As college students eventually return to campus, it’s important to note that even amidst a relentless COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Israel advocates have not diminished their attacks on pro-Israel advocates and Jewish students on campus.
One of their many tactics is to introduce resolutions inspired by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in student legislative bodies.
Recent developments at Columbia University stand out.
In late September, the student body voted on legislation that asked: “Should Columbia University divest its stocks, funds, and endowment from companies that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s acts toward Palestinians that, according to Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), fall under the United Nations International Convention of the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid?”
Although the referendum passed, it was not actionable, and the school’s president disavowed it soon thereafter.
Columbia University student groups are not the first or last to try to pass a BDS-inspired referendum; schools such as San Francisco State University (SFSU) and the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (UIUC) have seen similar efforts during the past few months.
At SFSU, the student government voted in favor of a bill that called on the university to cut ties with select businesses that “[conduct] business within the Palestinian territories, including US entities such as Airbnb, General Mills and Expedia, as well as foreign companies,” as reported by the Jewish News of Northern California. UIUC’s student government passed a similar resolution on September 23, 2020. These resolutions — and comparable ones around the world — may differ slightly in their specific demands (which companies are selected for divestment, which supposed Israeli crimes are criticized, etc.), but they all have one thing in common: They are a gateway for antisemitism disguised as a political movement to help the Palestinians.
Though the referendum’s authors at Columbia and elsewhere operate under the pretext of divestment from a few companies, the legislation’s real purpose is to mislead students by labeling Israel an apartheid state.
Unfortunately, this is a common refrain; anti-Zionist groups on numerous campuses have tried to influence people who do not understand the Arab-Israeli conflict by painting Israel as apartheid South Africa reincarnated.
Yet, if we closely examine the two situations, there are no commonalities.
In fact, Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. It has religious freedom for all citizens, free elections, and equal protection under the law. Israel is the only state in the Middle East with a Muslim minority, and they are an integral part of society — Arab-Israelis serve in the courts (including the Supreme Court), comprise a substantial political party in the Knesset, and fill leadership roles in the IDF.
Contrast this with the surrounding Palestinian-administered areas, where children are taught blood libels and to hate their Jewish neighbors.
For example, in the US and Israel, Mickey Mouse is a popular TV character who cracks innocuous silly jokes; on Palestinian TV, children watch Farfur, the antisemitic mouse, who encourages viewers to hate Jews and glorifies violence. More broadly, under the US-designated terrorist organization Hamas’ rule in the Gaza Strip, citizens are stripped of their rights.
One can’t help but wonder how these anti-Zionist groups on campus would respond when confronted with this reality. Under the guise of mere “criticism of Israel,” these groups, whether knowingly or unknowingly, push for a cause that is violent, undemocratic, and completely anathema to human rights.
For example, BDS leader Omar Barghouti has said, among other things, “[Jews] did not suffer in Arab countries. There were no pogroms. There was no persecution.”
That’s a lie. Almost the entire population of Jews across the Middle East and North Africa were forced to flee, due in large part to widespread anti-Jewish violence.
For example, in 1941 (seven years before Israel’s creation), a mob — including Arab citizens and policemen — launched a violent pogrom targeting Jews in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities in what is known as the Farhud. As CAMERA’s Gilead Ini has noted: “In two days, roughly 200 Jews were killed, 2,000 were wounded, and hundreds of homes and businesses were looted or burned.”
As UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer famously asked representatives of Arab countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council in March of 2017: “Where are your Jews?” Egypt, Iraq, and other Arab states have the audacity to criticize Israel, but Jews have been pushed out of almost every Arab country due to antisemitic hatred.
Additionally, Barghouti is very open about the BDS movement’s true goal: the demise of Israel. As he famously stated: “Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”
Even as COVID-19 ravages communities around the world, anti-Israel advocates continue to spread inaccurate information to target Jewish and Zionist students, and the only Jewish state.
Originally published in The Algemeiner.
Contributed by 2020-2021 Florida International University CAMERA Fellow Julian Michanie.