Op-ed: Vote no on Israel divestment

UBC’s branch of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) is currently campaigning to have the AMS include a BDS resolution against the State of Israel on the upcoming student government’s election ballot. If the campaign is successful, we cannot allow this referendum to pass.

The BDS movement, which stands for Boycott, Divest and Sanction, looks to punish Israel for its alleged "war crimes,” through economic means. They call for a boycott of Israeli products along with divestment from, and sanctions of, Israeli companies. In practice however, BDS spreads hatred and intolerance, especially on North American university campuses.

Ahmed Moor, a Palestinian-American political commentator and BDS supporter, said that, “ending the occupation doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t mean upending the Jewish state itself … BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state,” in an article published on mondowiess.net. BDS does not want peace, they want to destroy Israel. As’ad AbuKhalil, an American university professor and prominent BDS supporter, wrote “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel…. That should be stated as an unambiguous goal,” in an opinion piece on al-akhbar.com. BDS does not want peace, it does not want to help Palestinians; it wants to destroy Israel.

Bassem Eid, the founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group and “a proud Palestinian who grew up in a refugee camp,” wrote, in an opinion piece in the Times of Israel, that Israel “has a right to exist. It is the nation of the Jews but also a nation for Israeli Arabs who have better lives than Arabs anywhere in Arab countries…. The anti-Semitism promoted by Hamas, Fatah and the BDS movement is not the answer for us Palestinians…. The answer is to live in peace and democracy.” Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President, said “no, we do not support the boycott of Israel." Palestinians don't like the BDS movement, neither do Israelis; BDS is about spreading anti-Semitism, not about helping Palestinians.

I am pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian, the two are not mutually exclusive. Israel is not a perfect country and I, personally, don’t agree with Israeli actions in the disputed territories, but I do believe in a resolution mutually agreed upon by both Israelis and Palestinians, and BDS is not a way to achieve such a resolution. BDS does little to convince Israel to make a policy change, and will likely have the opposite effect. If you want to help Palestinians why not help them, instead of looking to hurt Israel.

The potential referendum question advocates boycotting Israeli products and divesting from Israeli companies, meaning if this were to pass, then the AMS should not use any current Microsoft operating systems, any phone with a 4G chip (I'm looking at your iPhone) or any SMS messaging (it was developed in Israel) and forget about any Coca-Cola products too. SPHR does not decide what is boycotted and what is not; the AMS would have to follow the guidelines laid out by the question.

In their mission statement, the AMS states, “the Society will foster communication, both internally and externally, in order to be democratic, fair, accountable to and accessible to its members…. It will cultivate unity and goodwill among its members, but will also encourage free and open debate, as well as respect for differing views.” BDS does not “foster communication,” instead it shuts down any pro-Israel dialogue, labelling the entire country as criminal. The opportunity for dialogue, and thus peace, dies when BDS takes hold on a campus. But worst of all, BDS will make the AMS inaccessible to its members if it passes.

This year, at the University of California, Davis, just hours after the student government passed a BDS resolution, swastikas were spray painted on a Jewish fraternity. In a development at the Durban University of Technology in South Africa, their student society, “demanded that Jewish students, especially those who ‘do not support the Palestinian struggle,’ leave the school." This is happening right now, in 2015. Jewish students being asked to leave universities is strikingly reminiscent of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. BDS marginalizes Jewish and Israeli students, building hate and shutting down dialogue.

The AMS should absolutely take a stand on complicated international issues in a fashion that is based on Canadian and UBC’s values. Instead of marginalizing and isolating Jewish and Israeli students by trying to harm Israel, the AMS should look to help Palestinians by supporting organizations and movements that seek to create peace in the Middle East. We should support an organization like Seeds of Peace which brings Israeli and Palestinian youth together to foster understanding and provide the tools necessary to create lasting peace.

Should the campaign succeed, you have the opportunity to do the right thing: vote NO to BDS. Vote NO to anti-Semitism. Vote NO on this referendum.