogs are cats.”)
If political disputes were settled by logic alone, the fact that the BDS case for their campus activism is founded on a textbook fallacy would end the dispute. But SJP, like its predecessors and eventual successors, are not in the logic or argument business. They are in the “do anything necessary to give the illusion that our hatred of Israel reflects the belief system of more than just us” business. And, as we have seen over the last few months, SJP’s “anything goes” mentality has done more to expose their fanaticism than anything Israel and its allies could achieve (even with the zillion-dollar budgets we receive from Mossad and the Elders of Zion bank on the moon).
One need only look at campuses where the SJP types feel in the ascendant to see political ids running wild. At UC Davis, a divestment vote was followed by the painting of swastikas on the wall of the school’s Jewish fraternity. This was after the group winning the vote began chanting “Allah Akbar!”, with one student senator squealing in a now-deleted Facebook post that “Hamas has taken over UC Davis!” (a phrase I suspect never appeared on her campaign literature).
This type of lunacy is just the escalation of what we have seen at other schools where the boycotters think they can get away with anything, including punching students who challenge them, surrounding political opponents in an attempt to intimidate, and that old campus standby of shouting down any speaker their opponents manage to bring onto campus. Historically, this atrocious behavior was limited to a few small schools located in places where the wider community shared their anti-Israel views (notably Hampshire College in Massachusetts and Evergreen College in Washington). But with these recent “wins,” the boycotters seem ready to bring their mayhem to much larger communities.
To understand why the BDSers overplay their hand time and time again, making their behavior the story vs. their preferred claims of political momentum, you need to keep in mind that:
- Attempts to drag student government into their squalid project is actually a boobie prize that is meant to substitute for the fact that college administrators and investment managers no longer take their calls and are ready to announce before a BDS vote is even taken that they have no intention to take such egregiously manufactured “mandates” the least bit seriously.
- Anti-Israel activism always ratchets up whenever there is a war in the region, like the one Hamas started last summer. And given the total disinterest across the entire BDS multiverse in stopping Hamas from launching the next war they are preparing for as you read this, it’s pretty clear that SJP et al can’t wait for more Palestinians to die so that they can march and scream and shove photos of bloody babies into everyone’s faces (even if some of those photos were taken in Syria).
- And speaking of Syria, the other reason why divestment advocates have been so shrill in recent years is that their chants have to drown out the screams of hundreds of thousands of people dying across the Middle East at the hands of those who hate Israel just as much as the boycotters do.
As ever, Israel’s defenders are stuck having to do what they can, given that we are not likely to rev up a hate campaign against Muslims/Arabs/Palestinians to counter the one the BDSers have dedicated themselves to targeting Israelis/Jews. And as much as “turning the tables” might sound good on paper, our side – to its credit – is not ready to wreak havoc in our communities just so we can score points against political enemies.
But we are hardly without options, even during a period when our opponents are feeling especially aggressive.
For we have already seen how that aggression can become the story, turning BDS victory laps into apology sessions where the Israel haters have to answer questions about swastikas and punches and other rude or violent behavior, rather than getting people to pay attention to their manufactured “victories.” And just as SJP will never, under any circumstances, stop making accusations in order to answer questions posed by critics, so too we must talk only of those swastikas and punches and other appalling acts of rudeness and never mention this or that student vote, other than to put it into the context of SJP manipulativeness and misbehavior.
I was also happy to see Israel’s defenders walk out of recent votes, rather than stick around and pretend that a stacked Student Senate had any interest in what they had to say. But this refusal to play by someone else’s rules will only be effective if we can figure out ways to get the other side to play by ours. And while I’ve talked about what this could consist of in the past, I’d like to revisit our options over the next couple of weeks – in anticipation of those events I mentioned recently (as well as to get my mind off the shoveling left to do).