Letter: With clenched teeth, voting to boycott the occupation

I am tired of this wretched debate.

I am tired of hearing so much about how Israel is a liberal democracy and so little about the four million Palestinians living under military occupation.

I am tired of hearing so much about how the Palestinians have a right to fight for justice and so little about why that often looks like Palestinian terrorists butchering Jewish children and Palestinian politicians rejecting peace offers.

But I am also tired of being used. For me, being pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian is not a slogan that Hillel International or the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs can rely on me trotting out to defeat divestment. Yes, sometimes BDS is hate, but that is no excuse for supposedly pro-Israel groups to block every substantive attempt at undoing the Israeli occupation.

“A clash between right claims can be resolved in one of two manners,” Amos Oz has said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “There’s the Shakespeare tradition of resolving a tragedy with the stage hewed with dead bodies and justice of sorts prevails. But there is also the Chekhov tradition. In the conclusion of the tragedy by Chekhov, everyone is disappointed, disillusioned, embittered, heartbroken, but alive. And my colleagues and I have been working, trying … not to find the sentimental happy ending, a brotherly love, a sudden honeymoon to the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy, but a Chekhovian ending, which means clenched teeth compromise.”

Setting the ideologies aside, voting either way in this week’s AMS referendum forces us to make a heartbreaking compromise between two absolutes. The referendum’s sponsors want to add our school to the list of supporters for the toxic BDS movement’s unproductive and unjust demand of an Arab state in Israel. But the referendum’s language simply calls for boycotting “companies that support Israeli war crimes, illegal occupation and the oppression of Palestinians.” Rejecting this referendum gives undue credence to the notion that protecting the Jewish state means equating a boycott of the occupation with a boycott of Israel.

I, along with many Jewish Zionists, including Peter Beinart and prominent Israelis like Oz, Gershom Gorenberg, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, firmly reject BDS but support boycotting the Israeli occupation. I would prefer a broader resolution that recognized the two-state solution and also targeted companies supporting Lebanon, Jordan and Syria’s oppression of their Palestinian residents. But, as Oz said, waiting for perfection dooms Israelis and Palestinians to endless conflict. As a Jewish UBC student this is fundamentally a question about where I want my tuition going; Palestinian solidarity activists aren’t the only ones who want a boycott of companies enabling and profiting from the Israeli occupation.

With clenched teeth, I am voting yes.

Arno Rosenfeld is a third-year political science major and former Ubyssey features and opinion editor.