As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, one BDS “win” that was a bit of a disappointment this academic year was the string of pro-divestment votes that successfully passed in student governments at various schools (notably some of the University of California campuses where divestment had been voted down previously).
One reason it’s been easy to not take these votes as seriously representing the voice of student opinion is the fact that the BDSers themselves never took the votes of previous student councils the least bit seriously when they were handed rejection year after year. And while I’m not sure if attempts to prosecute Jewish and pro-Israel voices are as big a factor as is general student apathy towards student politics, clearly these pro-BDS votes were the result of the boycotters getting themselves elected to Student Senates for the soul purpose of pushing ahead their anti-Israel agenda, the needs of the students they are supposed to represent be damned.
But even if we reject the boycotters’ claims that such “success” makes them an unstoppable juggernaut, the notion that student government has become the latest victim of infiltration with numerous progressive and minority groups allowing themselves to be coopted by anti-Israel partisans who care nothing for them beyond their usefulness, does pose a problem to Jewish and pro-Israel voices on campus.
Fortunately, those representing such voices have already started to take matters into their own hands in ways that do not require them to play at the BDSers’ game.
For instance, once it became clear that a stacked student government at UCLA only wanted to feign debate, pro-Israel students defiantly walked out of the meeting, leaving the boycotters with nothing but their own political ids as company.
And speaking of ids, what could possibly motivate the boycotters to start screaming “Allah Akbar” and announcing that Hamas now rules the UC system after a vote finally went their way beyond the need to wallow in their own fantasies of political potency? And, to their credit, pro-Israel student groups have done all they can to broadcast the BDSer’s misbehavior far and wide, demonstrating to all the true fanatical face of “the movement.”
I’ve written before about why it’s next to impossible to turn the tables on Israel’s political adversaries (by forcing votes condemning Hamas, the PLO/PA or Arab regimes for war crimes or murderous homophobia, for example) since (1) the Jewish community is not ready to launch and sustain a propaganda campaign against those we hope to eventually live in peace with; and (2) we are not ready to wreak havoc on civil society for our own political gain.
But nothing prevents us from engaging in the most aggressive campaigning possible that exposes groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (and their Jewish Voice for Peace allies) as a bunch of fanatical and hypocritical thugs, ready to shout down their opponents while simultaneously insisting that their own unending bellowing voices are the ones being silenced.
Is it fair to use the excesses of some SJP/JVP groups to besmirch those organizations as a whole? You bet it is, especially since the sole purpose of those groups is to smear the Jewish state with restricted “fact sampling” if not outright lies.
I was also pleased to learn that those opposed to the pro-BDS vote at UC Davis were able to successfully have that vote overturned by the judiciary branch of student government.
While this might seem at odds with my general uneasiness with the use of courts to settle BDS-related disputes, keep in mind that we’re talking student government here. And just as I was amazed that the University of California student government includes political parties that have been battling each other for decades, it boggles my limited imagination to know that some schools need a judiciary to put a brake on the excesses of student legislators run amok.
In this particular case, appealing to the UC Davis Student Judicial Panel also represents pro-Israel students making our opponents play by their own rulebook, a la Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. So if SJP thinks it can take over a Student Senate and twist it to their own purposes, why not force them to live by the rules of the student government they thought they had taken over?
All that said, there is much more than our side can do that does not require giving the Israel haters the role they crave of prosecutor, judge and jury over Israeli “war crimes.”
For instance, I’ve always wondered why Tamid investment clubs (or something similar) have not taken root on every campus where BDS is active. Such programs require no approval by outside authorities (as far as I know), provide a campus platform for cultivating interest in investment in Israel on campus, and – most importantly – can appeal to students involved with business, technology and entrepreneurship, three of the most popular majors on US campuses.
Engineering and environmental science are also way up there in terms of preferred majors of US undergraduates. And while inviting students to hear a talk about Israeli drip irrigation doesn’t do much to counter Israel Apartheid Week shrieking, forming and sustaining groups or clubs within Engineering, and Environmental Science departments (especially on campuses like Cornell with its important partnership with Technion) provides a means to bring more students into contact with genuine Israelis vs. the fantasy goblins that inhabit BDS demonology.
And while we are using our voices to expose the boycotters for the liars, hypocrites, bigots, fraudsters and bullies that they are, why not have a little fun at their expense? For even though satire did not play as big a role in bringing down the last centuries tyrannies as did tanks and planes, a show of public contempt for BDS measures on campuses could go a long way towards demonstrating how little anyone is ready to take the boycotter’s “triumphs” seriously.
If anyone is looking for an idea, I suspect most of the recently passed divestment resolutions could easily be worked into this printed format.